'Shōgun' Episode 9 Recap — Never Send an Army To Do a Woman's Job

Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for Shōgun Episode 9.

The Big Picture

  • In
    Episode 9, Mariko’s mission leads to a dangerous confrontation, forcing her to make a drastic sacrifice for her loyalty.
  • The episode showcases Mariko’s strength and resolve, culminating in a tense standoff that tests her composure and commitment to duty.
  • A late-stage betrayal leads to tragic consequences, adding layers of tension and emotion as the series heads towards its finale.

With the final episode of Shōgun on the horizon, perhaps it should come as no real surprise that the story still isn’t done doling out those heartbreaking narrative blows. After the loss of Toranaga’s (Hiroyuki Sanada) most trusted general, Toda Hiromatsu (Tokuma Nishioka), in last week’s episode, not to mention the death of his son Nagakado (Yuki Kura) the week prior, it seems the lord of Edo may not have very many cards up his sleeve left to play — but what he has been granted is the advantage of more time on his side. As is customary, Toranaga has 49 days to mourn Nagakado properly, and while his movements are being heavily monitored by his half-brother and new Regent Saeki Nobutatsu (Eita Okuno), it doesn’t mean that he can’t enact the next stage of his overall plan. This week’s episode, “Chapter Nine: Crimson Sky,” isn’t about finally launching that directive of war we’ve been hearing so much about already, and it doesn’t follow a major, bloody battle taking place on an open field between two opposing factions. Instead, Toranaga sends what turns out to be his best and most acute weapon yet to Osaka: the Lady Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai).

Those familiar with James Clavell‘s novel are already familiar with the outcome of Mariko’s mission, but even basic plot beats pale in comparison to the gripping, emotional journey that plays out over the course of Episode 9. This penultimate installment of Shōgun is more than a swan song for a fan-favorite character; it’s an ode to someone who’s become as essential to the narrative, perhaps even moreso, than Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) himself. Thanks to Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks‘ adaptation of the famed book, Shōgun has become Mariko’s story, and this week proves just as much a showcase for the character herself as it is for Sawai’s stunning ability to leave us hanging on her every word.

Shogun (2024)

When a mysterious European ship is found marooned in a nearby fishing village, Lord Yoshii Toranaga discovers secrets that could tip the scales of power and devastate his enemies.

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Everyone Descends on Osaka in ‘Shōgun’ Episode 9

After last week’s episode revealed that Mariko had been asked to tag along with Blackthorne and Yabushige (Tadanobu Asano) in their trip to Osaka, it’s clear that both men have been left in the dark about why she’s even there to begin with. Mariko has no intention of revealing the real motivation behind her presence, and insists it’s just more convenient for her to join them on the ship because they’re all heading to the same place. The mood in Osaka is predictably tense based on what we already know — that Lord Ishido (Takehiro Hira) has been keeping the families of the Council held under lock and key in the castle in order to force the Regents into complying with every decision he and Ochiba (Fumi Nikaido) make. It’s a wonder any of them manage to get any real shuteye before Blackthorne and Yabushige are summoned to their meeting with Ishido and the Council the following evening. But even Yabushige can’t attempt to spin the situation in his favor, especially not after trying to offer up Blackthorne and his cannons as a demonstration of his true loyalties. It’s a gamble, and one that doesn’t pay off when Ishido swiftly dismisses them from his presence.

However, it turns out they’re not the only ones seeking an audience with Ishido; Mariko is announced shortly thereafter, and initially engages in the necessary pleasantries — congratulating Ishido and Ochiba on their recent engagement, reminiscing with Ochiba about their time together in Azuchi as young girls. But then she reveals the real reason for her visit: to personally escort Toranaga’s wife, Kiri (Yoriko Dōguchi), as well as his consort, Shizu (Mako Fujimoto), and her new baby, back to Edo. Naturally, Ishido is quick to insist such a thing will not be permitted, especially since Toranaga has been ordered to show his face in Osaka mere weeks from now. Mariko vows that she and Toranaga will return on the day he has promised to surrender — that is, unless everyone in the city is forced to stay put. It’s an even riskier gamble than Yabushige’s; by duty, Mariko has to obey the order of her liege lord, Toranaga, and while the confinement of Ishido’s hostages is well-known throughout Osaka, it would be dishonorable for him to admit that everyone is being held in the castle against their will. Ishido, however, knows full well that if he admits that no one is a hostage, the other Regents and their families will soon follow Mariko’s lead in exiting stage right.

Mariko Makes a Deadly Choice in ‘Shōgun’ Episode 9

It’s the first instance of an episode that gifts us an absolute barn burner of a performance from Sawai as someone who has everyone in the room held captive by her presence and composure. These same traits prove essential when Mariko, Kiri, Shizu, and a small contingent of Toranaga’s loyal samurai attempt to depart Osaka the following morning. Even as Mariko openly moves to defy Ishido to a potentially deadly degree, she’s forced to bury the devastating revelation that her own son, Ryûji (Yuua Yamanaka), seems to have been poisoned against her. Leaving the city is accompanied by the knowledge that Ryûji has promised to disavow her as his mother, and yet Mariko leads the group through the gates without a single hitch in her step, regardless of how many arrows are fired at her feet.

