‘Shōgun’ Episode 4 Recap — Dad’s Gonna Be Mad When He Gets Home

Estimated read time 12 min read

Editor’s note: The below recap contains spoilers for Shōgun Episode 4.

The Big Picture

  • Blackthorne’s new title as a hatamoto leads to new complications and the beginnings of a forbidden romance.
  • Yabushige plays both sides, using Blackthorne’s cannons to manipulate Lord Ishido and Toranaga’s plans.
  • Toranaga’s sudden disappearance sets off a chain of events that culminate in a shocking act of war.

Only three episodes into FX’s new historical epic Shōgun, much has already happened to our intrepid English Pilot-Major John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) since the Erasmus first found its way to the shores of Japan. Although Blackthorne would prefer nothing more than to retrieve his ship and his crew and turn tail for home, he’s been pulled into a brewing war the likes of which he couldn’t have anticipated. Not only that, but he’s also served as a somewhat unwitting pawn in the political maneuverings between five daimyō regents, among whom is the powerful Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada).

Although the allegiance between Toranaga and Blackthorne began on shaky ground, the navigator’s evolving understanding of the culture he’s become immersed in, as well as a building respect between the two men, leads to Toranaga awarding Blackthorne the honored title of hatamoto (bannerman). Under that new title, Toranaga proclaims that Blackthorne will use the Erasmus and its crew to train his own samurai in foreign military tactics, something he intends to use in a potential battle between himself and the other lords. After resigning his position from the Council of Regents in last week’s episode, Toranaga has moved one step closer to asserting himself against his enemies, but as Episode 4, “The Eightfold Fence,” reveals in its shocking final minutes, one of his allies has undoubtedly forced his hand in declaring all-out war.

Blackthorne Has a New Title (and New Complications) in ‘Shōgun’ Episode 4

Before all of that happens, Blackthorne, Toranaga, Lady Mariko (Anna Sawai), and the rest of the mostly unscathed traveling bunch have gone back to where the story began — the fishing village of Anjiro where the Erasmus was shipwrecked in the first place. After their fun bro swim in the ocean together last week, Blackthorne seems to be under the impression that he and Toranaga have come to an arrangement that suits them both, and that it will only be a matter of time before he’s permitted to sail off into the sunset and away from Japan. Meanwhile, the people of Anjiro have gone all out to welcome their high-ranking guests of honor, and Yabushige (Tadanobu Asano) proudly shows off his army of samurai — even if he looks slightly dismayed when Toranaga manages to earn somewhat louder cheers from the men than he had at first reception.

But the vassal isn’t the only one who finds himself met with disappointment — when Blackthorne attempts to head out to his ship to collect some desired supplies, including his trusty pistols, Mariko finds herself in a position to inform him that he’ll need Toranaga’s permission to board the Erasmus. Even the brand-new house he’s been gifted for his stay in Anjiro doesn’t ease Blackthorne’s mind about it all, especially when he discovers that Toranaga wants him to stay in the village for a year in order to satisfactorily train the samurai army. Using Mariko as a go-between, Blackthorne begrudgingly agrees to honor Toranaga’s wishes for the next six months, but based on the way he’s stomping around the courtyard of his (admittedly rather nice) private residence, something tells us he might be trying to stage an escape sooner rather than later.

Similarly dissatisfied with their newly assigned role is the widowed Lady Fuji (Moeka Hoshi), who swiftly declares that she would rather be permitted to join a convent than serve Blackthorne as his consort, even if he does happen to be Toranaga’s new hatamoto. If there’s any consolation, it seems that Blackthorne, who continues to drink his respect-women juice, isn’t exactly going to demand that Fuji perform any duties she’s not comfortable with. The show has never given any indication of Blackthorne being the type of man who would force himself on a lady, so it’s no real surprise when he consents to allow Fuji to serve him as a consort only in the non-sexual sense (i.e. running the house and, apparently, taking care of his finances as well). Refusing her would be considered a great dishonor, according to Mariko, and this compromise seems to endear Fuji to Blackthorne in a way neither of them expected it to. By the end of the episode, they’re even performing a gift swap with each other! While Fuji is initially baffled by Blackthorne giving her one of his pistols, she ultimately extends her own offering to the pilot in the form of her late father’s swords.

