Shogun ending explained

Chris Tilly
Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne in Shogun.

Shogun drew to a close today via the show’s 10th and final episode — here’s how events played out for John Blackthorne at the end of his Japanese odyssey.

Based on the bestselling book of the same name, Shogun is a sumptuous historical drama about a clash between east and west in the 17th century. Cosmo Jarvis plays John Blackthorne, the “Anjin” (navigator) who finds himself stranded in Japan, and caught up in a Civil War between Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada), and his enemies on the Council of Regents.

That tale, which is loosely based on a true story, has played out across 10 action-packed episodes, with the finale – titled ‘A Dream of a Dream’ – airing today.

So here’s what happened to Blackthorne and Toranga, as well as Lady Mariko (Anna Sawai), who was the beating heart of the series, and whose plight seemed grim at the end of Episode 9. Meaning beware of SPOILERS AHEAD

What happened to Lady Mariko in Shogun?

There was no last-second reprieve for Lady Mariko at the start of Episode 10, as the character is killed when the door she’s standing in front of explodes. A tragic end for the character, which leaves Blackthorne distraught, and praying over her dead body.

Anna Sawai, kneeling, as Lady Mariko in Shogun.

Many characters mourn for Mariko, making this finale a subdued and somewhat forlorn affair. But Mariko’s presence is felt throughout the episode, via the deal she previously struck to save the Anjin’s life later in proceedings. And through the burning of his ship, which Mariko is thought to be responsible for.

The Council of Regents, meanwhile, blame Toranga for trying to sow division between them, so declare a war to be fought after Mariko’s funeral. When Toranga himself learns news of her death, he states: “What a bonfire she made!”

Lord Toranga vs John Blackthorne

The stage is set for a showdown between Toranga and so-called heretic Blackthorne, whose sword and gun are removed before he meets the Lord. Blackthorne immediately pours his heart out to Toranga, apologizing for any disrespect, and explaining that he has lost both his faith and hope.

Villagers are being tortured and killed for destroying his ship, so Blackthorne then demands that he himself die instead, stating: “I Anjin by my death protest the callous punishment of the village by Yoshida Toranga.”

That request is refused, so Blackthorne tries to kill himself, which Toranga prevents, and follows with a pair of demands — that the navigator rebuild his ship and make him a fleet. The suffering of the villagers then ends, paving the way for collaboration between Blackthorne and Toranga, who later says: “I don’t think it’s his fate to ever leave Japan.” Which brief flashes forward would seem to contradict, but more on them later…

Toranga’s Shogun endgame

Kashigi Yabushige (Tadanobu Asano) is found to have aided the attack on Mariko, and ordered to commit seppuko. In the moments leading up to his death – and after he’s delivered both his will and death poem – Yabushige has an emotionally charged conversation with Toranga.

During their back-and-forth, Toranga reveals that it was he who burned the Anjin’s ship to test the navigator’s loyalty. We then learn his plan. With the Regents united, Toranga knew that it was pointless sending soldiers to Osaka, so instead sent a woman “to do what an army never could.”

Then, via brief flash-forward, he predicts how events will play out. In one month, the five armies will square-off on a battlefield. But due to Mariko’s actions, Lady Ochido is done with her Ishido alliance, so will keep the Heir’s army from the field. And if Ishido has no banner, the Regents will turn on him.

Toranga then plans to build a center of power in Edo, to create a nation without wars, resulting in an “era of great peace.” He also decides to keep Blackthorne alive, “because he makes me laugh, and my enemies need a distraction.”

When asked about his own personal ambition, and whether this has all been in service of becoming Shogun, Toranga refuses to answer, and instead helps to end Kashigi Yabushige’s life.

Saying goodbye to Mariko

‘A Dream of a Dream’ concludes with something precious going into the water, and something beautiful coming out. Blackthorne and Usami Fuji first pour Mariko’s ashes in the seas, making her at one with the water, “together forever.”

Blackthorne also drops his cross in the seas, meaning the aforementioned flashes forward to old man Anjin early in the episode – which suggest he makes it home and lives to a ripe age – are false, as he’s holding that same cross in these scenes. Meaning they are probably the “dream of a dream” in the episode title.

Then, later, the Anjin pulls his “beautiful boat” out of the water, with help from Mariko’s husband, who is also his former enemy. Meaning that the Lady’s death has precipitated multiple unions.

The final shot is of Blackthorne and Toranga looking at each other. The Anjin smiles and walks away, as Toranga turns and looks across the bay. Perhaps planning his Shogun future.

Shogun is streaming on FX in the US and Disney+ in the UK. While you can head here for more streaming shows this month.

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About The Author

Chris Tilly is the TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He has a BA in English Literature, an MA in Newspaper Journalism, and over the last 20 years, he's worked for the likes of Time Out, IGN, and Fandom. Chris loves Star Wars, Marvel, DC, sci-fi, and especially horror, while he knows maybe too much about Alan Partridge. You can email him here: