‘Shogun’ Episode 6 Recap: Know Your Enemy

Season 1, Episode 6: ‘Ladies of the Willow World’

In this week’s episode, we get to know Lady Ochiba no Kata: daughter of a brutal warlord, consort to the Taiko who replaced him, mother to the Heir, commander of the Council of Regents (as of Episode 5), … and archnemesis of our heroes Lord Toranaga and Lady Mariko.

In Lady Ochiba (Fumi Nikaido), Lord Toranaga finally has a worthy opponent. Lord Ishido is dangerous and cunning, but has not been able to avoid failures as a political operator and would-be strongman. No one has to suppress a shudder of fear when he enters the room or worry that this guy is going to somehow outfox them. With Ishido, what you see is what you get.

Lady Ochiba, by contrast, is regarded with something like awe. (The show smartly inserts a show-within-the-show in this, her first big episode: a beautifully executed Noh performance dedicated to what a big deal she is.) Everyone seems to respect her heroism for enduring the aging Taiko to produce an heir, a feat that hundreds of other women had failed to accomplish. Ochiba still remains a powerful figure, a living bridge between the late Taiko and his son and future successor. Her word carries a lot of weight.

This is why poor Lord Toranaga has been singled out and framed for trying to kill the Heir in the first place: Lady Ochiba has decreed it. Even Daiyoin (Ako), the Taiko’s wife and Ochiba’s mentor, can see that Toranaga would have been the wise choice for an alliance, instead of a piker like Ishido. Has the shrewd Ochiba made a fundamental error in judgment?

Flashbacks offer the answer. In her youth, Ochiba, known as Ruri (Mila Miyagawa), is the daughter of a powerful ruler and fast friends with the young Mariko (Mana Nakamura). But Mariko’s father, the samurai Akechi Jinsai (Yukata Takeuchi), is aghast at the brutality of Ruri’s father, as are other prominent nobles, including Toranaga. Acting almost certainly as part of a conspiracy, Jinsai assassinates the rogue lord, the shattering event Mariko described for Blackthorne in Episode 5.

The murder paves the way for the Taiko’s peaceful reign. But it is also a grave crime, one for which honor demands that Jinsai kill his family, then take his own life. As the only surviving family member, Mariko’s reputation is stained by her father’s treason.

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