‘Shōgun’ Episode 10 Is a Bittersweet Finale

shogun, episode 10
‘Shōgun’ Episode 10 Is a Bittersweet FinaleFX

We finally made it, loyal readers—it’s the end of the road for Shōgun. Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) lost many allies to reach this moment. Now the shogunate is within his grasp. If you followed along with Shōgun knowing the true story of feudal Japan, then you’re aware of what FX had in store for the story’s conclusion. At the same time, there’s a certain someone who means a bit more to Shōgun than he ever did to Japan. I’ll let you guess who gets the spotlight in the final episode before diving into my recap. The answer may surprise you.

First, a refresher: Ishido (Takehiro Hira) holds the Council of Regents and their families prisoner in Osaka Castle. The war comes down to Ishido and Toranaga on either side, but Toranaga’s forces are outmanned. To weaken Ishido’s grip on his allies, he sends Mariko (Anna Sawai) to directly challenge his rival’s control over Osaka in episode 9. She successfully frees the political hostages by threatening seppuku. This move allows Toranaga to speak to the warlords of Japan and convince them to switch sides. However, Ishido recklessly sends assassins to capture Mariko in the night. She dies protecting Toranaga’s wives, which hurts Ishido’s reputation once word reaches the other powerful families. As it turns out, Toranaga may not have to do much convincing.

At a Council meeting, Kiyama (Hiromoto Ida) and Ohno (Takeshi Kurokawa) express their displeasure. “Osaka Castle isn’t as safe as we were led to believe,” Kiyama says. Ishido, looking very guilty, feigns responsibility. Saeki (Eita Okuno) informs him that Toranaga is preparing for war. Whether he surrenders here or in battle is up to him,” Ishido declares. Kill one unarmed woman in a surprise attack and now you’re a military genius? Ishido suggests to the group that it’s possible Toranaga ordered the attack on Mariko himself, which should immediately alert the Council to Ishido’s stupidity.

Then Ishido tries a new tactic: He declares that Mariko was the daughter of a traitor and deserved to die. Nobody likes that. Ohno suggests that she deserves a proper Christian burial. “Fine,” Ishido concedes. “We’ll go to war after.” Then Kiyama asks about Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis), and Ishido responds, “What happens to him is no longer of interest to me.”

Poor Blackthorne.FX

The Fools Return Home

Blackthorne is greatly affected by Mariko’s death. In the future, when he’s an old man in London, he wakes up from a nightmare of the incident absolutely shaken out of his wits. His eyes are glossed over, and he looks like a cursed Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. His two children are there as well. Though this incident does not occur in the Shōgun novel, it’s important to remember that Blackthorne had a wife and children the entire time he was in love with Mariko in Japan.

Back in 1600, Blackthorne is just as shell-shocked as he is in the future. It seems as if he never fully recovers from the incident, and neither does Yabushige (Tadanobu Asano). In fact, Yabushige is going full Macbeth. I’ve mentioned that his character felt Shakespearean before, but the finale seals the deal. Often a selfish turncoat who plays both sides to his advantage, Yabushige learns that he was nothing but a pawn. He betrays Toranaga by aiding Ishido’s assassins—and he sees Mariko blasted by dynamite as a result. When Ishido checks up on him, Yabushige is catching imaginary catfish in a decorative garden pond. Later, on the boat back to Edo, he hilariously takes his clothes off and begs Blackthorne to teach him how to dive into the water just like the Englishman did for Toranaga at the end of episode 3. It may seem like insanity, but Yabushige knows that his hours are numbered.

There’s no catfish in there, Yabushige. FX

For some reason, Blackthorne is also allowed to leave Osaka and return to Toranaga in Edo. He’s suspicious, especially when Kiyama’s guards turn him over to Father Alvito (Tommy Bastow). The Christian Regent spent all of Shōgun pushing for Blackthorne’s execution. So why is he free? As Alvito informs him, Mariko made a deal with the church before her death to spare his life. In return, the church burns his boat to a crisp. Blackthorne holds in an ugly cry, looking like someone who thinks he has to sneeze but the moment passes.

Back in Ajiro, Toranaga relocates his forces and releases his prized falcon back into nature. “I return you to the sky,” he says. Personally, I would have kept the bird for battle purposes. But I trust Toranaga. He’s raiding the fishing village for Christian sympathizers when Blackthorne and Tabushige arrive, believing that they sunk Blackthorne’s boat against his orders.

Toranaga also reveals that he knows Yabushige betrayed him, which is news to Blackthorne. “They say you were guilt-stricken and asked for forgiveness,” says Yabushige’s nephew Omi (Hiroto Kanai). Yabushige doesn’t deny it. Toranaga orders him to commit seppuku for his treachery by sunset the next day, but Yabushige pleads for a cooler death. If you recall, he’s the lord who boiled people alive in the premiere. Maybe he could be blasted with cannon fire or torn apart by a school of angry fish. He wants punishment! Toranaga denies him this wish, stating that he will second the act of seppuku himself.

