The tale of ambition, intrigue, and cultural clash in FX’s ‘Shogun’ taps into the rich history of feudal Japan. Whether you’re familiar with this narrative or just beginning to explore it, there are other shows that offer a similar depth and allure. Here’s a list of the best shows like ‘Shogun’ you need to watch next.
1. ‘Marco Polo’ & ‘Marco Polo: One Hundred Eyes’
‘Marco Polo’ is a historical drama that aired on Netflix, focusing on the famed explorer’s early years in the Mongol Empire. Set in the 13th century, the show reveals the intricate dynamics between the East and West, showcasing Polo’s encounters with a world that was unfamiliar to most Europeans at the time. The diverse cultures, politics, and relationships Marco Polo forges during his time in Kublai Khan’s court mirror the intrigue found in Shogun.
‘Marco Polo: One Hundred Eyes’ serves as a prequel to the main series. This short film delves into the backstory of the blind martial arts master, Hundred Eyes, who becomes one of Polo’s mentors. Like ‘Shogun,’ these shows intertwine personal ambition with cultural exploration, underlining the themes of unfamiliarity, adaptation, and understanding in foreign lands.
2. ‘The Last Kingdom’
BBC’s ‘The Last Kingdom’ is based on Bernard Cornwell’s “The Saxon Stories” series, highlighting the Viking Age’s impact on England. The narrative follows Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a noble born in Saxon England but raised by Vikings. Torn between two identities, Uhtred’s loyalty and ambitions are constantly tested. Just as ‘Shogun’ depicts the challenges faced by an outsider in a foreign culture, ‘The Last Kingdom’ portrays Uhtred’s struggles to find his place between two conflicting worlds.
3. ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’
‘Da Vinci’s Demons,’ aired on Starz, throws light on the untold story of the great Leonardo da Vinci’s early life. The Renaissance era serves as a backdrop for the series, with its mix of art, science, truth, and fiction. Leonardo’s thirst for knowledge, coupled with his genius, places him in various situations of political and religious intrigue. Much like ‘Shogun,’ this show emphasizes a character’s journey against the larger backdrop of cultural and societal conflicts, exploring both the internal and external worlds.
4. ‘Vikings’ & ‘Vikings: Valhalla’
‘Vikings,’ produced by the History Channel, immerses viewers into the fierce world of Ragnar Lothbrok, a legendary Norse figure. From his humble origins as a farmer to his rise as a renowned warrior and king, the series delves into Norse traditions, their interactions with distant lands, and the complexities of power dynamics. Themes of ambition, betrayal, and cultural exchanges are central, similar to those in ‘Shogun.’
‘Vikings: Valhalla,’ a sequel to the original series, takes place a century later. As the Viking age comes to an end, the series captures a world in transition, echoing Shogun‘s depiction of characters grappling with evolving cultural landscapes and shifting power structures.
Set in the Middle Ages, ‘Knightfall,’ aired on the History Channel, chronicles the secretive world of the Knights Templar, the most powerful and wealthy military order of its time. It delves deep into the mysteries and myths surrounding the Templars, exploring themes of faith, loyalty, and betrayal. Their journey, filled with political intrigue and battles for power, mirrors ‘Shogun’ in its depiction of characters navigating complex socio-political landscapes. Both series highlight the nuances of power dynamics, personal ambition, and the weight of history on individual lives.
6. ‘Spartacus: Blood and Sand’ & ‘Spartacus: Gods of the Arena’
‘Blood and Sand’ introduces us to Spartacus, a Thracian gladiator who leads a major slave uprising against Rome. The Starz series paints a vivid picture of the brutal gladiatorial arenas, intricate Roman politics, and the indomitable spirit of those seeking freedom.
The prequel, ‘Gods of the Arena,’ delves deeper into the origins of the gladiatorial games and key characters. Both series emphasize personal determination against overarching societal systems, mirroring ‘Shogun’s’ themes of individual ambition within broader power struggles.
7. ‘The Pillars of the Earth’
Adapted from Ken Follett’s novel, this series is set in the 12th-century English town of Kingsbridge. It revolves around the construction of a cathedral and the many lives it touches, from nobility to builders. The political intrigue, religious strife, and personal stories intertwined with the cathedral’s construction draw parallels with ‘Shogun’s’ fusion of individual aspirations with overarching societal challenges.
Produced by HBO, ‘Rome’ dives deep into the heart of the ancient Roman Empire, focusing on the end of the Republic and the rise of the Empire. Through the eyes of two soldiers, the series portrays the intertwined fates of historic figures like Julius Caesar and Cleopatra. Themes of power, loyalty, and cultural clashes resonate with ‘Shogun’s’ portrayal of complex political dynamics in a rich historical setting.
9. ‘The White Queen’
Based on Philippa Gregory’s historical novels, ‘The White Queen’ centers on the Wars of the Roses. The series spotlights three women navigating their way through power, love, and political machinations. Just as ‘Shogun’ emphasizes the role of Lady Mariko in a male-dominated setting, ‘The White Queen’ underscores the influence of women in pivotal historical moments.
10. ‘Black Sails’
A prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” ‘Black Sails’ from Starz explores the golden age of piracy. Set in the Caribbean, it unravels the tales of Captain Flint, legendary pirates, and their quest for treasure and control. The political games, alliances, and betrayals among pirates and colonial powers share thematic similarities with Shogun‘s intricate game of power and strategy.
11. ‘Medici: Masters of Florence’
This historical drama dives into the world of the Medici family, who rose to prominence in Renaissance-era Florence. Their influence in art, banking, and politics shaped the course of history. The series captures the challenges, betrayals, and ambitions of a family trying to secure its legacy, echoing ‘Shogun’s’ depiction of individuals amidst broader socio-political narratives.
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