Top Underrated Fantasy TV Shows on Netflix

Looking for your next fantasy tv binge-watch on Netflix? Try these underrated gems!

Top Underrated Fantasy TV Shows on Netflix

Fantasy remains an underused genre when compared to dramas, action, and comedies. Sad, when you think about how things that seem impossible to us can be so much more interesting and engaging than things we are already familiar with. Additionally, when made, it is usually in the medium of film, rather than television. 

However, Netflix has jumped on the burgeoning trend of fantasy television shows and has received acclaim for its creation of The Witcher and the addition of Avatar: The Last Airbender to its archives. 

While both shows are must-sees, there are under-appreciated gems that should also be brought to addition. Some hail from other countries, some are animated, and all were passed over by audiences for reasons unfathomable to me.

A Note - Animated shows that originated in Japan are not included (they need their own list). 

Luna Nera

Synopsis

An Italian show set in the 17th century, the story follows Ade, a young midwife who upon stumbling on a secret power, is chased down for being a witch. She and her brother flee to a secret sanctuary of other witches and learn how to become stronger in order to protect other witches from persecution.

Early on, Ade and a young scientist named Pietro fall for each other. Pietro doesn't believe in witchcraft and continues to see Ade even while she's in hiding. However, with the death of his mother and other strange circumstances around the town, Pietro must battle his personal beliefs and feelings of grief as people call for a witch-hunt - with his father at the helm.

Why is it a must-watch? 

Stories about witches can sometimes be overused in entertainment, but Luna Nera is able to overcome this due to its unique setting and time period. 

The show is mysterious, giving us only bits and pieces of the story in a way that frustrates us and keeps us begging for more. Nothing is certain and everything is at risk, and yet the pacing is languid - allowing us to absorb and analyze the information we're given.

How many seasons?

One so far, released in 2020.

Castlevania

Synopsis

After Dracula's human wife is burned alive for witchcraft, he swears vengeance on the land of Wallachia, giving its citizens one year before he brings an army of demons to kill them all. When one year passes, his army of the undead and legion of vampire generals begin to brutally wipe out entire cities.

Cornered by both Dracula's army and members of the corrupt Catholic church, Trever Belmont, last of a long line of famous monster-hunters, and the magician Sypha accidentally wake Dracula's half-vampire son Alucard. Together, the three take up arms against Dracula and vow to save Wallachia.

Why is it a must-watch?

Still think animation is for kids? Well... let's just say that Game of Thrones wishes it could be as graphic as this show.

Due to that fact alone, Castlevania may not be everyone's cup of tea. Irregardless, it still makes it one of the most unique animated TV shows existing. Add on an excellent (and abnormally famous) voice cast, sharp Japanese-inspired animation, a new take on the well-worn Dracula storyline - and you've got yourself one top-notch show. 

How many seasons?

Three so far, the first released in 2017.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Synopsis

Set in an alternate version of 19th century Britain, this show follows two magicians in a land where magic has always been acknowledged as a part of history, but believed not to exist anymore. Mr. Norrell is an elderly wealthy man with a vast collection of magic knowledge and history. He uses his books to practice magic and is convinced by the British government to help the army battle the French.

Jonathan Strange is a man who happens upon magic after being told by a suspicious man that he is destined for it. He has no prior knowledge of the subject but is remarkably talented. The discovery of a second magician at first has Mr. Norrell thrilled, but it becomes clear that Strange has no interest in learning magic of old, focusing only on what new things he can create. This, and the fact that Strange is much more gifted than he, leads Norrell to try and quash any new ideas about magic that Strange tries to put out to the public.

Amongst all of this is a supernatural force in the form of a fairy called The Gentleman. In his early days of facing skepticism over his magic, Mr. Norrell called upon the fairy to bring back the life of a minister's fiancé. The fairy does so, but traps her. She is doomed to live half in the human world and half in the fairy realm, driving her mad and creating a point of tension in the story as the fairy continues to have a presence throughout the show despite Norrell's objections.

Why is it a must-watch?

With its complex storyline and slower pacing, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is designed for those who can appreciate its intelligence. Its depiction of an alternate timeline that mirrors Britain in the 19th century is seamlessly done and the magical realm created beyond the veil is fascinating to behold. 

However, the best part of the series is without a doubt the acting performances. The show has one of the best casts I've witnessed in a long time. No performance is undervalued, with even the smaller roles in the show done to perfection.

How many seasons?

One, it's a British miniseries released in 2015.

Arthdal Chronicles

Synopsis

This South Korean show is set in the magical land of Arth, which for centuries has been ruled by separate tribes. However, the Saenyeok tribe has dreams of becoming larger and creates the city-state of Arthdal by killing, enslaving, and controlling the surrounding tribes.