How’s everyone else doing back home? Are we going to hear from Buntaro (Shinnosuke Abe)? The man lost his father and his wife in the span of a couple days. Instead, we get a scene between Blackthorne and Fuji (Moeka Hoshi). “No translator,” he tells her, forlorn. She shares that Toranaga will allow her to live out her days as a nun. Blackthorne, feeling lonely, orders her to stay. All those Blackthorne and Fuji shippers are finally having their moment. Sorry, but that’s not how this story ends. “Impossible,” she says. “I am no longer your consort.” Blackthorne hopes that she becomes the “best nun.”

Meanwhile, Toranaga is reunited with his family, who returned with Blackthorne and Yabushige after Mariko saved their lives. Lady Kiri (Yoriko Dōguchi) presents her husband with a long note from Ochiba (Fumi Nikaido), folded about a dozen times. Toranaga reads it with a heavy sigh. It’s a poem Mariko wrote before her death. “If I could use words / Like scattering flowers and falling leaves / What a bonfire my poems would make,” Toranaga recites. “Only her words remain with us now, but what a bonfire she made.”

shogun finale blackthorne and fuji
Blackthorne and Fuji shippers...you were almost right.FX

The Blackthorne in My Side

Throughout Shōgun, Blackthorne saved Toranaga’s life countless times. For this, Toranaga awarded the foreigner honorary titles, a fiefdom, and even command over Toranaga’s cannons. Blackthorne originally sailed to Japan to disrupt the nation’s ties with Spain and Portugal, but he spent his entire time in the country under Toranaga’s employ. If you’ve followed the story closely, the Englishman is almost a nonfactor. To further prove his point, Toranaga reveals that his spy, Muraji (Yasunari Takeshima), is secretly a samurai who watched the Portuguese’s movements this whole time.

Blackthorne apologizes for his actions and tells Toranaga that he no longer cares about England or his nation’s religious conflict. He offers to take his own life to spare the village, screaming that he is Toranaga’s “enemy.” He came to Japan to exploit him just like everyone else—and deserves to be punished via death. He’s the third person this week who has knelt before Toranaga and threatened suicide. He’s sick of watching everyone’s temper tantrums! “If you’re finally done, rebuild that ship and make me a fleet,” Toranaga tells him.

shogun finale
Live, goddamnit! FX

Winner Winner, Shōgun Dinner

Sorry, Blackthorne, but the final scene belongs to Yabushige. Before the traitor walks to his death, he gifts his nephew a death poem. “My dead body / Don’t burn it, just leave it in the field / And with it, fill the belly of some hungry dog,” he writes. Drop me in a ditch and let me rot. Hardcore.

Meeting with Toranaga at sunset, Yabushige is ready for death. His lord reveals that he was the one who burned Blackthorne’s ship at Mariko’s request. “It was a necessary ruse to test the Anjin,” he says. Toranaga...always playing 6D chess. “Perhaps someday I’ll tell him the truth,” he says. “By then he’ll have rebuilt the ship, and I’ll likely have to destroy it again. I don’t think it’s his fate to ever leave Japan.” Yabushige asks Toranaga how it feels to shape the wind to his will. All of his life, Yabushige has only reached out for the favor of more powerful lords; he’s never held destiny in his own hands. “I don’t control the wind. I only study it,” Toranaga responds.

“After all we’ve been through, I thought you of all people would see,” Toranaga says.FX

As a final wish, Yabushige begs Toranaga to tell him the plans for Crimson Sky before he dies. Toranaga reveals that Crimson Sky is already finished. “After all we’ve been through, I thought you of all people would see,” Toranaga says. Crimson Sky referred to the friends we made along the way, apparently. “I sent a woman to do what an army never could,” he states. Toranaga reveals that in her secret note Ochiba promised to keep the heir’s army away from the battlefield. She’s grown tired of her failing partnership with Ishido. Without the banner of the heir, the regents will turn on him. Toranaga will win the battle before anyone draws blood. He also tells Yabushige that he kept Blackthorne around simply because he made him laugh. Plus, his enemies needed a little distraction. After some shared laughter, he cuts Yabishige’s head off.

Looking out to the beach, he spots Blackthorne raising his ship out of the sea. The Englishman chuckles, and Toranaga turns his attention to the sky. That’s it. No big battle, and no grand statement. Just the promise of one last credit in all caps, signaling the future...SHŌGUN. Tokugawa, Toranaga’s real-life counterpart, goes on to win the Battle of Sekigahara after many powerful lords switch to his side. It was certainly not without bloodshed, but the fighting lasted only six hours. From there, the Tokugawa shogunate ruled over Japan for the next 265 years.

That’s plenty of material should Shōgun return for season 2, but this seems like the end for the beloved series. No more bloodshed. Tokugawa is known as one of the great unifiers of Japan. At the end of Shōgun, he promises peace.

You Might Also Like