Foundation Episode 5 may have been missing my favorite part of the series — the Empire’s storyline — but it still pulled off a compelling story that kept me hooked from beginning to end. This episode felt especially “sci-fi” in its storytelling, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Below is a review for Season 1 Episode 5 of Foundation, along with explanations of some key plot points, so there will be SPOILERS in the article below. (This is written from the perspective of not knowing how the books’ storyline turns out.)
Gaal’s Intriguing Storyline Left Me With So Many Questions
Gaal’s return to the storyline was long-needed. Her part felt almost like an episode of Star Trek or Stargate, starting with a big mystery where clues are slowly revealed throughout the episode. The only difference is that with Gaal’s story, we didn’t end with a conclusion that wrapped everything up neatly. Instead, we were left with more questions.
Lou Llobell, who portrays Gaal, was outstanding in Episode 5. Her character felt authentic, with emotions that made me feel like she was a real person I could relate to rather than a cardboard character who simply serves to advance a storyline. In other words, she was amazing. At the beginning of the episode, we got a better look at just how distressful her life on Synnax was. The people of Synnax have rejected all science (and any hope it could give of saving their planet) in exchange for a fervent belief in prophets. It’s so extreme that they bury scientists and mathematicians in the ocean with their books. But Gaal was born with a unique mathematical gift and it took watching a mathematician die for his science before she even looked deeper within herself at her own talents. Sure, we knew how Synnax was from previous episodes. But Episode 5 made us feel the reality of living there.
Gaal was able to escape her planet, but it was heartbreaking to know that her escape was only going to serve to pull her deeper into a world just as chaotic and hate-filled.
After Raych killed Hari and ejected Gaal into space in a cryochamber, she was picked up by a mysterious spaceship 35 years later. (If only it could have been thousands of years later after the darkness had ended and into the dawn of the new civilization.) She found that the knife used to kill Hari opened a door to the rest of the ship. Her identity is stored in the ship’s computers, but she only has limited access to the ship’s functions. She’s able to see that Raych was executed for killing Hari, all the while he insisted that Gaal did not also play a role.
Gaal’s heartbreak at seeing Raych’s death was palpable. Even though he seemingly betrayed her by killing Hari and ejecting her from the ship, in her eyes that all happened about five minutes ago. Love doesn’t just immediately disappear, even after a betrayal. So of course, she’s going to be heartbroken — devastatingly so — to see the man she loved executed. And of course, she is likely also just now coming to terms with Hari’s death too and everything she’s lost. Her attempt at suicide did feel a bit rushed, but there was only so much time available in this episode. I think it would have felt more poignant if we saw her spending several days on the ship or even weeks, dealing with being alone and all she had lost. But even with such a rushed timetable available for the storyline, the actress did a phenomenal job at portraying Gaal’s state of mind and the push-and-pull she felt between survival and death.
Watching her outwit the computer and ultimately discover where she is heading provided for some enjoyable scenes that further highlight her level of genius. She’s heading to Hari’s homeworld, where she knows she will not be welcome.
But at the end of the episode, we’re presented with a crazy twist. We see what looks like a hologram of Hari glitching over-and-over on the ship. It seems to indicate that Hari might actually still be alive. We saw that he had been also put in a cryochamber of sorts (after he died), and it’s entirely like that the ship picked him up.
My theory is that Raych and Hari had a plan. Hari knew the Empire would try to kill him, so his only chance at survival was by faking his death. The plan was for his adopted son to carry out the “murder” and then join him on the ship by ejecting his cryochamber. But instead, when Gaal walked in on him, Raych decided that he had to save Gaal over himself. He sacrificed his own life so Gaal could take his place on the ship. My guess is that Hari will be expecting Raych and will discover Gaal instead. What do you think?
The Terminus Storyline Continues to Gain Speed
In previous episodes, the Terminus storyline was never quite as compelling as the Empire storyline, but in Episode 4 it was starting to gain traction. In Episode 5 the same holds true. Terminus continues to gain speed, but it wasn’t quite as compelling to me as Gaal’s storyline. And for me, at least, it required a bit more suspension of disbelief as far as character motivations go.
Phara the Huntress is wickedly cunning. She and her people knew the Empire would demand to see her, so they had a plan. She would use a bomb hidden in her eye to bring down the forcefield on Terminus once she was moved to the tower. It was a gamble, for certain, and depended on a lot falling into place. But much like Hari’s Foundation can “see” the future, Phara and her people also correctly guessed how things would play out and how they would take advantage of it all. This included using a gun the Anacreons had hidden to take down the Empire’s ship before the gun was discovered. It requires a suspension of disbelief to believe they could pull all that off, but here we are.
While Salvor finally did catch on to what was happening, it was too late. Phara forced her to watch her own people get killed, just like she had to do once on her own planet.
I’ll admit… At this point I don’t find Phara’s motivations particularly understandable or relatable. I understand why she would be livid at the Empire and want revenge on them. But this misplaced anger at Hari’s people and the Foundation has left me confused. She blames them because…their prediction caused instability that led to her people bringing down the skybridge, which led to the Emperor blowing up their planet? Did I understand that right? Because it feels a bit far-fetched. I’m guessing there’s more to this story than meets the eye, and more to what the Anacreons want than I realize. Perhaps the Vault — which was barely mentioned in this episode — will play a greater role in the Anacreons’ plan.
I kept expecting Gaal’s ship to show up in a strange deus ex machina moment to save Salvor. But it appears she’s heading elsewhere. I’m glad her storyline wasn’t used in that way. It keeps me guessing about what’s next.
All in all, this was another outstanding episode. Not perfect (see Phara’s strange motivation as an example.) But it was beautifully shot with an intriguing mystery that had me wishing Episode 6 was immediately available.