Yoshii Toranaga and Kashigi Yabushige in Shogun, Episode 10, "Chapter Ten: A Dream of a Dream"

Shōgun: The FX Historical Drama’s Ending Explained

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Shōgun Episode 10, “Chapter Ten: A Dream of a Dream.”

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Shōgun‘s finale, “Chapter Ten: A Dream of a Dream,” delivers an unconventional climax to the FX historical drama’s 10-episode run. It’s a lot to unpack, so we’ve explained the Shōgun ending’s major beats below.

Related: Is Shōgun Getting a Season 2?

What’s Up With Blackthorne’s Flashforwards?

Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne in Shogun

“Chapter Ten: A Dream of a Dream” is peppered with flashforwards to John Blackthorne’s apparent future. In these scenes, the brash English sailor is now a sickly old man living in England. Time jumps such as this are fairly standard fare for series finales, however, Shōgun adds a twist: the future scenes aren’t real! Instead, they’re a figment of Blackthorne’s imagination – his idea of the fate that awaits him if he leaves Japan. Co-showrunner Justin Marks unpacked the rationale behind this creative flourish in the latest episode of the official Shōgun podcast.

“We wanted to open this episode with what feels like the beginning of a flashback structure where we jump forward into the future and we meet Blackthorne as an old man,” he said. “And we tell the story of an old man looking back with regret on the life that he led, only to realize that that was not the dream of an old man looking back. It was actually the dream of a young man looking forward to one possible version of his life. A version of his life that he has to draw to an end by killing that path.”

Marks went on to say that Blackthorne’s seppuku attempt near the end of Shōgun Episode 10 represents him symbolically rejecting the destiny laid out in the flashforwards. “What Blackthorne is trying to kill there is not himself, it’s the version of himself that he’s always been,” Marks explained. “And when Toranaga knocks that knife out of his hand and then looks down at him, he’s looking at a man reborn now to a completely different life.”

What Is Crimson Sky?

Yoshii Toranaga’s subordinates (and viewers) spent a decent chunk of Shōgun‘s runtime anticipating Crimson Sky: the codename for a major assault on Osaka. Yet when the credits roll on Episode 10, no such battle has taken place. Instead, Toranaga tells Kashigi Yabushige that Crimson Sky is already over! So, what is Crimson Sky, really? As advertised, it’s a plan to take down Osaka’s ruler, Ishido Kazunari – but not by force.

Ever the master strategist, Toranaga sent Toda Mariko to Osaka in Shōgun Episode 9 correctly anticipating that she would die there. Her death alienates Ishido’s fellow nobles, as well as Mariko’s childhood friend, Ochiba no Kata, who (through her son, the heir) controls the late taikō’s forces. What’s more, before Mariko died, she secured the release of Toranaga’s consorts and newborn son. So, all told, Crimson Sky achieves all of Toranaga’s goals with minimal bloodshed, which is what he wanted all along.

Related: Shōgun: Who Is Toda Mariko?

How Did Toranaga Defeat Ishido?

As mentioned above, Toranaga weaponized Mariko’s act of self-sacrifice in Episode 9, “Chapter Nine: Crimson Sky,” against Ishido. Knowing that Ochiba wouldn’t side with him “in a thousand years,” he secured an alliance with her by engineering Mariko’s demise at Ishido’s hand. So, when Toranaga and Ishido’s respective armies finally square off in the Shōgun universe’s version of the Battle of Sekigahara, the latter won’t have the backing of the taikō’s troops (thanks to Ochiba).

“Chapter Ten: A Dream of a Dream” features a brief flashforward – a real one, this time! – to just before the battle, but we don’t witness Ishido’s actual death. James Clavell’s original Shōgun novel does document this event, however, and it’s suitably grisly. In the book’s epilogue, we learn that Toranaga captured Ishido and, once the fighting was done, buried his rival up to his neck. Ishido apparently lasts for three whole days before dying (yikes).

Who Destroyed Blackthorne’s Ship, the Erasmus?

Blackthorne returns to Ajiro midway through Shōgun Episode 10 to find his ship, the Erasmus, destroyed. Blackthorne ultimately concludes that Mariko was responsible, reasoning that the Erasmus‘ sinking was the price for the Church sparing his life. He’s only partly right, though. Toranaga later reveals to Yabushige that he guided Mariko’s negotiations with the Church and gave the order to destroy the Erasmus.

Why? Partly to test Blackthorne’s character, and partly because he’s keen for the English sailor to stay put (for his comedy value, if nothing else). As the conversation continues, Toranaga muses on one day admitting the truth to Blackthorne. “By then, he’ll have rebuilt the ship, and I’ll likely have to destroy it again,” Toranaga observes. “I don’t think it’s his fate to ever leave Japan.”

Related: Shōgun: What Year Is the FX Historical Drama Set In?

Does Toranaga Become Shōgun?

Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in Shogun

Yes – but not in Shōgun Episode 10 itself. By the end of “Chapter Ten: A Dream of a Dream,” Toranaga has set up all the dominos that will eventually secure him feudal Japan’s top job. Ishido’s defeat at the Battle of Sekigahara teased in the flashforward will align with the other regents switching their loyalties to Toranaga. From here, it’s just a matter of time before he assumes the rank of shōgun.

Will Blackthorne Ever Leave Japan?

Probably not. The Shōgun book and show are both coy on whether Blackthorne ultimately dies in Japan, however, both strongly imply this is what happens. It’s not just that Toranaga will block Blackthorne’s return to England, either. The English sailor’s visions of his faux-future in Episode 10 indicate that he views Japan as his home now, too.

All 10 episodes of Shōgun are currently streaming on FX and Hulu.

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Leon Miller
Leon is a freelance contributor at The Escapist, covering movies, TV, video games, and comics. Active in the industry since 2016, Leon's previous by-lines include articles for Polygon, Popverse, Screen Rant, CBR, Dexerto, Cultured Vultures, PanelxPanel, Taste of Cinema, and more.