“Finally a program for teens where teens look like teens. “They actually look like teenagers. Riverdale, take some notes. “See the real texture of the skin… thank you Netflix.”
That was the consensus in the YouTube comments for the trailer for Young Royals, a coming-of-age boarding school series about a Swedish prince exploring his sexuality.
Teen dramas, like the aforementioned Elite or Riverdale, traditionally play fair-skinned young people in their twenties as teenagers; and while Young Royals is predictable in many ways, what’s unexpected (and refreshing) is to see so many real-life teens onscreen.
Lead actor Edvin Ryding, who plays Prince Wilhelm and is 18 in real life, captures the embarrassing shyness of a teenager put in the spotlight. Young Royals’ electronic soundtrack often hints at the prince’s tumultuous inner life, even when he is forced to adopt a more button-down demeanor outwardly.
Viewers have previously compared the series to the fictional book Red, White & Royal Blue, which follows a burgeoning romance between a gay royal prince and the bisexual son of the President of the United States. But this series also delves into the more generic “royal and common” trope – and the inevitable choice between love and duty.
Wilhelm is a teenage prince who, at the start of the series, has just been embroiled in a very public scandal. He is then forced to issue a public apology and immediately enroll in a new boarding school, the fictional Hillerska (you can read more about where Young Royals was filmed in our location guide).
At Hillerska, he’s supposed to spend time with the other privileged teenagers who make up the majority of the student body; but instead, he’s drawn to gay scholarship student Simon, a non-boarding school who is ostracized by everyone.
In the first two episodes, we almost see a checklist of teen romance visuals, including: Wilhelm and Simon tentatively touching each other’s hands under the cover of darkness at a school movie night; and a very “Benefits of being a wallflower” photo of both scooter and whooping cough.
The plot’s dependence on characters like August (Malte Gårdinger), a royal cousin and pupil initially comparable to Gossip Girl’s snobbish Chuck Bass, is also predictable, but more frustrating. In the first two episodes, he constantly appears and interrupts Wilhelm’s conversations with Simon, or castigates Wilhelm with tired warnings about mingling with “normal” people.
In that regard, some of the Young Royals’ dialogue seems dated, or more in line with early 2000s teen dramas. (By comparison, the writer behind the Gossip Girl reboot recently promised that the characters will “struggle with their privilege. , Acknowledging Variety that “things have changed” since the original series.)
Overall, however, the first two episodes of Young Royals are heartfelt, avoiding the soapy while leaning into the intensity of first love. It’s addicting, and for young viewers, the authentically teenage cast can be a breath of fresh air, too.
Young Royals arrives on Netflix on July 1. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix, visit our TV guide, or take a look at the rest of our drama coverage.