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Shogun – Episode 8 – The Abyss of Life Review

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It appears that Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sunada) and his company cannot catch a break. In the latest episode of Shōgun we open with a march to Edo covered in dark, gray skies. Toranaga is sick and he could have caught a bug or was just sick at the thought of his son dying by slipping on a rock in a failed assassination attempt on Saeki (Eita Okuno). The men are in a somber mood at the death of Nagakadu (Yuki Kura) but leave it to Yabushige (Tadanobu Asano) to inject some dark humor calling Nagakadu’s death, “lower than boiling but higher than eaten by dogs.” 

Lord Ishido (Takehiro Hira) proposes marriage to Ochiba No Kata (Fumi Nikaido) as he describes that he has always watched her. He states this marriage is to further strengthen their alliance but Ochiba seems troubled by this proposal. He leaves her to consider his proposal. 

Later in the episode it is revealed that Lady Daiyoin (Ako) suffers a stroke. She advises Ochiba to not align herself with Ishido. When she passes, Ochiba bows to Ishido, seemingly accepting his proposal. This will probably not end well for her. One should never dismiss advice from an elder. 

As the company reaches Edo, Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) is dismissed from his charge and free to return to his crew. There was no emotional goodbye between him and Mariko (Anna Sawa). Ever since the betrayal from his brother, Toranaga’s company and the audience are sitting on pins and needles wondering what Toranaga’s master plan is to get out of this surrender. 

Toranaga’s council mourns Nagakadu with Omi (Hiroto Kanai) giving a speech befitting of his character and expressing his grief and pain after it appears everyone else deems him a fool. The next day, no one’s mood or thoughts have changed. They do not want to surrender and the Generals make this clear when they show up in armor to Nagakadu’s funeral (Toranaga was too sick to attend, perhaps coming up with a plan). However, every decision points to surrender.  

Toranaga manages enough strength to summon Mariko to a meeting. At this point, the audience cannot determine if he is faking this cough or not but even more surprising is as Buntaro (Shin’nosuke Abe) interrupts Mariko’s meeting with Ochiba’s sister to deliver this news, he asks Mariko to meet him for tea and we start to see a sweeter side of him. 

Meanwhile, Blackthorne runs into Father Martin (Tommy Bastow) in town and the meeting is as tense as you could imagine. They end their brief exchange when Father Martin asks Blackthorne if he will wear his current attire when he reunites with his men. A point that Blackthorne comes to understand when he does meet one of his crewmates and he does not give him the reception he thought. He is blamed for their predicament, half the men dead, living in the slums of Edo and reserved to their new life. Of course, this leads to a physical fight in which Blackthorne wins but ends any thoughts of returning to his old life. 

When Father Martin meets with Toranaga, he advises that the Christian council cannot help him. Toranaga blames the Catholic Church and Father Martin tries his best to offer options. He offers a solution: form an alliance with Ochiba. Hiromatsu (Tokuma Nishioka) agrees with this idea but Toranaga rejects it. Toranaga further tells Hiromatsu to stop questioning the surrender and tell everyone else to do the same. Before leaving he tells Father Martin that he will be allowed to build the church he requested in Edo. Hiromatsu tells the others this is a ploy – Toranaga will fight. 

Buntaro sets up his tea with Mariko beautifully and she seems pleased. Please do not make us root for this man now. Buntaro asks her flat out if she has feelings for Blackthorne and she does not answer. He then states that they both commit seppuku to end their unhappiness and protest the surrender. Mariko informs him that he still does not understand her. She wants to die to be free of him. When she leaves Buntaro breaks down and we start to finally see a man with some sort of true affection for his wife. 

Blackthorne now seeks to form an alliance with Yabushige, while Mariko translates. What is the purpose of the alliance? To get his ship back and sail away of course. Yabushige wants to do this but turns him down after a look from Omi. Blackthorne then suddenly confesses that he knows he does not belong in Japan and he does not belong anywhere, similar to Yabushige. Mariko informs Blackthorne loyalty continues even to one’s death. Basically, Blackthorne has come to realize it is what it is. 

We see Gin (Yûko Miyamoto) looking over the land Toranaga promised with Kiku (Yuuka Kouri) explaining to Omi the potential of it all. However, not too far away Father Martin is also looking at the land that was promised to him. The church and tea house will be very close to one another. That sneaky Toranaga. 

We have finally come to the moment of truth, time for Toranaga’s company to sign a document stating that they will surrender and there are some that decline angrily. When Hiromatsu pleads with Toranaga and he still refuses as the fate of Japan is more important than their clan, Hiromatsu threatens to commit seppuku. In the most tense scene of the season thus far, Toranaga still refuses to yield and you can hear a pin drop except for Omi who is shouting in protest to no avail. Buntaro becomes his father’s second and offers to die with him. Hiromatsu refuses this and stabs himself. (Do we hate Toranaga now?) Buntaro completes the seppuku and takes off his father’s head in one swoop. 

Later, Mariko is speaking with Toranaga, saddened by what happened. Toranaga explains, he knew that Blackthorne would seek out Yabushige and that Yabushige would decline; that is until Hiromatsu’s death. Toranaga revealed the master plan all along: that he knew Hiromatsu would commit seppuku. He and Hiromatsu planned this in order for Yabushige to form an alliance with Blackthorne and convince everyone that Toranaga had really planned to surrender. We lost Hiromatsu but perhaps for the greater good. 

The episode starts to end with Ishido seemingly getting what he wanted, Ochiba marrying him and Toranaga surrendering. Blackthorne gets his ship back thru his alliance with Yabushige but Mariko joins them per Toranaga’s orders. Toranaga has bought time with the death of his son (49 day mourning period) and Hiromatsu. He promises at Nagakadu’s resting place to not waste this gift. Two more episodes and we will learn the fate of all the players involved in the battle for control over Japan.What do you think Shōgun fans? Will this plan work? Leave a comment and connect with me on Twitter @lovesprina.

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