If Shōgun's events feel like they're based in historical fact, that's because most of the story is based on a real-life power struggle. Author James Clavell borrowed many historical figures from the 17th century for his 1975 novel of the same name—which greatly dramatised the story of the first Englishman to sail to Japan. His work of historical fiction even garnered a popular miniseries in 1980, which was such a hit that many cultural observers attributed the show's success to the rise of interest in sushi in the West.


Although Clavell—who hailed from England himself—beefed up both the story of John Blackthorne's arrival in Japan and his influence on the eventual Tokugawa shogunate, many of the characters and events depicted in Shōgun are based on historical fact. This week, FX debuted the first two episodes of its take on Shōgun—and it's already a hit amongst critics. The series stars Hiroyuki Sanada (John Wick: Chapter 4) as Lord Toranaga and Cosmo Jarvis (Persuasion) as John Blackthorne. But what's fact and fiction in the latest Shōgun adaptation?

The events of the series begin with the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was the second "Great Unifier of Japan." In Shōgun, he's called the Taikō, which was the title given to a retired advisor of a former emperor. Hideyoshi carried on the work of Oda Nabunaga, the first Great Unifier of Japan, following nearly a century-long of civil war. After the Taikō died, a new path opened for infighting. Five great lords, called daimyo, vied for the title of shōgun: the de facto ruler of Japan.

Japan feared another century of conflict after the Taiko’s death, so Hideyoshi established the five elders who would rule in his place. A prominent member among the five included Tokugawa Ieyasu, renamed Yoshii Toranaga in Shōgun and brought to life by Sanada. Over the span of just two years, he leveraged his power and close connection to the Taiko to become the new shōgun. Assembling his forces, he took Osaka Castle and easily won the bloody battle of Sekigahara—which is one of the most important battles in Japanese history.

Around this time, Takagawa met William Adams, the first Englishman to sail to Japan. Adams eventually became a trusted advisor to Takagawa, who was impressed by his knowledge of Western ships and navigation. He commissioned Adams to Japanese ships—and he later replaced Jesuit Padre João Rodrigues as the shōgun's official interpreter. In the miniseries, Adams’s counterpart, John Blackthorne (played by Jarvis), holds much more significance to Tokugawa’s rise to power than he did in real life. What really won Tokugawa the shogunate? It was military might.


In Shōgun, Tokugawa uses Blackthorne’s presence as a Protestant to sow disagreement between the Five Elders—some of whom profited from the nation’s Christian colonisers, who hailed from from Portugal and Spain. Sure, the Five Elders demanding the persecution of one heretic among Tokugawa’s castle may be a tad far-fetched. But Clavell’s addition of Blackthorne is more so the story's powder keg. Clavell also added a relationship between Blackthorne and Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai), whose real-life counterpart never even met Adams.

That isn't to say that Tokugawa and Adams didn't share a friendship in real life. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the two wrote many letters to one another, and the powerful daimyo was fascinated by Adams's knowledge of the globe. Tokugawa also greeted the Englishman during his trips to Japan, even after he had rose to the shogunate. Eventually, Adams was gifted the honorary title of samurai. Meanwhile, Tokugawa remained in power until his death in 1616. He constructed the great Edo Castle—the largest castle in all of Japan—and the Tokugawa shogunate ruled the country for the next 250 years.

Originally published on Esquire US


There are obviously a ton of highly anticipated TV shows and sequels in the pipeline this year. There's Masters of the Air coming to Apple TV+ this month, a Mr. and Mrs. Smith reboot (Amazon Prime) and Abbott Elementary Season 3 (Disney+) across early February, and 3 Body Problem (Netflix) on 21 March. That's just the first three months of the year, guys.

Our hearts are personally on Severance and Silo, even though the mind knows better than to expect seeing their new seasons this year. In the meantime, there are a handful of already confirmed installations, with HBO Max taking the most of the picking. The trailers aren't just teasers. These shows are certainly dropping this year, the only uncertain thing is the exact date, which are to be announced in due time. Get excited.

