Streaming columnist NICK OVERALL steps into the crowded world of fantasy...
WHEN television goliath “Game of Thrones” (on Binge) wrapped things up in 2019 it left a hole in the streaming market.
The dark fantasy show was filled to the brim with violence and sex, but at the same time made viewers feel clever about it all, with millions returning each week eager to learn more about its expansive fantasy world.
By no coincidence, another dark fantasy show produced by Netflix was hot on the heels of the ending of “Game of Thrones”.
That was “The Witcher”, based on a series of Polish fantasy books of the same name, and it became the third most in-demand show in the world with 76 million viewers in its first month of release.
“His Dark Materials”, “The Nevers”, “American Gods”, the list of fantasy series trying to be the next “big one” goes on.
Now Netflix has had another shot at it with “Shadow and Bone", a show that’s pulling in huge numbers of viewers and sitting comfortably on top of this year’s most-watched lists.
It, too, is scooped out of a series of fantasy books about an orphan who discovers she has magical powers that can save the world.
Orphan? Magic? Sounds familiar.
While the cash-in on the popularity of its forebears is easy to spot, “Shadow and Bone” does stand out with a backdrop inspired by the Tsarist Russian Empire, a setting that offers a boost of originality it’s desperately in need of.
Our hero here must use her powers to fight the “shadow fold”, a blanket of demonic darkness that has cut her kingdom in half.
It’s all very “Harry Potter” (Binge), which is all very “Lord of the Rings” (Netflix) and back and back until you hit Greek Mythology – which, in a way, you could call the Ancient Greeks' version of “Game of Thrones”.
Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s amusing to imagine Plato philosophising on whether he should use his silver coins to subscribe to Iliad Plus or Odyssey Binge.
At first glance it’d be easy to think shows with this many characters, and worlds this dauntingly large could turn viewers off – but the ratings continue to prove otherwise.
Take a look over on Binge for example, and there's “Fear The Walking Dead”, a series streaming its sixth season and quickly approaching its 100th episode.
“Fear The Walking Dead” is an origin story spin-off from the blockbuster show “The Walking Dead”, which in August will itself stream its eleventh season. Characters from the former have been sneaking their way into the latter, allowing viewers to play a game of connect-the-dots between plot lines of this ever expanding zombie apocalypse drama.
Add all this up and you get a combined total of more than 300 episodes in “The Walking Dead” universe and the show continues to bring back millions of viewers every week who still keenly follow the plot.
The power of brand recognition is truly out in force when it comes to a series like this. “Fear The Walking Dead” remains the highest watched first season of any television series in cable history.
These are productions of gargantuan scale, but they need to be if they’re going to take on Disney Plus’ seemingly endless conveyor belt of superhero shows.
The platform's just-finished season of “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” – yet another instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – reportedly saw Disney Plus break a record for its most viewed premiere episode.
As such, it's no surprise the next TV show in the MCU, “Loki”, is already packaged up and ready to go. It’s dropping next month (June 11) and follows the mischief of the unwaveringly popular character played by Tom Hiddleston.
Of course Loki and his more widely recognised brother Thor are themselves based on Gods from Norse mythology.
It’s a spinout to think these characters are still reimagined today through a screen that streams from the internet, whereas hundreds of years ago they would have been read about by ancient Scandinavians via runic inscriptions.
Call that Norseflix?
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