The following contains spoilers through the Season 1 finale of Foundation, S1E10, “The Leap,” on Apple TV+, and also references the Foundation series novels.
Welcome, dear reader, as we continue to review the Apple TV+ series Foundation with Episode 10, “The Leap” (the Season 1 finale). I was a little harsh on last week’s episode, nitpicking a lot of the Terminus scenes in particular for their tradeoff between the realistic and the “cool.” Some things were getting so ridiculous that it was borderlining into Another Life territory. As the guys on the Cracking Foundation podcast put it, if I nitpick, it’s because I love it.
That said, this final episode of the first season redeemed everything. The Brother Dawn storyline just kept delivering one jaw-dropping moment after another. The resolution of the Terminus storyline brings the Foundation’s path forward into better alignment with the novels, and restores the message of hope promised us in interviews prior to airing. And then the “leap” of the episode’s title, while more than a little divergent from the novels, sets up next season to explore the origins of the Second Foundation. For me personally, this may have been one of the best season finales to a sci-fi series that I have ever seen. I loved every moment of it.
Terminus — Three Pillars
I was a little premature last week in declaring victory on the prediction that this was another instantiation of Hologram Hari on Terminus. This is, in fact, a different Hari. For one thing, Vault Hari has a physical body, of sorts (thus the puffs of dust on the ground as he walked, as some sharp-eyed viewers noted). He was also wisely offline during the intervening years, as that kind of isolation would undo even the strongest mind. Note that the Hologram Hari on the Raven (and still squirreled away in Raych’s knife) was aware the entire time, and was re-experiencing his death over and over again on top of that. What has that done to his mind?
So it is that this congenial and more interactive version of Hari speechifies the crowd and ties all the loose ends together. Turns out that Cleon II and his Shadow Master were responsible for the “First Betrayal” that set the Anacreons and Thespins against each other hundreds of years ago, just as the emerging powers were uniting. With that deception revealed, Hari offers them the opportunity to put aside their hate and work with the curated settlers of the Foundation. Together, the “Children of the Outer Reach” will become the seeds of a new civilization.
Hari also gives them a technobabble hand-wavey plan (I’ll allow it) to fool the Empire into thinking the entire system (which, though it pains me, includes all three worlds) has been turned into a radioactive wasteland. This will buy them the time to build, free of the Empire for now, though he warns that war is inevitable. All of this amounts to a lot more hand-holding and outright cajoling than the non-interactive Hari Seldon recording of the books’ Time Vault. That’s a little bit of a concerning deviation, as we need to establish that the Plan works on its own merits, and doesn’t require the actions of “special” individuals to stay on track.
A Final Farewell to Phara
Speaking of special individuals, Hari all but ignores Salvor Hardin, as she dogs his heels to ask about the visions he’s been sending her. Hari is curious, but it wasn’t him, sorry. The Plan predicted the arrival of the Invictus and Hari’s awakening was triggered by Anacreons landing on Terminus. As improbable as it seems now looking back, everything else was expected to just kind of fall in place, flowing from the normal actions of non-special individuals like Phara and Lewis.
This leaves Salvor reeling, her whole life feeling like a lie. No less so for her mom, who concludes that Hari gave them “busy work” for last 30 years. Now they find out that they are not preparing a time capsule for some unknown survivors of a future galaxy-wide calamity, but that they themselves are to be implementing that future.
The change of direction is exactly what Rowan wanted however, glad to be free of Phara’s suicidal plan for themselves and their children. With all past sins apparently forgiven, he is burying Phara on Terminus, and Salvor stops by to pay her respects. With her symbolic help, they plant an Anacreon oak cutting on Phara’s gravesite that blooms into large tree as we fast forward into the future. They’ve all chosen to build instead of burn.
