Shōgun (2024 FX) 

By: Rachel Brodeur

Nothing speaks louder than the glint of a samurai sword. The graceful use of force is as beautiful as it is severe. FX’s Shōgun dances between the worlds of beauty and brutality. 

Writer James Clavell (The Great Escape) adapts his novel for the small screen in a 10 episode FX mini-series. Viewers are immersed in the world of feudal Japan and see it through the outsider perspective of an English ship captain John Blackthorne (played by Cosmo Jarvis) washed upon the shore. He must reconcile what appears to be the inherent contradictions of a culture that insists on decorum and politeness but then also demands that people die most brutally in order to maintain that honor and civility. Blackthorne expects to find a primitive culture, but discovers instead that it is he who is considered the barbarian. 

In this harsh world of men, leaders and military, the absolute magic of the show is in the performance of female lead Anna Sawai (Monarch: Legacy of Monsters), playing Mariko. Through a nuanced performance she becomes the focal point and emotional crux of the show. Positioned as a translator between Blackthorne and regional ruler, Lord Toranaga (Tadanobu Asano), she chooses her words carefully, and audiences will see her thoughts and desires revealed through the words of others. Their dance between what is said and left unsaid is poignant and at times even romantic.

FX is no stranger to creating historical dramas that capture the complexity of past civilizations. Their hit Vikings ran from 2013-2020 to much critical and fan acclaim. With Shōgun, they’ve offered audiences a key to yet another ancient world full of beauty, honor and severity.  

Rachel’s Rating: 9/10  FX’s mini-series Shōgun dances between the worlds of beauty and brutality with stand out performances from many actors and actresses who may be new to American audiences. Shōgun will immerse audiences in the subtle complexities of power and control with respect and authenticity to the culture of samurais.