Series Review: FX’s “Shōgun” Now Streaming on Hulu


This post contains affiliate links and our team will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on the links.

FX on Hulu’s “Shogun” is a feast for the eyes but a mixed bag for the mind. This lavishly adapted James Clavell’s novel crackles with the clash of cultures, boasting meticulously recreated 1600s Japan and sweeping, cinematic visuals. Its ensemble cast does solid work, particularly Hiroyuki Sanada as the stoic and cunning Lord Toranaga – a thinly veiled take on real-life shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Where “Shogun” excels in spectacle, it stumbles narratively. Cosmo Jarvis’ Blackthorne, the shipwrecked Westerner caught between warring factions, is a conduit for the audience, but his emotional arc feels somewhat rushed. More damning is the pacing; the first half burns with intrigue, but the latter succumbs to melodrama, culminating in a final battle that feels spectacular but sacrifices thematic impact for brute force.

The portrayal of Japanese women is also a sore point. While Lady Mariko (Anna Sawai) is given some power amidst rigid social confines, too many women fall into predictable damsel or seductress tropes, undermining the otherwise nuanced political landscape.

“Shogun” often evokes comparisons to “Game of Thrones”, and while the scheming and occasional brutality align, it lacks that show’s morally grey complexity. There’s a clear delineation of “good” and “bad” that simplifies what could’ve been a fascinating exploration of cultural relativism.

Overall, “Shogun” is worth watching for those craving historical epics. It’s a testament to the production team’s skill, but those hoping for a true thinking person’s drama may feel like a samurai without his sword – equipped with the form, but lacking the sharpness.

The 10-episode limited series is now streaming on Hulu.