The Neanthal tribe was brought to near extinction due to the Saenyeoks, who feared them for their unusual animal-like strength and abilities. The few that remain wander Arth in secret. One of which is Eunseom, whose human mother ran away with him to escape his persecution. Upon her death, he was found by the Wahan tribe and grew up with Tanya, the next Great Spiritual Mother of her tribe.

Eventually, the Saenyeok Tribe finds the Wahan tribe and attacks, killing many and enslaving the rest - including Tanya. Through facing many obstacles, Eunseom becomes a warrior and begins to understand the truth of his bloodline. He plans to save Tanya and set the Wahan tribe free, a large feat, seeing that Tagon, the assumed next leader of Arthdal, has realized Tanya's magical prowess. However, even Tagon faces problems of his own and keeps secrets that could topple the nation.

Why is it a must-watch?

Rather than putting all the emphasis on emotional payoff, the writers of Arthdal Chronicles instead went for intense action scenes, intricate political entanglements, and characters unaware of their own strengths and weaknesses. 

Although the show can be confusing at times due to the many tribes and plot lines to follow, it is extremely intriguing, bringing a foreign take on a fairly common fantasy story-arc (a hero in a magical land must discover his strength and rescue those he cares about).

How many seasons?

One so far, released in 2019.

The Dragon Prince

Synopsis

The fictional continent of Xadia has been separated in two since humans were driven west due to their greed for magic. The human side is divided into separate kingdoms and lives without primal magic (as humans cannot create it themselves), thus turning to dark magic instead. The right side remains Xadia, where primal magic exists in every living thing.

After more than a thousand years of tension, elf assassins from Xadia secretly visit the human kingdom of Katalis. They intend to kill the king and his heir, seeing it as retaliation for the king murdering their Dragon King and his egg years earlier. While chasing the king's heir Ezran and his half-brother Callum during the battle, the young elf warrior Rayla realizes that the egg wasn't destroyed after all. Together, the three embark on a journey to restore the egg to the kingdom of Katalis and avoid the ensuing war.

Why is it a must-watch?

The Dragon Prince does an excellent job of taking common fantasy tropes and giving them a surprise twist. The character development is some of the best I've seen in recent animated shows (especially with the antagonists) and the writing keeps things exciting, but at a pace that allows for younger and older viewership. Additionally, the show is clearly dedicated to having characters of different races, disabilities, sexuality-preferences, etc, written in such a way that makes the inclusion of these characters seem commonplace.

Fun Fact - Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender will recognize some of the voice work!

How many seasons?

Three so far, the first released in 2018.

Ashes of Love

Synopsis

A Chinese drama set in the realm of the gods. The story begins with the Flower Goddess dying upon giving birth to her daughter Jin Mi. After receiving a vision that her daughter will suffer as a result of love, the goddess gives Jin Mi a pill that makes her unable to convey love and makes the lesser flower goddesses promise to hide Jin Mi's true identity from the heavenly realm.

Growing up as a lowly grape spirit, Jin Mi is cheerful, selfless, and completely naive of her true nature. However, her beauty and free-spirited nature capture the attention of the brothers Runyu and Xufeng, who are both princes of the heavenly realm. Jin Mi is caught between the two, and yet still cannot feel love because of the pill she was given.

Why is it a must-watch? 

If you like melodramas with a fantasy setting, Ashes of Love might be your new favorite show. 

If you aren't familiar with Chinese dramas, then be prepared for long episodes (and a lot of them), beautiful men and women, stunning costumes and scenery, and a storyline meant to draw your emotions out bit by bit until you feel like you're going crazy. For some who aren't melodrama fans, you may find this process too long, the payoff too far away, and the in-between a little corny. But for those who are patient enough, the show has gorgeous visuals, fun fantasy-building based on Chinese legends, and a leading couple with great chemistry.

How many seasons?

One (released in 2018), but it has 63 episodes and a possibility of a sequel.

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts

Synopsis

This animated series is set in a post-apocalyptic world where animals have mutated and live on the surface, and most humans live below ground as "burrow people." One day a girl named Kipo gets separated from her father and is swept away from her burrow, ending up on the surface world. There she meets the humans Benson and Wolf and the mutated animals Mandu and Dave. Together, they embark on a mission to find Kipo's father and burrow.

The surface world is a dangerous place for humans and they encounter many angry mutants who want to capture or kill them in the name of their king Scarlemagne. Additionally, Kipo begins to have strange abilities that she can't explain.

Why is it a must-watch? 

