Shōgun EPs Break Down Episode 4’s Shocking, Deadly Twist: ‘It’s the Point of No Return’

The following contains major spoilers from Episode 4 of Shōgun, now streaming on Hulu and airing tonight at 10/9c on FX.

With the close of its fourth episode, FX/Hulu’s Shōgun uncorked a brutally shocking twist that promises to color everything that happens over the next six episodes.

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The episode “The Eightfold Fence” found Blackthorne pressed to make good on his arrangement with a departing Toranaga, by teaching the lord’s army in Ajiro “tactics” that its enemies have not yet seen. With Yabushige and his nephew Omi, as well as Toranaga’s son Nagakado, staring him down, Blackthorne was at first at a loss for what to suggest (seeing as he has little firsthand experience in an infantry). But then he had a lightbulb moment and told the men (via Mariko) that guns aren’t the answer, “the fine art of naval warfare” is.

Blackthorne set about teaching the samurai army how to position, aim and fire the cannon that had been relocated from his ship in the harbor, astounding Yabushige with the potential for accuracy. A training sequence followed, where the cannon decimated far-off wooden target after far-off wooden target, all as Blackthorne picked up more bits of the Japanese language (to Mariko’s very apparent amusement).

But as excited as Yabushige was to see his people acquire this advantage, his mood took a 180 when one of Lord Ishido’s retainers, Jozen, paid a surprise visit to Ajiro and galloped on horse up to the artillery range. After all, Yabushige is supposed to be stealthily supporting Ishido’s bid for power, and here he is seemingly shore up Toranaga’s army! Yabushige clumsily spun things best he could and invited Jozen and his men to crash for the night, then witness a morning demonstration of this new military marvel.

That night, Omi — nudged by his Lady Macbethian consort to seize power from his uncle — in turn nudged Nagakado to make a bold move, without his MIA father’s blessing. Come morning, Jozen and his entourage laid witness to the business end of cannon when Nagakado abruptly ordered his own men to clear out, and it became frighteningly evident that cannon had been positioned downrange to fire upon the uninvited guests! What followed, as cannon balls pummeled Jozen & Co. (and their horses!), was bloody and brutal. Jozen for one lost at least an arm, but had enough life in him to call out Nagakado et al as “savages.” That evaluation, however, only won him a swift death, at the hand of Nagakado’s sword.

Beholding the melee before her while standing at Blackthorne’s side, Mariko — as gobsmacked as even Yabushige — could only utter, “It is war.”

Toranaga’s escape orchestrated under Ishido’s nose in Episode 3 was “the first big urning point” of the season, co-showrunner Rachel Kondo tells TVLine. But what happened this week, “It’s the point of no return,” warns co-showrunner Justin Marks, “after Nagakado draws blood the way that he does.”

“Up until this point, the escape is an escape — it was a ‘misunderstanding’ where Toranaga simply wanted to leave and so he left, and we’re all polite about it,” Marks explains. “But no one’s polite about a surprise cannon attack that murders one of Ishido’s prized retainers. Once you cross that line, you can’t uncross it.”

TVLine had not yet screened Episode 5 at the time we spoke with Marks and Kondo, but from everything we have heard, the FX/Hulu drama’s next hour will change the game even more.

In the wake of Nagakado’s brash act, Marks previews, “The more interesting question that this middle portion of the show gets into is, ‘How does Toranaga, who wasn’t even there, respond to those kinds of things?,'” given “the line he rides between chaos and control.”

The surprise assault on Ishido’s men is “going to force a response,” Marks teases, and “it will be an interesting one to see.”

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