The first three episodes of Foundation have been solid and the show is already gaining quite a following despite being only available on Apple TV+. Season 1 Episode 3 was no exception. While the show is diverging quite a bit from the books, it’s still maintaining an intriguing storyline that’s worth following week by week. While Foundation isn’t a purely post-apocalyptic TV series, the characters are constantly grappling with real-world implications surrounding the fall of civilization. That gives it enough of an apocalyptic twist to warrant coverage here on Post Apocalyptic Media.
Below is a review for Season 1 Episode 3 of Foundation, along with explanations of some key plot points, so there will be SPOILERS in the article below.
The Emperor’s Ascension Provided an Intriguing Backdrop to the Story
One of the things I love best about the Foundation TV series is the way the Empire is set up. Brother Dawn, Brother Day, and Brother Dusk represent the Emperor during three different stages of his life. It’s an intriguing twist on the despotic regimes that keep the leadership solely within a strict family line. Here, the only person the emperor trusts to rule the empire is himself. I truly believe that any narcissistic, tyrannical ruler would take this kind of route if it was afforded to him (and if immortality wasn’t an alternative.) It’s fascinating to see how Emperor Cleon slowly becomes more caring about the people he rules over as he ages. But it’s once he reaches this point that he also comes to the end of his life.
His closest companion is Demerzel, an android who serves by all his clones’ sides. Sometime in the past there was a great robot war and she is now the last of the robots to remain. It’s strongly hinted that she and the first emperor had some type of romantic relationship that she has not repeated with any of his clones. (And morally speaking, she really couldn’t, since she is the mother to these clones.) In some ways, she’s ruling through the emperors, giving the robots the ultimate win in their war — even if it’s an unseen victory of sorts. She can raise the emperors to have the morals that she wants them to have, leading to her being the ultimate ruler. Was this how it was done in the books? I honestly don’t know, since I read some of the books more than 20 years ago and don’t remember any of the plot points. (I wish I did.) Demerzel’s performance is compelling. She’s constrained, acting human with a touch of “uncanny valley” mixed in.
In this episode, we got to see how Dusk comes to end his life and how the names are shifted among the Emperor clones. The rituals of ascension are intricate, celebrating the life of the emperor who is about to die in a way that both honors and respects his service. However, it’s also a lonely endeavor in which only the clones themselves (and Demerzel) participate in, with the help of a few aids who, for the most part, stay as much out of sight as possible.
We learned that the emperors are not allowed to see themselves being born, and I’m guessing it’s because Dusk had a deep sense that it was not natural. Probably at some point in the past, one of the Emperors felt the same and tried to stop the birth, so now they’re banned… After that setup, we later saw Dusk (at that point Brother Dark) have a sense of misgiving just before his life was ended. He felt that something was wrong but he wasn’t allowed to explore that intuition. Do they all feel that way as they are about to die? Is something from the original Emperor being hidden from them? Or was he sensing something entirely new? Perhaps this new Cleon is going to be different. Considering that he’s already erasing history as soon as he can, it certainly could be possible. His actions seem almost antithetical to the Foundation’s, which is trying to preserve history.
Salvor’s Unique Skills Are Still Being Navigated
At the same time that Dusk felt something was “wrong,” we learned that the mysterious artifact on Planet Terminus has started to extend its force field for reasons unknown. Only Salvor is not affected by the forcefield, but even she doesn’t know what the object’s ultimate purpose is. She also doesn’t have any secret way of reading Hari Seldon’s Prime Radiant or understanding its deeper purpose. So while she is special, her uniqueness has limits. I found this a refreshing twist. Sometimes it gets tiresome when one character holds all the secret powers.
Gaal, meanwhile, might still be out in space somewhere after she was ejected from the ship by Raych Seldon. Raych’s motives were completely lost to me. I can’t understand why he would kill Hari or eject Gaal from the ship. It’s also unclear what happened to him after that last scene in episode two. While I miss Gaal, I don’t really miss Raych. I think Salvor’s relationship with the trader is a refreshing switch from Gaal’s relationship with Raych. The idea of the trader being “70” but actually only biologically 35 because of how much time he spends in cryosleep provides a depth to his character that I hadn’t expected. It’s also providing a pretty strong clue that we’re going to see Gaal again.
Now another group is invading, just as the forcefield is extending, and Salvor thinks there’s no way this can be coincidence.
While all this is going on, I also found the story of the building of the Foundation to be compelling. The brief look we had at how decisions are made, such as choosing between a clock powered by the sun or water, made me wish we were doing more of the same here on Earth. While this website writes about all things apocalyptic, we rarely get to enjoy a show that is preparing for an apocalypse quite so well.
While not perfection, this show is well executed with a unique storyline and stunning cinematography. I’m looking forward to episode 4 releasing on Friday.