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Foundation Episode 4 Review & Recap: Barbarians at the Gate

Foundation Episode 4

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Foundation Episode 4 is continuing the quality storytelling and beautiful cinematography that I’ve come to expect from this Apple TV+ series. And while the Empire part of the storyline still stole the show, the Terminus storyline with Salvor is quickly catching up.

Below is a review for Season 1 Episode 4 of Foundation, along with explanations of some key plot points, so there will be SPOILERS in the article below.

(Note: While Foundation isn’t a purely post-apocalyptic show, 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.)

The Empire Storyline Just Keeps Getting Better

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The episode began with an introduction to the now-teenage Brother Dawn as he struggles with his life in general. Cassian Bilton did a phenomenal job of channeling Lee Pace’s Emperor, mimicking his expressions and tone of voice just enough to make the clone storyline quite believable. And of course, it almost goes without saying how perfect Pace is at his role. He’s portraying Brother Day perfectly (even in the moments when he gets very frustrated with his “yes men” mathematicians.)

At the beginning of the episode, Dawn attempted to kill himself by jumping off a building, but a forcefield that protects him stopped him from dying. This left viewers with a question. Did he know the forcefield would protect him? And since he likely did, does that mean he didn’t really intend to kill himself? Was the forcefield originally put in place to stop assassination attempts or to prevent the Cleons from killing themselves as teenagers? It’s really tough to know just how much (if any) individuality these clones have. We can sometimes glean patters. For example, Brother Day is impulsive and rules with a hammer, while Brother Dusk slowly becomes more compassionate as he ages. As these changes happen, Dusk and Dawn grow more at odds.

But since this is the first time we’ve seen a teenage Dawn, it’s unclear which part of his actions follow a predetermined pattern and which part is unique. There are hints that this Dawn might be different than the other Cleons. While the other Cleons always use their righthand predominantly, Brother Dawn appears to be lefthanded, for example. And while the others haven’t shown romantic proclivities (perhaps except toward the android), Brother Dawn appears to be developing feelings for the gardener.

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There’s a theory circulating among viewers that Brother Dawn might be different. If he falls in love and decides to procreate, he might end the Emperor clone line (while also preserving the Empire itself for a longer period of time, as Hari had predicted.) But I’m going to guess that the other Cleons won’t be on board for this and might attempt to assassinate his love interest before a true romantic connection can begin.

While I did find Brother Dawn’s story the most compelling this week, I couldn’t help but also appreciate the push-and-pull between Dusk and Day. Day is resentful of Dusk for the decisions he made that pulled the Empire into further chaos. As such, he’s limiting Dusk’s activities more than normal and is planning to address more issues with the Empire personally. However, Demerzel’s sarcastic comment about how Day surely isn’t impulsive seems to indicate that despite his attempts to be different, Day is ultimately on the same path as any of the other clones would be at this point. One has to wonder if his impulsivity might put his life at risk since things are so much less stable now. And what would happen to the Empire if Brother Dawn had to take over leading it now, far earlier than normal?

The Terminus Storyline Is Picking Up

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Meanwhile, things at Terminus have gotten quite intense. A huge army of invaders is ready to raze the entire town and destroy the Foundation’s work just so they can get at a navigation system they need to escape the Empire. (At least, that’s what we’re being told. But is it true?) Phara is one of the few survivors of the planet that the Empire irradiated as retribution for the sky bridge attack. Salvor doesn’t believe that Phara is being honest about her group’s intentions, but it’s really tough to decipher who is right and who is wrong.

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In the midst of all of this, we learn a lot more about Salvor’s special abilities. She couldn’t activate Hari’s Prime Radiant, but it turns out that there’s a lot more to her than simply being able to move past the Artifact’s force field. (And that’s a pretty major feat by itself!) Apparently she can also tell when someone’s lying and she can discern what’s going to happen in the future. She correctly predicted how a coin flip would turn out so many times that it was far beyond luck. Some people at Terminus view her as an outlier who might upend Hari’s predictions, but her trader boyfriend suggested that she might be exactly what Hari predicted.

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At the end of the episode, there was an interesting scene where Gaal was shown to still be in stasis after Raych killed Hari, and her stasis chamber was picked up by a mysterious ship. It’s not clear exactly what this means, but since it appears that Gaal is the one who is narrating the scenes from some point in the future, I’m going to guess that perhaps she plays a role in rebuilding society years after Salvor and the Foundation team have completed their mission. But that’s just a guess. As for Raych, it’s unclear what happened to him. The show has been surprisingly quiet about his fate so far.

The Terminus storyline is picking up in #Foundation Episode 4 and may soon rival the greatness of the Empire. Click To Tweet

Overall, this was an intriguing episode with an improved pacing over the previous episodes. The Terminus storyline is growing in intrigue and may soon rival the Empire storyline for my interest.

The best quote of the episode goes to Demerzel’s “Certainly now, the empire will no longer be rent by impulsive action.”

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    Stephanie Dwilson started Post Apocalyptic Media with her husband Derek. She's a licensed attorney and has a master's in science and technology journalism. You can reach her at [email protected].

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