A confrontation with Ishido’s men is inevitable, especially when they begin stressing the need for some kind of permit first in order for anyone to leave, but Mariko remains impassive, ordering her warriors to kill anyone who tries to stop them. As men are cut down on both sides, it becomes apparent that Mariko’s supporters are dwindling in the wake of another wave of Ishido’s fighters descending on them — which leads the lady to pick up a naginata herself in an attempt to cut her way through. But orders are only to detain Mariko, not to kill her, so that even as she swings her spear around, trying to carve a path forward, she’s met with resistance at every turn. Gradually, Mariko’s composure begins to crumble, screams of exertion and despair ripping themselves out of her throat, until she loses her balance and collapses in a heap.

Devastated, but resigned, Mariko loudly proclaims that, now that she has been prevented from doing her sworn duty to Toranaga, she has no other choice but to commit seppuku by sunset in protest of the offense. By sunset, her life will be forfeit, but since suicide is a mortal sin in the eyes of the church, she requests that Lord Kiyama (Hiromoto Ida) be her second in the matter. Later that day, everyone has thoughts about what’s to come. The other Regents express doubt that Mariko will follow through with her vow, but Ochiba astutely points out that her former friend would “die to be free of the disgrace that has burdened her,” and as a greater consequence, “all of Osaka will be disgraced for letting her die.” The history between these two women, the childhood they shared as closely as sisters, leaves them in a unique position to understand one another like few others can — which is why, when Blackthorne and his translator are summoned for an audience with the Taikō‘s heir, it turns out to be a cover for Mariko and Ochiba to speak privately and honestly. Have the years that have passed between them left them at an impasse, especially when Ochiba accuses Mariko of surrendering to “pointless death”? As Mariko urgently reminds the other woman, however, Ochiba has more power in this fight given where she stands, and “accepting death isn’t surrender.”

A Late-Stage Betrayal Leads to Tragic Consequences in ‘Shōgun’ Episode 9

While previous installments of the story have taken a deeper look at the tragedy of Mariko’s past, as well as her persisting unhappiness in her marriage to Buntaro (Shinnosuke Abe), Episode 9 makes a point to remind us that she’s had to bury her emotions behind the eightfold fence for a majority of her life. In terms of significant moments, there’s the loss of her family in the wake of her father’s betrayal, as well as the manner by which she’s been denied the honor of joining all of them in death, and now, this week, we find that Mariko once attempted to flee her circumstances by running away when she was pregnant with her son 14 years ago, stumbling through the dangerous snowdrifts of the Shōnai region. It was an act that inadvertently led her into the arms of the church, allowing her to cross paths with Father Martin (Tommy Bastow) and find some peace through a new faith.

This same faith is what Mariko reaches for in the eleventh hour, summoning Father Martin to accept her final confession. What transpires between them, and what Mariko asserts as her last wishes, is unknown, but as the sun sets, she prepares to meet her end with Kiri, Shizu, and Blackthorne sitting in observation. Yet one person is conspicuously absent, and Mariko realizes that Kiyama has chosen not to come and second her. Instead, it is Blackthorne who steps forward, vowing to raise his blade when she has truly fallen. As Mariko positions herself to plunge her dagger into her heart, however, a stay of execution is essentially granted when Ishido himself interrupts the ceremony to give Mariko the needed permit to depart.

It all seems too good to be true, and for a moment, it is. Blackthorne and Mariko, perhaps sensing that this may be the last time they’ll share in each other’s company, choose to stop denying their feelings and spend the night together, drifting off to sleep in each other’s arms. Yet their peace is about to be disturbed by an unforeseen threat — let in by none other than Yabushige himself, as a late-stage promise to Ishido in exchange for immunity. Masked assassins slip into the castle, cutting down samurai in their sleep, before making their way to Mariko’s room. The translator and the hatamoto hold their own long enough to flee, collecting Kiri, Shizu, and the baby — as well as Yabushige, who convincingly plays the victim in all of this. Kiri suggests they barricade themselves in the dozo, or the warehouse, since the doors are heavy enough to protect them. But that option only works right up until Mariko realizes that their attackers are setting up fuses to blow the doors open. As Blackthorne stuggles to find something heavy enough to block the door, Mariko places herself against it — a protest of Ishido’s “shameful attack,” seemingly already knowing what her death will achieve.

Like Blackthorne, who can’t believe what he’s seeing, it’s somehow impossible to conceive of Mariko’s demise as inevitable, even knowing that she’s been waiting for it — simply because she’s been such a cornerstone of Shōgun since the beginning, and in ways the original adaptation couldn’t quite capture. The penultimate episode proves to be a “Crimson Sky” all its own through the devastation it brings and the ripple effects that will no doubt be felt by all heading into the finale, but one never could’ve imagined that it would come courtesy of one woman, rather than a legion of men.

Shogun Film Poster

Shogun (2024)

Anna Sawai leads a penultimate episode of Shogun that proves to be the series’ best and most devastating installment to date.


  • Through Mariko’s stand against Ishido and face-off against his men, Sawai proves why she’s one of the best things about this show.
  • Mariko’s death is inevitable given the character’s arc, but no less heartbreaking because of how essential she’s become to the story.
  • Even though Hiroyuki Sanada is absent this week, the episode doesn’t suffer from a lack of Toranaga with so many strong characters to follow.

New episodes of Shōgun premiere each Tuesday on FX and Hulu in the U.S.



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