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Young Royals Lets Love Win in Its Series Finale

The final moments can only be described as a rom-com ending for the ages.
  • Edvin Ryding and Omar Rudberg in Young Royals (Photo: Netflix)
    Edvin Ryding and Omar Rudberg in Young Royals (Photo: Netflix)

    For most of its three-season run, Netflix’s Swedish queer romance Young Royals dealt out as much trauma as it did tenderness. The story of Prince Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding), the spare heir to the Swedish throne and Simon (Omar Rudberg), the scholarship student that steals his heart at a prestigious boarding school, never minced words about the struggle of class disparity, the tragedy of familial loss, the perils of social media (and sex tapes), the wounds of hazing, the sting of betrayal between friends and the political implications of being the next king after your brother dies.

    That last one is relatively unique to Wilhelm’s circumstances, but the rest are the typical landmines dodged or detonated by teenagers across the globe every day. And yet, because they were both queer stories, the series was algorithmically paired with its cozy cousin in the Netflix library, the British-set Heartstopper, with which it shares very little DNA. Where Heartstopper offers swoon-worthy moments at every turn, Young Royals served as a yearning antithesis to that candy-colored world. In reality, it was more akin to the adult themes of HBO’s Euphoria than other current teen series.

    Yet through it all, the burgeoning and oftentimes fraught relationship between Wilhelm and Simon was a North Star for the series, even when it wasn’t always warm and fuzzy. The electricity of first love and sexual exploration was vibrant and passionate between the two young men, which served as a constant when the show’s big moments bore the weight of bigger implications beyond Wilhelm and Simon. For example, in the Season 2 finale, Wilhelm uses a national speech as the reigning heir to come out as gay and confess he was seen in a sex tape with Simon that was vindictively released by his cousin, August (Malte Gårdinger). While his admission led to a sweet rekindling of Wilhelm and Simon’s connection after a season apart, the swirling questions of what it meant for a gay man to sit on the throne immediately put pressure on their relationship.

    Still, fans stuck through the trials and tribulations of Wilhelm and Simon’s courtship, and in the final moments of the series finale, they were rewarded mightily for their loyalty with what can only be described as a rom-com ending for the ages.

    In the penultimate episode, Simon ended their relationship after seeing Wilhelm begin to crack and change under the demands of the crown even before he wore it. Emotionally devastated by the threat of losing Simon forever, Wilhelm steadied himself enough to vocalize to his mother, aka the queen, the fateful but inevitable decision that he did not want to be king. His late brother, Erik, was the born leader, and the earnestly political August will make a fine king in Wilhelm’s sted. Finally released from the burden of ruling, Wilhelm literally flees on foot like a lanky action hero to chase after the car spiriting Simon riding away.

    His shouting and heavy breathing don’t seem to be enough to capture Simon’s attention, until the car stops in the distance and he steps out. It’s an image even casual romantic movie watchers will recognize. A couple walking in slow motion toward one another in the middle of a road that apparently no one else drives down. Once they are close enough, Wilhelm resolutely tells Simon of his decision while, in the same breath, reassuring him that he didn’t give up the throne for their relationship but rather “my own sake.” They could never work if Wilhelm wasn’t honest about what he wanted and what he didn’t, and he can barely say he wants Simon before they are in each other’s arms.

    As footage of every time they kissed, touched, smiled and stole glances from each other over the previous 18 episodes begins to play, Wilhelm and Simon embrace in a music-swelling, 360-degree-camera-coverage kiss. By far, it is the most extravagant and undeniably sweet moment Young Royals has ever attempted. And most importantly, it is also incredibly welcome.

    For three seasons, Young Royals has put its central couple through the paces of adulthood, even though they are barely on the cusp of it. The series has been a startlingly realistic portrayal of modern adolescence in the face of extraordinary circumstances, but at the end of the day, this is still a love story between two boys still learning who they are in the world. Giving them, and by extension the audience, a chance to live out the rare happy ending that movies have given us and reality too often rips away is a gift for those who have found and will find Young Royals.

    It should not be lost on any viewer that this timeless image of unabashed love is usually shared between a man and a woman at the end of the movie. There are far fewer examples of men standing in these places, let alone two young men getting their moment in the sun.

    Will Wilhelm and Simon last forever? The series seems content with hoping for the best and handing over any further storytelling to the imaginations of its fans. For now, leaving Wilhelm and Simon in each other’s romantic embrace as they ride off into the future is an ending fit for a king — even if he never wore the crown.

    Young Royals Seasons 1-3 are streaming on Netflix. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Hunter Ingram is a TV writer living in North Carolina and watching way too much television. His byline has appeared in Variety, Emmy Magazine, USA Today, and across Gannett's USA Today Network newspapers.

    TOPICS: Young Royals, Netflix, Edvin Ryding, Omar Rudberg, Romantic Comedies, Romantic Dramas, Teen Dramas