The sixth season of Game of Thrones is over, which means one thing: waiting. So much waiting. While it's tempting to spend the next year studying George R.R. Martin's books and Reddit posts like Samwell Tarly in the Citadel's library, concocting theories about why Varys is secretly a merman, and publicly mourning the death of Margaery, that's no way to spend the off-season. It's time to catch up on all those non-Thrones shows you've been neglecting.
Like Daenerys leaving Daario behind to look for marriage material, now is the time to start looking at other shows not as competitors but as potential new loves. We're assuming you've already made your way through the classic TV canon -- especially The Wire, Rome, House of Cards, Deadwood, and our picks for the best series of 2015 and 2016 so far -- so these lesser-known titles (compared to GoT, at least) can help ease your pain. The list is practically dragonless, but there's enough fantasy, violence, and thematic similarities to justify a hearty binge.
Why it's for Game of Thrones fans: If you're hankering for another fantasy-prestige series involving time travel, violence, historical references, and romance, Outlander might be your best bet. It's produced by Ronald D. Moore, an alum of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, and like GoT, it's based on a book series (this one's by Diana Gabaldon), in which our heroine, Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a World War II nurse, gets flung back in time to the Scottish Highlands in the 18th century, separated from her husband by time and space. Unlike the bulk of Thrones, Outlander has earned heaps of praise for its competent grasp of the female gaze -- save for some gruesome, GoT-like instances of assault, Claire is prioritized and in control for the show's many steamy sex scenes. Season 2 brings Claire and her love interest Jamie (not to be confused with Jaime Lannister) to Paris for more pseudo-historical shenanigans and graphic sexual encounters. Plus, Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) shows up!
Where to watch it: Seasons 1 and 2 are available on the Starz app, with the Season 2 finale airing July 9th; Season 3 is still in the works, but unlike George R.R. Martin's TV-source text, there are still plenty of Gabaldon books left to translate to the screen.
The 100 (The CW)
Why it's for Game of Thrones fans: Brutal, agonizing character deaths! If you love getting to know a cast member over a series of episodes -- or whole seasons -- before having them ripped away from you, this show might be for you. But the tough-minded YA adaptation has more going for it than sheer agony: the back-room politics of its post-apocalyptic world call to mind the best deal-making we've seen in King's Landing, and the thorny moral dilemmas are just as rich as any of the tough choices Jon Snow's had to make up at the Wall. Don't let the show's soapy veneer fool you; this is dark, thoughtful material in a slick, teen-friendly package.
Where to watch it: Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix; Season 3 episodes are available on the CW app, and Season 4 premieres in the fall
Peaky Blinders (Netflix)
Why it's for Game of Thrones fans: Cillian Murphy stars in this early-20th-century period drama as Thomas Shelby, a World War I vet-turned-patriarchal crime boss who wants to up his family's social and financial status in England. The Shelbys' story plays out as historical fiction, loosely inspired by the exploits of real-life gangs based in Birmingham around the late 1800s and early 1900s. Rivaling bands of thugs clash for underworld influence here in a way that is not unlike on Game of Thrones, just on a less fantastical scale: high-stakes political power plays, shady back-room dealings, and gritty tussles abound, with enough blood to rival the Red Wedding. (The show's name comes from the razor blades stitched in the Shelbys' flat caps, after all.) And if you still miss GoT, take comfort in appearances from Locke (Noah Taylor), Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig), and the Night King (Richard Brake).
Where to watch it: Seasons 1-3 are streaming on Netflix
The Shannara Chronicles (MTV)
Why it's for Game of Thrones fans: If you watch Thrones and live for every White Walker attack, pine for more Bran warging, wish every battle involved eight more dragons, or wonder why there isn't a wizard who can solve Westeros' problems with a single spell, there's a show for you. MTV spent serious cash realizing Terry Brooks' Shannara series, balancing out the hot-young-thing cast with what can only be described as fantasy geekery. All the made-up names, places, and objects of magical destruction introduced in the first season make explaining the plot a chore, but The Shannara Chronicles gamifies Thrones' drama with zanier action and colorful imagination. An acquired taste, but one that satisfies.
Where to watch it: Season 1 arrives on Netflix on July 1st. Full episodes stream on MTV.com with cable access. Season 2 is expected to debut in 2017.
Why it's for Game of Thrones fans: While the White Walkers, the Zombie Mountain, and Cersei's fearsome pixie cut all strike fear into your heart, Game of Thrones has always had more fantasy than horror. If you want to up the scare quotient, watch this creepy exorcism drama based on a comic from The Walking Dead mastermind Robert Kirkman, which pairs complex familial history with terrifying imagery that would make Walder Frey's skin crawl. It's the type of stripped-down, character-driven genre show that makes for an ideal GoT stop-gap -- plus, there are plenty of unexplained mysteries to give your theory-hungry brain a workout.
Where to watch it: Fridays at 10pm on Cinemax and MAX GO
The Expanse (Syfy)
Why it's for Game of Thrones fans: Based on a series of novels by "James S.A. Corey" (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), The Expanse is a conspiracy thriller set in a future where humans have colonized the solar system. Just as Game of Thrones strayed from fantasy's wackier tropes, The Expanse leans into the humanist side of sci-fi, following Thomas Jane's detective Joe Miller and a team of starship pilots as they investigate the death of a space tycoon's daughter. Also like Thrones, the otherworldly tropes eventually begin bleeding into the story.
Where to watch it: Stream the first season on Syfy.com, or download episodes from iTunes or Amazon. Season 2 begins in January 2017.
Why it's for Game of Thrones fans: Seth Rogen and Breaking Bad writer Sam Catlin teamed up for an adaptation of the hard-R '90s classic by comic legends Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, and the result is a madcap, supernatural mystery and one of the goriest hour-longs we've ever seen. The premiere introduced us to kick-ass man of the cloth Jesse Custer, his even deadlier ex-girlfriend Ruth, and Cassidy, an Irish vampire who loves to drink and pick fights. Based on our conversation with Catlin earlier this month, all three are on a road to revelations -- about God, about hell, and about everything in between.
Where to watch it: New episodes air on Sunday nights at 10pm and can be streamed on VOD or AMC's app, and purchased on iTunes or Amazon
Queen of the South (USA)
Why it's for Game of Thrones fans: If the rise of Thrones' female characters through Season 6 got you fired up, take notes on "queenpin" Teresa's (Alice Braga) ascent to power in the male-dominated narco world. The USA series, which premiered last week, hews closely to its inspiration, Telemundo telenovela La Reina del Sur, which was a favorite of real-life kingpin El Chapo; the English-language version ups the gloss without trading in any of the grit. Dany's champions will recognize their heroine's grit and determination in Teresa, who shoots her enemies down in their tracks while learning the ropes of her new trade. Only one episode in, and there’s already enough blood and assault to rival an average week on GoT.
Where to watch it: New episodes air Thursdays at 10pm; previous episodes are available to stream at USANetwork.com
Why it's for Game of Thrones fans: At its core, Empire tracks the power struggles among a family dynasty populated with those who will stop at nothing to claim the throne of their record label. The sheer amount of backstabbing, murder, love triangles, and deception is a soapy delight; the Timbaland-produced soundtrack is a welcome bonus for pop hip-hop fans. That its characters and visual aesthetic bear little to no resemblance to the world of Westeros can act as a breath of fresh air for your fantasy-flooded eyeballs.
Where to watch: Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Hulu; Season 3 premieres September 21st
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