The series finale of Game of Thrones made TV history by becoming the most-watched episode ever to air on HBO. Though reactions to the final episode of the worldwide phenomenon were mixed — ranging from extreme disappointment to apathy to reflective acceptance — the show has undoubtedly inspired other networks to take risks greenlighting big-budget, high-concept programming that challenge viewers’ minds and eyes.
Credit: HBOHere, we’ve gathered our favorite ongoing and already completed series that capture a similar sense of grand-scale storytelling and shock as Game of Thrones to help you cleanse your palate or simply replace your Sunday night go-to.
The Expanse could be described as “Game of Thrones in space,” but that doesn’t quite do its rich characters and carefully plotted story justice. Set in a future where Earth has colonized the solar system, it’s the perfect post-GoT binge for fans who loved the political intrigue elements of the HBO drama in addition to its magic and monsters. Trust us when we say it’s impossible not to fall in love with and get drawn into the stories of the ragtag group of people at the show’s center, all of whom get caught up in an interplanetary conspiracy and decide to protect — or disrupt — peace among worlds. SYFY canceled the show after three seasons, but due to overwhelming critic and audience acclaim, a fourth season was picked up by Amazon Prime Video and will be released sometime this year. For now, you can stream the first three seasons on its new home with an Amazon Prime account.
The Dragon Prince
Credit: NetflixNetflix’s The Dragon Prince proves you don’t need a multimillion-dollar budget and the occasional boob to tell a compelling story. Ostensibly an animated show for a younger audience, The Dragon Prince is chock-full of funny and interesting characters, beautiful places to explore and a dense mythology that’s sure to appeal to adults too. Xadia, the setting of the show, is a place of magic and wonder, but because humans discovered powerful and terrifying dark magic, the land between elves and humans is divided. The dragon who stood watch over and maintained balance in the realm has been slain by humans, ushering in all-out war. But the unlikely friendship that blossoms between young prince Ezran; his brother, Callum; and the dark elf assassin Rayla offers hope that all is not yet lost. Head writer of Avatar: The Last Airbender Aaron Ehasz serves as co-creator of this Wonderstorm-produced show, which shares many of the same qualities that made Avatar so popular (including the voice acting talents of Jace De Sena, who voiced Sokka). While the animation style admittedly takes some getting used to, the story and heart make up for it in dividends. Seasons one and two are ready to stream on Netflix, with a forthcoming third season confirmed.
What happens when you mix time travel and war with two beautiful, horny main characters? The equally bloody and steamy Outlander on Starz. After Claire Randall, a nurse in WWII, is transported to 1740s Scotland, she meets hunky Highland warrior Jamie Fraser and...well, let’s just say they don’t sit around debating quantum theory. In addition to all the hot and heavy romance, the show doesn’t shy away from action, featuring fight scenes that give even the Battle of the Bastards a run for its money — not to mention the awe-inducing landscapes that’ll make you wanna book a one-way trip to Scotland ASAP. It even maintains the detailed historical accuracy present in Diana Gabaldon’s book series on which it’s based, if you’re into that. Or, better still, just sit back and enjoy all the non-American accents. (We won’t judge.) The show’s first four seasons are available on Starz, and you can look forward to at least two more seasons in the future.
There’s a reason so many people describe The Magicians as “Harry Potter for adults”: It follows a group of college kids who are seemingly more interested in hooking up, throwing parties and getting into trouble than doing magic...at least at first. Admittedly the first season, while addictive, is a bit of a slog. There’s an interesting main villain and fun characters, but its world-building leaves something to be desired — magic is used as a convenient plot device, and its lack of rules can be frustrating. Though the rules of magic are never really fully fleshed out, the series hits its stride when it confidently abandons its source material (Lev Grossman’s Magicians series) and sends its characters on fun quests; tackles heavier topics like sexuality, mental health and sexual assault; and introduces magical new realms, creatures and even gods. The character dynamics, humor and self-awareness will propel you through all four seasons and leave you craving season five (which, rest assured, is on its way to SYFY sometime next year).
The Tudors may have ended with its fourth season nearly a decade ago, but the fact that it still holds up today is a testament to the show’s phenomenal acting, costume design and historical accuracy. Though it’s based on the real life of King Henry VIII, it proves that sometimes fact can be just as entertaining, if not more entertaining, than fiction. It chronicles the king’s reign, including his steamy tryst with Anne Boleyn and multiple marriages following her (spoiler alert?) beheading, all the way through his death, with plenty of disease, war and political upheaval sprinkled throughout for good measure. The Tudors proved that there was an audience desire to watch period shows, setting the groundwork for Game of Thrones and Outlander to follow. All episodes are available on Netflix, so get ready to smash that Continue Watching button.
