‘Shōgun’ Star Hiroyuki Sanada Breaks Down That ‘Very Important’ Final Scene

Note: This story contains spoilers from “Shogun” Episode 10.

After 10 episodes spent teasing an epic clash between Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) and the four ruling Regents who want him dead, the final episode of “Shōgun” didn’t end with a war. Instead, FX’s brutal limited series ended with quiet reflection.

After learning it was Kashigi Yabushige (Tadanobu Asano) who betrayed him, “Chapter Ten: A Dream of a Dream” ended with Toranaga ordering the scheming lord to commit seppuku. At sunset, moments before Yabushige ended his life, Toranaga laid out to his former confidante what he expects will happen in the coming weeks. Following the death of Mariko (Anna Sawai), Ochiba no Kata (Fumi Nikaido) had already abandoned her alliance to Ishido Kazunari (Takehiro Hira). Without Ochiba or the support of the heir, the tides would turn against Ishido ahead of the coming battle. There were still more moves to be made, but Toranaga knew he’d be positioned to become the shōgun of Japan without needlessly shedding more blood with another battle.

Sanada confirmed the army scene that unfolds in this moment isn’t a glimpse into the future, but instead Toranaga’s “imagination and calculation.” But there’s reason to believe this story played out exactly as the ruler intended, even if viewers never got to see the coming battle.

“That happened in the real history. All Japanese audiences know what happened in the past and what Toranaga has done. Toranaga’s model, [Tokugawa] Ieyasu, won the battle, created the peaceful era over 260 years. So that’s his strategy-revealing scene” Sanada told TheWrap.

Though his plan is never fully explained, Toranaga also revealed that Mariko’s mission and death were, in fact, the much-revered Crimson Sky strategy. “I sent a woman to do what no army could,” Toranaga wistfully said in the finale.

Sawai, whose absence is felt throughout the finale, admitted that the episode made her “tear up so much.” “I really felt the care, the love and the mourning that everyone was feeling for Mariko, and I felt so loved,” Sawai told TheWrap.

It would make sense for “Shōgun” to end with Toranaga finally revealing his master plan and spelling out all the sacrifices he made to rise to power. Instead, it ended with a look between Toranaga and John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis), before dwelling on the future of Japan.

This last look is one that Sanada loved to bring to life. “After [Blackthorne] committed seppuku, [Toranaga’s] mind changed, and then Toranaga felt, ‘OK, past. We can work together,’ ” Sanada said, explaining how the act cemented Blackthorne’s loyalty to the lord. “Looking at each other at the end, is more like understanding each other and believing each other. More like the friendship is stronger.”

The strength of this relationship is one that Sanada and Jarvis also felt on set. “I could feel his spirit, and he said he could feel what might be my spirit,” Sanada said. “So we created our chemistry through the 11 months shooting 10 episodes. Little by little, authentic way, we developed the relationship deeper and deeper.”

Yet the very last moment of “Shōgun,” much like James Clavell’s original novel, has both nothing and everything to do with Toranaga, Mariko and Blackthorne. As grand as this sweeping epic is, it captures something larger than any of these characters.

“The look back to the ocean means he’s watching the future of this country,” Sanada said. “That’s a very important scene, very important ending scene for the season.”

Over the course of 10 episodes, “Shōgun” fully covers the plot of Clavell’s 1975 novel of the same name. But as “Big Little Lies,” “13 Reasons Why” and “Nine Perfect Strangers” have proven, there’s a history of shows extending past their source material.

When asked if there are any plans to continue “Shōgun” in any fashion or if he will continue his partnership with FX, the series star and executive producer said that it was “not decided yet.”

“Maybe after the release of the 10 episodes we see the reaction,” Sanada said. “But we finished the novel already. So who knows?”

All episodes of “Shōgun” are available to stream on Hulu.

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