As we are huge fans of fantasy TV shows, we’ve prepared something special for you.
Over the years there’s been a vast number of great fantasy TV shows aired, and a viewer can easily get lost when browsing them. Now, losing yourself in a fantasy world is something that doesn’t seem so bad, but, just in case you need help navigating through those shows, Fantasy Warden prepared a list of our top picks.
Since you are here, it’s safe to assume that you’re a fellow member of the fantasy fandom and, as such, we won’t be bothering you by summarizing the plot of Game of Thrones. As a fantasy TV show fan, we are sure you’ve seen how the journey of the Battlestar Galactica crew ended up and what horrors our beloved gang from Hawkings had to face in Stranger Things. The same goes for Star Wars spinoffs and the Star Track franchise.
In this post, we prepared a list of fantasy TV shows that we feel are worth watching – the ones that aren’t the most popular ones. Surely, some of them don’t have the best Rotten Tomatoes score. However, we feel that you’ll have fun watching them. And that’s what fantasy is all about – having fun while exploring new worlds.
Our list is spoiler-free and honest. We’ll try to be as objective as we can and give you a full analysis of these fantasy TV shows.
1. Falling Skies – Independence day movie turned into a five-season sci-fi show
Falling skies is a post-apocalyptic survival sci-fi TV show directed by Steven Spielberg and created by Rober Rodat (Saving Private Ryan).
The show starts out really promising: Aliens have invaded the Earth and only a handful of survivors are still fighting. They are led by Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), a military history professor who joins with the remnants of the 2nd Massachusetts regiment which is all that remains of the US army.
The first and second seasons are really fun to watch – they are full of action, and military tactics. The characters are interesting and compelling, making you want to see more. It is a kind of slow-burn show at first but the plot does move forward eventually. However, as it usually goes with shows like these, the quality of the script starts to deteriorate after a few seasons.
In the fourth season, the series goes downhill and becomes basically a family drama in military HQ during an alien invasion. The amount of plot armor is ridiculous and it seems that the writers lacked both patience and creativity to end this well. That being said, the show is still a good choice for binge-watching and we’re sure you’ll enjoy it no matter the flaws it admittedly has.
Overall score: ★★★★★★✰✰✰✰
2. Shannara Chronicles – MTV’s adaptation of a high fantasy novel goes rogue
Power is a curse for those who seek it.Allanon, Shannara Chronicles
Shannara Chronicles is a high fantasy TV show adapted from Terry Brooks’ novel “The Elfstone of Shannara”.
It features two seasons of demons, magic, elves, mythical creatures, and heroes trying to save the world. The setting is somewhere far in the future but somehow it has a post-apocalyptic vibe from time to time. We won’t go over the plot in detail here but basically, it’s a high fantasy cliché in which heroes try to save the world from demons using magic and rare artifacts.
The show’s target audience is teens which can be seen from the cast – and it’s not such a bad thing as you might think. What’s bad is the dialog which is full of modern slang and it just feels weird hearing it in an epic setting. It also seems that writers tried too much to make it more like Hunger Games and attract that kind of audience with it.
It was filmed in New Zealand and the visuals are stunning but CGI is just a regular 2000s show level.
We must admit that we have been wondering if this show should be on our list or not for quite a bit. Although it has major plot holes and the writing is sometimes messy, it’s still the best adaptation of an iconic high fantasy novel to the present day.
The show has only 20 episodes – it was canceled after season 2. It’s a good choice if you want to indulge yourself in a fantasy world that is not unique but is enjoyable.
Overall score: ★★★★✰✰✰✰✰✰
3. Carnival Row – high fantasy steampunk TV show shoots for the stars and barely misses
Sometimes the old wounds hurt the most.Rycroft Philostrate, Carnival Row
Carnival Row is a bit difficult to classify – it falls into a fantasy show category but the show is (or wants to be) so much more.
This plot diversity is its strength and its weakness at the same time. At the time the viewers might feel like they are watching Game of Thrones but just a few minutes later the show becomes Downton Abbey.
For the cast, Amazon Prime brought out the big guns – Cara Delavigne and Orlando Bloom are the main protagonists of the story. The show succeeded in the world and character-building aspects as well – lead actors carry their roles with great success.
The setting is a world that resembles a post-Victorian steampunk fantasy town that is troubled with various immigration and political issues. Native folks are disturbed by so many refugees flooding their city and the fact that they are magical creatures like centaurs and fairies. To add to that, there is a serial killer on the loose and a political power struggle.
As you can guess, some of the plotlines of this story are allegories of current political issues. This can be a red flag for some fantasy TV shows but Carnival Row handles the “messaging” well. The overall impression is that the first season is interesting and has the potential to be much better. That being said, it also has the potential to slide down into the nothingness of fantasy TV shows that turned into mere political virtue signaling for current world issues. Time will tell, but for now while we wait for season 2 of Carnival Row to be released, we advise you to check out the first season of Carnival Row.
