10 Scandalously Great Period Dramas | TheReviewGeek Recommends

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10 Scandalous Period Dramas

Apart from the usual fantasy shows such as Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful and Outlander, there are several scandalous period dramas with outlandish and shocking themes. Since most such historical shows tend to be full of forgotten politics and wars, it can get a little boring.

But fret not as it is a given that such shows are to be accompanied by exciting and explicit content from violence and gore to sexual and wild elements. So, if you are interested in such period dramas, there is a lot to choose from. But be warned as these shows are not for the faint of heart. 

Well, without further adieu, here are 10 scandalous period dramas to watch.

The Borgias

Set during the Renaissance, Rome sees an increase in art, culture, corruption and licentiousness as the new pope, Rodrigo Borgia encourages simony, bribery and other such sinful acts. It doesn’t help that his children born of wives and concubines are all self-indulgent.

As Cardinal Rovere pursues his one-man crusade to take down the family, the Borgia family are only interested in elevating their wealth, territory, status and comfort. It doesn’t help that there are whispers of incest between siblings Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia due to their unnatural closeness.

the tudors

The Tudors

The Tudors is an ambitious TV show encompassing the reign of Henry VIII, his hunger for conquest when it comes to land and women and his need to solidify his position as the greatest king of England. The show begins with a young Henry itching for war as the naive French king constantly clashes with him.

Meanwhile, he seems to be scorning his first and ageing wife, Queen Katherine of Spain in favour of pretty servants and lady’s maids till he sets his sight on Lady Anne Boleyn. Elsewhere, Cardinal Wolsey does his best to control the brash and headstrong king but bites off more than he can chew.



Another gory and explicit show, this historical drama begins with the ambitious Viking raider Ragnar who is tired of his earl rejecting his plans to travel to foreign and richer lands. As he independently travels to ancient Briton and raids it, he ruffles the feathers of the narrow-minded Viking chieftains and British kings who are threatened by Ragnar’s boldness. However, as Ragnar starts getting stronger, he and his family start getting out of control.



The Bridgerton buzz of season 1 was unlike any Netflix original and for good reason. Not only was it adapted from the popular chick-lit books of the same name, helmed by Shondaland and had steamy scenes that had everyone’s heart racing but it also had Jane Austen-worthy romance, thrilling secrets and a POC cast that opened a whole new discourse on ethnic casting in period dramas.

Lady Whistledown, the Gossip Girl of the Regency era sets her eye on any scandal she can get while Daphne Bridgerton, the latest debutante gets involved in a fake dating trope with Simon who has no interest in love. With all eyes on them, what cannot go wrong?


Political intrigue, ambition, infidelity, betrayal and queer relationships make up the gossip circles in every corner of the newly built Palace of Versailles. The indulgent Louis XIV decides to move his court to Versailles as a way to control his subjects and flaunt his grandeur. However, it backfires as the immense migration has the nobles planning a coup against him and his unchecked power.



Dickinson is a modern take on the American poet, as Emily Dickinson goes through the facade of choosing her suitor, with one even being her friend who promises to get her poems published. In the meantime, her brother has already decided to settle as he gets engaged to her best friend, Sue.

But unbeknownst to the family, Emily and Sue are in love as they plan to run away together. Along with her romantic life, Emily’s career faces several hurdles as well, as her father is against her writing and attending college.

the great

The Great

The Great is another chaotic period drama with modern sensibilities following the rule of Catherine the Great. This black comedy begins with the cheerful and ambitious Catherine who hopes to rule Russia after she marries the emperor, Peter. However, her spirits are dampened when she realises her husband is a cruel and immature man bordering on tyranny.

As their first few days turn messy with Peter hitting and imprisoning her, Catherine learns that she can singlehandedly be the ruler of Russia if the king dies without an heir. Thus begins her plan of action as she schemes to kill Peter.



When it comes to scandalous period dramas, the R-rated Spartacus full of blood, sex and gore has to be on the list. It is based on the unnamed Thracian soldier who is captured and sold as a gladiator while his wife is sent to a brothel. Due to his prowess, he is named Spartacus, the name of a fierce Thracian king of yore.

While he refuses to cooperate at first, his fighting skill has his slaver, Batiatus, making a deal with him – his participation in gladiator competitions while Batiatus searches for his wife. As he becomes more at home, he gets involved in the local politics and gladiator rivalry as he is seen as a threat by the other senior gladiators.

The White Queen

Set during the War of the Roses as the different royal houses of England fight for the throne, the women behind these powerful men – Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville – use the art of lust, deception and betrayal to get what they want.

This sordid tale begins with Elizabeth who is widowed and broke during the war and sets her eyes on King Edward IV. As she manipulates him into making her his queen, his advisers side with Margaret Beaufort, mother to the next king, Henry Tudor.



With so many iconic plays and sonnets, little Willy Shakespeare must have led a colourful life to be influenced so. And it is worth noting that a lot of his works are inspired by real people, folktales and actual incidents. Well, keeping this in mind, this TV show focuses on a young William Shakespeare when he just started out writing and moved to London during the Puritarian era.

As he finds a home in Burbage’s theatre, he unknowingly kicks out the in-house playwright and makes enemies. It doesn’t help that he is a Catholic in a city full of Protestants while the mischievous Kit Marlow, a fellow playwright is hell-bent on making his life miserable.

And there we have it, our list of 10 scandalous period dramas! What do you think of our list? Have we included your favourites? Or have we missed any must-watch TV shows? We love to hear from you so do feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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