Looking for Shows to Watch After Catching Up on Outlander?
Outlander’s latest season wrapped up filming recently. While this means that the latest season is that much closer to gracing our screens, there is, nonetheless, an Outlander-sized space in their our schedules. I’ve found myself with a particular craving for historical dramas and period pieces after finishing the season. If you’re feeling similarly and looking for some new shows to watch, I have some show suggestions for you.
Shows to Watch if You Love Outlander
The Last Kingdom
Available on Netflix and based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories novels (more on the historical fiction series here), The Last Kingdom is set in late 9th century, before England became England. The story follows Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a disenfranchised Saxon who was raised by Vikings. Uhtred seeks to retake his ancestral lands at Bebbenburg. He enters the service King Alfred. Alfred, who would eventually become Alfred the Great, has his sights set on joining the seven Saxon kingdoms to create a united England.
If you’re looking for something light and funny, The Last Kingdom wouldn’t be my first recommendation. It’s incredibly well done, with great attention to detail in the costuming and historical nuances. While it’s technically incorrect to say The Last Kingdom is based on a true story, it follows actual historical figures, weaving in fiction as it goes.
Season 4 of The Last Kingdom was released on Netflix in late April 2020. There is question of whether there will be a fifth season of The Last Kingdom. It hasn’t been confirmed, but a fifth season seemed to be contemplated based on the end of the fourth season.
I recommend watching this one with subtitles. It can be really easy to miss things or mix people up, because many of the names are quite similar.
UPDATE: The Last Kingdom has been renewed for a fifth season! Check out this Instagram post from Alexander Dreymon and the whole cast announcing the renewal. This article from Variety has some good info on the renewal as well.
The Medici Series on Netflix
A Netflix original series, Medici follows two patriarchs of the historic Medici family, 15th-century Florentine bankers who controlled vast wealth and power. The first season, Medici: Masters of Florence, is about Cosimo Medici. The second and third seasons follow Cosimo’s grandson, Lorenzo Medici.
Medici season 3 came out recently, and it’s definitely bingeable TV. This historical drama features beautiful sets, costumes, and plenty of great characters. The Medici the Magnificent cast has been particularly impressive, in my opinion. In the latest season, I enjoyed seeing Toby Regbo and Rose Williams take on important roles. Both actors are from Regin, where they played Medici descendants. Further, Toby Regbo is also in The Last Kingdom.
Further, Synnove Karlsen — who plays Clarice Orsini, wife of Lorenzo de Medici — had a greater role in the new season. Karlsen’s character highlighted Lorenzo’s descent into vengeance and obsession.
Showtime’s 2011 costume drama, The Borgias, follows the Borgia family’s ascension to the papacy of the Catholic Church. In terms of shows to watch if you love Outlander, this is a different vibe, to be sure. However, it shares a similar dedication to the era. Set in Renaissance Rome, the show features an incredible cast. Jeremy Irons is Pope Alexander VI and Lotte Verbeek (Gellis in Outlander) is Giulia Farnese, mistress to the pope. Holliday Grainger is etherial as Lucrezia Borgia, daughter to the pope. Francois Arnaud plays her brooding older brother, Cesare Borgia.
If you’re a fan of historical dramas and period pieces, then there are plenty of other familiar faces, as well. For example, two actors from the Starz White Queen/White Princess series feature prominently in The Borgias: David Oakes as Juan Borgia and Joanne Whalley as Vanozza Cattaneo.
I started re-watching The Borgias after finishing the third Medici series. This structure provides an interesting flow to the viewer. The former starts up in the same year that Medici the Magnificent part two closes. Unfortunately, there are only three seasons to this show; the production was so expensive that they ran out of money.
P.S. If you’re a fan of Schitt’s Creek, Cesare might look the slightest bit familiar. He plays Sebastian Raine in one episode of the show.
Masterpiece Classics’ Victoria follows the rise of Queen Victoria, starting with her 1837 accession to the throne. Jenna Coleman is a charming young queen, surrounded by a strong cast (including, again, David Oakes). Outlander fans will see a familiar face in one of Victoria’s servants, Nancy Skerrett, who is played by Nell Hudson.
The show does a great job blending political and social history with the gratuitous sets and costumes one expects in a period production. Victoria looks at the eponymous era both at a macro level, analyzing society at large, as well as the micro level, delving into intimate emotions of one of the most famous rulers in history.
If you’re looking for something a bit on the lighter side, then Victoria is a great choice. Not everything is upbeat, to be sure, but it’s definitely a lighter option than, say, The Last Kingdom.
Hulu’s The Great takes on Russian history through a novel lens: overt and colorful comedy. Elle Fanning plays young Catherine the Great, Russia’s longest-ruling female empress. Catherine arrives in Russia to marry Emperor Peter, played by Nicholas Hoult. Comedy and drama ensues, with plenty of gorgeous costuming and set design along the way.
Shetland isn’t a period piece like the rest featured here. However, I think it merits inclusion in this list anyway for a couple of reasons. First, about half the Outlander cast is in the show at one point or another. Second, it takes place in Scotland — northern Scotland, specifically. The landscape takes on a character of its own in the same way the it does in Outlander.
Shetland is a contemporary crime drama starring Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Pérez, as detective inspector in the Shetland Police. It is based n the Shetland Island Mystery book series by Ann Cleeves. The show features two primary supporting actors who appear throughout: Alison O’Donnell as Detective Sergeant Alison “Tosh” Macintosh and Steven Robertson as Detective Constable Sandy Wilson. Other recurring characters come in and out as well, but the show primarily follows this team of three.
I watched all of the available seasons of Shetland in about two weeks. It was a bit slow to start. I definitely needed to keep subtitles on for some of the accents. But once I got to recognizing characters, I was hooked. The earlier seasons follow two-episode storylines, where a crime is investigated throughout two episodes. The later seasons feature cases that run the whole season.
The series started in 2013 and was confirmed that at least two further seasons. The new seasons were set to air in 2020 and 2021, according to BBC One.
It is available to watch with Prime Video’s BritBox subscription. There’s a free trial period, but, after that, it’s an additional $6.99/month.
A historical drama mini series from the BBC, Wolf Hall is based on Hilary Mantel’s novels about the life of Thomas Cromwell. A blacksmith’s son who rises above personal disaster and becomes right-hand to King Henry VIII, Cromwell gives a distinct view of the happenings in the Tudor court, particularly the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, the king’s doomed second wife. For anyone who loves Tudor history, historical drama, and The Crown, in particular, this adaptation is sure to please. Claire Foy plays Anne Boleyn with such magnificent nuance, it’s just incredible.
Plus, if you want more out of the series, there are three novels ready for you that traverse Cromwell’s ascent and fall from power. More on those can be found in my historical fiction lover’s guide here!
*This post was originally published in September 2020. It was most recently updated on August 23, 2021.