Shōgun episode 8 review | Mourning and matcha tea

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After last week’s shocking ending, episode 8 finds Toranaga in mourning and Blackthorne indecisive. Here’s our Shōgun episode 8 review.

Warning! Mild spoilers for Shōgun episode 8!

The end is nigh. We only have another two episodes left in the epic, impressive Shōgun. It feels like a rarity to have a TV show of this scale and production value that places so much emphasis on the human drama and character dynamics. 

We’ve seen our fair share of violence and it has been pretty spectacular (I’m still thinking of that glorious scene at the end of episode 4), but Shōgun is arguably at its best in its quieter moments. 

Episode 8 is an episode that finds most characters at a crossroads. Our characters travel to Edo after agreeing to surrender to Ishido and the rest of the Regents at the end of last week’s episode. Toranaga is refusing to show himself and when he does eventually emerge, he is like a shell of the man he used to be, coughing and struggling to keep himself upright. 

shogun hiromatsu
Credit: FX Networks

It seems that no one can change Toranaga’s mind about surrendering. As is customary, Toranaga is given 49 days to mourn the death of his son, who was killed after he slipped and hit his head on a rock while challenging Toranaga’s villainous half-brother to a fight. Many try to convince Toranaga that all hope isn’t lost, but he remains firm. He is ready to die now and only wishes it to be a kind, peaceful death rather than a violent one. 

Elsewhere, Blackthorne is torn between his own alliances. Their arrival in Edo means that Blackthorne is able to reunite with his crew, but he’s not the same man who was captured at the beginning of Shōgun. Lady Mariko tells him he is not obligated to follow them to Osaka, but Blackthorne visibly struggles with the idea of returning to his old life as the pilot of a ship. 

The episode includes two standout scenes. In the first one, Buntaro expresses his desire to die with his wife Mariko after making her a cup of matcha. Buntaro has, throughout Shōgun, been a brutal, cruel man so to see him gently mix the matcha powder and serve the cup to his wife feels strangely moving. Mariko, however, is not interested in Buntaro’s suggestion, telling him all she has ever wanted was to be out of his reach. 

Another highlight of the episode happens at the very end. We’ll tread carefully here and won’t spoil it, but it’s a scene that features the most shocking, violent act of the show so far. We have seen seppuku, a Japanese ritualistic suicide, performed many times now, but the one in this episode feels different. It’s gory, but also emotional. The scene’s effectiveness is a real testament to the episode’s writer Shannon Goss and director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour’s ability to handle such scenes. 

The Portuguese are also back in this episode, but if I’m completely honest, I forgot about them. James Clavell’s original novel is so dense, as history itself tends to be, that I find myself often struggling to remember characters, their names or their purpose in the show. Shōgun doesn’t lend itself to binge-watching because its episodes are heavy and concentrated, but returning to this world and to these characters only once a week is also a little laborious at times. 

That being said, I can’t wait to dive into the final two episodes. This week’s episode was a quieter affair, but something tells me that next week’s episode will be a much more violent one. 

Join us again next Tuesday as we break down the penultimate episode of Shōgun

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