Shogun (Premiere) Episodes 1 & 2: Based on James Clavell’s novel of the same name, “Shogun” (original name: Shōgun) is a marvelously meticulous transportation to 1600s Japan. With Lords feuding, Europeans colonizing, and general human shenanigans all around, this historical drama series has had a thrilling start. Buoyed by strong performances and impeccably precise production design, “Shogun” is the new best thing to watch on TV.

The first two episodes establish the historical context as well as the geographical particulars. Here is a recap of the same.

Shogun (Premiere) Episodes 1 & 2 Recap:

Introduction to Lord Toranaga

During the 1600s and the century preceding that, Japan had feudal lords serving as separate masters of their regions (fief). They had their army of samurais and were often involved in infighting. The fighting ceased under the leadership of Taiko (probably referring to Toyotomi Hideyoshi). However, in the decade of 1590, Taiko’s health starts to deteriorate. Not wanting a multiangled civil war dividing Japan, Taiko created a Council of Regents consisting of five lords. They are Lord Ishido, Lord Sugiyama, Lord Ohno, Lord Kiyama, and the enigmatic Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada).

The job of the council was to ensure that Taiko’s son was protected till he was of age to ascend the throne. Meanwhile, Lord Toranaga’s continued efforts to increase his fiefdom made the other four lords fearful of him. The first episode starts with Lord Toranaga facing the other four lords, who plan to impeach him. Toranaga knew that it could mean only one thing: the other four lords were planning to kill him.

Introduction to John Blackthorne

Parallelly, we are introduced to John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis). John was the Pilot of the Dutch ship Erasmus. The ship had firearms, like guns and cannons. Weapons that were not common for the Japanese at that time. The ship, with John and his starving crew, arrived at the Japanese shore and was immediately raided. Kashigi Yabushige (Tadanobu Asano), the lord of the fishing village where the ship lands, captures John and his friends.

Eventually, Yabushige would deliver John to Lord Toranaga, to whom Yabushige had sworn fealty. During the journey, John would meet Rodrigues, a Spanish captain of the Portuguese (Nestor Carbonell). John and Rodrigues form an unlikely alliance and survive during a storm. John’s dexterity as a ship pilot impresses both Rodrigues and Yabushige.

Shogun (Premiere) Episode 2 Ending Explained:

Why did Toranaga keep John alive?

Lord Toranaga is a man most astute. He doesn’t like unnecessary loss of lives, especially if there are values to be extracted from them. When Yabushige hands over John to him, he knows that this “other” white guy could come in handy. Especially due to his own reservations against the Portuguese. It is the time the Portuguese have spread far and wide in Japan through Christianity and the pretense of trading. And just like any European colonizers, the Portuguese also want to rule from behind the scenes. Two Lords of the Council Regents are devout Christians and under the Portuguese Catholic church’s control.

Shogun (Premiere) Episodes 1 & 2
A still from “Shogun” Premiere Episodes

Under these circumstances, Toranaga is wary of this ‘foreign’ challenge. He senses the tension between the Portuguese party with the arrival of this English protestant. He feels that there could be more use for John. That is why, despite throwing John to prison to show nonchalance in front of Lord Ishido, Lord Toranaga has a mind to know more about John.

How did John antagonize Toranaga against the Portuguese?

John Blackthorne has come to Japan as an agent of England. He is a protestant and has no love lost for the Portuguese Catholics, who already have a firm grip on Japan. John has orders from the Queen, and he is determined to see those through. So, it is not surprising that he grabs the first opportunity he gets to instill the seed of animosity for the Portuguese contingency in Lord Toranaga’s mind.

John draws a map and elucidates to Toranaga about the existence of Europe. For the Japanese, the existence of Europe is limited to the Portuguese only. John tells them that the English are the European enemy of the Portuguese. He also tells Toranaga about the Portuguese military base in Macao. Something no one in Japan isn’t aware of. He ends his pitch by highlighting how the Portuguese and the Spanish decide to ‘own’ the other parts of the world. And how the Portuguese believe that Japan belongs to them.

Who Was the Assassin’s Target?

John’s speech, with the translating help of Lady Mariko (Anna Sawai), does what he expects it to do. Toranaga confronts the local Portuguese priest, Father Martin when he comes to ask for permission for a Portuguese ship’s sail. The message is conveyed to the right persons and the Portuguese brigade becomes aware of the dangers of John’s friendship with Toranaga. They send an assassin to finish John off.

However, the combative and astute mind of Lord Toranaga anticipates this. He switches rooms with John. As a result, when the assassin comes to John’s quarter, hoping to finish him off, she meets with the flash of the samurai sword of Lord Toranaga. Toranaga kills the assassin and claims that this work was done by one of the Catholic Lords under the stewardship of the Portuguese.

Which side is Yabushige on?

Kashigi Yabushige, the village head who had sworn loyalty to Lord Toranaga, is a wild character. He fries people alive and yet saves Rodrigues’ life, risking his own. Yabushige is impressed by John. He is also shown to relish the opportunity to fill the vacuum of Lord Toranaga if he were to be killed by the other four lords. Yabushige shows some level of friendship towards Lord Toranaga’s enemy, Lord Ishido too. It was Yabushige who sabotaged one of the Catholic lord’s plans to execute John. He then brought John back to Lord Toranaga one more time. Yabushige is an intriguing and somewhat unpredictable character in the show. It would be interesting to see what he does next.

Read More: Everything Coming to Hulu in March 2024


Shogun (Premiere) Episodes 1 & 2 Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of Shogun (Premiere) Episodes 1 & 2: Cosmo Jarvis, Hiroyuki Sanada, Anna Sawai, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroto Kanai, Takehiro Hira, Moeka Hoshi, Shinnosuke Abe
Shogun (Premiere) Genre: Historical Drama | Runtime: 10 Episode (55–70 min)
Where to watch Shogun

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