Point in time:
Premiere July 1st
Sweden’s second in line of succession is sent to boarding school, with what it entails of hormones and intrigue. With: Edvin Ryding, Omar Rudberg, Malte Gårdinger, Pernilla August.
«Pretty irresistible, generous teen soap»
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A pushy situation at a party goes viral, and the Swedish heirs’ wild deputy representative, Wilhelm, is reluctantly sent away to the reputable boarding school Hillerska. Problem solved? Åneidu.
Like any self-respecting boarding school, Hillerska has a hard-hitting and ingrained inner system of social control and class-driven hierarchies, inferiority complexes and marking needs, and written and unwritten chops – designed to exercise and doubt inherited power. Of course exalted in the nth potency of hormones in free dressage.
Willes’ first autumn semester offers a roller coaster of emotions, drives, drama and intrigue that makes Liseberg seem like a ride on the tram. That he achieves something as unheard of as building a close relationship with the day student (read: good working class student on welfare scholarship) Simon (Omar Rudberg) does not make the inner and outer tension less intense. Is it just a friendship, or maybe something more? (Spoiler: There’s something more.)
Pretty soon (things happen fast in this series!) He is on a collision course with the school’s visible and invisible power structures, but also in full swing between his duties as royalty and his own happiness.
It is not automatic that this is turned into good drama, and there is perhaps a little too much to be told here in just six forty-minute episodes. But the screenwriters, under the direction of lead author Lisa Ambjörn, build the intrigue stone by stone, allowing the character-driven plot to wrap itself organically into a painfully inevitable, insoluble tangle.
The careful, bell-ready script and character work gives the directors (Rojda Sekersöz and Norwegian Erika Calmeyer directing three episodes each) the opportunity to milk massive payoffs of even tiny twists in the action. The ground was sown so that even a small remark or an ominous look could be reaped into ominous anticipation and trembling excitement.
It also gives the directors the back free to add rich texture to both characters, atmosphere and universe, well helped by suggestive photos, music and clips. The series deals with contemporary themes such as class divisions, exclusion, sexuality, bullying, substance abuse and abuse without feeling intrusive: The theme is dictated by the action and the characters, and not the other way around.
Puppies in blazers
In a youth series that fortunately insists on letting the role gallery be covered by actors of the same age instead of well-adult, professional baby faces, the casting is of course alpha and omega. The central parts of the ensemble work excellently in this way, with pubertal faces torn between the child they were and the adult they are about to become.
One moment they have a cold, cynical tinge over them, the next they are like helpless puppies dressed up in a boarding school blazer many numbers too big.
Ryding’s bewildered eyes are a contrast-filled opposite to the trait of royal arrogance in Prince William’s face, and go a long way in covering up that the character might have benefited from a little more inner strings to play on.
Rudberg’s defiant obstinacy prevents Simon from becoming a pure victim.
Frida Argento as Simon’s sister Sara gives life and warmth to a character who could quickly have been reduced to a stencil in a less knowledgeable series.
But it is Malte Gårdinger who runs off with the series as Hillerskas tormented and tormenting, larger-than-life, alfahann, August. As an alternately charming gentleman, servile eye servant and toxic narcissist, he appears both scary, comical, harsh and pathetic – often at the same time.
“Young Royals” takes the unmade-up, skinless growing pains from “Shame”, mixes them with the boarding school microcosm from “Evil” and spices with a dab of “The Crown”. The result is a fairly irresistible, generous teenage soap, well written, well played and well directed.
Good luck trying not to devour these six episodes in one go.