Trantor — A New Dawn
Things on Trantor start out with Brother Dusk debriefing Brother Day, gloating about having “won the day” and taunting Day as to whether he would have figured out the riddle of their aberrant brother. Day meets his elder’s tone deaf remarks with an admirable grace, just recently earned from his experience on the Maiden. Clearly, he would like to have an actual discussion about what to do with Dawn, but Dusk cuts it short, telling his younger self that he knows what he has to do.
From there, things get interesting. For all the talk of the three of them being “brothers,” here for the first time we peel back another layer and realize that the Brother Days of course end up thinking of the Brother Dawns as their sons. They raise Dawn from a baby just as much as Demerzel does, imparting nurture to supplement nature, and ensure the continuity of the genetic dynasty. And the desire is mutual, with Brother Dawn wanting to call Brother Day father. However this Dawn knows better than any other Cleon just how disposable they all are. They are not father-son, nor brothers, but merely “echoes” of the original—unknowingly ringing a chord with the same word Zephyr Halima used to describe them.
When Day announces his decision, Brother Dusk goes berserk. Shouting escalates to threats, and then the threats escalate to blows. Brother Dawn runs into the arms of Demerzel, begging that she not let them kill him. And she does not, as she does the deed herself, ending the confrontation between Day and Dusk with her declaration of loyalty. We are left to wonder if she truly acted on her own, or if this was another instance of her programming taking over and forcing her actions. Given her final stunning scene at her dressing table, there can be little doubt that it was the latter.
The Terrible Fate of Garden Girl
Before that final confrontation however, Brother Day first deals with the only remaining survivor of the rebel cell, Azura. He frees her of the shroud and bindings, and has her walk with him in the garden where she used to work. He explains how she has robbed him of his personal legacy, ensuring that his “son” will never be the same as him, thanks to their tampering with his genetics.
Again, he displays that same thoughtful grace with her, calmly telling her how he is about to have 1551 individuals murdered on her behalf, robbing her of the aunts and uncles he never had, and utterly removing anyone who would have even the slightest remembrance of her when she is gone. The garden goes silent as he makes the hand gesture signal, and it is done. Azura herself will be sensory shrouded for the rest of her life, left to remember what she has taken away from him.
After disposing of Brother Dawn’s body, Day is visited by the Shadow Master. They have found out that the genetic tampering extended beyond just this version of Dawn. The rebels infected the source, Cleon I’s preserved body, as well as the copies being kept on ice. Given that Brother Day himself is “adulterated,” we may have to revise what we thought last week. This plan may have even predated the Star Bridge bombing. With the slightest hint of a smirk at the irony of it all, that Brother Dawn did not need to be killed because his replacement will be no beter, Brother Day takes a candelabra, hefts it in his hand, and destroys the case preserving Brother Dusk’s beloved Principium.
We end where we began, on Synnax, but 173 years later. Gaal arrives in her cryopod and initiates reentry. It may be too soon to say this with certainty, but it looks like the waters kept rising and humanity has pulled a reverse abandon ship. Nobody left but the nosey manta-dolphins. She uses the kayak from her amazingly well-stocked cryopod to find her way to the wreckage of a building, the last remains of her village, we suppose. While contemplating the error of her life’s choices, she notices a red light down below. She dives down to find another traveler preserved in a cryopod. Her daughter, Salvor.
Salvor finally realized she was seeing visions not just of Hari and Raych, but also of a girl. A girl from a water world, who her mother finally identifies as Gaal Dornick—her “controversial” donor. As much as it pains me to say it, I believe what the writers are going for with Salvor’s visions is a form of “generational trauma,” or at least what generational trauma might look like if you were dealing with people that have mentalic abilities. Gaal, of course, is the Sleeper, and she’s been unknowingly calling to her daughter from across space and time. Now the two of them are united, with a crashed, but no doubt repairable, spaceship beneath them. Their next logical destination, and one we already know will be in play next season, is back to Helicon and the Second Foundation. To deliver them the Prime Radiant.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- One wonders where Hari is getting his insider information from? Both with regards to the deathbed confession of the Anacreon handmaiden from hundreds of years ago, and getting input data on the Invictus’ movements to feed and confirm his formula’s predictive power.