Into the Badlands
Credit: Aidan Monaghan/AMCIf you’re not quite ready to jump into a committed TV relationship after eight years of fire-breathing dragons and faceless men, Into the Badlands maxes out at a reasonable 32 episodes but still promises plenty of swordfighting and mysticism. Set in a post-apocalyptic world without guns, the show feels at once both familiar and new, a love letter to martial arts and films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but with a somewhat dystopian slant that makes it feel original. Daniel Wu (Tomb Raider, Geostorm) plays Sunny, a “clipper” to the Badlands’ preeminent baron, Quinn. When he’s assigned to locate a boy named M.K., the true story begins, as M.K. harbors a great magical power that could make him valuable to other barons in the Badlands. The AMC show’s third and final season just ended last month, so binge away or pace yourself — you do you, boo.
If you thought the teen post-apocalyptic dystopia genre ended with Hunger Games and Maze Runner, think again: It is alive and well on the CW’s The 100, unlike Earth at the start of the series. After the nuclear radiation decimation of our planet, a group of humans boards the space station Ark to begin life anew — and all is well until nearly a hundred years later when overpopulation threatens the crew’s status quo. Their solution? Send 100 teen delinquents back down to Earth to see if any of it is still habitable. Unfortunately for those teens, they soon find small factions of people who survived and want to continue surviving...by any means necessary. The show has garnered an impressive and loyal fanbase, and its production quality, LBGTQ representation and universal themes have propelled it above the network’s usual fare while still embracing the teen drama formula that makes its shows so popular. Season six is currently airing, but it has already been renewed for a seventh season, thank the stars.
Fans of GoT’s Tormund and wildlings will almost certainly enjoy the History Channel’s Vikings, which, true to its name and network, is a historical drama that follows farmer turned legend Viking Ragnar Lothbrok as he raids England and slashes his way to becoming a king. The show also follows Ragnar’s sons on their own journeys, making it a multigenerational epic that has as much fun showing off bloody battles as it does spanning the histories of Ireland, England and France in an informative but entertaining fashion. Its forthcoming sixth season will be its last, but there’s also a spin-off show in development to further the delicious bloodshed.
Credit: Ian Watson/Starz“Even nothing cannot last forever.” So learns the stoic, troubled Shadow Moon, who meets a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday after being released from prison to attend his wife’s funeral. With nothing to lose, Shadow reluctantly accepts a job as Mr. Wednesday’s bodyguard and driver, but he doesn’t realize the gig also comes with the baggage of a secret magical war between the Old Gods and the New Gods. The New Gods, such as Technology and Media, fight to maintain dominance over the world, while the Old Gods, like Mr. Wednesday, wish to reclaim their power—and Shadow finds himself caught in the middle. Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies) serves as showrunner of season one, and his influence can be observed in every gorgeous, painting-like shot. Come for the action, mystery and political power plays; stay for the meticulously rendered cinematography. American Gods seasons one and two are available now on Starz, with a third season on its way.
Without the worldwide success of Game of Thrones, it’s hard to say if HBO would have taken a chance on Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s science fiction A.I. drama Westworld. Based loosely on the 1973 movie with the same title, the show centers around a theme park where humans can play out their darkest, seediest fantasies with extremely realistic robots, or “hosts.” But, as with most sci-fi stories with robots, the victimized human lookalikes quickly start to attain sentience, inciting mass chaos and revealing a dense mystery that explores what it means to be human...or more than human. The show does a great job of keeping the perspective close to the hosts, encouraging viewers to question the value of freedom and the darkness that pervades humanity. Filled with twists that make even Ned’s beheading seem tame in comparison, Westworld is already primed to replace Game of Thrones as Sunday’s biggest watercooler show when it returns for its third season next year.
A medieval land plagued by political unrest and hordes of the undead. No, we’re not talking about that HBO show that ended last week; we’re talking about Kingdom, a South Korean Netflix series that redefines the zombie genre. When the emperor during the Joseon period of Korea’s history becomes severely ill (hint: It’s not the flu), the crown prince, Yi-Chang, is forced to investigate the sickness while also trying to keep peace in the kingdom to avoid a coup. The critically acclaimed show consists of only six episodes, but it’s already started production on its second season, promising more bloodshed and zom dramz in the future.
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