The recent announcement that the seventh season of Game of Thrones will arrive in summer next year and will only have seven episodes has dismayed many fans, including this writer. This is a sad departure from showrunners’ usual policy of premiering the show in spring and each season has had 10 episodes yet.
It has never been easy to fight off the withdrawal symptoms when it comes to Game of Thrones. With its dizzyingly complex storyline that weaves several plot threads and hundreds of characters together seamlessly, and well-rounded characters with shades of grey, Game of Thrones is amazingly addictive.
It has also been the most talked about TV show on internet for a few years now, largely owing to its tendency of casually eliminating major characters and ambiguous plotlines that allow fan theories to flourish. Thus, even 10 episodes per season were far too few for most of us. And now there is a longer wait, with less dividends.
There is clearly no option for the disgruntled Thrones fan except to sit and stare at the window every day for almost a year. Of course, you could log on to so many dedicated forums to mull over the possibility of theories with fellow Thrones fanatics. There is nothing else you can do. Right? Wrong. There is a lot of stuff on your television (or Netflix, if that’s your thing) you can enjoy that may just fill that Game of Thrones shaped hole in your heart. At least until it comes back to blow our minds next summer once again.
So here’s a list of six TV shows that are similar to Game of Thrones. Some of them resemble it in terms of setting, some thematically, and yet others in plot techniques and devices. There is no particular order.
Based on British writer Bernard Cornwell’s fantastic albeit long-drawn- out series of books Saxon Tales, The Last Kingdom is definitely BBC’s answer to Game of Thrones. And a fairly strong one at that. The story is based on Danish invasion of a conglomerate of kingdoms that would later be called England. What it lacks in budget (particularly as compared to Game of Thrones), it makes it up with stellar performances and solid direction. There are some well-executed battle sequences and like Game of Thrones, The Last Kingdom does not hesitate to kill off characters played by big names. If for nothing else, watch it for superb performance by David Dawson as Alfred the Great.
A brainchild of the brilliant Michael Hirst, Vikings is a realistic and no-holds- barred attempt at understanding the lifestyle of those elusive Scandinavian seafarers. It tries to show that unlike the mindless barbarians or gentle giants as they usually have been depicted, Vikings were a people with a rich culture and mythology. Rooted in gritty realism, Vikings nonetheless dabbles with a few mythological elements especially in the pilot episode.
Similar to Game of Thrones, the fantasy is played down in favour of history and character development. There is also a conflict of faiths here: Christianity and Norse Paganism. The money lamentably appears even scarcer here, with small-scale battles and cheap-looking sets. Even so, Vikings is ultimately very entertaining mostly because of its legion of engaging characters, particularly the central character: the devious Ragnar Lothbrok.
The Walking Dead can be very depressing. You keep hoping for good things to happen, and they almost never do. Sounds like something we know? AMC’s unstoppable zombie saga The Walking Dead has been around for quite a while now. Although nothing like Game of Thrones in terms of setting, The Walking Dead has a similar sense of hopelessness and fatalism pervading the narrative. In the world of The Walking Dead also good people keep dying, unless they learn to become bad. And of course it has zombies. Granted, they are neither as fast as wights nor can they use weapons – excluding teeth and nails – but they come in enormous numbers and can overrun army garrisons.
4. The Borgias
Showtime’s The Borgias is the story of perhaps the nastiest family in Renaissance Italy: House of Borgia. It is basically Game of Thrones but focused only on one house. A house that makes Lannisters look good. All that you saw in the King’s Landing storyline of Game of Thrones is here: political intrigue, violence, nudity and even incest. There is some strong acting on showcase here, especially by Jeremy Irons who not surprisingly plays the baddest of the lot: the ruthless patriarch Rodrigo Borgia. As you have probably guessed by now, The Borgias are pretty unusual protagonists, but you might still find yourself rooting for them.
5. The Tudors
Another Michael Hirst creation, The Tudors is based on the rule of somebody who I refer to as the Donald Trump of medieval England: Henry VIII. Like Game of Thrones and The Borgias, The Tudors also has a lot of court intrigue. It does suffer from over-glamourisation, and there is considerably more emphasis on costumes and make-up than plot and character development. It also suffers from pacing issues, and chooses style over substance. Still, The Tudors is worthy enough to distract you long enough (four seasons) from your Game of Thrones withdrawal symptoms.
Coming from HBO, it is no surprise that Rome is a lush and gorgeous looking TV show. The sets are absolutely exquisite, and so are the costumes. HBO clearly spent an enormous amount of money on this show. Too much as it turned out. It was the lack of money that sadly limited Rome to only two seasons. But it covers a quite coherent story arc in that duration, so the finale is not as jarring. Like Game of Thrones, Rome has a humongous and varied cast of morally ambiguous characters who frequently engage in political machinations and is known among history buffs for its accuracy.