Just in case you haven’t heard, production on Game of Thrones season 6 begins this month, reminding us that our next Westeros fix is on the horizon … but still very, very far away. Thus I have assembled the Game of Thrones Withdrawal Guide, a two-part list of supplementary entertainment to tide us all over until next April.
Part I: Supplementary Viewing
For the sake of immediate gratification (and simplicity) this list is limited to TV shows featuring Game of Thrones actors that are available to stream on legal sites that I have personally watched and enjoyed. This list is far from comprehensive, of course. If there’s a show you love that’s not on here, tell us about it below.
Described by producer, Charlotte Walls, as a 3-part pilot for a potential 10-episode season, Residue is a thriller about a photographer, Jen (Natalia Tena) and a Home Office spokesman, Jonas (Iwan Rheon) who work to uncover a governmental conspiracy surrounding supernatural occurrences plaguing their city after a mysterious chemicals explosion. While at times slow and clunky, Residue has a wonderful neo-noir aesthetic and compelling, albeit flawed, protagonists. The opportunity to watch Osha and Ramsay Bolton play lovers alone is worth giving it a try.
Another Iwan Rheon show! Though Misfits ran for five seasons, I specify only the first three, not only because the quality drops in season 4 faster than five young offenders hit by lightening (and then granted superpowers .. that’s the premise, by the way) but because Iwan Rheon left after season 3, along with most of the cast. In addition to its darkly humorous tone and imaginative premise, Misfits also deserves recognition for being one of the few shows to include a time travel subplot that’s not only coherent and consistent but affecting and bittersweet. (Also, Michelle Fairley plays a small role as Nathan’s put-upon Mum)
Availability: Netflix, Hulu
So … this definitely qualifies as a guilty pleasure of mine but it features far too many guest appearances by Game of Thrones actors to ignore:
Joe Dempsie (1×10,), Mackenzie Crook (2×01), James Cosmo (2×04), CHARLES DANCE (2×07), Joseph Mawle (2×11,), Donald Sumpter (3×08), Julian Glover (5×01), Liam Cunningham (5×01 – 5×02), John Bradley (5×07)
Merlin is a prequel/reimagining of the Arthurian Legend in which magic is outlawed in Camelot and a young Merlin must hide his powers while serving a young, arrogant yet charismatic Prince Arthur. Despite its cheesy tone and low production value, it is remarkable how much this show has in common with Game of Thrones. Woman with a dragon hellbent on seizing the throne? Check. Abusive relationship between a master (Arthur) and his Reek-ish servant (Merlin)? Check. Compelling characters? Check. Moral ambiguity? … eh, sort of. Similar to Misfits, I recommend stopping after season 3. From season 4 onwards the show starts to take itself too seriously and character arcs get sloppy. Merlin is at its best when it accepts that its charms lies, not in its story, but in its light tone, its likable supporting cast and its thoroughly endearing lead.
I have to hand it to this show, they took a part of history that everyone already knew about (spoiler: divorced, beheaded died, divorced, beheaded, survived) and made it compelling. Natalie Dormer plays Anne Boleyn, Margaery Tyrell’s historical counterpart, so I don’t need to tell you that she’s excellent as the ill-fated, ambitious queen. The sets and costumes are gorgeous (though the hair styles can be pretty anachronistic), the best pieces of Trevor Morris’ score could almost rival Djawadi’s and, fun fact, Tamzin Merchant, who plays Catherine Howard, was originally cast to play Daenerys.
Contrary to what the title might suggest, this show is not about Jack the Ripper (yeah, I was disappointed too), but rather two Whitechapel policemen- one of whom is played by Jerome Flynn- and a doctor who solve crimes in Victorian east London in the months following Jack’s infamous spree. It’s a period procedural drama that balances the personal crises of the main characters with genuinely engrossing mysteries that incorporate all manner of Victorian societal ills into the narrative, from child street gangs to 19th century porn. Guest stars include Iain Glen, Joseph Mawle and Anton Lesser.
This is a hidden gem I stumbled upon while compiling this list. Supreme Tweeter is a web series about a fictionalized Harry Lloyd who’s been out of work since Viserys’ “crowning” in season 1 but enjoys a bizarre change of fortune when Kim Jong Un follows him on Twitter. The 3-part series is only 20 minutes long in total but it’s packed with brilliant, often painfully insightful humor, and includes cameos from Maisie Williams and George RR Martin.
These are shows that I have not watched and thus can only recommend through hearsay.
- Borgia (availability: Netflix): A historical drama -not to be confused with The Borgias- about the Borgia family in which John Bradley appears as Giovanni De Medici.
- The Wire (availability: Amazon Instant, Google Play, HBO Go): Another critically acclaimed HBO series about Baltimore’s drug scene in which Aidan Gillen plays politician, Tommy Carcetti.
- Robin Hood (availability: Hulu Plus), A BBC show with a similar tone and production value as Merlin, in which Harry Lloyd plays a member of Robin’s Merry Men.
- Skins (availability: Netflix): A British hit drama about teenagers in Bristol, England starring Hannah Murray and Joe Dempsie.
- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (availability: Amazon Instant, Google Play): A science fiction series starring Lena Headey as Sarah Connor. Need I say more?