House of the Dragon Season 2

The redeeming spinoff from the messy conclusion that was Game of Thrones returns. With allegedly more dragons this time (“You’re going to meet five new dragons,” says showrunner Ryan Condal), the second season will likely pick off from the impending civil war and perhaps even trouble in uncle-husband-niece-wife paradise.

The Sympathizer

C'mon, that's how a trailer should be done. Give a little premise, but not spell out the entire plot in two and a half minutes. Name drop A24 under Executive Producers alongside the Downeys, and casually mention direction by Oldboy's Park Chan-wook. Plus, RDJ doing the most? Sold.

The Boys Season 4

With the surprise cameos in Gen V season 1, it's reasonable to expect crossovers between the two narratives. Besides the familiar antiheroes reaching for their capes again, new faces joining the cast are Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Rosemarie DeWitt, Rob Benedict and Elliot Knight; characters yet to be revealed.

The Bear Season 3

We didn't need the accolades to convince us what a gem the hit FX series is, but in case you needed reminding; it bagged a total of six awards at the 2023 Emmys. Best comedy series, lead actor in a comedy series (Jeremy Allen White), supporting actor in a comedy series (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and supporting actress in a comedy series (Ayo Edebiri). So yeah, can't wait to see Carmy get out of that fridge.

The Penguin

Whatever your verdict on Matt Reeves' The Batman was, no one can deny Colin Farrell's performance as the titular villain. Oh wait, did you just find out that was the actor under all those unrecognisable layers of prosthetics? We don't blame you. To his credit, the voice and mannerisms also played a part. Which is why we can only anticipate how the eight-parter on the Gotham gangster will play out.

When Ahsoka takes her final bow in the season finale of her solo outing, it's more of a beginning than an end. Over eight episodes, the latest Star Wars series on Disney+ spent it time boosting bad guys to new heights, forming a team of galactic Avengers, and reconnecting with the Force. If anything, Star Wars fans just watched an eight-hour-long prologue. It's funny, considering Ahsoka was initially touted as a sort of Star Wars: Rebels Season Five—a quasi-sequel that would finally bring the beloved animated series to live-action.

After spending such a long time introducing all of our new characters, there's a big "So… what now?" that hangs over our heroes' heads. Ahsoka, Sabine, and Ezra finally reunite, but there are still more villains than I can count roaming around the galaxy. The only one to fall in Ahsoka's finale is Morgan Elsbeth—who you can tell is nothing more than a mini-boss, because her title is "magistrate." The Nightsisters do grant her a cool sword, but it's not enough to rival the Darksaber. She meets her end in the same episode that she's promoted to Major Villain, which may be the most obvious tell that there's still plenty of Ahsoka left when the credits roll.

Ahsoka is all about introducing Grand Admiral Thrawn to the galaxy far, far away. DISNEY+

Speaking of credits: it was a big surprise when Ray Stevenson's Baylan Skoll survives. This move was the greatest shock for fans, because Stevenson tragically died earlier this summer. A tribute to the actor appears in the final moments of the finale. It'll be interesting to see how the show continues his story without him, especially since his ideas about the galactic power struggle are the most intriguing motivations for a Star Wars character we've seen in years. His apprentice, Shin Hati, may end up taking up a bigger role than initially planned.

Still, like many fans predicted, Ahsoka was about introducing Grand Admiral Thrawn as much as it was built to give Ahsoka her own supporting cast back. Hell, not even the addition of zombie stormtroopers in the finale could distract from Ahsoka's true aim. As much as I love Rosario Dawson and Ray Stevenson's fantastic performances, Ahsoka's main mission was clearly to introduce Thrawn as this franchise's Thanos. Will we see him in a potential Ahsoka Season Two or the Mandalorian movie? Who knows! It's an ending that promises more Ahsoka Tano—there's another major element of story that the finale leaves unanswered—but it remains unknown just how much the fans have bought into the story here.

Either way, Thrawn is ready to rule the galaxy with an iron fist. In the end, we're left with a Force ghost of Anakin Skywalker still looking over Ahsoka, as she tells her friend Sabine that it's "time to move on." But to where? When? How? I have an even more pressing question: Will audiences see it? For the fans' sake, I certainly hope so. Maybe even with Baby Yoda in a mechsuit.

Originally published on Esquire US