Does Mariko Die in Shogun?

Fate had always been cruel to Toda Mariko, and the penultimate episode of ‘Shogun’ adds to her tragedy. Since the beginning of the series, Mariko had made it clear that she wanted to die, but it wasn’t to be some inconsequential death. The grief of having her whole family killed and being separated from them as she was forced to live with a husband she deeply detested ate at her, but she was duty-bound to stay alive. In the episode titled ‘Crimson Sky,’ she finally gets to play around the idea of her death, bringing some sense of meaning to it while also being the loyal and dutiful person she prides herself to be. But that still doesn’t take away from the cruelty of how it all unfolds for her.

Mariko’s Death Marks a Turning Point in the War Between Toranaga and Ishido

Mariko came to Osaka with death on her mind. In the previous episode, her father-in-law had sacrificed his life to further Lord Yoshii Toranaga’s plans. When Toranaga asked Mariko if she was ready to do the same, she said he was, with a conviction that showed that this was what she had been waiting for her whole life. It wasn’t just the prospect of finally getting the permission to kill herself, which is what she’d been vying for a while now, but also the idea of helping Toranaga get a strong footing in the war, if not win it altogether.

The idea was to corner Lord Ishido by letting Mariko walk out of Osaka with Toranaga’s family or letting her die. In the first case, letting them leave would encourage his other prisoners, who he claims are not really so, to leave as well, loosening his hold on them. But if he let Mariko commit seppuku for not being allowed to fulfill her duties to her Lord, then her death would turn the other nobles against Ishido, and he would have a huge problem at his hands. Eventually, Ishido succumbs and agrees to let Mariko leave, stating that the other families can also leave after getting the proper permits.

Just when it looks like Mariko has escaped death, things take a turn, courtesy of Yabushige’s untimely betrayal. Ishido knew it was a lose-lose situation he was caught up in by Mariko’s actions, but he couldn’t just let Toranaga win. He couldn’t let her die, but he couldn’t let her leave either. So, he decided to hold her captive, this time, properly. But Ishido couldn’t do it himself because it would deteriorate his already questionable goodwill with the nobility in Osaka. So, he hired the assassins, the Shinobi, to do the job. One can assume that the connection between him and the Shinobi, while suspected, couldn’t be proved to take any action against him. He could have Mariko in his grips and be blameless in the entire situation while also sending a strong message to any and all wanting to follow in Mariko’s footsteps.

What Ishido didn’t anticipate was Mariko’s commitment to the cause and how, even though she was spared death by seppuku, it didn’t mean she still didn’t want it. When the assassins broke in, Mariko knew exactly what was happening. Considering everything, it can be presumed that Toranaga expected this move on Ishido’s part and must have made it clear to Mariko that she couldn’t, under any circumstances, be taken captive. It was essential for her to either return from Osaka or die there. This is why Mariko, trapped in the room, knowing that the door would never hold and the assassins would get to her any moment, decided to stand in front of the door and take the force of the blast, knowing full well it would kill her.

The last scene of the episode shows the blast, but it doesn’t actually show Mariko dying. Does this mean there is a chance she might survive this after all? Not really. The confirmation of her death comes from James Clavell’s book, on which the FX series is based, where Mariko is found under similar circumstances and dies when the door is blown away by the explosives. Because she was so near the explosion, there was no way she could have survived, and she succumbed to her injuries before the rest of the people around her could gather their bearings.

It is tragic because, for a moment there, it looked like Mariko would be spared. Even though she was ready to kill herself, she was extremely relieved for not having to go through with it. This close brush with death also brought her and Blackthorne together for whatever few moments of peace they could have with one another, but all good things must come to an end. And for Mariko, it comes in the form of the dignified death she always wanted for herself.

Read More: Shōgun: Why Does Hiromatsu Kill Himself? Why Doesn’t Toranaga Stop Him?