Shōgun episode 9 review | Tensions run high in Osaka

shogun episode 9
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Things get very tense in the penultimate episode of Shōgun, which sees Blackthorne, Yabushige and Mariko arrive in Osaka. Here’s our Shōgun episode 9 review. 

We’re in the endgame now. Shōgun episode 9 sets the stage for a volatile finale next week. In fact, this might be the finest episode in a bunch of excellent episodes. Much like with The Last Of Us, the penultimate episode might take the crown of the best episode in the series. 

Last week, Lord Toranaga decided that it’s time for him to surrender to Ishido, with Yabushige delivering the news in person to the Regent residing in Osaka. Or at least, Toranaga wants Ishido to believe he is surrendering. 

Yabushige and Blackthorne arrive in Osaka and are immediately met with Ishido’s men. Mariko also travels to the city and demands to be let go with Kiri and Shizu. Sneakily, Mariko asks, “Unless we are confined here?”, threatening to expose Ishido as a vicious tyrant rather than the rightful ruler he wants people to believe he is. 

In the episode’s standout scene, Mariko attempts to leave the castle, only to be confronted by Ishido’s men. It’s a brutal scene and one that finally also lets Mariko kick some serious butt and use her training that we glimpsed in episode 6. Once again, Mariko also promises that she will take her own life if she’s not allowed to leave. 

It’s a desire we’ve seen throughout Shōgun. Mariko’s deeply rooted shame has caused her to believe she’s not worthy of this life. She even asks one of the Regents to be her second, meaning they will have to chop her head off, proving just how serious she is. 

As we’ve stated before, Anna Sawai is truly remarkable here. Shōgun begins as a tale of Blackthorne’s assimilation into Japanese culture and Toranaga’s battle against the Regents, but slowly, the show has morphed to be more and more about Mariko. Not that we’re complaining, her story is compelling and Sawai perfectly encapsulates Mariko’s restrained shame and guilt. 

Episode 9 completely lacks Toranaga’s presence. Instead, we meet the Portuguese priest, Father Martin again and we get a particularly lovely scene between him and Mariko as he gives Mariko a cross necklace. There’s a charming fondness between the two, but the scene would have more resonance if Father Martin was a bigger part of the overall narrative. 

Episode 9 is truly riveting but smaller issues rear their heads up in the episode. The decision to replace Portuguese with English is a strange one, especially in a series that is mostly in Japanese. You’re already asking the audience to read subtitles, so it’s a little unclear why Portuguese couldn’t be used. Perhaps the actors don’t speak the language, but surely you should just cast Portuguese actors in the parts anyway? 

shogun father martin
Credit: FX Networks

As it does most weeks, this week’s Shōgun ends on a surprising, violent note once again. It’s a bit of a cliffhanger too, one that left me staring at the black screen with my mouth wide open. Week after week, Shōgun keeps reminding us that it’s the ballsiest, most exciting  show currently on TV. Well, streaming but you know what I mean. 

There’s a lot of debate about weekly drops vs. binge watching that has become the norm since streaming services began producing their own TV shows. Fallout, as excellent as it was, will have faded from public consciousness by next week after Prime Video dropped all eight episodes at once. 

Shōgun, which airs weekly (hence the weekly reviews), has maintained interest in it for 9 weeks now, following a more traditional release plan. However, it’s hard to imagine a show of this scale and this violent on a traditional TV channel. It would strictly be an HBO show but even then, the lack of major stars might push it out of primetime slots. 

The show will come to an end next week and episode 9 has set the stage for a particularly brutal showdown between Toranaga and Ishido. Will Toranaga be crowned the shōgun next week? I’d be lying if I said I have even an inkling about what’s going to happen. I’ve noticed that Shōgun has a funny way of always pulling the rug from underneath me. 

Join us once more next Tuesday to dissect the finale. 

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