Foundation Season 1 Episode 5: Upon Awakening Review

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What They Say:
A flashback reveals the origins of Gaal’s conflict between faith and science. The standoff on Terminus takes an unfortunate turn.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The arrival of action on Terminus is likely going to be the point raised in a number of places about the show finally taking off. I understand it, but I really lament that action is the only thing that really makes a show suddenly worth watching or making it seem like it arrives at a good point. Considering so many shows operate with action right out of the gate, I’ve definitely been enjoying that this has been a lot more character-focused, a careful approach to the politics of it without being deeply involved in the details and mechanics of it, and simply immersing the viewer in a variety of worlds, cultures, and views on living. For too many, that is sadly something that will be called sluggish or uninteresting. I get it. I get it. But for those that wanted something like that, the past four episodes have been a delight.

The fifth episode is no slouch either because of the action. It does symbolize a pivot point in The Plan as we hit our first waypoint in the grand journey, though the participants are completely unaware of it. Before we get into that, however, the show spends the first twenty or so minutes focused on Gaal’s story from before she left for Trantor. We see more of her culture here with the Sleeper god that they worship, the way that knowledge in the grander sense was cast off and persecuted. Gaal, as an acolyte, is sent to investigate the old University that was abandoned and placed off-limits only to find her old mentor there. This slowly places her in the position of being the one involved in his death, but he also sets her on the course that will bring her to Seldon’s attention.

It’s a fascinating look at the world of Synnax as Gaal knows that the dark times are only beginning there, but everyone is placing faith in the Sleeper and living as naturally as they can. But she can’t help but to do the math and to see that the rising seas are coming faster and stronger and that even if they likely double their plans to raise their structures, it wouldn’t be enough. All she sees are the end days coming for it and that trying to raise issue about it will only lead to not just her death, but the death of her family since it’s all based in science and knowledge. There’s a good exploration of how things changed in the family over the years, from when her mentor used to be a regular at their dinner table when she was young, to not being an enemy of all of them, someone to be executed. And Gaal struggles with following what she knows is right and trying to not get her parents, or herself, killed. But that itch must be scratched and the math must be solved.

Gaal’s story doesn’t end with where we know things picked up in the first episode and it gets interspersed through the rest of the episode. Going back to her escape pod, we see it finally picked up by another ship and it’s a really great journey there to see how she handles everything that comes her way. With little control and being the only one on there as it’s keyed to Raych, she sees the results of Seldon’s death and how Raych was executed for it. This puts her into a struggle about her own life as she’s lost everything and has no control here. But the math, the puzzle, the problem itself, is what draws her back and watching that light come back into her eyes to solve it is great. I do wish it worked more time into this because so much is fresh and raw for her even though 34 years have passed, and her turn from suicidal to finding a path happens just too quickly for my tastes considering what happened just before she went into stasis. But the back side of it works so well that I love it, and can’t wait to see what the path she’s on will reveal.

The rest of the episode continues to focus on events on Terminus and it’s here that we get the action. With the Foundation essentially being nothing but scientists and academics while Salvor is the outlier with it, we’ve seen how the Anacreon’s have set up shop around the fence and have prepared their cannon as well, with some stealth shielding no less. Their main goal has been achieved in drawing the Empire out here and to make clear that they’re going to have to be reckoned with. It’s a case of vengeance for vengeance for an act that a world didn’t commit, but certain individuals did. It’s spiralled out of control over decades but there are long memories here. When the Empire’s ship begins to make its descent and Dorwin rallies the troops, he makes it clear that these are the people that are responsible for the Star Bridge incident. An entire planet is condemned for the acts of a group. It’s an unbreakable cycle of violence that will further the fall of the Empire.

There’s a good bit that happens here as the Anacreon’s really do have one over on everyone at this point and Salvor is the only one that’s seeing what’s going on. But it’s not that she sees the entire plan but is able to put things together well enough based on what she’s actually seeing and by not doing the things that are expected. When Phara is moved, she knows that’s the wrong thing because she’s spent enough time with Phara to know that she’s just playing an endgame where there’s no future. Everything goes sideways in a wonderfully big way as the episode gets closer to the end and we see how Terminus is on the brink of falling apart since the Anacreon’s are close to winning the battle. They know they can’t win the war, however.

In Summary:
The series hits the halfway mark of the first season and it delivers some up close and personal action moments as Salvor tries to defend Terminus from the Anacreons. It’s solidly done overall and it move sinto the personal area nicely a couple of times so that we connect more with Salvor. The Gaal material is something that may work better for people than they expect as she has become the heart of the show, even with being gone for two episodes. Showing more of the struggler she went through before coming to Trantor helps a lot and putting her in a solitary position having to really work her mathematical skills in order to understand what’s going on is wonderfully done. There’s a great tease here at the end as well that intrigues. The only downside to this episode is that we spend no time on Trantor, so no Cleon time, which is unfortunate.

Grade: B+

Streamed By: Apple TV+