Shōgun episode 6 review | Women’s hour

shogun episode 6 review ochiba
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The latest Shōgun episode dives deeper into Mariko’s mysterious past and a wild plan is suggested. Here’s our Shōgun episode 6 review.

Warning: this review contains moderate spoilers for Shōgun episode 6!

The first five episodes of Shōgun have been very violent. People have been blown up, boiled alive, slaughtered and massacred left, right and centre. This isn’t a criticism – in fact, it’s a roaring endorsement of the historical epic, if anything. 

Episode 6, then, is a much less violent affair. Don’t get me wrong – people still lose their heads (yes, literally) in this episode, but the violence has less spectacle to it as the latest episode digs deeper into Lady Mariko’s backstory. 

At the beginning of the episode, we learn that Mariko and Ochiba, the mother of the heir of Japan, used to be friends. The two girls grew up and trained together until Mariko was shipped off to marry Buntaro. We all know how well that marriage turns out… 

Throughout the episode, we get more insight into both women, their history and their inner lives. Episode five saw Ochiba take a more direct approach to any affairs concerning her son, but episode 6 sees her become her own character, with her own motives. 

shogun lady mariko
Credit: FX Networks

Like Dune Part Two, Shōgun has revealed itself to be very interested in its female characters. Mariko and Ochiba both constantly operate in the background. The men might be doing most of the talking and certainly most of the fighting, but the women are working on their own agendas too. It’s truly riveting stuff. 

Back in the present time, Toranaga forcefully asks Mariko to attend a local brothel with Blackthorne. As mentioned a few episodes ago, “pillowing” is believed to be healthy for the body and soul, and Blackthorne, who’s just been promoted to chief admiral after he saved Toranaga’s ass again at the end of episode 5 when a major earthquake hit, is in dire need of it. 

Make no mistake: Toranaga knows what’s up between the English sailor and Mariko. Things get even more awkward as his pillowing partner is revealed to be Kiku, Omi’s lover. He doesn’t look too happy about what’s going on, but then again, no one in Shōgun looks particularly excited about anything, what with all the death and destruction happening around them. 

The acting remains top-notch. Anna Sawai, playing Mariko, is one of the most impressive parts of the already stupidly impressive show. While most of the narrative focus remains on Blackthorne and Toranaga, Mariko is quickly becoming the heart and soul of the series and Sawai is the reason. 

Episode 6 also brings back the suggestion that Toranaga might become a literal shōgun. It’s a title that refers to a military dictator or leader of sorts, but once the suggestion is brought up, Toranaga immediately rejects it, which obviously suggests that he’s well suited to lead the country through tumultuous times. 

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At times, it feels like there are too many moving parts to Shōgun. I’m taking notes to write these reviews, but even if I was watching the series casually, I think I might need a notepad to keep track of characters and alliances. It’s what eventually put me off shows like Game Of Thrones, and Shōgun still bears a remarkable resemblance to David Benioff and DB Weiss’ hit show.

Join us next week as we dive deeper into episode 7, titled ‘A Stick Of Time’, in which Toranaga may have to form an alliance with a long-lost family member. 

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