It’s almost surreal to go back and remember when Game of Thrones was the best show on television. It was the topic of every water cooler conversation and jumpstarted a new era in fantasy television. Nowadays, its legacy is marred by how the series ended but there are plenty of TV shows to bring that spark back.
Here are eight series that help remind us of the better parts of watching and experiencing Game of Thrones. When it was about the lore, the characters, and the storytelling—before it rushed a nonsensical ending that put Bran Stark on the Iron Throne for no reason other than it’s “in the book” (that’ll probably never get finished). Especially during these times, it’s nice to watch something that makes you feel hopeful instead of frustrated. Here are some suggestions to bring back those good vibes.
This is high-concept fantasy at its finest. The prequel to The Dark Crystal movie was a wild experiment in filmmaking and storytelling. Not only did it feature the latest innovations in puppetry thanks to the Jim Henson Company, but it built a beautiful fantasy world with impressive lore, fascinating characters, and complex morals. It’s unclear whether we’ll ever get a second season (odds are looking less likely) but that only makes the episodes we got even more special. Much like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance may continue to live in infamy on the promise of something more.
It’s long been called the Game of Thrones of science fiction and for good reason! The Expanse, based on the book series by James S.A. Corey, bears a lot of similarity to the epic tale of Westeros. It’s about several elite families and nations vying for control of valuable territory, while a much-larger entity (in the form of an alien substance) threatens everyone and everything they love. It’s no surprise the show was picked up by Amazon Studios after being canceled by Syfy. This is a story we should (hopefully) get to see all the way to the end.
One of the best things about early Game of Thrones was the characters. We fell in love with the Starks, Daenerys Targaryen, and even the Lannisters—until they fell victim to the season eight flu. If you’re looking for a show with great characters, look no further than The Magicians. This Syfy series, which recently ended with season five, gave us complex and insightful protagonists who grew with every season. And what’s more: The series never held them back. For years, Game of Thrones let its characters shape the plot, only to reverse direction in the final two seasons. The Magicians wouldn’t do that. They encouraged (and celebrated) all the steps their heroes were taking. And they never looked back.
Geralt of Rivia’s small screen debut may be the youngest addition to the list, but it packs quite a punch. Netflix’s The Witcher has become the newest fantasy obsession, telling the story of Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri finding each other across decades, setting the stage for an amazing second season that will focus on the creation of their non-traditional family. For anyone who wanted more myths and monsters than Game of Thrones provided, The Witcher is a great place to find them. Plus, while we wait for Game of Thrones to maybe get a prequel series, The Witcher’s world is also being expanded with two spinoffs—an anime that centers around Geralt’s mentor, Vesimir, and a prequel show that tells the story of the world’s first Witcher.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff may not be as widely remembered as the original, but folks who joined the vampire with a soul and his friends on their journey to rid Los Angeles of demons know that it was something special. Angel tended to be more mature and provocative than Buffy the Vampire Slayer and focused on an ongoing narrative rather than Monster of the Week stuff. It didn’t always stick the landing—like the god-awful Cordelia pregnancy storyline—but for folks wanting to see a group of heroes using their magic and skills to beat the odds, Angel is a sure bet.
This German sci-fi series, which recently ended with its third season, makes the list for one reason: It rivals even Game of Thrones for the sheer number of characters and intertwined, inexplicable relationships. If you thought the family trees of Westeros were convoluted, Dark takes things to a whole new level by adding time travel and more. It’s the kind of show you will need to take notes for, but it’s worth it once the pieces finally click into place.
Ah, the joys of a show that knows how to end. HBO’s The Leftovers, helmed by Watchmen’s Damon Lindelof, knew exactly what story it wanted to tell and how much time was needed to tell it. As a result, the TV show feels like a perfect package. Nothing is out of place. David Benioff and D.S. Weiss, the creators of Game of Thrones, failed to do the same thing, instead they rushed the show’s ending because they wanted to move onto their (since-canceled) Star Wars project. But at least we have showrunners like Lindelof, who know the value of telling the right story in the right amount of time.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is an excellent candidate for a solid Game of Thrones-style adventure of good overcoming all obstacles. But it’s a finite story with a happy (and deserved) ending. The follow-up series, The Legend of Korra, does something unique that also makes it worthy of exploration: it shows what happens after “Happily Ever After.” The series is about how victory doesn’t always mean you’re victoriousani because the same problems can still exist long after you thought you’d solved them. It’s a great substitute for the fact that we’ll never get to see what happens during and after the reign of King Bran—though I imagine it would be terrible.
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