Shōgun: What Does Nagakado’s Death Mean for Toranaga?

Shocking twists and turns abound in FX’s ‘Shogun,’ and the walls close in on Lord Yoshii Toranaga as he is betrayed by one family member and disappointed by another. After the heavy loss of his army in the earthquake, he tried to salvage the situation by trying to join forces with his step-brother, but the move turned around on him (or so it seems.) To make matters worse, his son, Nagakado, made another rash decision, and this time, it cost him his life. His death is a shock, though not exactly unexpected, and it does make one wonder what it spells for Toranaga. Will this loss be the thing that finally breaks him, or does he still have it in him to rise above it? SPOILERS AHEAD

Nagakado’s Death May Actually Work in Toranaga’s Favour

In times of war, everything is an opportunity, even one’s losses. Lord Yoshii Toranaga knows it very well, which is why, no matter how dire the situation might seem for him, he always keeps his calm and somehow finds a way out of an impossible situation. He surely had something in mind for his current predicament, even with his half-brother, Saeki Nobutatsu, betraying him and forcing him to consider surrender, which is why the rushed actions of his son feel all the more idiotic.

Nagakado’s death would truly be a terrible loss for Toranaga. No matter how much he represses his feelings behind the Eightfold Fence and continues to maintain the poker face that rarely lets anyone in on the workings of his mind, the death of his beloved, though hot-headed and foolish, son is sure to break his heart. But then, one must note that in a previous scene, when Toranaga was dictating his will, he mentioned that his property should be passed down to his grandchildren when they come of age. If he did mention his son in the will, we don’t hear of it. Does this mean Toranaga was expecting his son to die? Perhaps he didn’t intend it, but considering the nature of his son, he must have anticipated his death.

The first thing that Nagakado’s death gives Toranaga is more time. While he was scheduled to depart for Osaka with Saeki’s forces, it would only be honorable to allow him to perform funeral rites for his son, and in this additional time, Toranaga will keep the gears in his brain running, despite the grief he carries in his heart. The loss of his son also raises the question of his heir. We know that one of his consorts was pregnant when he was still in Osaka, but we haven’t seen any other child yet. If Nagakado was his only son, then his death might open some space for Toranaga to use in manipulating his enemies to his cause, particularly his half-brother.

It is clear that Toranaga already had something in mind, something that would be put in motion as soon as he left Edo. It would take at least a few days for them to reach Osaka, and it is during this transit that he would have made a move to ensure his survival. Considering that his son knew nothing of those plans and didn’t trust his father enough to keep his wits about him, one can assume that Toranaga’s plan didn’t involve his son, so it wouldn’t make much of a difference in how things were supposed to turn out eventually. Rather, Nagakado’s death might gain him some sympathy points from necessary parties.

Coming around to the question of heir once again, Toranaga might offer something of it to Saeki. Even though he has been made Regent, it is surely not the end of his ambition. What if Toranaga offered him something he wanted more than that? If the regents were to go away and Toranaga was to become shogun, it would have allowed his son to become the next most powerful person after him. With Nagakado gone, that place would be empty, and Saeki could get that seat, or at least Toranaga could offer it to him for the time being.

Whatever the Lord’s plan may be, it is clear that Toranaga has not been defeated just yet. His son, who was too eager to please, made some terrible mistakes, one of which initiated the events that Toranaga is caught up in now. So, in a way, his death (as inconsequential as his life) does Toranaga a favor and rids him of his weak spot, something that he could never have done by his own hands.

Read More: Is Shōgun’s Lord Yoshii Toranaga Based on a Real Japanese General?