Overall score: ★★★★★★✰✰✰✰
4. Shadow and Bone – Netflix gets one right
We are all witnesses to the adaptations and remakes that are being filmed nowadays and Netflix is no exception. Let’s be honest – most of them are not really good but this one stands out. Shadow and Bone is an adaptation of a high fantasy novel set in a steampunk world. The setting is pretty standard, there are good guys, the bad guys, lots of magic around, and of course the Chosen One. The main reason why this show is enjoyable it’s the fact that it’s decent in all aspects.
The cast is great: Jessie Mei Li shines as Alina Starkov, the female lead, and Ben Barnes (general Kirigan) and Archie Reneux (Malyen Oretsev) don’t fall behind as well. The cast is diverse; we know what you must be thinking, but Netflix did a good job with this one.
The plot has a good pace but it feels rushed sometimes and there are some inconsistencies. Those inconsistencies are ever-present in the high fantasy genre especially when it comes to the usage of magic. That’s why we can’t put much blame on writers for that. The effects and the whole scenography are rather good, sometimes even movie-level equal. What it lacks is a bit of risk-taking. Season one is predictable and the writers played it safe.
In our opinion, playing it safe worked for this season but we hope that the quality of storytelling will increase in the next one. Be it as it may, Shadow and Bone will keep you occupied and indulged in the grim, but charming world it offers.
Overall score: ★★★★★★✰✰✰✰
5. Legend of the Seeker – a hidden gem among epic fantasy TV shows
Terry Goodkind was a famous fantasy writer and his Sword of Truth series is renowned worldwide. However, we feel that the show’s adaptation of the books should be given more credit. Legend of the Seeker is a two-season epic fantasy TV show that has an awesome Xena vibe to it.
The plot is again, pretty standard – an evil entity arises and destiny calls for a chosen one to save all. That hero is called the Seeker of Truth (Craig Horner). He is accompanied by Mother Confessor Kahlan Amnel (Bridgit Regan) as well as a wizard of the first order Zedacus Zul Zulander (Bruce Spenser). The main antagonist is none other than Haldir! We are just kidding, but yes, Craig Parker plays Darken Rahl. Some of the side roles are amazing as well, probably the best one being Tabret Bathell as Cara, the mord-sith.
The series received a lot of criticism from fans for deviating from the source material. We feel that it is true but some of the deviations were actually an improvement, especially in season one. The plot is interesting and goes at a steady pace. To make it even better, some episodes can be seen as standalone short movies. Sure, there are plot holes and inconsistent magic usage but the whole experience feels like a fantasy. Season two has some awesome cosplay going around and the effects are much better than in season one.
Overall, it really gets better over time and the writing will keep you wanting more. Although the show was canceled after season two, it wraps up nicely so we’re positive that you’ll have a blast while watching Legend of the Seeker.
Overall score: ★★★★★★★★✰✰
6. The Wheel of Time – Amazon goes in deep with this one
Please don’t hate us for putting The Wheel of Time on our list. Yes, we know that the show doesn’t follow the source material enough. This decision that the writers made confuses us as well. Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” book series is perfect and there is no reason to change it.
Unfortunately, the writers did just that – they took the liberty to change this iconic piece of fantasy art and, to be honest, they didn’t do such a good job in season one. The series just can’t match the quality that books have. However, for the folks that are not book fans or haven’t read the books, this show will seem interesting enough.
The plot again follows a standard cliché in which chosen heroes save the world from the impending doomsday event. The effects in this show are pretty good but the whole setting looks kind of strange. It was filmed in Czech Republic, around Prague. The problem is that the whole story feels like it should be somewhere in the Middle East and Netflix’s diverse cast adds to that feeling. The actors did a good job but some of the roles are gender/race swapped compared to the books which irritated the fans as well.
The biggest problem is its plot – it feels rushed and predictable. It has a Game of Thrones season 8-like feeling, especially to the book readers. To sum it up – season one could’ve been better for sure but it’s still a show worth watching. We hope that Amazon will stop being oblivious to the criticism and do a better job in the upcoming seasons.
Overall score: ★★★★✰✰✰✰✰✰
7. The Witcher – Netflix’s fantasy TV show flagship executes almost perfectly
Another adaptation of a famous book series has been handed to us by Netflix. Witcher (Henry Cavil) is an epic saga set in a fantasy world.
Let’s start with the good things – Henry Cavil nailed it as Witcher. Casting Cavil as the lead role was a 10/10 decision. What was not a 10/10 decision is casting Anna Safer as Triss – they basically benched this character and cast the wrong person to do it. It feels weird watching her play Triss and, no hard feelings, but the actress doesn’t do a good job either.
Season one is good, but confusing to the people who haven’t read the books or played games. It follows three different timelines and no explanation is provided while watching. In our opinion, this was a decision that was supposed to spark a debate in fandom. What it did was just create confusion amongst non-book readers. The second season is much better – especially the first episode which can be seen as a standalone movie. Seeing Witcher using his signs is a fan service that played out really great.
Overall, Witcher does have some issues but it’s an absolute must-see among fantasy TV shows.
