‘Shogun’ Episode 4 Recap Spoilers: Did Nagakado Initiate A Civil War?

A general worth their salt proves their tactical acumen from the way they choose to handle their relations, both their oppositions and allies. As events in FX’s historical drama series Shogun unfold, Lord Yoshi Toranaga emerges as a methodical strategist solely based on how well he estimates his adversaries and accordingly prepared himself, but the same cannot be said for the people closely associated with him, as shown in the fourth episode titled The Eightfold Fence


In the previous episode, Toranaga put Yabushige in charge of escorting the majority of his clan, along with Blackthorne, back to Ajiro and attempted a daring escape from Osaka Castle by switching places with his wife at the last moment. A number of times, Blackthorne proved his loyalty to Toranaga by keeping his cover from getting blown. Eventually, Toranaga’s ruse gets revealed, and Ishido makes a last-ditch attempt by blocking the bay area with the help of pirates. Taking Blackthorne’s advice, Toranaga makes a deal with the Portuguese and takes the help of their prime merchant vessel, Black Ship, to safely cross over in exchange for letting them capture Blackthorne, who is considered by them to be a rival by virtue of being a Protestant Englishman. However, Blackthorne displays bravery and adept nautical skills while matching the Black Ship with Toranaga’s galley, and with a little help from an unlikely friend, manages to escape the clutches of the Portuguese. Impressed by the strength of his character, Toranaga grants Blackthorne the title of ‘Hatamoto’ and asks him to train his clan in ways of English warfare. 

Spoilers Ahead


Does Blackthorne Get His Crew And Ship Back?

As the episode begins, a messenger shares the news of Yabushige and Toranaga’s arrival in Anjiro with the acting chief of the village, Yabushige’s nephew Omi, who is preparing for a grand welcome for the Lord of Kanto. On the other hand, the situation at Galley doesn’t seem as pleasant, as Yabushige learns about Toranaga’s act of withdrawal from the Regent Council and considers doom to be awaiting the entire clan as a result. Hiromatsu’s granddaughter, Lady Fuji, who lost her husband and child very recently in Osaka (to uphold honor and maintain peace according to custom), learns about Toranaga’s wish to make her the consort of the newly appointed Hatamoto and naturally shares her unwillingness with Mariko. However, Mariko asks her to trust the judgment of their Lord and requests that Fuji comply for the time being. 

Being the lord of Izu province, Yabushige has a strong hold over the samurais of Ajiro, which is obvious from the chants he receives from the gathered crowd. However, Toranaga quickly assumes the central position by delivering a rousing address to the mass, inspiring them instantaneously, and soon the soaring chants for Toranaga drowns notes of adulations addressed to Yabushige. Leaving his son and Yabushige, along with the majority of the clan, to train under Blackthorne, Toranaga leaves to attend to urgent matters.


In exchange for helping Toranaga, Blackthorne wanted his crew and ship back, and after returning to Ajiro, he assumed that Toranaga would keep his word. However, he is surprised to learn from Mariko that his ship and crew belong to Toranaga as of now, and he will do with them as he pleases. Furthermore, Blackthorne needs to stay at Ajiro for the next six months to train Toranaga’s clan and is given private quarters, amenities, and the assistance of a consort in the form of Lady Fuji as an honor to his role as Hatamoto. The Englishman can’t help but imagine that even though his status might have elevated a notch, he is still confined as a prisoner in a foreign land. 

Why Did Blackthorne Teach Toranaga’s Clan Naval Warfare?

Lady Fuji tries her best to fulfill her responsibilities as Blackthorne’s consort, but the disenchanted Englishman refuses her assistance. Noticing this, during a conversation, Mariko shares Fuji’s tragic fate with Blackthorne, who, getting extremely surprised, questions how a bereaved widow and a heartbroken mother can perform the duties while carrying such emotional burdens. Mariko mentions ‘Eightfold Fence’: since childhood, she, like many others, has been taught to distance her true self away by building walls to guard against any possible emotional tribulations. Under the maze of customs, decorum, and orderliness, the vulnerable, humane part of a person might be unapproachable—cloistered away in a safe, lonesome existence—allowing the individual to deal with the world from an objective point of view. Before leaving, Mariko hands Blackthorne his personal firearms, a gesture of trust no less. 


Meanwhile, Yabushige asks his nephew about the person(s) who informed Toranaga about Blackthorne’s arrival in Ajiro and worries about the diminishing state of his command. His nephew, Omi, reminds him that in Toranaga’s absence, Yabushige is still in charge of the guns and cannons recovered from Blackthorne’s ship, and he can use them to gain immunity by delivering them to Lord Ishido. Before Blackthorne is allowed to train the clan, Omi decides to take away his firearms, which creates a conflict between the two. Lady Fuji resolves it swiftly by taking the firearms for herself and threatening Omi to leave the quarters. A fledgling upstart like Omi wouldn’t dare oppose the granddaughter of a decorated general like Hiromatsu. 

