Shōgun’s coming back for season 2, but no one’s quite sure how just yet

Shōgun is an early contender for 2024’s best TV show. The series, which debuted in February, is smart, complicated, tremendously well made, beautifully acted, and the most watched FX series ever, according to a press release from the network. All of which makes Thursday’s announcement that the show is coming back for more season pretty unsurprising. The only question that remains is what exactly those seasons are going to be about.

According to FX’s announcement, the series is coming back for two additional seasons. Development on the new seasons will begin soon, with work taking place between FX and the estate of original Shōgun author, James Clavell. The upcoming seasons will also bring back many of the key talents behind season 1, including co-creators, showrunners, executive producers, and writers, Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo, as well as executive producer Michaela Clavell, and producer and series star Hiroyuki Sanada, who played Lord Yoshii Toranaga in season 1.

Shōgun’s first season is an adaptation of James Clavell’s novel of the same name, which was originally released in 1975. The show’s first season adapts Clavell’s entire (very long) novel, which leaves the question of what exactly it will cover in its next two seasons up for debate.

Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) sitting on his horse holding his falcon in full samurai regalia Photo: Colin Bentley/FX

One possible option for the show could be looking to Clavell’s other work for inspiration. While Shōgun is unquestionably the most popular of the books, Clavell actually wrote three more novels in his Asian Saga, with Shōgun being the first chronologically. He also wrote Tai-Pan, a book about two traders venturing into Hong Kong in the 1840s after the First Opium War, Gai-Jin, a sequel to Tai-Pan set 20 years later and mostly in Japan, and Noble House, which is set back in Hong Kong in 1963.

This variety of novels could provide a solid basis for several seasons, each taking place in a distinct time and place. However, this would bring with it plenty of other problems including issues of cultural accuracy. Both Marks and Kondo have been very vocal about the accuracy of Shōgun being extremely important to them, frequently rewriting scenes to better reflect cultural Japanese attitudes of the time. To suddenly transplant the series to an entirely new country, with an entirely new culture and different customs would be a massive undertaking, and surely change the show significantly. Although that’s not to say it couldn’t be done.

Perhaps even more compelling though is the presence of Sanada. With the legendary Japanese actor returning to the show, and his towering performance as Toranaga being a standout aspect of the series’ first season, it seems more likely that Marks, Kondo, and the rest of the production would opt to keep the story in Japan and create a series that’s a more direct follow up to Shōgun’s story. Thankfully, this period of Japanese history has no shortage of fascinating and complex topics for the show to cover.

Hiroyuki Sanada stands proudly in front of a crowd in Shogun Photo: Katie Yu/FX

While Clavell’s original novel changes the names of famous Japanese historical figures, it is closely based on the country’s real history, which means we too can look to history to see what could be next for the show. Toranaga is based on Tokugawa Ieyasu, a real Japanese daimyo and the first shōgun of the mighty Tokugawa shogunate which ruled the country from 1603 until 1868.

The first season ends with Toranaga on the verge of capturing Osaka Castle, a real thing Ieyasu did (although slightly earlier than 1600). So, if the timeline of Japanese history is what the show plans to follow, then the next season would likely be about the fallout of Toranaga’s decision to openly grab power. In real life, Ieyasu met with quite a bit of resistance in the form of a rival daimyo named Ishida Mitsunari who would go on to lead an army in opposition to Ieyasu, throwing Japan into a civil war.

We’ll stop the story there at the risk of revealing several potentially significant plot points, but needless to say a civil war would give future seasons of Shōgun plenty of ground for great television.

Of course, we won’t know for sure what exactly these upcoming seasons of Shōgun will be based on until FX makes an official announcement, but we know we’ll be watching no matter what.