[OPINION] Notes on Young Royals Season 3: A Winning Game

Love stories can come in many shapes and colors — from enemies becoming lovers to pretend relationships and fated romances, there are many ways to depict people falling in love and changing because of it. At first sight, Young Royals is a story about a royal romance that could turn into a “rags-to-riches” situation very quickly. Think of it: you study at a prestigious boarding school, but you are not rich and/or influential. Your family is poor, and you belong to marginalized groups — you’re not white, you’re not straight, and so on. Fitting in a place like this can be hard, but truly belonging can be so much harder. Then, someone who has a lot of power and influence comes into play and they choose you among everyone else to care and love, and everything changes.

That could be the story of Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding) and Simon (Omar Rudberg): some contemporary version of Cinderella, one that would bring to our screens an LGBTQ+ couple in ways that would highlight “the first gay royal couple”, “the first queer kings”, or something similar.

But Young Royals has a different kind of revolution in mind — a better one, in my opinion. One could say this Swedish teen drama offers an upside-down version of Cinderella: it’s not the poor, underprivileged guy who needs help from the powerful prince. The prince is the one who needs saving — and although he’s the only one who can do it for himself, people who love him can offer some help along the way.

Since its first season, released in 2021, Wilhelm has been anxious, upset, and on the verge of a mental breakdown because of his royal duties. This season brings him to the edge: the prince discovers some dark things about Erik, his deceased brother, which complicates everything, the power that monarchy has over his life seems bigger than ever, and he’s about to lose the love of his life because of it. Along these final six episodes, the social class differences between Simon and Wilhelm are amplified, now that they’re officially a public couple, no longer a secret. They fight more because they get to do more stuff (openly) together — and doing stuff together leads them to discover how different they are from each other because of their origins. Finally, after three seasons and eighteen episodes, Wilhelm finds a way to settle this problem once and for all.

YOUNG ROYALS, Pictured: Omar Rudberg as Simon and Edvin Ryding as Wilhelm. Photo: Netflix ©. All Rights Reserved

Also a big part of this final act, Felice (Nikita Uggla), Sara (Frida Argento), and August (Malte Gårdinger) find some closure to their most prominent plots, in a way that respects the show’s message about friendship, forgiveness, and maturity. Sara finds redemption after reuniting for some days with her estranged father and coming to terms with her actions (and the past she shares with her dad); Felice finds some internal struggle first (when dealing with the way Hillerska/its students have treated her and people in general), and then some peace (and a better way of living) after forgiving Sara and becoming friends with her again; and August finally gets what he wanted, but not what he needed.

As said above, Hillerska receives some appreciated attention in the final episodes: as its institutional flaws are revealed to the world, some of its students (here represented mostly by minor characters such as Vincent, Nils, Fredrika, and Stella) start fighting for their school to remain open. The show uses this plot to highlight how oblivious, classist, and arrogant these people can be, because they are still rich and entitled heirs regardless of how much we’ve come to like them or root for them. But the show doesn’t want us to hate them or view them as villains; there’s some room for complexity here. 

Felice, for example, doesn’t fight with her friends, she doesn’t argue with them nor hate them by the end. But she comes to understand that she doesn’t fit in this entitled group as much as she initially thought. So when Felice chooses to get in Sara’s car instead of going on some international trip with her friends, she gets a happy beginning. When Wilhelm chooses to run after this same car after making the biggest choice of his life, he gets a happy beginning. As for the others, they will likely remain the same — or worse, in August’s case — as they couldn’t overcome their initial states of mind and change for the better.

Filled with great performances and huge moments — especially towards the finale — this season had great attention to detail, with many callbacks to earlier episodes. It also offered some special stuff to us people rooting for these characters since season one. The lake scene, Simon’s song as a gift for Wilhelm, Sara, and Felice making amends at the party, Wilmon breaking up, the choir singing Simon’s version for the anthem, Wilhelm standing against his mom, Wilmon reuniting, and Wilhelm looking into the camera, smiling at last — just to mention a few. The tenderness, the beauty, the loving simplicity, they remain present in every moment, big or small.

Some years ago, right after the first season premiered, I wrote my first opinion piece for SpoilerTV with some things I expected from upcoming seasons (if they were to exist.) Looking back at what I wanted then and thinking about what we got in the end, it’s easy to say that this upside-down Cinderella tale had more to show and tell than I could dream of. Also: it gave me so much to continue dreaming (when it comes to romantic love and friendship and queer stories, but mostly as a storyteller.) Young Royals, in the end, proved to be a powerful story told by vivid songs, stunning images, and rich writing — hats off to the cast and crew as a whole (especially to showrunners Lisa Ambjörn, Lars Beckung, and Camilla Holter.)

Now let me know your thoughts on everything. Have you watched the Young Royals finale already? If so, what do you think about it? Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite moments, and thanks for reading!

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