Which epic fantasy show will emerge triumphant in 2022?

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Once upon a time, fantasy stories occupied something of a ghetto on TV. There were early hits like Xena: Warrior Princess, but even the good ones had a bit of a DIY, like this was the best the producers could do with the money they had.

Then, in 2011, a little show called Game of Thrones came along and everything changed. HBO’s show blew all the way up, and before long lots of networks were making their own fantasy epics. There were some failures along the way (remember FX’s The Bastard Executioner? What about Netflix’s Cursed?), but it’s 2022 now, and some things have clearly stuck.

Look at The Witcher on Netflix. It’s been around for one season and Netflix is already making a prequel series (Blood Origin), put out one animated movie and working on another. Amazon is so confident in the fantasy craze that it’s pouring tens of millions of dollars into its adaptation of The Wheel of Time, which has already developed a healthy fan base. And they’re pouring even more into a Lord of the Rings show.

So in 2022, we will have made the full journey from a paucity of fantasy content to more than we can possibly handle. Which are worth paying attention to? Let’s take a look.

House of the Dragon

Emma D’Arcy as “Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen” and Matt Smith as “Prince Daemon Targaryen” in House of the Dragon. Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO

House of the Dragon on HBO

Who’s going to inherit the Game of Thrones crown as the top fantasy show of 2022? Well, how about HBO’s forthcoming Game of Thrones prequel series, which premieres sometime next year? House of the Dragon is set around 200 years before the original show. It tells the story of the Dance of the Dragons, a brutal Targaryen civil war that tore Westeros apart. It has a lot of what made Game of Thrones such an addictive watch: a huge cast of complicated characters, political backstabbing, epic battles, dragons, and more. We even get the weird stuff from the original show, like wildly inappropriate relationships between family members. It’s all here!

But of course, HBO has to up the ante this time around. In terms of budget, House of the Dragon is starting somewhere near where Game of Thrones ended. It would have to, because this story involves a ton of fully grown dragons right at the outset, many of which eventually fight each other. We’re talking mid-air, knock-down, claws-out brawls between fire-breathing beasts. That means a lot of money to make sure House of the Dragon can pick up where Game of Thrones left off.

The difference is that while Game of Thrones had the fantasy space pretty much to itself when it debuted back in 2011, House of the Dragon will face stiff competition. Will the Game of Thrones name guarantee success, or will House of the Dragon be eaten alive by monsters of its own creation? Monsters like…

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