Though “Game of Thrones” suffered through a few controversies in its fifth season, causing some of its viewers to swear off the rest of the series, it remains one of the best and most popular shows on television. A main factor in ensuring the success of “Thrones” has been its unpredictability, particularly with its willingness to kill off any character who is foolish enough to try and do some good in the land of Westeros. So, to help ease the cold, dark winter of the break between “Game of Thrones” seasons, here are eight other shows to watch where characters can drop like flies.
Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
The reign of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) as corrupt treasurer and mob boss in Atlantic City is a bloody one. HBO’s period drama was a force to be reckoned with during its five-year run, earning widespread praise for its brutal depiction of very real gangsters rising to prominence during prohibition. Steve Buscemi gave a remarkable performance, slowly transforming from a politician who calls shots to a full fledged mobster ready to kill anyone who stands in his way. The evolution was captivating, as it seemed Nucky was always a moment away from taking a bullet or calling a hit, and the ever-threatening nature was enthralling, forcing viewers to be ready for a pulse-pounding, potentially-series-altering murder in every episode. The entire series can be streamed on HBO Go.
The Walking Dead (AMC)
Based on the beloved comic book series of the same name, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” has proven to be an incredible success. Much of the success has been derived from the show’s willingness to paint a realistic picture of what would happen if flesh eaters descended on society, focusing on the difficulty of retaining one’s humanity while trying to survive. Living in the zombie wasteland means fearing any thing you encounter, whether it be dead or alive, since certain doom is just a bullet or a bite away. Characters have certainly come and gone: “The Walking Dead” has shown the inclination to kill any and everyone, knowing that it will further the progress of the story, the development of the characters and the show’s harrowing ideas on survival. The show is currently on break between its fifth and sixth seasons, and can be streamed on Netflix.
A show about a murderer is likely to have some death in it. Such is the case with “Dexter,” where its titular character (played by Michael C. Hall) is a serial killer who kills serial killers. This penchant for murder is engrossing, as viewers must understand the duplicity of the show’s hero. While fully capable of killing anyone in a cold, calculated manner, and truly hungering for it, Dexter must deal with the repercussions of such a dastardly business, attracting danger to his innocent family. The experience is unique. At times viewers long for Dexter to dole out death. At other points, viewers fear what he is capable of, whether for his victims or the possible harms that could come his family’s way as a result of his actions. The entire series can be streamed through Showtime Anytime and Netflix.
House of Cards (Netflix)
Frank Underwood’s (Kevin Spacey) quest for power is both thrilling and horrifying to watch. The South Carolina politician, who is the focal point of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” is near sociopathic. His political conquests would likely make Machiavelli proud, displaying an ability to spring elaborate and diabolical plots to take down (and occasionally kill) whomever he sees fit. Murder is only a stepping stone to a higher position. Though it isn’t necessarily the most realistic of political dramas, it certainly is enthralling. The show’s tragic events can achieve Shakespearian levels, both in their dramatization and entertainment. Anytime Frank is disappointed or double-crossed, it’s likely to make viewers cringe, knowing what he’s capable of and the thrill in watching his plans unravel. The first three seasons can be streamed on Netflix, and the fourth is slated for release in 2016.
Surviving on a remote island after a crash can be a tired, though occasionally entertaining, concept. Surviving on an island inhabited by a literal flying smoke monster and a mysterious cult that’s rumored to steal babies is an entirely different story. Such is the case for the survivors of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815, where mysteries about the island and the characters unravel in a combination of survival thriller and supernatural horror. Showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse made sure to make “Lost” stand out from most shows, particularly in their decisions to cast off beloved or short-lived characters. The deaths were there for a reason, heightening the sense of intrigue and danger around the bizarre island, while also calling into question concepts like destiny and scientific materialism. All six seasons can be streamed on Netflix.
Sons of Anarchy (FX)
The dangerous and deadly exploits of biker gangs have left many dead or injured, but their culture still finds glory, like in FX’s “Sons of Anarchy.” This glorification is not entirely exploitative as many die in “Anarchy,” serving as a kind of warning for becoming overly sentimental about a group of black market dealers and murderers. This blend of honor and weariness provides for an easy and entertaining viewing experience: Every person populating this biker show seems to be some shade of evil. Not to say one can’t become attached to a character, but the lurking danger makes for pure, carnal pleasure. The show can be streamed on Netflix and Hulu Plus.
The Wire (HBO)
The duality between Baltimore criminal enterprises and the cops trying to take them down on “The Wire” is staunch and bleak. Due to its intense commitment to reality on such a topic, the plot can be slow-going, but it’s consistently rewarding. As events progress, a lurking feeling of unease boils, where a world of rivalries, power plays and corruption could leave anyone dead at a moment’s notice. The brutally honest depiction is heartbreaking. Few good men survive in such a world, but the experience is nothing short of gripping. The occasional positive event is all the more joyous, and each death serves as instruction for the kind of world we live in and a warning to how all other crime dramas put things lightly. The entire series can be streamed on HBO Go.
Breaking Bad (AMC)
“Breaking Bad” received its fair share of praise during and after its run, and for good reason. Walter White’s ascension to meth kingpin is captivating and gruesome: His transformation, from fearing the kind of unseemly characters he’s invited into his life, to becoming one is the heart and soul of the show. Those who become easily attached to characters should be wary, as Walter’s quest for power takes off quickly and is stained in blood. “Breaking Bad” is far from a bloodbath, however, as showrunner Vince Gilligan understands the heft and weight of death. Each action has its ramifications, felt throughout the course of the show. It’s this understanding of consequences that makes “Breaking Bad” so remarkable. Walter’s rise to drug stardom is dark, ruthless and mostly unrealistic, but each action has a realistic ramification, subsequently squeezing the breadth of the show to provide less and less room for those who stand with or against Walter. The entire series can be streamed on Netflix.