Netflix's animation department has taken a HUGE step up and Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is just one of the many great shows they've been releasing. This show in particular has superb character development, world-building, additions of diversity, voice-casting, and general all-around great writing.

It's a fun, colorful, and wonderfully weird show that those of all ages can enjoy.

How many seasons?

Two (both released in 2020), and in discussions for more.

Penny Dreadful

Synopsis

A British-American thriller set in Victorian England that twists the tales of famous Gothic fantastical characters together.

Vanessa Ives, a composed and elegant woman, fights against the dark forces of the world (and the darkness within herself) with the help of the haughty Dr Frankenstein and Ethan Chandler, an American gunman who has more of a foot in a life of darkness than he'd care to admit. Together they try and find Mina, the daughter of Sir Malcom Murray, who has been taken by creatures of the night.

During their search they encounter other famous characters such as Dorian Grey and Frankenstein's creature, who each have their own agendas with the dark and morbid in the world.

Why is it a must-watch?

This is perhaps the least "underrated" option on this list, as it was highly acclaimed and had good viewership ratings upon its release.

However, it's a very niche show. Penny Dreadful is a fantasy production, but it's mainly a dark thriller with psychological themes and elements of horror. It can seem a daunting task to watch at first, especially for the faint-hearted. Because of this, Penny Dreadful has become near invisible to new audiences. 

This is a shame, as the show is a fascinating look into how these famous characters would live in Victorian society - the very era in which most of them were written. The acting is superb, with Eva Green particularly shining in her fearless and layered portrayal of Vanessa Ives. The writing is also excellent, highlighting that you can in fact write characters that go beyond their source material and reveal new depth. It is a wonderfully cryptic show that revels in its own peculiarities - and shines because of it.

How many seasons?

Three, airing from 2014-2016.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Synopsis

A prequel to The Dark Crystal (1982), the show follows the beginning of the conflict that was at the center of the original film. 

The show starts with the knowledge that the mystical land of Thra is under a "Darkening," caused by the greedy mishandling of the magical Crystal by the hand of the Skeksis race. Knowing that the Crystal acts as the heart of Thra and is connected to all Thra's creatures, the Skeksis exploit that connection and use the Crystal to drain the life out of the Gelfling race. However, the Gelflings are unaware of the Skeksis's actions and continue to serve them as subjects.

The story's conflict starts when a young Gelfling guard named Rian sees the Skeksis drain the life of his girlfriend and flees their castle to warn the Gelfling tribes of their trickery. At the same time, the Gelfling Deet receives a message from Thra about how to save everyone from the Darkening. Additionally, a Gelfling princess named Brea starts to question the motives of the Skeksis due to a symbol she has found in her research of Thra. The three begin a quest to unite the Gelflings, all the while being hunted down by the Skeksis.

Why is it a must-watch?

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance spectacularly fleshes out the world of Thra and introduces new creatures, tribes, and wonders not seen in the 1982 movie. It's truly one of the top fantasy worlds ever created.

The show is also a revelation in the realm of puppetry and animatronics, as the first movie was as well. The film nearly entirely relies on these puppets (with a few moments of CGI here and there), and has significant advancements in how the puppets are controlled and express emotion.

A Note - Although the show has breakthrough advancements in puppetry, there is still occasionally an issue with the uncanny valley (when something appears human-like but is still distinctly not, creating an uneasy feeling with the viewer).

How many seasons?

One, released in 2019.

Honorable Mentions

- The Letter for the King

Although clearly geared towards a younger audience, The Letter for the King was still a tolerable show that's better than most of the popular coming-of-age undesirables found on Netflix. 

It's a standard plot line - a boy goes on a quest to save his homeland. But it's fleshed out a bit by the group of kids who go on the quest, especially the (only) girl Iona. It's a fairly ordinary show, but it doesn't play into the teenage fantasy show stereotypes - making it (for a fantasy show with a family-appropriate rating) actually somewhat unique. Also Andy Serkis is in it and having a Lord of the Rings actor automatically bumps this show up a few pegs. 

- The Shannara Chronicles

This show gets an honorable mention because although I didn't enjoy watching it for the first time in my twenties, I can see myself loving it in my early teens.

It's exactly what you'd think a teen-oriented fantasy show would be: handsome elven men who never seem to wear shirts, female protagonists whose makeup is always flawless, romantic entanglements everywhere you look (even when it doesn't quite make sense), and fairly predictable storylines.

That being said the world is still interesting, the special effects good enough to not be distracting, and there are some decent actors in it (John Rhys-Davies, aka another Lord of the Rings actor).

What's Your Opinion?

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