Overall score: ★★★★★★★★✰✰
8. Lost Girl – a fun succubus lost in a bad script
Where to start with this one? Well, first of all, if you were a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we are pretty sure you’ll like Lost Girl as well. The plot is similar to what has been done before: a girl finds out there’s a secret world of magical beings and an even more secret war raging between good and evil. Her best friend is a troubled girl called Kenzi (Ksenia Solo) that pretty much serves as a comic relief during most of the show.
There are plenty of other magical beings in this world which adds a kind of Charmed vibe to it. The show goes on for 76 episodes, divided into five seasons. Most of the episodes are standalone, which makes viewing easier.
Also, the writers seemed to always find a good excuse to put sexual tension and explicit scenes in almost every episode. So you know, you get to see Anna Silk do things in this show. Lost Girl has had its moments but the script just had to be better and the plot had to move faster in order for the show to be more popular. It is fun to watch before you go to sleep but, other than that, don’t expect much.
Overall score: ★★★✰✰✰✰✰✰✰
9. Foundation – a visually stunning space fantasy that doesn’t deliver
We admit it – no one has expected the Apple TV to truthfully adapt Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. We aren’t sure if that’s possible at all – but we have to give some credit to the directors of the Foundation for at least trying.
The plot is really difficult to put in simple words. Somewhere in the far future, humans are scattered across the galaxy under the rule of the Galactic Empire. Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) is a brilliant mathematician and a visionary who foresees an impending doom for the human race, and our protagonist Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) assists him in his efforts to save everyone. This all happens while emperors of the galactic empire (Lee Pace) oversee the galaxy.
Visually, this show can easily top even movie-level effects during most of the episodes – it’s absolutely beautiful.
The problems arise when it comes to the plot – with so many subplots, the writers failed to make an adaptation of the legendary Foundation series so we would advise you to see this only as a “based on” type of series. With the source material problems aside, the script also suffers from bland dialogs and cliché characters. However, it looks so good that you just want to see more of this awesome world they created which is why we put it on our list.
Overall score: ★★★★✰✰✰✰✰✰
10. The Orville – a comedy in space turns out just fine
The creator of this sci-fi comedy is Seth Macfarlane, the same man who made Family Guy and American Dad. The show is supposed to be a parody of Star Trek but it’s so much more than that. We would dare to say that in some aspects it has even outgrown the ST franchise – especially when it comes to raunchy humor.
It’s tricky with shows like these as the amount of silly humor has to be just right and most of the creators go overboard making the show unwatchable. The Orville offers enough of everything – there is the Star-Trek level of space exploration and Rick-and-Morty amount of sci-fi humor.
The plot itself follows the crew of U.S.S. Orville exploring new words around 400 years in the future. The cast is pretty awesome as well. Capt. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) has a lead role alongside his first lieutenant Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki).
What this show lacks in order to become something bigger is a compelling antagonist and a more epic plot. However, it works pretty fine as it is, so this is why we advise you to check out this show.
Overall score: ★★★★★★★✰✰✰
11. The Leftovers – hard to watch and hard to stop watching at the same time
First of all, we have to hand it to the writers of The Leftovers – the show is original and it doesn’t lack creativity.
The plot is fairly easy to summarize: due to a mysterious event, 2% of the world population vanishes into thin air, and the rest of the world is left coping with this. Basically, this is a sci-fi mystery thriller that’s executed almost perfectly. There are no words to describe why this show is good – it just feels like you can’t stop watching it. When you analyze the plot, you see that it moves at a snail-pace but that fits perfectly into this show.
Justin Theroux is brilliant as a lead-role actor in his portrayal of Kevin Garvey, a police officer struggling to keep his sanity. The Leftovers has other big names such as Liv Tyler playing Meg Abbott, a troubled woman leading a cult. We won’t say much else about the plot since the thrill of this show is to enjoy it and experience it by yourself.
The main downside of The Leftovers is its extreme slow-burn feel that just doesn’t sit with some viewers. For the ones who like that kind of fantasy, this is the perfect show.
Overall score: ★★★★★★✰✰✰✰
12. Final space – animated fantasy TV show in space, why not?
This one stands out quite a bit. Sure, it’s not Rick and Morty, but, in our opinion, it’s even better in some segments. The plot follows Gary, a space prisoner on his journey to save the galaxy from the evil Lord Commander. It’s super cliché but the writing is so good that it feels satisfying and relaxing. One might even start to care for Gary and his endeavors – that’s how good character development is.
The animation is very smart and although it’s not top-notch it still works pretty fine. Overall, this is a show you’d want to watch before you go to sleep – it’ll relax you and you’ll laugh at some of its quirky jokes.
Overall score: ★★★★★★★✰✰✰
Final thoughts on our choice of fantasy TV shows to watch
Whatever your choice is, we are positive that you’ll enjoy these fantasy TV shows.
As we mentioned earlier, they aren’t top-notch and are the most popular ones. Striving for perfection is a good personal trait but enjoying the imperfect things is also a great thing to do. These series are far from perfect. That being said, you can still enjoy them and have fun. We hope you found this list useful and we are eager to hear your impressions of these shows.
Safe journey, traveler.