Eight seasons and 73 episodes down and this cultural zeitgeist’s watch has ended. Mixed reviews for the last batch of episodes couldn’t slow down the runaway train this show was, and it remains to be seen how the final season will affect the series’ prestige down the line.
As it stands, a huge part of our lives is gone now, but that doesn’t mean our hunger for quality television has disappeared too.
Rather, now more than ever, we viewers need superb television to snack on, protagonists to cheer, antagonists to despise, action to get the blood pumping, mesmerizing visuals to gawk at, and stories to strike us square in the feels.
And so, to tide you over until the inevitable spin-offs, sequels, remakes, and copycats sure to follow this towering fantasy series, here are five TV shows to fill in the Game–of–Thrones-sized hole in your heart, in no particular order.
A fellow-HBO adaptation of a preexisting property (albeit this one was originally a movie), Westworld boasts a balanced mix of high and low concept fair much like GoT–ensemble-drama with season-long arcs and mind-bending twists and cliffhangers, plus a marked focus on cathartic action set pieces and fantastic acting–though this one has guns. And AI. And a pseudo-dystopian future where people pay up the wazoo to pretend to be cowboys. The show can get super dense and very cryptic in its themes and what it has to say about “human,” but if that deep philosophical digression-stuff is not your cup of tea, don’t sweat it. Just put on a Stetson and load up your favorite six-shooter. You’ll be needing it.
Premiering in the mid-aughts, this tropical island mystery captivated millions for six seasons, being the the most-discussed and theorized show on discussion boards for the duration of its run (and beyond). This was the water-cooler show that preceded GoT, and it’s really no wonder why. A polar bear on an island. A smoke monster. A dozen or so main characters trying to work together to survive, knowing that no one’s coming for them. It pulls you in with its charm and holds you with its possibilities. You may have heard very negative things about how the show ended–though I couldn’t disagree more–but if it’s any consolation, the preceding 100 or so episodes are unanimously acclaimed and will blow your mind while tugging on your heart strings simultaneously. Flashback to a real game-changer.
An underrated classic when it was on, Deadwood was cancelled after three seasons, but they were a hell of a three seasons indeed. A western drama taking place in the 1870s in Deadwood, South Dakota, the show explores how a civilization forms in uncharted territory (i.e., the logistics of such an endeavor): politics; commerce; law enforcement; gold mining; etc. It’s both an exceptionally staged and acted television show and time machine to a time long past. It puts less of a focus on strict western action in favor of portraying the relationships between people who seem to disagree on everything. Note: If you can’t handle a f**k or 200, this show is NOT for you.
The book series from which this show was adapted was written by a pair of authors who previously worked with George R.R. Martin, so you know they’ve got the goods. A science-fiction drama set a few hundred years in the future, political strife abounds between three bodies of government–Earth, Mars, and the Belt–who know it’s only a matter of time before all-out war reaches their doorsteps. All the while, a secret, scientific discovery threatens to exterminate the solar system of human life, which a ragtag group of ice-hauling ship workers and a jaded detective hope to prevent. This series might honestly be the closest to GoT you’re going to get before you get back to GoT, but it’s so much more than just GoT in space. But if that will convince you to watch it, fine: it’s Game of Thrones in space.
This is a bit of a dark-horse candidate, but hear me out. Though GoT is chock-full of dragons, ice zombies, necromancy, swapping faces, and a damn tree person, the show, at its core, is all about human nature. Good and bad and everything in between. Choice and consequence. The struggle to survive in a merciless world. And above all, the propensity to change. Walter White’s journey is a journey through the human condition. You see him meek, then inspired, then enterprising, then Machiavellian, and finally a monster. We’re not all like Walter, but we have the capacity to be, and that’s terrifying. His schemes will shock you, time and time again, as he grows more and more fearsome. Luckily, though he also experiences a transformation like Walt, his partner Jesse provides some much needed comedic relief through his downright and lovable stupidity. After all, they have great chemistry.