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The First Great TV Show of 2024 Just Quietly Premiered on Hulu

One of the most immersive TV dramas in recent memory has arrived.

Hiroyuki Sanada and Anna Sawai in 'Shogun' Episode 2
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Massively expensive TV shows aren't nearly as rare as they once were. As a matter of fact, TV's post-Game of Thrones wave of blockbuster-sized genre programming has made it increasingly common for single seasons of television to carry budgets that either rival or outright surpass those of Hollywood’s high-profile summer movies. Despite that fact, it still feels uncommon for a TV show to arrive that actually seems as expensive and well-thought as its considerable budget would suggest.

Enter Shogun. The new FX miniseries based on James Clavell's 1975 novel of the same name has officially premiered this week. Its first two episodes are available to stream now on Hulu, and anyone who checks it out will likely find themselves engrossed in a largely Japanese-language historical drama that is as visually breathtaking to behold as it is intelligently written. Already, it's emerged as one of 2024's best TV offerings.

Set in 1600, Shogun follows John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis), the raspy English captain of a Dutch sailing vessel that arrives one foggy morning on the shores of Japan. Blackthorne and his few surviving crewmembers are immediately captured by local Japanese forces, and he is subsequently presented as a prisoner to Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada), a respected daimyō who has been caught up in a conspiracy by his fellow regents to strip him of his power and life. In Blackthorne, Toranaga sees a way out of his difficult predicament, and he quickly incorporates him into his plan to evade and defeat his united enemies.

Despite some of the potentially troublesome elements of its plot, Shogun manages to beautifully avoid nearly every cliché that John Blackthorne's role in its story could have led it toward. At no point in the show's 10-episode run does it seem like he is in a more powerful position than his Japanese counterparts, and his inevitable rise through Toranaga's ranks is always accompanied by the knowledge that the luxuries afforded to him do not come from Toranaga or anyone else's inability to comprehend what he represents. The series has seemingly endless respect for its Japanese characters and their culture, and it's that respect that allows Shogun to fully immerse viewers in a recreated version of pre-Edo period Japan that feels authentic and alive.

The miniseries' creators, Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks, wisely choose to let its story play out at a patient pace that both allows viewers to luxuriate in its many period-accurate production details and emphasizes every decision that its characters make. In recent days, Shogun has been repeatedly compared to Game of Thrones, but it's not just the show's violent and sexual content that links it to that HBO hit, nor the high-level nature of its production quality. The series' story is, at its most simple, a political thriller about a revered lord who has to figure out how to outsmart his enemies if he wants to permanently secure his position and legacy.

Like Game of Thrones, Shogun therefore mines most of its drama and tension out of the cat-and-mouse games played by not only Sanada's Toranaga but also his rivals (namely, Takehiro Hira's Lord Ishido Kazunari). The result is a series that is as epic as it is intimate, and which manages to make a simple march out of a castle just as nerve-wracking as an attempted assassination or battlefield confrontation. You may initially tune into Shogun for its samurai swords and pirate ships, but you'll ultimately stay for the riveting political games that make up many of its episodes.

Shogun boasts a wide and diverse cast of intriguing characters.


The considered approach that Shogun's creative team brought to its story, combined with the stunning work done by its production and costume designers and directors, has ensured that the series itself never seems undeserving of its high price tag. It's an enthralling drama that simultaneously calls to mind so many other, crowd-pleasing historical epics and seems utterly singular. Thanks to the recency of its two-episode premiere, there's also no better time than now to get into it.

The first two episodes of Shogun are streaming now on Hulu. New episodes premiere weekly on Tuesdays.

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