Like sun, sex and parties, Game of Thrones is the television equivalent of unbridled enjoyment. Nothing compares to it. But all good things must come to an end. And with season six of GoT calling it a day this Sunday, a big chunk of our viewing rituals is about to disappear with it. No blood, no gore, no deception or battles, just an endless search on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon for something that comes close to the excitement that Medieval Santa—George R.R. Martin—has bestowed upon us for the past 10 weeks. But look no further, friends and foe, because we bring you the best five shows to satisfy your penchant for period thrills, chills and blood spills in the interim.
Set at the beginning of the Viking Age in the 8th century, it’s aesthetically as close to GoT than any other show on TV. And it’s got just as much carnage, plus all the classist and religious battles you can stand. Better yet, it’s based on the true tales of Viking Ragnar Lothbrook, a brutal but fair Scandinavian who rose from being a simple farmer to lead the Norsemen to raid England and France for the first time and rape, pillage and plunder the emerging first world. It’s bloody and brutal, and Australian Travis Fimmel’s cunning and cheeky portrayal of the historical figure makes for television viewing at its absolute best. Watch it on Hulu.
Officially the most under-rated show on television, this gothic 19th Century supernatural epic completed its three-season run just this week to critical acclaim. Set in London and drawing on the fictional tales of Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Grey, Count Dracula and Van Helsing, plus witches and werewolves to boot, it’s a subtle and compelling dramatic thriller that has more depth than almost any other show on television. It takes its name from “penny dreadfuls”, cheap 19th Century fiction that told sensational stories of beasts, murder and sorcery. And it features Josh Hartnett and former James Bond stars Timothy Dalton and Eva Green. Watch it on Showtime.
On the cobblestone streets of a post-WWI industrial Britain, the city runs wild with razor gangs. None are more vicious or aspirational than Birmingham’s Peaky Blinders. Based on true stories and historical figures from the 1910s and ’20s, including Winston Churchill and Blinders gang leader Tommy Shelby, the series is rife with cruelty, murder and the people against the administration battles that occupied the time. In the same vein as Boardwalk Empire but more grim and in a cesspit setting, the series wins not just by way of compelling storytelling but exceptional execution. Watch it on Netflix.
Like any serialized drama nowadays, this 18th Century adventure series set in the world of pirates takes some warming to but believe us, it gets better with age. Its second season capitalizes on the stones laid in the first for some of the most satisfying viewing on television. Set as a prequel to novel Treasure Island, the large-scale action sequences know few equals—largely because of Michael Bay’s involvement in the Starz series. Set during piracy’s golden age in the 1700s, it lends from tales of real-life pirates as the pirates attempt to rob and unsettle a newly civilized world. It’s a hunt for treasure more so than power and the major cost is blood.
OK, it’s not period but, hell, it meets all the criteria and then some. It’s dark, twisted, mysterious and action-packed, all the while producing more laughs than The Big Bang Theory (maybe not all that difficult a task). Brought to you buy the same people who gave us Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, Preacher is an eerie incarnation of a 1990s comic of the same name. And it features demented forces of evil both supernatural and otherwise—think an alcoholic vampire, demonic priest, gun-toting angels and wife-beating southern rednecks to boot. It’s sick, slick and funny in one. And like GoT, there are plenty of random storylines to try and track. Watch it on AMC.