If you’ve already binge-watched all of Game of Thrones prior to the coronavirus lockdown, you’ll need a new TV series obsession to fill your time.
Here’s a list of quality TV shows full of fantasy, violence and enough thematic similarities to justify a hearty binge. Got any favorites that don’t appear on this list? Share them in the comments!
The Last Kingdom (3 seasons)
Based on Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Series novels, The Last Kingdom is set in England during the 10th century, when Viking invasions were commonplace. The series centers around a character named Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon), a Saxon noble captured and raised by the Vikings who fights for the English. Like Game of Thrones,
The Last Kingdom has plenty of family drama, power struggles, complicated relationships and bloody battles. The violence is extremely graphic — eye-gouging, beheading, stabbing and crucifixion are just some of the ways people die on this show.
Vikings (5 seasons)
Get ready for more Viking action. In Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) is a farmer who becomes king of Denmark and develops a habit of terrifying the citizens of France and England with violent raids. His troubled brother Rollo (Clive Standen), his first wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and shipbuilder Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) also play major roles.
As with Game of Thrones, the characters are far from predictable as heroes and villains constantly switch allegiances.
Into the Badlands (3 seasons)
The martial-arts fantasy series Into the Badlands takes place in a post-apocalyptic world 500 years after a devastating war that left civilization in ruins. Modern tech like electricity and cars survived, but this society has outlawed guns, so everyone uses knives, katana swords and crossbows. That means tons of spectacular martial arts battles among warriors, as well as power struggles between the barons who control the wealth, drugs and much-needed resources like water.
Throw in lawless homicidal bandits, seductive prostitutes, duplicitous spies and a mysterious boy with dark chi powers and you have an addictively binge-worthy saga.
The Shannara Chronicles (2 seasons)
Based on Terry Brooks’ fantasy book series, The Shannara Chronicles is set thousands of years in the future. But it feels a lot more like a Lord of the Rings-style fantasy tale than anything futuristic. Plenty of adventures, war and evil occur throughout the history of the Four Lands as elves, trolls, dwarves and humans struggle to get along.
The saga follows Elf Princess Amberle (Poppy Drayton), Human Rover Eretria (Ivana Baquero) and half-elf Wil (Austin Butler) on their quest to stop an evil Demon army from destroying the universe. This series has enough twists and turns to satisfy a typical Game of Thrones fan.
Merlin (5 seasons)
If you wish Game of Thrones had more magic and talking dragons — and was a bit less horrifyingly violent — Merlin is for you. Set in the Kingdom of Camelot, the story follows young Merlin (Colin Morgan) and a young prince Arthur (Bradley James) as the try to fulfill their fate to become two of the most powerful figures in British folklore. Merlin must keep his friend Arthur safe, but can only use his magic in secret since the reigning King Uther (Anthony Head) has banned all sorcery.
Lancelot, Guinevere and Morgana are also included in the mix. And yes, this series has a dragon or two to keep things interesting.
Frontier (3 seasons)
Fans of the khaleesi’s husband Khal Drogo can imagine the series Frontier is his parallel universe life as a trapper. Actor Jason Momoa stars as part-Irish, part-Cree outlaw Declan Harp in this compelling TV series about the 18th-century fur trade in Canada. Think of it as meets Game of Thrones, with bears replacing dragons.
Momoa’s character campaigns to stop a fur trade monopoly by the corrupt Hudson’s Bay Company, and ends up with a bounty on his head. Throughout the series there’s quite a bit of bloody violence between traders, con men, outlaws, thieves and wild animals. To add a dash of sex appeal, Momoa wears a lot of fur pelts and not much else.
Outlander (4 seasons)
This is the kind of TV series that makes both kilts and time travel sexy. Based on Diana Gabaldon’s books, Outlander expertly mixes violence, history, romance and a heavy dose of fantasy.
Main character Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is a World War II British nurse who accidentally goes back in time to the Scottish Highlands in the 18th century via some mystical rocks. In this unfamiliar world, Claire’s freedom and life are constantly at risk. To survive, she marries strapping Scot warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). A passionate relationship ensues, but since Claire is already married in her other life, things get complicated quickly.
While the battles aren’t as gruesome as the ones in Game of Thrones, the politics and family drama certainly are. Plus, there’s plenty of complicated romance mixed with steamy sex.
Black Sails (4 seasons)
Setting sail as a prequel to Treasure Island, Black Sails follows the adventures of infamous pirate Captain Flint (Toby Stephens). Flint is determined to maintain his dominance of New Providence Island, which is overrun with thieves, pirates and wenches.
There are lots of pirates doing pirate-ey things like hunting for treasure, but we also get a closer look at Flint, who started out as a British naval officer before everything went sideways in his life. The series has plenty of intrigue, sex, violence and politics. Sadly, no dragons though.
The Tudors (4 seasons)
The Tudors is the story of Henry VIII’s reign over England during the 16th century starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as he navigates his way through political intrigue and a myriad of wives and mistresses. You won’t see emotionally scarring bloody battles like in Game of Thrones, but there is a very important throne.
The series provides an entertaining retelling of an infamous real-life monarch’s rise to power. Just don’t pay too close attention to historical accuracy.
Spartacus: Blood and Sand (4 seasons)
Spartacus: Blood and Sand has tons of intense action, violence and sword fights — which is to be expected, as it’s built around gladiators. The show focuses on Spartacus (Andy Whitfield), the famous gladiator who led a rebellion against the Romans in ancient times. We follow him from humble beginnings as an ally to the Romans though a terrible betrayal and transition to becoming a gladiator and warrior.
Throughout the series, Spartacus battles to reunite with his wife (Erin Cummings), who was also sent into slavery. The series is loved by fans for its bloody battles and brutal scenes that only the most skilled gladiators can survive. It’s a dark and violent look at the life of a gladiator through the eyes of a slave hell bent on vengeance.
The Borgias (3 seasons)
The Borgias follows the exploits of an infamous real-life Renaissance-era Italian family — one of whom ends up as Pope Alexander VI, the head of the Catholic Church. The Borgias is chock full of nudity, incest, murder and blood, with a bit of history thrown in for good measure. Actor Jeremy Irons steals the spotlight as conniving politician Rodrigo Borgia.
There are plenty of fantasy saga TV shows streaming right now, but if only George R.R. Martin’s saga of Westeros will do, then don’t worry. There’s a Game of Thrones prequel in the works.
Originally published May 18, 2019, updated March 25, 2020.
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