The Royals Season Two

Drama Reigns in Season Two of “The Royals”

Heavy is the head of he who wears the crown.

The he in this case refers to Cyrus (Jake Maskall), the reprehensible monarch that schemed his way onto the throne in May’s season finale of The Royals. The original E! drama about the fictitious royal family returned on Sunday after a surprisingly entertaining inaugural season packed with scandals and conspiracy theories. Season Two picks up two months into Cyrus’ reign of terror, and as always, it’s anarchy in the monarchy.

At its core (and its best), The Royals is about the sibling relationship between Prince Liam (William Moseley) and Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park). While both indulge in the lifestyle of the rich and the famous, they are shocked back into reality when their older brother, Robert, dies under mysterious circumstances. As Liam suddenly becomes the heir apparent and all eyes turn to the royal family in this tragedy, life beyond the palace gates is flipped upside down.

The Royals functions largely as a soap opera, but this isn’t a bad thing, nor is it unexpected—airing on the same network as the Kardashians, over-the-top drama is practically a requirement. Still, Royals remains grounded in its character dynamics and family themes. Liam and Eleanor’s supportive relationship is a fresh take on the sibling bond, and is foiled nicely by their respective struggles with their vain mother, Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley), and earnest father, King Simon (Vincent Regan).

Much of the show’s success can be attributed to creator Mark Schwahn of One Tree Hill fame. Schwahn expertly paced the first season with juicy scandals and snappy dialogue to distract viewers from a slow-burning conspiracy theory that drove the plot for the second half of the season. This structure, combined with a memorable variety of both sympathetic and despicable characters, makes Royals well worth the return for Season Two.

In Sunday’s premiere, we’re eased back into the chaos that reigned in Season One with a time skip and flashback scenes. After King Simon’s untimely (and still unsolved) death in May’s finale, the monarchs are in mourning—some more than others. Liam and Eleanor’s problems seem to be multiplying by the minute: they’ve been banned from the palace since being declared illegitimate last season, and were forced to watch as Simon’s brother, Cyrus, rose to the throne. Now, they’re taking it upon themselves to find the connection between Simon and Robert’s deaths, which are mysteriously related to a vengeful organization called Domino.

Meanwhile, the cast of characters has been shaken up. Noticeably missing is Ophelia (Merritt Patterson), Liam’s ex-girlfriend who left to pursue a dancing career in the States, but noticeably present is Jasper (Tom Austen), Eleanor’s former bodyguard and on-again-off-again love interest. Jasper helps Liam to raise the stakes as he interrogates people in the palace about the death of his father, while Helena and Cyrus make moves to cover their suspicious tracks.

The pacing of the premiere felt a little off in trying to balance a time jump and multiple cliffhangers, but the story picked up quickly. With a show like Royals, it’s easy to worry that there might be too many balls in the air at any given time, and it could be too soon to tell whether or not this will be in issue. However, the premiere does a good job of not losing sight of Liam and Eleanor as they grapple with grief and confusion in quieter moments throughout the episode.

One of Royal’s strongest assets is its cast, and the premiere was no exception. Moseley has made Liam discernably darker in the wake of his father’s death, convincingly portraying a good guy willing to do bad things. Park’s performance as the edgy, punk princess with addiction issues and a heart of gold continues to make Eleanor the show’s stand out character. Hurley and Maskall are excellent as well, both deliciously evil in their roles of characters we love to hate.

The premiere was promising, and so far the show has retained the aspects that made it such a hit in the first place: it’s a powerful family drama with plenty of scandals to fuel your water cooler conversations. The writing is punchy and the characters are fresh, and if Season One is any indication, the plot is completely unpredictable. As long as Schwahn and his team can avoid a sophomore slump, The Royals can reign supreme.

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