‘Shogun’ Episode 2 Recap And Ending Explained: Did Someone Try To Assassinate Toranaga?


The first episode of Shogun took its time to establish the fact that the four Regents of Japan—Lord Ishido, Lord Kiyama, Lord Sugiyama, and Lord Ohno—were conspiring against Lord Toranaga because they were afraid of what his bloodline represented. For better or for worse, a Dutch vessel called the Erasmus entered Ajiro, and its pilot, John Blackthorne, was treated like an important asset by Kashigi Yabushige because of the presence of Christianity and the Portuguese. While Yabushige thought that he’d keep this trump card for himself and make a play when Toranaga bit the dust, Toranaga himself ordered Yabushige to send the contents of the ship as well as John to Osaka so that he could analyze the invader and essentially mold his strategy around him. Does it work? Let’s find out.

Spoiler Alert

John Blackthorne is imprisoned

Shogun Episode 2 opens one year before the events unfold in the show’s current timeline, with the reigning Taiko on his deathbed. He apparently gave Lord Toranaga the option to be the sole Regent of Japan until Yaechiyo became old enough to rule. But Toranaga refused the offer and proposed the idea of a Five-Regent rule because he knew that as soon as he sat on the throne, the other lords would kill him and then go for Yaechiyo. That showed Toranaga’s foresight and survival abilities. However, I don’t think anybody could have anticipated that the other Regents would become so feudal about their territories. In the present day, Rodrigues and Tsuji (the translator for the Council of Regents) have a conversation with the Father-Visitor about John and the atrocities that he has committed. Tsuji points out something that causes the Father-Visitor to get serious, expel Rodrigues, and underscore the fact that “past entanglements” between the Portuguese and the English shouldn’t come to light. 

Tsuji rushes to the meeting between Toranaga, Mariko (who is there under the pretext of learning Portuguese), and John. They spend some time ensuring that Tsuji is not misrepresenting John in front of Toranaga and Mariko. Then, with the help of some smart editing and sound design choices, it evolves into a seemingly direct conversation between John and Toranaga about John’s allegiances, his religious inclinations, and his intentions. This is interrupted by Lord Ishido, who wants John to be imprisoned so that Toranaga can focus on returning Lady Ochiba and his post-impeachment plans. Since Toranaga doesn’t want to unnecessarily irk Isihdo, especially since he is so close to devising a ploy to defeat Ishido, he sends John to jail. Not understanding what just transpired in front of him, John protests against this imprisonment, but nobody listens to him. 

Tsuji Warns Mariko About John Blackthorne’s Intentions

In the Toda household, Mariko seems to be having a sweet moment with her son as she describes the “barbarian,” John. Mariko’s husband doesn’t like this and reprimands her for occupying a space that is meant for men, thereby exposing his insecurity and sexism. His arrogance goes down by a few notches when Hiromatsu barges in and orders Mariko to attend a meeting with Toranaga, not with her husband. Before conversing with Toranaga and Hiromatsu about their strategy, Mariko has a cordial but funny exchange with him, his wife, Lady Kiri, and Lady Shizu. Then Mariko gives her opinion on John. She thinks that he is dangerous and that it’ll be unwise for Toranaga to underestimate him. They talk about whether or not John’s lack of faith disturbs Mariko or not, and she says that unless and until her faith has been tested (yes, she seems to be a Christian convert), she won’t know if it’s sincere. 

Hiromatsu kind of loses his patience and asks Toranaga why they are focusing so much on John. Toranaga essentially repeats what Yabushige had said in the first episode: John’s presence is irksome for the Portuguese, and that’s why they’ll ask the Christian Regents, Kiyama and Ohno, to kill him. That’ll cause discord amongst Ishido and the Christian Regents. If the Regents are not on the same page, then they won’t come together to impeach Toranaga. That’ll hopefully single out Ishido and give Toranaga the opportunity to oust him from the council. The scene shifts to the prison, where John meets an imprisoned priest, who basically tells him that if Toranaga has claimed John as his ally in his current political position, then John’s chances of survival are low. Ishido has a meeting with Kiyama, Ohno, and Sugiyama, and he informs them that Lady Ochiba is returning to Osaka. Since his demand has been met, Ishido asks the Regents to vote for Toranaga’s impeachment. As expected, the Christian Regents demand John’s execution before the vote, thereby postponing the impeachment.

Did someone try to assassinate Toranaga?

The priest takes a massive exposition dump on John. He starts by explaining Toranaga’s Minowara origins. Then he talks about how he came to Japan a long time ago to spread the word of God and ended up learning the “tenets of the cloth,” i.e., silk, gold, and guns. He says that the Jesuits don’t really care about religion; they just want to do some good business. They apparently hate the Chinese, so they are kept out of the market. That’s where the Portuguese come in. The late Taiko tried to put a stop to it, but the church started an uprising by bringing in guns from a secret base in Macau. That’s when John reveals that he met a man who said that he had been to this fabled fortress in Macau, which is filled with Catholic Japanese soldiers. But the twist here is that the Regents are completely in the dark about this. John wants to warn Toranaga about this, but for that to happen, he needs to get out of jail. We get a brief scene where the captain of a ship, called Ferreira, asks Tsuji when he’ll be able to get his Black Ship back on open waters, and Tsuji tells him that the negotiations are still going on. Then Tsuji has a brief conversation with Mariko, and he tells her to be careful when it comes to John because he is a violent man. Amidst all this, Ishido pays Yabushige a visit, and Ishido basically asks Yabushige to side with him. Yabushige re-proposes his theory of using John, the Dutch vessel, and everything that comes with it to end Kiyama and Ohno after Toranaga is impeached and killed. Ishido says that he has given out the order to execute John. 

At the end of Shogun episode 2, Yabushige stages an abduction and a rescue so that he can give John a second life and keep his plans of using John to wage war against the Christian Regents alive. Toranaga seems to see through Yabushige’s trickery, but he doesn’t put too much focus on it and asks John to explain everything that he knows through his oceanic voyages. After a little geography lesson, John reveals the truth about the Portuguese and how they are not only converting the Japanese but also planning to claim Japan as their territory. This troubles Toranaga, and he checks if John believes in the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” theory. When John says that he wants to vanquish the Portuguese, he allows him to stay in his quarters. A small scene between Mariko and John probably sows the seeds of a haters-to-lovers arc. I haven’t read the book, so don’t tell me if I am wrong or right. I want to explore it as the narrative progresses. Anyway, due to John’s revelation, Toranaga rejects Tsuji’s plea to allow Ferreira to access his Black Ship. The Father-Visitor is seen conspiring with Lord Kiyama. Later that night, an assassin seemingly tries to kill Toranaga. However, after killing the assassin himself, Toranaga observes that instead of going for the quarters that he was supposed to sleep in, the assassin went to the room where John was supposed to sleep. That means someone tried to kill John because they knew that John was quickly becoming the number one political pawn in the power struggle between the Regents. Regarding the orchestrator of this assassination attempt, my money is on Kiyama because he wants John to be executed and appease the Portuguese. Ishido won’t do it because he and Yabushige want to use John. That said, to get some concrete answers, we have to wait until next week.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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