In Depth

The best TV shows to watch after Game of Thrones

Fill that GoT-shaped hole with these historical dramas

The moment Game of Thrones fans were dreading is finally here - after eight years of magic and mayhem, HBO’s hit fantasy came to an end this week.

The finale has divided viewers and critics, but there is no denying the show has become a global television phenomenon.

There is some consolation for fans in that George R. R. Martin hasn’t yet finished his novels yet. There are also three spin-off series in the works, including a prequel due to air next year, and multiple behind-the-scenes documentaries and analysis of the original show available on Sky.

But if you’re after an entirely new tale, here are five great historical dramas with similar themes.

Rome

Gory violence, eye-popping sex scenes and a colourful cast of characters battling to seize power - this BBC/HBO historical epic should resonate with GoT fans.

Over two series, the show follows fictional legionaries Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stephenson), whose exploits bring them into contact with leading figures of the Roman world including Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Pompey, Cicero and Cleopatra.

Rome “is simply a triumph across the board”, says IGN. Offering “stellar writing, solid direction… and an amazing ensemble cast”, along with “exquisite” production values, “Rome makes ancient history come alive in all of its brutal glory”, the entertainment news site adds.

Vikings

GoT viewers who revelled in the epic battle between the Army of the Dead and the living in The Long Night can feed their bloody appetites with Vikings. The History channel series follows the Norse warriors whose raids wreaked havoc across western Europe, as seen through the eyes of farmer-turned-warlord Ragnar Lothbrok.

Although the show was dismissed by some as “Westeros-lite” when it debuted in 2013, with its strong cast and a rich (if occasionally loose) portrayal of Norse culture, Vikings “is as good, if not better, at a lot of elements familiar to fans of George R.R. Martin’s epic”, argues The Guardian’s Phelim O’Neill.

Season six, airing later this year, will be the final series, so now is the perfect time to catch up.

Wolf Hall

When it comes to portrayals of power struggles and behind-the-scenes intrigue, few shows can beat Wolf Hall.

Based on Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name and its sequel, Bring Up The Bodies, the mini-series follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance), a commoner who became one of Henry VIII’s most trusted advisers.

Rylance is “astonishing” as the inscrutable Cromwell, using his wits to navigate the in-fighting of the Tudor court and manipulate rivalries to his own ends, while Claire Foy is a “complete revelation” as a calculating Anne Boleyn, says The Guardian’s Vicky Frost.

Outlander

History meets fantasy in this ambitious TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s popular series of novels.

Irish actress Caitriona Balfe plays Claire Randall, a Second World War nurse who finds herself transported back to 18th century Scotland. There, she falls in with a band of rebel highlanders led by charismatic Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), and becomes embroiled in their battle to repel the English invaders - whose sadistic leader is her husband’s ancestor (both men are played by Tobias Menzies).

It might all sound a bit... well, outlandish, but Outlander is “letter-perfect” historical drama, says The A.V. Club’s Sonia Saraiya. A “prestige drama made of elements that compose no other prestige drama”, the show offers a refreshing female perspective on the well-worn time-travel genre, Saraiya notes.

The Last Kingdom

In the 1990s, ITV’s adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels made Sean Bean a star, and now the English author’s work is back on the small screen with The Last Kingdom, based on The Saxon Stories series.

Set during the Danish conquest of Northumbria in the ninth century, The Last Kingdom focuses on Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon), an Anglo-Saxon orphan raised by the new Norse overlords who is forced to choose between his adopted culture and his ancestral loyalties.

Yes, you can expect battles, brooding and a bit of black magic, but comparisons with GoT are “lazy”, says the Radio Times. The Last Kingdom is a “difference beast” that can “stand on its own two feet as a historical drama with something to say about life, love and the formation of Britain”, the magazine argues.

There are three series to catch up on, with a fourth in the works.

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