Game of Thrones came to its end in 2019, not in the best fashion either. But despite the fan response to the end of the HBO series, the age of fantasy TV adaptations is likely just beginning.
Game of Thrones introduced audiences to the sprawling fictional landscape created by author George R.R. Martin with its own geography, economy and politics completely divorced from the real world. The show sucked in many trepidatious viewers who had never picked up a fantasy novel before in their lives, and now studios are hoping to capture that magic in a bottle again.
Fantasy and science fiction adaptations are nothing new on Hollywood, though in the past they have tended to get more play as movies. This was not always a bad thing — see Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, for instance. It was not always good either — see the 2006 film adaptation of Eragon.
These days, many fantasy adaptations are being developed as series instead. This makes sense for a lot of reasons. To start, epic fantasy tends to include a lot of world-building, exposition and groundwork. It can be nearly impossible to cram all of that into one movie, and even if you do that knowledge is watered down.
In the world of fantasy, readers are rewarded for investing time in a series. The more fluency they bring to a world, the more they are rewarded with new twists and turns in the story itself, rather than trying to remember names or understand how magic works.
Therefore, TV is a good home for fantasy adaptations, as the minds behind Game of Thrones have learned. There are countless others working frantically to try and mimic their success, but there is no telling who will get there first.
Here is a look at some of the most promising fantasy adaptations either planned or rumored to be coming to TV next.
'Who Fears Death' - Nnedi Okorafor
One of the top contenders for the "Next Game of Thrones" title is undoubtedly Who Fears Death, based on the novel by Nnedi Okorafor. The story has been in development at HBO since the fall of 2017, with GoT author George R.R. Martin attached as a co-executive producer. Martin and Okorafor attended the Emmys together in September, where he raved to reporters about the project.
Who Fears Death is set in a post-apocalyptic future version of Sudan. It is set in the midst of an oppressive regime lead by the light-skinned Nuru people, lording over the dark-skinned Okeke. Its protagonist is a girl named Onyesonwu, which translates to "who fears death." Onyesonwu is half Nuru and half Okeke, and in this coming of age story she goes on a quest to defeat her father, a dark sorcerer, with her own magical powers.
There have not been a lot of recent updates on Who Fears Death,and HBO has not officially ordered the series or even a pilot. However, with Martin at the helm, it seems likely that we will be seeing Onyesonwu on-screen sometime soon.
'The Witcher' - Andrzej Sapkowski
In terms of timing, Netflix may win the title of "Next Game of Thrones" with its series adaptation of The Witcher. The show's first season was a hit and Henry Cavill's performance as Geralt won over fans of the series and video games.
The Witcher already has a huge following, not just from Andrzej Sapkowski's books but from the video game adaptations. On top of that, the show has an all-star cast, including Man of Steel star Henry Cavill and Vikings' Stephen Wall. And while season one had some confusion with its timeline, the fantasy elements and action were top notch.
The Witcher season two is expected to air on Netflix in 2021, but don't expect the same type of series as Game of Thrones. It is in the same genre, but the show will not be a Game of Thrones clone.
'The Broken Earth' - N.K. Jemisin
Another promising story trapped in development deadlock is The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. The series takes place on a fantasy world inhabited by people of different races, species and castes, all of whom believe that the end of their world is at hand. At the center are a group of three women with the power to influence seismic activity beneath the supercontinent they live on.
The Broken Earth was optioned for TV by TNT in 2017, but there has been no news since then. The show was given big TV names to help it along such as Leigh Dana Jackson of Sleepy Hollow, who was set to write the pilot, and Tim Kring of Heroes, who was set to executive produce.
While fans are generally looking to premium networks or streaming services for the next big fantasy adaptation, it would be a surprise if TNT could swoop in and steal the crown. Still, given the source material, they have every chance. It also has some welcome neighbors with the adaptation of Snowpiercer premiering on the network soon.
'The Chronicles of Narnia' - C.S. Lewis
Last year, Netflix acquired the rights to make a TV adaptation of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series. The beloved books have already had a successful run on the big screen before stopping, so fans would likely tune in for another round, especially in series form.
Lewis was a contemporary of The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien, and the two workshopped books together from time to time. The Chronicles of Narnia are known for non-linear storytelling and overt Christian symbolism, with an almost parable-like quality to some stories. That could lend itself well to a series, especially in today's anthology-crazed TV climate.
Netflix announced that its adaptation of the series would include both movies and TV shows, perhaps alternating between the two from book to book. The projects will be executive produced by Mark Gordon, Douglas Gresham and Vincent Seiber.
It also stands in opposition to His Dark Materials on HBO, another fantasy series vying for the crown that also had a run at the theaters with The Golden Compass. It is like the anti-Narnia tale.
'The Wheel of Time' - Robert Jordan
Want to get caught up on Wheel of Time before the Amazon series? We have a bunch of Robert Jordan‘s books! pic.twitter.com/68EACfHhbV— The Crazy Book Lady (@TheCrazyBookLa2) March 18, 2019
The Wheel of Time series is one of the largest high fantasy epics ever devised. Spanning 17 books in total, including one prequel and two companion books, the story is set in a world that seems at once to be ancient and futuristic, and it is never made clear whether it is set on earth or not.
