March 28, 2024

Keeping Up With Netflix: Young Royals

One thing about blogging my intentions: it works like reverse psychology for me ("I triple dog dare ya!"). Like the writing and publishing resolution I made with the extended gap between releases, for instance -- poof! Resolve gone. I'm back to publishing more frequently. Granted, though, that's because I'm in a very good place and am taking full advantage of this energized wave I'm enjoying. Can't waste any opportunity in that case.

And then there's non-bingeing shows. I even did back-to-back rambling posts about it, and here we are. All three seasons of Young Royals done. Double-thumbs up for me, as I'm sure you can already guess from my most recent reaction post on it. This one isn't a full-on review of the series, but largely my thoughts on stuff. 

Major spoilers, btw.

Almost everything I want to say was already posted previously, and after going through the series' entire run, nothing much has changed. Character analyses got tweaked a little after learning more about the main players. But my views on the production overall still stand. Beautifully written with some scenes just devastating to watch, particularly the third and final season. 

Not to forget as well that the series is anchored by a very talented cast. I can't emphasize this enough. Excellent writing can still be undermined by bland acting and zero chemistry among the actors, and we don't get any of that at all. In terms of chemistry, the one between Edvin Ryding (Wille) and Omar Rudberg (Simon) is off the charts.

Of all the characters, I still think August is the most inscrutable because Wille and Simon are written more openly in a way, their paths more easily followed. There's still a lot to unpack with those two, but August poses more of a challenge in my case. Yes, he's all about self-interest. Yes, he's a swaggering bully. In the beginning, for the most part, at least from what I can see. Each season sees him knocked down a peg, and we see glimpses of humanity now and then. If anything, the letter he writes to himself as part of a class exercise reveals who he really is or who he was, at least, and Sara was there -- a good opportunity for him to figure things out about himself and how he handles relationships (friends, family, girlfriends). 

I do think he feels guilt in his own way, but he's got no real support network besides his friends to guide his actions, and any expression of regret is met with skepticism (understandably). Cracks were already showing in the final season, and he even looked to be bothered by his "Bad Boy" title. Doesn't he tell the school psychologist that no one's going to forgive him, anyway, so why bother forgiving himself or being kind to others? There are a lot of small things filtering through that I caught. And they're largely too dispersed for me to get a better and more cohesive picture of August. I'm not an apologist for him, but I'm not going to condemn him completely, either, because what I saw from the first episode to the finale was a really nasty product of the monarchy. His smarmy-ass lawyer even asks "But does the monarchy love you?".

As an addendum, one of the most revealing moments is when August admits to Sara he'd rather have a father who goes through good spells (being sober) than not have a father at all. It's heartbreaking. 

I also failed to address the elephant in the room: the sex tape. Now THAT screw-up is unforgivable even if it was done in the heat of the moment, and August thought he didn't have anything to lose. It was Simon who paid the most, and it didn't end even after Wille publicly came out and admitted being Simon's partner in the tape. Should August apologize not just to Wille, but to Simon as well? Yeah. He should have. But would Simon also be willing to hear him out? Considering how gentle and compassionate he is and how big he is on giving people a second chance -- I honestly can't call it. I wouldn't be surprised if he did or didn't, really. Fuck it, he shouldn't. Ever. For now, at the very least he has Wille to play guard dog for him.

Sweden's royal family: aaaawwwkward!

Wille and Simon own my soul, of course. I honestly can't choose either one without naming the other for my favorite character because as far as I'm concerned, they're so bound so closely together as diverging forces (ironically) that to take one away means the ruin of the other (in an overly dramatic manner of speaking). The series doesn't hold back in showing us how beautiful and imperfect each boy is, how madly in love they are with each other, how badly they want to be together and fight for their happiness -- and yet screw things up time and time again. 

They're kids. They're only sixteen (seventeen for Wille by the end of the series run), and what little life experience they have to guide them can be boiled down to family, peers, and social media. Social hierarchies, money, peer pressure, what have you -- everything seems to conspire to work against them. Well, in addition to the usual bad decisions that teens make from a place of high emotion. That Wille and Simon somehow manage to pull each other back from the brink time and time again -- including breaking up more than once -- is testament to their devotion to each other. So in that sense, I really can't call the series a romance. It's a love story. Or at least it's closer to a full-on love story that we tend to see explored between adult couples. 

Because even after the final episode, things will still be a struggle for the two, but the point of the show is that Wille establishes autonomy from the crown, chooses himself over the crippling influence of a system that was born from long-outdated ideals. And he knows it's going to hurt his family, but it takes Simon breaking up with him one last time with the added sting of "I don't recognize you anymore" for him to dig deep -- if not for Simon, then for himself. Because Simon sees how much damage the pressure of the monarchy is causing in Wille, and he knows he's an unlucky part of it as Wille's boyfriend. So he refuses to contribute any more to Wille's downward spiral. I get it even though it was excruciating, seeing it all unfold on Wille's birthday, of all days. But in this series, there's no real good moment for Wille to break away from the crown (he has to put his foot down and disappoint an ailing queen), and there's no real good moment for Simon to force Wille to see what's happening to him. 

Of course, in between, there are a lot of mistakes made (like Marcus, who gives me major creeper vibes), a lot of painful confessions, admissions, and scenes of forgiveness. Felice and Sara's relationship's got to be one of the best explorations I've seen of love between friends, which is rare nowadays. Two people together are either just superficially labeled friends or are made into romantic partners. So again, I bow to the writers for this. 

There's also the unconditional love of friends that help someone like Simon endure some of the worst things a kid his age can face. Ayub and Rosh are the MVPs, going neck-and-neck with Linda (Simon's mom, who'll take shit from no one and whose integrity in the face of smug privilege is a sight to behold). Sadly, Wille can't even have any of that save for Felice (my darling girl!). Emotionally neglected and stifled throughout his life, it's no wonder he lashes out in a pretty major way when the pressure gets too much. 

Again, there's so much to pick apart in this series, and what's great about this is that I can always go back and rewatch everything from Season One, enjoy the wild ride and put up with the emotional stress of two kids who -- like Simon glumly says -- haven't done anything wrong but fall in love with each other. Ouch. Linda said love shouldn't be this hard. But it's really worth the fight, isn't it? And I'm sure each rewatch will bring a new revelation to me. I just need to recover from this first viewing, though. Egad. 

Backward slash, end rambling. 

EDIT: After rereading my post, I realized I actually did sound like an August apologist even though that wasn't my intention. Goddamnit. I was aiming for a more balanced take. I guess that goes to show just how brilliantly his character was written.

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