‘Game of Thrones’ Is Over. Here’s What’s Next
'His Dark Materials', 'Lord Of The Rings': There's a huge list of new fantasy shows coming to television.
RIP Game of Thrones 17 April 2011 — 19 May 2019.
The pop culture phenomenon is now in the crypt.
Aside from the final two books George R. R. Martin owes us, the prequel series in development and a bunch of maniac fans who want to remake the final season; we’ve left the Seven Kingdoms, for now.
So what the hell are we going to obsess over now?
Since Game of Thrones started every TV network and film studio has been on the hunt for the next fantasy epic. The head of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, once demanded his TV people bring him the next big thing in the spirit of Martin’s creation.
The rights to books have been purchased, screenwriters have pitched ideas, and everyone has talked a big game about delivering the next big thing but not much has popped up as a successor yet.
There are huge fantasy-themed projects on the horizon that could be your next obsession and we’ve broken them down. The next pop culture phenomenon awaits.
The upcoming TV series is based on a series of fantasy books by Andrzej Sapkowski that have been adapted before into a film, video games, graphic novels, card/tabletop games and TV series. The biggest difference between this adaptation and what has come before is the might of Netflix.
You may know The Witcher best from the popular video games, but the Netflix series will stick closer to the novels for inspiration.
Sapkowski’s books focus on The Continent, a world where humans have conquered native dwarves, elves and gnomes. The kingdom is divided between the north and the south, constantly at war, and ‘Witchers’ are superhuman characters tasked with hunting mystical creatures.
Henry Cavill leads the show as a monster hunter for rent, Geralt of Rivia and the plot focuses on his encounter with a powerful sorceress, a princess and a dangerous secret. The series is being developed by Lauren Hissrich whose credits include The Umbrella Academy, Daredevil, Parenthood and The West Wing.
The Witcher is rumoured to be released late 2019.
His Dark Materials
In The Golden Compass, a polar bear in battle armour punches the jaw off another polar bear in a fight for the an ice throne; we don’t talk about this enough.
The blockbuster, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, was meant to launch a trilogy of films based on Pullman’s book series His Dark Materials. The series is set in a world where people’s souls appear as shape-shifting animals called ‘Daemons’ and begins with Lyra Belacqua in search of her missing friend.
The polar bear throwdown wasn’t enough to save The Golden Compass and the film trilogy was cancelled after poor box office. But like most failed film adaptations of popular books, there’s always room for a second shot at it on TV.
The BBC and HBO have joined forces for Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. The cast is huge draw here with Dafne Keen (the little girl from Logan) James McAvoy (Spit), Ruth Wilson (Luther) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, Mary Poppins Returns) filling the major roles. Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Miserable) is on-board to direct and Jack Thorne (Skins, Shameless, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) is on scripting duties.
The complex plot from the books was crammed into the film adaptation so TV will give the story breathing room and it sounds like they plan to adapt all three books (as the title suggests). Signs are already positive with the series getting a second season before the first has aired.
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials doesn’t have a release date yet but an ominous “coming soon” so close to the end of Game of Thrones hints it will arrive mid-2019.
Children of Blood and Bone
In 2017, a bidding war erupted for publishing and film rights to author, Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel Children of Blood and Bone. The deal, in excess of seven-figures, secured the book, plus two sequels and set up the film adaptation before the novel even hit shelves!
Luckily, the fantasy book about an African-inspired kingdom (think Wakanda in Black Panther) was a New York Times bestseller, gained positive reviews and was so huge that Adeyemi appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
The book is set in the land of Orïsha where magic once existed, but a ruthless king triggered a genocide of magical tribes and took away their abilities. The powerless tribes are an underclass at the beginning of the book, but a young warrior goes on a quest when she discovers there may be a way to bring magic back.
Orïsha is a wonderfully realised fantasy kingdom and it’s like Avatar: The Last Airbender meets the political intrigue of Game of Thrones.
The director behind Dope, Rick Famuyiwa, will turn Children of Blood and Bone into a film and the book’s sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, is set for a Christmas 2019 release.
Now is the time to get on board with Children of Blood and Bone because this could be huge and the film is expected sometime in 2020/21.
So I just finished Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone…and I am…I am…like…WOW… pic.twitter.com/PHFkm2s0pj
— Robert Bratcher (@creativebobbie) June 7, 2019
The Wheel of Time / Lord of the Rings Prequel
When Amazon when on the hunt for the next big thing in fantasy they went after two of the biggest book series first: The Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings.
Both will be adapted as TV series for Amazon and they aren’t messing around — Bezos paid $200 million just for the rights to LOTR before a single frame was shot.
The Wheel of Time is based on author Robert Joran’s (real name: James Oliver Rigney Jr) fantasy series that spans 14 novels. The series is set in a world where magic exists but only women can use it. The plot focusses on Moiraine, a member of an all-female organisation called the ‘Aes Sedai’ as she takes a treacherous journey with five young men and women.
Moiraine suspects one of them may be the reincarnation of a powerful being who is prophesied to either save humanity or destroy it. With so many novels to adapt this series has a lot of rich material to work with and a passionate built-in fanbase spanning decades.
On the LOTR front, we know that Amazon will make a prequel TV series that traces the rise of Middle Earth’s favourite bad boy, Sauron. The show will be set during the Second Age, which is when Sauron made his move to manipulate all the royal families, create the rings of power and build an army.
Already, it’s set to be one of the most expensive TV shows ever made with a budget in the billions and Amazon is locked in for five seasons.
We’re playing the long game here so expect both shows across 2020/21.
