Does Young Royals Need a Happy Ending?

Netflix's novel release strategy for Young Royals season 3 can give the young LGBT romance a satisfying conclusion.

Young Royals S3. (L to R) Edvin Ryding as Wilhelm, Omar Rudberg as Simon in Young Royals.
Photo: Netflix

This article contains spoilers for Young Royals season 3.

Streaming television and an increased acceptance of LGBTQ+ culture has allowed queer programming to flourish in ways nobody would have expected even a decade ago. Token gay characters and very special episodes of sitcoms have been replaced with profound thematic experiences in which same-sex relationships are explored in the same ways their heterosexual counterparts are. In a sea of options to choose from, Netflix’s small Swedish series Young Royals checks more boxes than almost any other romance show these days. 

The first two seasons feature the rocky relationship between the crown prince of Sweden, Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding), and a lower middle-class immigrant, Simon (Omar Rudberg), who fall in love and overcome social and political obstacles placed in their paths. Young Royals gives a different flavor than other shows in the genre because it focuses on the character development of the protagonists against a backdrop of royal obligations and classism. Topics like internalized homophobia and social acceptance are touched upon, but they are modernized in ways that other contemporary series could take some notes from. 

When the first five episodes of the third and final season were finally released on March 11, the story picks up right after Wilhelm admits to being in a relationship with Simon in a nationally-televised state address to Sweden. The final episode will air next week, March 18, and it is a marketing strategy that Netflix should start experimenting with in other shows. It allows the creators of Young Royals to create a penultimate act that makes the climax more meaningful because fans can contemplate over how the storylines will wrap up for several days. But do Wilhelm and Simon need a happy ending to their story to validate the series? We say they do.

Ad – content continues below

Unlike in season two, the teenage love birds get to spend a lot of intimate time together. They don’t have to hide their love for one another anymore and they get along great. Ryding and Rudberg possess a magnetic flair when they share the screen, a tender embrace of understanding and maturity that belies the actors and characters’ ages. The conflict that underlies season three and puts a dark cloud over Wilhelm and Simon’s fates is the monarchy that Wilhelm has been forced into. 

Discussions on class and money have always been present in the show, but they take an even deeper turn during the final season. The writers take a brilliant path to harbor conflict. While many fans might have expected Wilhelm’s parents to take offense to his gay relationship, most of the resentment between the parties goes much deeper than any surface-level homophobia. The stress Simon endures directly and indirectly due to Wilhelm’s political allegiances is tackled with relatability and slow-burn plot development. 

The fifth episode of the season cranks the tension up several notches when Simon meets Wilhelm’s parents at the latter’s 17th birthday party. Wilhelm lets loose on the king and queen for their favoritism of his late older brother and the unfair expectations placed on him all while Simon uncomfortably watches on. Simon decides that he may not be able to handle all of the intensity that boils under the surface of the royal family and that the relationship might need to come to an end. 

The show subtly draws parallels between the typical queer experience during one’s high school years and the twist that Wilhelm’s life takes while grappling with both the throne and first-time love. A huge reason why teenage romance dies quickly is due to all of the other responsibilities of adolescence. Parents who interfere with their children’s lives muddle otherwise ever-kindling love. Responsibilities at school and career aspirations take precedence over dating. Young Royals simply shows these same roadblocks but with a heightened awareness of how the class divide separates otherwise perfectly paired couples. Wilhelm and Simon can’t relate to each other’s upbringings because they are so different in terms of money, political importance, and social standing. 

What they do know with sheer concreteness is how they make each other feel safe from the outside world. With a small kiss or a caress of the other’s hair, Wilhelm can forget about leading a European kingdom, and Simon can put his relationship with his estranged father on the back burner. There is a sincere affection each person holds for the other that transcends the external issues of the season. 

It’s important for the writers to give Wilhelm and Simon a happy ending so that teen viewers can see how staying true to your feelings should take precedence over societal responsibilities. The show has been juxtapositional in nature compared to other queer series, but more so on a thematic level and not on a plot level. 

Ad – content continues below

The happy ending is a trademark of the romance genre, so expect to see Young Royals follow in the footsteps of its inspirations. Wilhelm and Simon punctuating their story with a metaphorical middle finger to the monarchy symbolizes a new era for what LGBTQ+ stories can accomplish on screen. They say the journey is more important than the destination, but driving to the wrong place can derail the trek. After ending season two with a poignant, tear-jerking conclusion, it would be startling to see creator Lisa Ambjörn go any other route. 

The first five episodes of Young Royals season 3 are available to stream on Netflix now. The finale premieres March 18.