Movie Reviews

Our Biggest Worry About Shogun Season 2

john blackthorne and yoshii toranaga from shogun

The exciting announcement of Shōgun season 2 also draws some major concerns. After the successful then-miniseries aired its finale on April 23, 2024, there was a general assumption that the series would end since it was based on a completed work, a novel of the same name by James Clavell. The Hulu/FX series recently announced that despite the lack of source material, Shōgun is getting renewed for a second and third season, raising all sorts of questions about where the story will go next after it was previously thought to have concluded in its exceptional finale episode.

Shōgun’s first season earned a near-perfect 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, which likely played a major role in the decision to extend the series further. Shōgun season 2 will not be without its faults, however, and will have the notable disadvantage of being unable to feature some of its best characters, such as Anna Sawai’s Mariko, Tadanobu Asano’s Yabushige, and Tokuma Nishioka’s Hiromatsu. Since it is a historical fiction series, it does have the added benefit of pulling from real-life events and the rise of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s shogunate, which is the basis of Hiroyuki Sanada’s Lord Toranaga’s story and character.

One clear disadvantage that Shōgun season 2 will have compared to season 1 is a tighter turnaround schedule. Shōgun season 1 began development back in 2018 and was only just released in the first half of 2024, giving series creators Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo five solid years of preparation and refinement. While there has been no official announcement as to when Shōgun season 2 will become available to stream or will even begin production, the writers plan to assemble in the next few months to hatch out the second season. The earliest it could arrive is sometime in 2025.

The future of Shōgun will put the strength of the writers’ room to the test more than season 1 did, considering that the original season had the highly successful novel and a previous Emmy-winning 1980 miniseries to work off of. It seems like an even more daunting challenge for a series that took five years to develop based on previous works to come up with a completely new story from scratch. Shōgun’s producers might have to enlist some more experienced personnel to not only meet season 1’s expectations but also to keep the critically acclaimed series afloat for the next two seasons.

In order for future installments of Shōgun to be a success, they will have to live up to the high standards of season 1. The tight development and production timeline will be the biggest challenge that the creators behind seasons 2 and eventually 3 must face since they certainly will not have five years or even two to perfect their product. The most concerning aspect of the inevitably rushed season 2 timeline is that the writers, who were previously writing adapted teleplays, are now writing original teleplays. The history is well-documented and accessible, but turning that into a compelling story like Clavell originally did will be difficult.

In many ways, Shōgun already felt refined and polished, which is what made it so masterful. The narrative did not need to prove itself, which allowed for the artistry of the series to truly flourish. Rushing any type of artistic process naturally runs the risk of producing lower-quality results. If Shōgun goes down the path of banking off season 1’s success without continuing to match it in future seasons, then a true masterpiece will be sullied. What’s worse, Shōgun could become a completely different type of show altogether unless it is done with the same care and intelligence as the first season.

Shōgun season 2 could be better than season 1 because the history itself is compelling. Many fans were discouraged that the Shōgun finale did not actually show the Battle of Sekigahara and the downfall of Lord Ishido, which would arguably be the best possible way to begin season 2. Another notable event that is likely to be covered in Shōgun season 3 is the Siege of Osaka, which was the final military effort to thwart Tokugawa’s reign by the Taikō’s son, who was depicted as a child in season 1. There is plenty of material for the creators Shōgun to draw from thanks to the rich and compelling history of the Tokugawa shogunate.