Game of Thrones is great. It’s extremely gritty, its lore is consistent, and it’s an extremely entertaining show to watch. However, Game of Thrones is also a little bit inaccessible to the casual viewer – you need to find a way to get around the HBO pay-wall, which can cost you anywhere from $14.99 depending on if you want to add it to your cable list, or $20 if you want the independent HBO Go. Viewing parties are a great thing, or if you have a roommate, it’s not so bad – I personally use Sling and when Game of Thrones is on, we add HBO to our package for a total of $35 for our cable bill.
However, if you’re out of content for Game of Thrones due to either not wanting to read the books or having already read them, or you are waiting for the television show to resume, I have a couple of television shows I might recommend you to watch. Thanks to the glory that are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or anything else that’s probably out there, there’s a lot you can do to sate your palate until we can return to Westeros. These are some shows I recommend that are similar in the vein of Game of Thrones, or have a world that is similar to it:
Rome is about the history of the Roman Empire during its transition from Republic to an Empire. Like Game of Thrones, Rome was produced by HBO and has quite a shocking production value considering the show was produced in the early 2000s. However, Rome lasted only a short 2 seasons, but could be considered the predecessor of Game of Thrones due to its realistic portrayal of a war-time society. Mark Antony, Julius Caesar, and numerous other historical figures make a play.
I have only seen five episodes of Rome, and I had to pause as I want to read the play of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare before or while viewing Rome to see how the two things compare. I would recommend Rome for any viewer that is looking for a nice political mix into a gritty realistic display of day-to-day life including assassinations and betrayals.
Unfortunately, Vikings is hosted on the History channel, which is not a bad thing in itself; the History channel is great, but due to its existence on mainstream cable, the violence and sex has to be censored to an appropriate amount. However, Vikings is about the portrayal of Ragnar Lothbrok from his ascension from simple viking into a king as he begins his raids on England and the western lands, after having raided east for so many years. Joining Ragnar is a host of characters, including the odd shipwright Floki, Ragnar’s brother Rollo, Ragnar’s wife and children, Lagertha the Shieldmaiden and Bjorn and Gyda.
Vikings does not have as much gritty action as Game of Thrones or even Rome, which makes an appearance on the list, but what it lacks in action it makes up in great storytelling and pacing. Rather than having characters die off (some main characters do die off, which is nice as that permanently changes the potential of the story) every so often due to violence, deaths are treated as they are in other shows and meant to have purpose – deaths will change a character. Not to spoil anything too big, but you can expect Ragnar to become an axe-swinging berserker with a tattooed head, accompanied with a mullet, by the time you catch up to the current season. Vikings is currently airing in its 4th season.
The Walking Dead
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you’re probably also a fan of The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead explains itself, but if you haven’t heard of it by now, it’s a realistic portrayal on a post-apocalyptic society in which mankind has been mostly wiped out by some form of disease or virus that turns people into mindless zombies without sensation, but the lust to feast on flesh. The Walking Dead treats deaths quite well and the story is consistent, but unfortunately this show has, in my opinion, fell victimization to the necessity to produce 16 episodes each season. Season 1 seems to have a much higher quality of production, and this is due to the episode having an increased budget with fewer episodes to produce; as the demand for episodes increased, the budget also went down overall.
The Walking Dead is currently airing in its sixth season, and has quite the story to tell. The comics are also a great read, and the show is quite faithful to the comics. If you are like me and haven’t caught up fully to The Walking Dead, then there’s still a great television show waiting to be binge-watched.
Sons of Anarchy
Sons of Anarchy is about the portrayal of a man, Jackson “Jax” Telller in his early 30s struggling to find his acceptance between being a new father to an ailing baby and his involvement in a motorcycle outfit. Sons of Anarchy focuses mainly on the relationships that are developed in such a motorcycle club, and focus on the involvement of illegal activity such as dealing with rival gangs, politicians, evading authorities, and topics that hit home such as drug addiction and domestic abuse.
Sons of Anarchy is a great story and realistic; I only watched the first two seasons of it before I eventually cut cable and have not watched it since, and there are seven total seasons available. Sons of Anarchy is worth checking out if you consider yourself a fan of Breaking Bad or any other show which focuses on the illegal activities of a career criminal.
Rounding out this list is a wildcard, which is my personal favorite – The Wire focuses on Baltimore in the late 90s into early 2000s, and the massive problems that plague the city such as the drug trade, corrupt politics, failing school system, and even the Baltimore harbor. The Wire’s main character is recovering alcoholic James McNulty, who struggles with repairing a broken home life while being a cop that is typically part of an outfit which is tasked with setting up and listening to wire-tapped phone lines as a means of incrimination. Throughout The Wire, corruption in the justice system is revealed every season as the main means for crime happening on the streets.
The Wire deserves a spot on this list, in my opinion, because it tells an accurate, compelling story that sticks with itself consistently and makes sense over time as it tells the true tale of the corruption of Baltimore that eventually began to destroy parts of the city by forcing people to terrible quality, low-income housing, drug trading, and poverty. The Wire is a shockingly accurate portrayal of the society of the time that the series is focused on, so much so that one of the actors, who plays Bubbles, a recovering crack addict, was given a vial of crack by someone on the street who said that he needed the fix more than the giftor did. The Wire really hits home in its storytelling and is quite heavy since it is all 100% reality based, despite the characters not necessarily being real people. The Wire lasted for five seasons total and is an amazing, entertaining story for anyone who would want to learn how corruption can affect the daily life of some Americans, but see it in a way that is respectful to the reality of the source material.
Game of Thrones Season 6 will return on April 24, 2016, at 9 PM EST.