Although Blackthorne has stated that he doesn’t have any intentions to “pillow” with anyone, that all happens before he and Mariko coincidentally find themselves both visiting the same natural hot springs late at night. After the translator inadvertently gets a peek at Blackthorne’s naked body, the two of them have about as modest an interaction as can be — with Mariko continuing to get in jabs wherever she can about the Englishman’s infrequent bathing habits. The conversation soon turns to a hypothetical scenario of what they might do together if Blackthorne was able to show Mariko around his home country of England — which essentially amounts to meeting the Queen and attending a play — and you could cut the tension between them with a short sword, even though they’re sitting back-to-back most of the time. When the episode cuts ahead to Blackthorne snoring restfully in his room as Fuji snuffs out the candles and departs, you wouldn’t be wrong in believing that he’ll pass the night alone.

The lighting of the scene makes it difficult to decipher the face of the woman who slips into his room and rouses him before beginning to undress in his presence — but both we, and Blackthorne, are led to believe it’s Mariko, as the two kiss before tumbling out of frame and everything fades to black. The next morning is a rainy one, but you wouldn’t know it based on Blackthorne’s sunny mood. As Mariko joins him and Fuji at breakfast, she suggests that he must have enjoyed the courtesan who attended to him last night — but then harbors a small, private smile to herself. So the question is: was that Mariko in Blackthorne’s room, or someone else? And how long is the show going to spool out this mystery?

On the one hand, the two characters have been building up to this moment even before Mariko’s husband Buntaro (Shinnosuke Abe) seemingly met an honorable death in last week’s episode. On the other, maybe it’s not exactly the best look for a newly widowed woman to be jumping into bed with someone whom many still consider a “barbarian.” Although their romance feels a little rushed in the overall story, it makes sense that Mariko would lie about her own involvement in seducing Blackthorne given those factors and several others, especially within a society so firmly rooted in honor, but is this a secret Fuji is keeping for her too? I’m also not entirely sold on the fact that Buntaro is dead — we never saw him perish on-screen, he was simply shoved out of frame during his fight with Lord Ishido’s men — so Mariko’s husband popping back up on the scene could toss a further wrench into any potential forbidden romance, even if their marriage was never all that happy to begin with.

Yabushige Continues to Play Both Sides in ‘Shōgun’ Episode 4

Meanwhile, outside of this week’s romantic drama, Yabushige has cemented his place on the series as the Character Most Capable of Twisting the Situation to His Own Advantage. As someone directly aligned with Toranaga, he has a vested interest in appearing as though he’s still directly loyal to his lord while simultaneously trying to look out for number one wherever possible. This means cozying up to the head of the Council of Regents, Lord Ishido (Takehiro Hira) whenever he has a spare moment, but it’s not as if Yabushige’s nebulous alignment hasn’t escaped his own lord’s notice either. In fact, Toranaga seems intent on keeping Yabushige as close to his plans as possible, even while being aware of the fact that the man might inevitably betray him for his own benefit. It’s one of the show’s most fascinating relationships, not the least of which is because Yabushige has arguably become one of Shōgun‘s most likable antagonists simply because of his shifting motivations. A good portion of this is due to Tadanobu Asano’s performance, tinged with intellect and bemusement — and often in the very same scene.

This week, Yabushige’s master plan manifests as promising his army to Toranaga for his ultimate plan while realizing that having a fully trained set of samurai will only actually benefit him in the long run. That said, he still has to deal with the headache of Blackthorne being put in the position to train his men — and, as it turns out, the Anjin has little knowledge of actual infantry tactics as he stumbles his way through an anecdotal retelling of the Great Siege of Malta, a battle he wasn’t actually in attendance for. You’d think Toranaga would’ve been aware of this before demanding that the man train an entire fleet, but it sort of fits with the overall theme of the series where Blackthorne continually stumbles his way into positions of higher and higher authority. (It is impossible for this man not to fail upward!)