Obviously, there is more than enough story to fuel an adaptation here, and fans have been waiting a long time for one. Jordan first referenced the possibility of a TV adaptation in 2000, telling CNN reporters that NBC had optioned the first book in the series for a show.
FXX aired an adaptation of part of the story in 2015, though the low-budget project was not well received. The studio ultimately stepped back to re-examine the potential of the series, which has a huge international fan base.
In February of 2018, Sony Pictures Television and Amazon Studios announced that they were co-developing a Wheel of Time series for Amazon Instant Video. The show was officially greenlit in October, though there is no word yet on when we might see it on screen.
There is some massive talent behind The Wheel of Time adaptation, including showrunner Rafe Judkins, who worked on Chuck and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Still, Amazon has not proven itself as a hitmaker yet, so fans are still weary.
'The Sandman' - Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman's epic Vertigo series was snatched up by Netflix last year and it has been a long time coming. We've seen plenty of pieces of the Sandman universe pop up elsewhere on DC Comics and Warner Brothers television. That includes the short-lived Constantine on NBC and Lucifer from Fox before its move to Netflix. There was also the Swamp Thing series that was canceled before its premiere on DC's streaming platform.
The rumors are true. The tangled story of Morpheus, King of Dreams is becoming a Netflix series! Warner Brothers and executive producer Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman screenwriter) have signed on to bring the dream of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman into reality. pic.twitter.com/cOMjPL5cqp— NX (@NXOnNetflix) July 1, 2019
Nobody knows what to truly expect from the series but Gaiman's involvement in both this and Lucifer paints a brighter picture than we've seen in the past. Will be interesting to see how it unfolds because the world (and underworld) are interesting as can be.
'Shadow and Bone' - Leigh Bardugo
Another series snatched up by Netflix in the wake of Game of Thrones, Shadow and Bone is full of monsters, magic and the 1800s. The Russian origins of the book will come into play here and offer a unique perspective on the fantasy genre, much like Metro 2033 has done for the post-apocalyptic genre.
The show has a rabid fanbase and will be ready to pick the show apart once it is in production. The case announced in the fall of 2019, with Narnia alum and Westworld actor Ben Barnes in a lead role.
#ShadowAndBone — based on @LBardugo's Shadow and Bone and Six of Crow novels — has found its cast: Ben Barnes as General Kirigan, Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov, Archie Renaux as Malyen Oretsev, Amita Suman as Inej, and Kit Young as Jesper Fahey. pic.twitter.com/4Y79wWleMl— See What's Next (@seewhatsnext) October 2, 2019
'The Sirens of Titan' - Kurt Vonnegut
The Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Dell Books, 1959. Cover by Richard Powers. pic.twitter.com/rQSOYTuf2h— Pulp Librarian (@PulpLibrarian) November 23, 2017
Kurt Vonnegut's sci-fi classic The Sirens of Titan has been in the works since at least July 2017, when word got out that Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon was writing the script. The project came up again in May of 2018 in a GQ profile of Harmon.
“And there is today’s ordeal, a limited-series adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, which has sat dormant more or less since it was announced in 2017," wrote Sean O'Neal at the time. "Harmon’s racing to produce a script by tonight, before he lets everyone down again. We had activities planned, but Harmon needs to work. Was I just supposed to watch him write, or...?”
Later, O'Neal was present when Harmon got glowing notes on the script from a studio executive, though that was the last real update on the project. The show is being produced by Universal Cable Productions, and no network or outlet has been specified yet.
Sirens of Titan follows a wealthy man in a futuristic version of America, using his influence to try and navigate an interplanetary war between Earth, Mars and Mercury. Ultimately, he finds himself on Titan, a moon of Saturn that scientists believe may be habitable.
'The Lord of The Rings' - J.R.R. Tolkien
Of course, in the world of modern fantasy adaptations Tolkien's Lord of the Rings set the bar, and it makes sense that studios simply want to do the whole thing again. Amazon is currently working on a prequel series to Lord of the Rings, based on Tolkien's additional writing outside of the series, such as The Silmarillion. The show will be set in Middle-Earth, though it will take place thousands of years before Bilbo's harrowing journey.
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne. In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. pic.twitter.com/hRmGQbOhLj— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) March 6, 2019
Right now, the show is slated for release in 2021. That in mind, it is remarkable how much press the show has already gotten. Many fantasy readers and authors have turned their noses up at the show, asking Tolkien to give other stories a chance. But the series is moving on and will likely focus on the younger years of Aragorn, Viggo Mortensen's character from the film trilogy.
'Game of Thrones' Prequel - George R.R. Martin
Finally, let's not forget that Game of Thrones' ending doesn't mean fans will be forced to leave Westeros for good. HBO developed several spinoff series for Game of Thrones, with two sent to production before the first choice starring Naomi Watts was shelved. The second spin-off is currently titled House of the Dragon but is set a while before the original show to highlight the founding of the kingdom under the Targaryen clan.
The show will likely be based on material from Martin's other works outside the main series, primarily the encyclopedia-style book The World of Ice and Fire and the recent compilation titled Fire & Blood.
House of the Dragon will be set around 300 years before the events of the main series featured in Game of Thrones. Author George R. R. Martin has confirmed that it will be based on material in Fire & Blood. However, but he was the first to admit that that does not narrow it down much. Fans are definitely excited to see what comes, though.
Game of Thrones can be streamed on HBO and the upcoming HBO Max streaming service.