Shōgun loves to toy with viewers just as much as the lords and generals in Japan's real-life Edo period manipulated their subjects in the pursuit of power.


From the moment English navigator John Blackthorne washed up on the shores of Japan in 1600, the series has thrown surprise after surprise our way, while throwing Lady Mariko and Lord Yoshii Toranaga for a spin as well.

Episode 9 ended with perhaps the biggest surprise of all; the apparent death of Lady Mariko, who's caught in the explosion that Ishido's ninja clan used to blast their way through Osaka castle in a failed kidnap attempt.

Well, that might not have been a surprise if you're already familiar with James Clavell's original book that this show is based on.

But maybe Mariko doesn't die this time around? Maybe showrunners Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks have changed their minds, using our understanding of the source material to throw us for one more loop? Or maybe we're just toying with ourselves now in the desperate hope of seeing Anna Sawai return one last time as Mariko?

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Read on for everything you need to know about the ending of Shōgun.

Shōgun ending explained — Did Lady Mariko really die?

Eita Okuno as Saeki Nobutatsu, Anna Sawai as Toda Mariko, Hiromoto Ida as Kiyama Ukon Sadanaga all sitting and kneeling on the floor in the middle of a crowded hall.
Eita Okuno as Saeki Nobutatsu, Anna Sawai as Toda Mariko, Hiromoto Ida as Kiyama Ukon Sadanaga in Shōgun. Katie Yu/FX

The final episode opens with yet another surprise, a much older version of Blackthorne who seems to be recalling the past in his mind's eye while his actual eyes and entire body deteriorate in bed. Two kids who seem to be his grandchildren approach and ask John about a sword in his room that's chipped because he apparently used it to "fight off a whole army of assassins".

"Was it really given to you by a savage?" one of the precocious children asks in the most English of English accents. Blackthorne ponders this question while holding tight onto the rosary he was given in Japan. So are the events of this show but a memory for Blackthorne now, or is this actually a future he's imagining in the wake of what happened to Mariko?

Because yes, Lady Mariko is really dead, it turns out. Everyone is crying around a now younger Blackthorne again, who's holding her corpse in his hands. The opening credits and a procession follow before we cut to a meeting with all the big players who are discussing the ramifications of what took place and what to do next.

Lady Ochiba argues that Mariko deserves a proper Christian burial, which the men reluctantly agree to, and then discussion of an "inevitable" war is interrupted by an earthquake which worries the more superstitious council members attending. The vote moves forward with a 'yes', though, regardless, setting the stage for an epic power play that should concern Toranaga, but he's more focused on the loss of Mariko right now.

Old Man Blackthorne pops up again briefly before we move back to his meeting with that shady Portuguese priest who's been stirring the pot this whole time in the background. "Mariko might be happy to see us getting on," he says, to which John asks if this is the moment he's going to be ambushed and killed.

“You were meant to die in these woods, but an arrangement was made," says the priest. "You will leave Osaka alive." That's because Mariko asked the church to spare Blackthorne's life before she died, so John is sent back to Toranaga in a small rowing boat.

Cosmo Jarvis wearing a brown outfit and sporting a black eye injury, he is standing in a garden with his hands behind his back
Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne in Shōgun. Katie Yu/FX

Back at base camp, the truth is revealed when Toranaga confronts Kashigi Yabushige about his involvement in Mariko's death: "That night, you were seen letting intruders into my quarters… After Mariko's death, they said you were guilt stricken and begged for forgiveness… Did you aid this attack?"

Yabushige admits that it's all true, to which Toranaga says: "Fine, all your lands are forfeit. Please slit your belly by sunset tomorrow."

In response to this casual request, Yabushige begs, but not for his life. No, he begs for a more decent death by cannon fire or even to be "eaten alive by a school of angry fish".

Toranaga doesn't trust him though, so these "fine suggestions" are refuted. "Please commit Seppuku by sunset tomorrow."

As per tradition, another man is asked to "second" the death, which means someone else will slice Yabushige's head off with a sword after he cuts into his own stomach. Yabushige requests the Anjin, aka Blackthorne, but again, Toranaga says no, and so it's decided that the lord himself will second the death instead.