Welcome to the Second Age: https://t.co/Tamd0oRgTw
— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) March 7, 2019
Avatar the Last Airbender
I once had a friend show up with a DVD box set of Nickelodeon’s animated series, Avatar the Last Airbender, with a demand to watch it or else.
People love this series — or else — set in a world where society is divided up into four nations: fire, water, air and earth. In each nation there are ‘benders’ who can control each element using martial arts. There’s only one person, The Avatar, who can control all four elements at once; they’re kind of a big deal and get reincarnated when they die.
The cartoon series picks 100 years after the disappearance of The Avatar, and in that time peace between the nations has fractured and The Fire Nation is the supreme ruler, fireballs everywhere. Look, my friend was right, the show is awesome, and it blends kung-fu with fantasy elements brilliantly.
M. Night Shyamalan made a live-action blockbuster in 2010 that was a disaster, but Avatar the Last Airbender is getting a second shot thanks to Netflix.
We don’t know much about what they’ve got planned, but the potential is huge and the big mistake of trying to load this series into one film has already been made. Considering the martial arts aspect, this could be visually spectacular, think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Captain Planet.
This one is a long way off, not even one casting announcement yet, so 2021 may be the year of the Airbender.
— randomsakuga (@randomsakuga) June 6, 2019
Black Leopard Red Wolf
Since the success of Creed and Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan has become a big player in Hollywood.
Jordan set up a production company, Outlier Society, and signed a first-look deal with Warner Brothers. A first-look deal means Warner Brothers gets first dibs on anything Outlier Society is developing. A project Jordan has in development is an adaption of Marlon James’ (A Brief History of Seven Killings) fantasy novel Black Leopard, Red Wolf.
Shortly after the book’s release, Jordan purchased the rights to a film adaptation and there’s no doubt he’s planning to star in it.
The book is inspired by African mythology and is set in a world where a mercenary with an acute sense of smell and a shape-shifting leopard/man are tasked with finding a child whose identity will unsettle the balance of the power in the kingdom.
James’ book contains supernatural creatures, political power plays, brutal violence and lots of sword-swinging action. James’ promises the Black Leopard, Red Wolf is part of a planned ‘Dark Star Trilogy’ so there’s more to come.
The ink is still drying on the deal, so this adaptation may take awhile to come together, but grab the book as soon as you can.
Oooooh Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James is so good, confusing and hard to follow and dripping with blood and body but so worth it.
— Took (@ctooksy) June 1, 2019
The Kingkiller Chronicle
Okay, if you want more singing in your fantasy, look no further than The Kingkiller Chronicle.
The book series, written Patrick Rothfuss, tells the story of a adventurer and musician in a medieval world. There are two books, The Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear, and a planned third novel — but Rothfuss has done a George R. R. Martin and has failed to deliver.
The Kingkiller Chronicle has all the usual fantasy flair (there are dragons) but instead of the main character obsessing over his skills with a sword, he’s obsessed with a lute. Rothfuss’ approach to fantasy using music is refreshing and it’s a series that values its lead characters brain over brawn.
The TV series is being developed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, so it sounds like they are putting a lot of effort into balancing the book’s fantasy and musical elements. The only catch is there hasn’t been much word on when we’re going to see it as the trail on its development has gone cold.
There’s a good chance the series has been canned but if there’s still life in it I want to see some lute action.
Me, just now: Remembers that we are still waiting for book 3 of The Kingkiller Chronicle. Makes this face for a bit. pic.twitter.com/Q16q6wb1N3
— Chantel Acevedo (@chantelacevedo) December 20, 2018
Rivers of London
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and trying their hand at producing and they’ve purchased the rights to Ben Aaronovitch’s urban fantasy series, Rivers of London.
The series, also known as the Peter Grant series, centres on a normal police constable who gets recruited by a small branch of the the force that deals with magic and the supernatural.
There are nine books in the series so Pegg and Frost have lots to adapt, which could sustain the show for several seasons. Aaronovitch will be heavily involved in the show’s production so fans can trust this is going to be a faithful adaptation.
— Andy Haigh (@Wolverinesclaws) August 10, 2017
A Discovery of Witches
A teenage witch may have taken the spotlight, but A Discovery of Witches, based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, is the witch show you need to be all over.
The plot follows Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer), a historian who finds a bewitched manuscript and is thrust into a supernatural world. There are vampires (look out for Matthew Goode), good witches, bad witches and even a witch that’s just a head in a box.
A Discovery of Witches is a more gothic approach to the witch world and no expense has been spared. Shot in Europe, all the locations are stunning, the special effects are top notch and the drama is juicy; it’s like Outlander with less bare knees and more spellcasting. The show has flown under the radar a little but it found a modest audience and has already been given a second and third season – the greatest vote of confidence.
Look out for A Discovery of Witches on Foxtel in Australia.
The Eyes of the Dragon
I’d go to jail if I didn’t mention Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon, which is going to be turned into a TV series at Hulu.
The book is set in a medieval kingdom called the realm of Delain and it’s centred on the royal family. A young prince is framed for the poisoning of his own father and king, and he attempts to clear his name.
Lurking in the story is Randell Flagg, a name familiar with King fans because it’s a villain who has appeared in The Stand and The Dark Tower. Throw it on the pile of the King adaptations.
I am happy to hear that
F I N A L L Y,
Stephen King's, 'The Eyes of the Dragon',
is getting a tv adaptation.
But the chosen title, 'Dragon', has got to change. It has nothing to do with live dragons, it's about a royal rivalry, a sinister man.
— We Need Nature, Not Walls 🌳🐞🌻🦋🏞️ (@kimberlyjt) May 17, 2019
Cameron Williams is a writer and film critic based in Melbourne who occasionally blabs about movies on ABC radio. He has a slight Twitter addiction: @MrCamW.