‘Shogun’ Finale Recap & Ending Explained: How Did Toranaga Defeat Ishido?


In the penultimate episode of Shogun, Mariko decided to take a stand against Ishido by sacrificing herself to free the families of the Regents that were being held hostage by Ishido. For a second, it seemed like a huge ruse to force Ishido to relinquish his hold over the Regents. But, during the concluding moments of the episode, Ishido used Yabushige to smuggle the Shinobi into the castle quarters. Apparently, they were supposed to simply kidnap Mariko because she was becoming a huge issue for Ishido. However, they ended up setting off an explosive device that killed Mariko. Let’s find out how her death changes the trajectories of Yabushige, John, Toranaga, and Ishido in the final episode of Shogun.

Spoiler Alert

John Blackthorne is allowed to leave Osaka.

Episode 10 of Shogun opens with an odd scene where we see an old John Blackthorne lying on his bed while his grandchildren inspect his artifacts from Japan. Then the miniseries returns to the scene of the blast, and it’s confirmed that Mariko is dead. I’ve got to point out that Mariko doesn’t have any visible injuries. The explosive went off on her back, and there was a door between the explosive device and her. Are there no splinters on her? That’s odd because the miniseries has never skipped out on gore. So, why go into PG-13 mode for this moment specifically? Your guess is as good as mine. Ishido and the Regents have a meeting regarding Mariko’s death, and it seems like all of them are not comfortable with Ishido’s tactics. Saeki Nobutatsu informs Ishido that Toranaga has gone to Edo to prepare for war. Ishido isn’t perturbed by that, as he knows that he has the numbers to win any battle. He even pins the blame for Mariko’s death on Toranaga and says that he has sacrificed her to make it look like Ishido has done it. Still, the Christian Regents want Mariko to get a proper burial. 

Ishido accepts this proposal only after Lady Ochiba puts her foot down. When the topic of John Blackthorne comes up, Ishido tries to brush that aside too by saying that he is not of any concern to him anymore. As Ishido signs the document to wage war against Toranaga, an earthquake hits Osaka, thereby causing the superstitious Regents to doubt Ishido’s motives. Ishido tries to thank Yabushige for his contribution and asks him to prepare his army. However, the shell shock has seemingly not worn off, and it seems like Yabushige has lost his mind because of the disastrous consequences of his actions. The focus shifts to John, who is being taken to Toranaga on Lord Kiyama’s orders. Father Martin escorts John through the woods. They have a long conversation about the convoluted nature of Toranaga’s plans and whether or not Mariko’s soul was at peace when she died. As John leaves the docks of Osaka, Martin informs John that Mariko requested the church to let John live, and Martin has fulfilled Mariko’s final demand. John is overwhelmed as he realizes that Mariko’s last appearance before her faith and God was for John.

John Blackthorne wins Toranaga’s trust

Lady Ochiba and Yaechiyo talk about Mariko’s poem, thereby hinting at Ochiba’s changing allegiance. A crazed Yabushige asks John to take him to England on his ship, but as they arrive at Ajiro, they see that John’s ship has been destroyed. Omi has apparently sided with Toranaga, and he takes Yabushige to Toranaga for judgment. Muraji informs John that it’s possible that the Christians have destroyed John’s ship because they see him as a heretic and they don’t want him to help Toranaga with its artillery. Toranaga has apparently turned Ajiro upside down to find these raiders. He orders Yabushige to kill himself for orchestrating Mariko’s death. Yabushige requests Toranaga to allow John to be his second. Toranaga rejects the proposal because, even though John is a “hatamoto,” he is still an “anjin.” So, Yabushige asks Toranaga to be his second, and Toranaga accepts this proposal. John reunites with Fuji, and the shot composition of the scene shows that they are remembering Mariko without saying a word. 

Toranaga thanks Shizu for the safekeeping of his son. Kiri delivers a message from Ochiba to Toranaga. It’s cryptic in nature, but it probably means that she wants to honor Mariko by siding with Toranaga. Fuji tells John that her time as his consort and her duty to Toranaga are over, and now she is going to become a nun. John wishes her the best and then asks her to set up a meeting with Toranaga. Omi arrives to escort John, and it mirrors a scene from an earlier episode where Omi asked John to surrender his guns. Instead of doing that, John and Fuji pointed the guns at Omi. Now, after all this time, John gives away his gun and his sword, and I think that surprises Omi. John tells Toranaga that the people of Ajiro are innocent. They didn’t destroy the ship; Mariko did it so that John’s life could be spared. Hence, Toranaga should stop terrorizing the people of Ajiro. Toranaga refuses John’s proposal. That’s when John decides to commit seppuku to save Ajiro. This convinces Toranaga that John has no ill will in his heart, and he stops him from killing himself. He orders John to rebuild the ship and empower his fleet.

How did Toranaga defeat Ishido?

Yabushige gives his last poem to Omi. It’s so poorly written, but since it’s being read before Yabushige’s death, it’s hard to laugh at. Taylor Swift’s latest album has sparked a slew of memes under the title “tortured poet.” So, I guess I’ll put Yabushige in that category. Yabushige gives his final will to his kosho. He heads over to Toranaga, who is waiting at the edge of a cliff to kill Yabushige. They briefly talk about Omi and John before discussing Toranaga’s battle plans. Firstly, Toranaga reveals that he is the one who blew up John’s ship to make sure that John is willing to side with him and not the Christian Regents. Secondly, he reveals to Yabushige that he used Mariko’s death to convince Ochiba to break her ties with Ishido. If Ishido doesn’t have the Heir’s army, then he has lost the war before reaching the battlefield. Finally, he hints at the prospect of becoming the titular leader and ushering in an era of peace and tranquility. On that note, Yabushige commits seppuku, and Toranaga beheads him. 

During Shogun‘s ending, John takes Fuji to the open seas to submerge her child and her husband’s ashes. John also lets go of Mariko’s cross that he has been carrying all this while, thereby hinting at the fact that the scenes of the old John are figments of his imagination. John returns to the shore to start rebuilding his ship. Buntaro joins him, and even though they don’t exchange any words, it seems like they’ve buried the hatchet. Toranaga looks at the ship, John, and then Japan, and the triumphant music suggests that Toranaga has indeed emerged as the winner of this convoluted yet intriguing battle. I am sure that a lot of people will feel a little disappointed that there wasn’t any war after all. Yes, it’s the point of the plot and Toranaga’s plan, but the whole finale did feel a little anticlimactic. I am not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. However, I will say that I am happy for Hiroyuki Sanada. I hope this show motivates people to watch his extensive body of work, and I pray that he gets to take on many more intriguing roles in the future.

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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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