Foundation Season 1 Episode 2: Preparing To Live Review

The journey to Foundation.

What They Say:
The Foundation makes the long journey to Terminus as Gaal and Raych grow closer. The Empire faces a difficult decision.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With an opening episode that really did a number on me with what it covered, I took a couple of days before getting into the second episode just to let that first on settle in. There were a lot of things that it did that changed from the books, that drew from the prequel novels, and adjusted in order to reinforce reasons why the Empire is collapsing. It covered a good bit of time while placing the primary focus of the season on Terminus itself, which we saw thirty-five years after the events of Seldon and Gaal coming together on Trantor. The books, from my memory at this point, had a fairly decent gap between the exile of Seldon and his followers and when we took up the story of Salvor Hardin on terminus, so the series taking some time to flesh that out and play in more malleable storytelling space makes sense. Plus, you want to use Jared Harris and Lee Pace as much as you can.

There are two main tracks in this episode that play out separately but have a sizable impact on what’s to come. With a few months that have passed since the terrorist attack on the Star Bridge, Seldon and his followers are now en route for the next several months or more to Terminus on a slower moving ship. There are some interesting aspects to it in how they manage such a thing in moving so many people like this, from childbirth to supplies, and it serves as some good background color while highlighting how society is different from what we know. With everyone together, however, you have a growing familiarity that’s happening and we even see Seldon pointing this out early on as he’s now being addressed as Hari instead of Dr. Seldon. We also see that Raych and Gaal have gotten a lot closer, which is obviously a radical change to his story as it looks like they’ve dropped him being married and having kids from the books.

We do see how Seldon is grooming Gaal for a larger role along the way, getting her into more of the meetings over how to handle what’s to come with the Foundation, and that has some really good moments in talking about what knowledge must be kept and how they decide to do so. When she starts talking to the committee about how they can’t even agree on the same ways of counting, noting most of them are a base ten culture while the Empire has sizable base twelve and base twenty-seven cultures, it forces a change in approach – albeit slowly. I like seeing how Gaal is growing in this role, reluctantly, while also spending a lot of her time swimming and her version of praying by counting primes. It shows an interesting character that I really want to see more of as she’s really apprehensive about the immense challenges ahead.

But the show takes a dramatic, or melodramatic, turn toward the end of the episode that worked perfectly for me. In a moment of tension and connection with Raych, Gaal ends up racing to find him but ends up discovering him seemingly stabbing Seldon to death. Raych panics over her being there and seeing this, which has him eventually shoving her into a life pod and off the ship into the darkness of space. While the last part has me curious as to his intent there, the reason for his killing Seldon is easy to understand. It’s not the sequence where Seldon basically humiliates him at a meal in the cafeteria. That was a useful moment to provide a little info dump on his past in a semi-natural kind of way. The reason for the death goes back to the beginning with Seldon being called Hari. With Seldon going from this almost mythical leader prophesizing the end of the Empire on Trantor with a trial in public – just as the Star Bridge fell, no less – Seldon’s mystique is diminishing rapidly by the people he needs the most to view him that way. When they utilize his work in the future, if he’s just the guy they ate with in the cafeteria, will they have the same reverence toward him? While his psychohistory works large groups, Seldon also knows small groups and understands that he and his formulas are being diminished by all this closeness. Now he’s a martyr – killed by his own adopted son – on the journey to set up the Foundation by his followers that will shorten the darkness. Now he’s a man of myth for the next thousand years.

With the other track in this episode, the focus on events on Trantor after two months since the attack are grim. The Empire has not found who is responsible as the representatives of the two sides deny it while the evidence is mixed on it. The main focus is on Brother Day here as he knows that a firm hand is needed but he’s dealing with educating Brother Dawn on the right path and seeing that Brother Dusk is starting to falter in a number of ways, though some of it is just a forced interpretation on Day’s part in order to achieve his goals. Dusk is dealing with the weight of a lifetime in this position and is opting for a sense of grace from the Empire, but Day is clear in that with hundreds of millions deal and a massive sprawling scar visible on Trantor, a response is needed. I really liked Pace’s performance as Day throughout this but Terrence Mann as Dusk delivers a really haunting old Emperor who is coping with the guilt and knowledge of the past combined with overseeing a chunk of the period that is seemingly leading to the fall of the Empire.

There are a lot of good moments with Day and Dusk across this, including the public executions to help keep the public in line and focused, but I was really keyed into what Brother Dawn was like throughout it. His responses were normal, and being involved in the executions even just a witness has him asking the right questions. But we see here that he spends a lot of time with Demerzel as she helps with his education. During one of Dusk’s expeditions she ends up hurt and it’s at this point that we see that they are working with the combined larger universe here, though no names are said. It appears that the Emperors here know what Demerzel is as well as Dawn watches as she peels away the skins and repairs herself, and uses the time to talk about how she’s helped him and his predecessors for a very long time. While I’m still pushing for a Caves of Steel series or film, getting this potential introduction here just made me giddy beyond words.

In Summary:
Foundation is hitting a lot of strong marks for me and delivering some gorgeous work with the set design, costume work, and the performances themselves. While the original work inspired a huge amount of science fiction that followed, what we get here feels fresh and new, operating with grandeur and scale that most other properties are afraid to really engage with. And that helps to take it to a whole other level. At the same time, it spends a lot of time at the smaller and more personal level with the characters as they navigate these tumultuous times where everything they know has been upended. The first episode set the table perfectly and this one builds upon it just right, leaving me very excited for the next course.

Grade: A

Streamed By: Apple TV+