- Demerzel gives Dawn the same light-but-firm push at the small of his back to urge him forward towards his inevitable doom.
- We hear of the “Galactic Council” for the first time here. A body who apparently holds some sway over the Emperors. Look for that to come into play in future seasons, no doubt.
- We had wondered if perhaps Brother Dusk had been on to Brother Dawn for a long time, but in his initial conversation with Brother Day on the matter, it’s made clear that he only just discovered it during Day’s time away.
- The hard thing about this finale is knowing that we will leave this generation of Cleons and jump ahead, probably never to know how the rest played out.
- So Salvor Hardin would have become mayor, but that’s as close as the book people are going to get on that one.
- I would have been disappointed if we didn’t get one last Bishop’s Claw on our way out of this season.
- Holy crap can she hold her breath for a long time (1:46 in screen time, by my reckoning).
Best lines of the episode:
- “History is written by the victor, and neither of you seem to be winning.”
- “Well…I might have lied about that.”
- “Look at us! We have no mothers. No aunts, no uncles. We have sex with concubines whose memories are erased the moment we leave them!”
- “It’s a strange burden, not being allowed to carry a burden.”
- “He’s not your son.” “Of course he is.”
- “There. All gone. Your legacy has been erased, Azura.”
- “She respected you as well. In a way.”
- “Mirror on my telescope’s a little out of alignment. Think you could help me…recollimate it?”
- “Figured I’d find you here.” “Damn.”
- “All love is programming, biological or otherwise.”
- “Psychohistory? We are Empire. History bends to us!”
- “I am loyal, Empire. To the Cleonic dynasty above all else.”
- “Sometimes you leap, and sometimes someone catches you.”
In the News
Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week (or so) related to Foundation:
- Laura Birn (Demerzel Ito) shares some deep thoughts about her characters inner thoughts with Comic Book Resource.
- Gold Derby has an interview with costume designer Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh as part of their “Meet the Experts” panel.
- FX Guide has a really cool in depth article about the visual effects on Foundation, interspersed with interview questions with visual effects supervisor, Chris Keller. The top comment on the Reddit post that pointed me to that interview also has links to seven other interviews with various folks involved with special effects on the show.
On this week’s official companion podcast (for Episode 9), show runner David S. Goyer was joined by co-writer and co-producer Victoria Morrow. She is a long-time friend of his, and probably best known to the rest of us from her work on Weeds. As such, she is decidedly not a fan of sci-fi, even to the point of never having watched the original Star Wars. But this is exactly the kind of eclectic mix Goyer was trying to cultivate in his writer’s room. Here are a few of the more interesting tidbits from their conversation:
- Gaal’s voice-over is not meant to be an omniscient narrator. She is speaking from some point in the future looking back over these events.
- History by its nature is subjective. There’s no objective history, because someone has to tell it.
- Most people don’t know where Earth is and there’s a reason for that that they’ll reveal later on.
- Victoria flat out says Demerzel loved Cleon I.
- With the jump drive navigator seat in the Invictus, you can’t unplug without lobotomizing yourself basically.
- In an Episode 1 Easter egg that absolutely everybody missed, during a scene where Hari was talking to Raych, he is doodling a diagram of the Invictus. He even takes it, shrinks it, and moves it over to the Outer Reach, where it would pop up later in the series.
- In the first draft of the scripts, Hari had a wife and child at the trial, but that scene got cut for reasons that they can’t reveal yet.
- Victoria has a fairly negative view of Hari. She thinks Hari is in it for his ego, thinking he is the singular one that can save the galaxy.
That’s all for this week. Please let us know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episode, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below. Remember that 25YL will provide continuing coverage of Foundation throughout Season 1 and beyond.
All images courtesy of Apple TV+