Initially, as Toranaga’s clan awaits being trained in European infantry war tactics, Blackthorne is at a loss as, as a seafaring pilot, he has no experience in battlefield warfare. However, Blackthorne’s quick wit allows him to turn the situation in his favor, as he advises them to be trained in naval warfare tactics instead, citing the example of how, instead of laying a siege, a barrage of cannon volleys can take down the most fortified castle with ease. To prove his claim, Blackthorne arranges a demonstration, which greatly impresses Yabushige and the rest of the clan. At this point in time, the newly formed Royal Navy had become the most formidable and dominant seafaring unit, which laid waste to the mighty Spanish Armada as well. Understandably, the precision and devastating impact of English cannons had the potential to turn the tides of any major form of conflict, leading to Yabushige and the rest of the clan getting easily convinced into taking Blackthorne’s guidance. 


As the Englishman continues training the clan, Mariko decides to look into his journal and learns about the plunders and raids Blackthorne and his crew orchestrated on Portuguese outposts. On one occasion, as Blackthorne tries to suggest to her that the formation of a naval fleet under his command will greatly benefit Toranaga, Mariko confronts him regarding his past, insinuating that Blackthorne might still be taking his allegiance to the British throne into consideration. Blackthorne tries to suggest uniting the crown’s and Toranaga’s forces against a common enemy is his goal, but Mariko is adamant in her opinion that the conflict between European and English forces might not be the fight Toranaga needs to participate in. During their conversation, a mild tremor hits the surrounding area, serving as a reminder how the intricacies of politics have little effect in this part of the world where the worth of life is rather trivial and always dictated by the whims of nature.

Did Nagakado Initiate A Civil War?

Meanwhile, Kiku, the mistress of Omi, fans the flame of his ambition to become the lord of Ajiro. During a training drill, Lord Ishido’s revered warlord, Nobara Jozen, arrives at Ajiro with his troops and instructs Yabushige to return to Osaka to renew his loyalty to the Regent Council. It is understandable, as Yabushige’s assistance in bringing Toranaga out of Osaka is seen as an act of treachery by Ishido, and he wishes to punish him for that. A direct refusal of the command will make Yabushige a fugitive, but adhering to it will mean certain death as well. Yabushige somehow convinces Jozen that he will hand Ishido the firepower he needs to stand against Christian lords and offers to provide a demonstration the next day. Toranaga’s son, Nagakado, is dissatisfied with the possibility that the opposition will learn their war tactics, but Yabushige convinces him as well, stating that the ordeal is a show of Toranaga’s strength. 


On the other hand, Blackthorne warms up to Lady Fuji and gifts her his firearms as a token of his gratitude. Fuji offers the katana of her father to the Hatamoto in return, a great honor that Blackthorne can’t refuse. Blackthorne’s sincerity wins over Mariko, who later almost shares her past life with him, detailing a great injustice that had taken everything from her and the fact that Toranaga offered her a second chance in life, which is why she is indebted to him. Blackthorne shares his admiration for Mariko’s resolve; the duo gradually come closer while fantasizing about a life they might never have—and spend the night together. 

To see his own ambition manifest, Omi manipulates Nagakado’s insecurities by asking him to inform his father, Toranaga, about Jozen’s arrival and the possibility of Ishido becoming aware of their war tactics. Nagakado, who already feels restricted and worthless thanks to Toranaga not entirely trusting him with political intricacies, feels rebellious and, in a vain attempt to prove his worth, takes the matter into his own hands without informing his father. The next day, Nagakado organizes the artillery troops before the demonstration. As the procedure begins, Nagakado orders the troops to launch cannons on Jozen and his men, horrifically destroying them in a fiery, bloody mess within a few moments. Before anyone even realizes the gravity of the situation, the mangled-up, disemboweled remains of Jozen and his men lie across the field; a horrified Yabushige fails to appeal to Nagakado’s senses; and Mariko stops Blackthorne from interfering in fear of repercussions. Delivering the final death blow on Jozen himself, Nagakado formally initiates a war, as acknowledged by a distraught Mariko, as the episode comes to an end. In an act of utter foolishness and cowardice, Nagakado has not only made a fatal first move that will prove costly but also greatly dishonored the name of his father. While Toranaga was gathering his strength to better prepare for a conflict, Nagakado’s hasty act of provocation gave away any form of advantage his clan still had. The ending of the episode forebodes ominous signs for the upcoming events, and surely enough, severe repercussions will follow. 


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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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