Meanwhile, Blackthorne visits his consort Usami Fuji, who reveals that she is no longer his consort. Instead, Toranaga has given her permission to leave and become a nun, thereby ending her service to the Anjin. John gets upset about it for a second, but he's overruled, so he then wishes her the best.

Fuji is sad for what will become of the village now though, because the locals are being punished for their apparent role in sinking Blackthorne's ship while he was away.

The next day, John meets Toranaga via a local fisherman slash samurai who translates for them both. Blackthorne argues that the villagers don't deserve to die because the loss of his ship was actually wrapped up in Mariko's machinations, but Toranaga disagrees, pointing out that: "Those who are disloyal to me continue to breathe air in my realm." And that cannot be allowed.

Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in Shōgun wearing regal gold dress and on a white horse in the middle of a field.
Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in Shōgun. Colin Bentley/FX

"I was the disloyal one," replies Blackthorne, desperate to save the village. "I came here to use you from the day I set forth on your shores." Toranaga ignores John though, even when he shouts the word "Enemy" and points to himself over and over again.

Another cut to Old Man Blackthorne reminds us that this has all happened in the past now, and then he tries to commit Seppuku in front of Toranaga to protest the lord's "callous punishment of his village".

Toranaga intervenes with a well-timed punch and then hits even harder with the words, "If you’re finally done, rebuild that ship and make me a fleet." Blackthorne is gagged, as are we.

The next morning, Yabushige hands over his final will to his family before meeting Toranaga one last time. They sit together overlooking the sea in contemplation, and then...

"If only I could have lived to see it," says Yabushige. "The day your plan comes together, whatever it is."

Toranaga reveals his master plan then, and it's a doozy. Yes, it turns out he was the one who destroyed Blackthorne's ship, not the villagers who are being punished, as a ruse to test him, one which Mariko also took part in through negotiations with the church.

"Perhaps someday I’ll tell him the truth… 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."

Gobsmacked by this revelation, Yabushige asks, "How does it feel to shape the wind to your will?"

"I don’t control the wind," replies Toranaga. "I only study it."

And with that, the lord explains his plan to defeat Ishido, even though his enemies' forces far outnumber his own. Sending a mere army to Osaka would have meant certain death, so Toranaga sent "a woman to do what an army never could".

Cosmo Jarvis and Anna Sawai both wearing robes, sitting down on the floor outside looking at something.
Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne and Anna Sawai as Toda Mariko in Shōgun. Katie Yu/FX

In short, Mariko's actions in Osaka these past couple of episodes have ensured that Lady Ochiba will have grown tired of her alliance with Ishido. Via a secret letter, she's now pledged to keep the heir's army from the battlefield at Sekigahara. One month from now, Ishido will show up without a banner, which means that the regents will turn on him before a sword is even drawn.

"Only then will my dream be realised," says Toranaga. "I will start it in Edo, my centre of power. A nation without wars, an era of great peace."

"All of us have made this possible," he continues. "You, me, Lady Mariko… Even the barbarian who came out of the sea."

The lord reveals the main reason why he kept Blackthorne around all this time is because he makes him laugh – which might be the most homoerotic moment of the show yet. And that's saying something.

Yabushige is mad though, pointing out the hypocrisy of sacrificing all the lives of "lesser men just to ensure victory in our names".

To which the lord replies: "If you win, anything is possible. Even Shōgun."

So yes, Toranaga might have noble aims, but he also wants power. Yabushige begs for more insight into his lord's "secret heart," but Toranaga makes a very good point when he asks, "Why tell a dead man the future?" And with that, Seppuku is performed and Yabushige is no more.

In a more solemn moment, Blackthorne and his former consort discuss the afterlife before they pour the ashes of Blackthorne's consort's husband and the baby into the water.

John holds tight onto his rosary before letting it go into the depths as well, which begs the question how does Old Man Blackthorne have it again in old age? Unless he just bought a replica to remember Mariko by, of course.

In one final scene, Blackthorne works with the villagers to pull what remains of his boat out of the water, while Toranaga watches from the shore nearby. The pair look towards each other with mutual respect, although John is none the wiser when it comes to how the lord has been manipulating him this whole time.

But Blackthorne is just another pawn, ultimately, something which Toranaga no doubt contemplates staring out across the mountains before him while the music builds and swells as the title Shōgun majestically appears on screen.

Shōgun is available to stream in full now on Disney Plus. You can sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now.


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