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Shōgun Is Everything Game of Thrones Should Have Been

Ever since Game of Thrones became the standard bearer for contemporary prestige TV, it's been an inevitability that each network is looking for that one show that could become 



"The Next Game of Thrones." That moniker has been showered over numerous hopefuls, including the creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss' newest project 3 Body Problem on Netflix and Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time. 

 It's been a blessing and a curse for shows since, as Game of Thrones left immense shoes to fill. And, while the production value and quality of shows like that may be on the same level, no one can ever truly predict what will catch fire and become a prestige TV smash. 

That's where Shōgun comes in. FX's adaptation of James Clavell's bestselling 1975 historical fiction novel seemed like a losing prospect to many. 

Based on an arguably outdated IP that was best known by a generation or two before the much sought out 18-25 demographic that TV studios are known to chase, the show had mostly gone under the radar until its release. Still, as soon as the first trailer was released, the Game of Thrones comparisons began — despite Shōgun not being a fantasy. But since its very first episode, the show has transcended those comparisons and crafted something truly unique that has shown just what prestige TV can really achieve: great storytelling that captures the imagination and sets watercooler talk alight.


Set in 1600, the series follows the often brutal machinations and interpersonal politics of the leaders of Japan in the wake of the death of Nakamura Hidetoshi (Yukijiro Hotaru), their former Taikō (retired regent) who left a son too young to take on the role from him.

To build a political stalemate on his deathbed, Taikō crafted a Council of Regents — made of men who would attempt to take over — to rule until his son came of age. 

We join the fray a year after that shocking loss when an Englishman named John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) washes up on shore along with his ship the Erasmus and the leftovers of his starving and desperately ill crew. 

It's an expansive setup with threads that spool across the globe, as religious powers and monarchs battle to keep their hold on what they see as a new prosperous colonyThat's where Shōgun comes in. FX's adaptation of James Clavell's bestselling 1975 historical fiction novel seemed like a losing prospect to many.

 Based on an arguably outdated IP that was best known by a generation or two before the much sought out 18-25 demographic that TV studios are known to chase, the show had mostly gone under the radar until its release. Still, as soon as the first trailer was released, the Game of Thrones comparisons began — despite Shōgun not being a fantasy. 

But since its very first episode, the show has transcended those comparisons and crafted something truly unique that has shown just what prestige TV can really achieve: great storytelling that captures the imagination and sets watercooler talk alight.


Set in 1600, the series follows the often brutal machinations and interpersonal politics of the leaders of Japan in the wake of the death of Nakamura Hidetoshi (Yukijiro Hotaru), their former Taikō (retired regent) who left a son too young to take on the role from him. To build a political stalemate on his deathbed, Taikō crafted a Council of Regents — made of men who would attempt to take over — to rule until his son came of age. 

We join the fray a year after that shocking loss when an Englishman named John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) washes up on shore along with his ship the Erasmus and the leftovers of his starving and desperately ill crew. 

It's an expansive setup with threads that spool across the globe, as religious powers and monarchs battle to keep their hold on what they see as a new prosperous colony. . Almost immediately, there's one area where Shōgun stands out. 

While the historical setting would be the perfect excuse to sideline the women in the series, instead it does the opposite. 

While we're given the cultural context of women being perceived as possessions and treated as such, the series goes out of its way to allow them to grow beyond what could have been nothing but historical caricature, instead revealing them as power players and humans in their own right. 


Compare that then to Game of Thrones and think about the first time we met Daenerys Targaryen, naked and abused by her controlling older brother out to sell her off. Or the introduction of Cersei Lannister, an incestuous child killer.

Throughout the entire run of Game of Thrones, those women would go on to become slightly more complex and inarguably strong characters, but those arcs were built on their own humiliation. 

And as the show came to an end they would go on to both become hysterical cartoonish stereotypes of rage-filled women. 

In the case of original Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin, he's argued that he's showcasing historical accuracy: “The books reflect a patriarchal society based on the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were not a time of sexual egalitarianism. 

It was very classist, dividing people into three classes. And they had strong ideas about the roles of women." But it's easy to argue that in a world where dragons exist, surely freedom for women could too? Now while the new series House of the Dragon is making attempts to right that, Game of Thrones ended on a notoriously hated low note when it came to treatment of women.


In Shōgun, womanhood is a far more respected, eclectic, and interesting proposition. Women get to be assassins, mothers, maids, leaders, to plot and scheme but also love and nurture.



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