What Blackthorne does have at his disposal, however, are cannons — more specifically, the twenty cannons that were loaded off the Erasmus and which Yabushige is surprised to find are much more accurate than anything the Portuguese can lay claim to. As Blackthorne’s cannons accurately render all of their wooden targets to splinters, Yabushige realizes that he might have an even more powerful asset at his fingertips — and that Toranaga can easily be shunted out of the way if Ishido can be convinced that these cannons are actually his to wield.

Toranaga Pulls a Disappearing Act in ‘Shōgun’ Episode 4 — at a Cost

Yuki Kura in Episode 4 of Shogun Image via FX

However, with the arrival of several men loyal to Lord Ishido, led by Nebara Jozen (Nobuya Shimamoto), Yabushige needs to think fast if he wants to be able to talk his way out of losing his head. Even though he’s given his marching papers (in the form of an “invitation”) to return to Osaka and face judgment by the Council of Regents, he manages to convince Jozen that the situation isn’t what it looks like — except for the fact that it totally is. His plan all along has been to prepare his men for a war to be fought in Ishido’s name, Yabushige proclaims, and anything else has been a misrepresentation. Besides, with Blackthorne’s cannons to use, Ishido could have an army strong “enough to shrivel Christian balls.” Before Jozen can turn tail and run back to tattle to Ishido, Yabushige suggests he stay for an official demonstration the following day — and if he’s unmoved, Yabushige will offer his head on a platter to Ishido himself.

Naturally, this all coincides with Toranaga’s convenient disappearance earlier in the episode. After being greeted by Yabushige’s forces, the lord unexpectedly hops back on his boat and proceeds to sail away from Anjiro. His more impulsive son, Yoshii Nagakado (Yuki Kura), attests to it having to do with “urgent business,” but most of the characters — Blackthorne included — are a bit perplexed as to why Toranaga would up and peace out after making such a show of getting to Anjiro to begin with. Whatever Toranaga’s plan is, he doesn’t return in time to prevent his own son from making what may be the most costly decision of the entire series to date.

The cannon demonstration takes place on a foggy morning, which seems an ominous portend for what’s to come all on its own. Yabushige briefly remarks on the fact that Blackthorne seems to be carrying swords now — the gift Fuji bestowed on him previously — and similarly refers to it as a “bad omen,” but seriously, neither he nor we know just how bad it’s about to get. Nagakado rides out in front of the cannons, disrupting the demonstration before it even starts. Referring to Jozen’s presence as intolerable and offensive to Toranaga’s name, Nagakado raises his sword even against Yabushige’s urgings to stop, revealing that his ultimate plan has already been set into motion.

There are other cannons hidden in the treeline, and they aren’t positioned towards planks of wood; they’re aimed right at Nebara Jozen and the rest of Ishido’s men, which becomes horrifyingly apparent once they begin firing. Men and horses are reduced to bloody explosions of limbs and organs in a single round of cannon fire. It’s “a shocking act of provocation,” Yabushige declares, as Blackthorne, Mariko, and the others mutely look on, but Nagakado arrogantly replies that he wants Ishido to know about what he’s done. Jozen, who’s somehow survived the initial explosion at the cost of several limbs, points out the dishonor of Nagakado’s impetuous plan — “This is not how samurai fight!” — shortly before the young man ends his life with the swift sweep of a blade. As the episode closes with Mariko’s tearful, stunned expression, she gives voice to what these reckless actions have now plunged all of them into, whether they’re prepared for it or not: “It is war.”

Shogun Film Poster

Shogun (2024)

Cosmo Jarvis and Anna Sawai anchor a more intimate, character-driven episode of Shōgun.


  • Blackthorne continues to establish stronger allies for himself, and Jarvis’ scenes with Sawai and Moeka Hoshi are particularly rewarding.
  • Jarvis and Sawai lean into their characters’ chemistry, even if Blackthorne and Mariko’s romance feels somewhat rushed.
  • The episode ends in a violently startling fashion that promises to turn the tide of the series.


  • Hiroyuki Sanada’s Toranaga mysteriously disappears from the episode with little explanation.

New episodes of Shōgun premiere each Tuesday on FX and Hulu.

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