TV Review: Foundation (2021) – S01E02 – Preparing to Live

TL;DR – As Hari Seldon and his followers journey to Terminus to set up the second foundation, the Empire tries to find those responsible for bombing the Star Bridge. Emperor Cleon makes a drastic decision to stablise the Empire.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Please go to my TV reviews page to read reviews of previous episodes.

Episode two starts with the dwarf planet Aethra and zooming into a lab where we see bodies floating in liquid chambers. Intruders break into the lab in military garb and kill all the scientists, but not before one of them is able to erase a whole heap of data from the computer system. Demerzel (Laura Birn) then comes waltzing in full ballroom gown like something out of the Victorian era with Empire soldiers following her and confronts a scientist who has been shot but is still alive (barely). Turns out the lab is an illicit biohacking facility, and the Empire eliminates such places with extreme prejudice. But this particular lab was identified as the one responsible for creating the bombs that the terrorists used to destroy the Star Bridge seen in episode one. Demerzel questions the scientist asking who contracted them to make the bombs. The scientist though doesn’t give up the ones responsible.

Current emperor, Brother Day (Lee Pace), is displeased. He wonders whether it was a mistake to let Hari Seldon (Jared Harris), Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) and their followers be sent to Terminus. Part of him still suspects they were the ones behind the Star Bridge’s destruction. He is tempted to destroy them and report to the people of the Empire that it was Hari who was responsible for the attack. Demerzel suggests it is dangerous to turn dissidents into martyrs.

The scene then switches to the spaceship carrying Hari and company. We hear Gaal’s voice identifying prime numbers (she’s now up to 86,981,729) while she swims laps in a pool onboard the ship. The crew is still four years and four months out from reaching Terminus, but a significant chunk of time has passed that has resulted in Gaal now in a relationship with Hari’s right-hand man and adopted son, Raych Seldon (Alfred Enoch).

The rest of episode two primarily focuses on life aboard the ship and the training and preparations Hari and company undertake in order to colonise Terminus when they finally arrive. This includes Gaal going through various simulations such as mining with other crew in Terminus caves and being attacked by alien creatures such as a bishop’s claw, and her knowledge tested by Hari who asks questions on problems they are likely to face on Terminus.

Scenes flip back to the Empire where an Anacreon and Thespin delegation (that arrived in episode one) have been arrested because evidence has been found that of the two individuals who blew up the Star Bridge, one sang an Anacreon hunting song while the other spoke a Thespin prayer. While the evidence is somewhat damning, it doesn’t make much sense as Anacreon and Thespin have long hated each other and been at war, so the idea they would collaborate to bomb the Star Bridge and attack the Empire is a stretch. Still, they’re the only suspects Brother Day has.

The development of characters provides enough progression in this second episode to see it through. For example, Demerzel is revealed to be part of an android-like race that were destroyed by Cleon and his armies. She is supposedly the last of her kind and now serves the Cleon Trinity through endless cycles of Cleon clones. She does not seem to harbour ill will toward her masters, which makes me wonder if her role will evolve over time.

I felt the events on Hari’s spaceship and back at Cleon’s empire were setting the scene for what is to come. The calm before the storm. This is never more evident than the discussions between Hari and Gaal. The need to predict what is over the horizon so they can properly prepare weighs on Hari, and there is a scene where he works with the Prime Radiant (a device that stores all of Hari’s psychohistory equations) and appears frustrated, covering his face with both his hands as if not wanting to believe what he sees in the Prime Radiant.

But my expectation of episode two quietly transitioning into the next one was rudely altered. First, Brother Day shows no mercy and executes the Anacreon and Thespin delegations by hanging without proof and has armadas fire destructive lasers devastating the Anacreon and Thespin home planets. This against Brother Dusks’s advice to display a bit of grace.

That would have been enough of an ending for me to close out episode two. Instead, I found myself back on the ship watching Gaal doing her laps again of the pool and figuring out prime numbers. She’s now up to 86,981,827. But then she says 86,981,848… which I immediately recognise is not a prime number because it is even. And I know something has gone wrong.

Gaal realises that’s not right and senses something terrible. She rushes out of the pool to go find Raych only to discover him stabbing Hari to death. Racyh removes something from behind Hari’s ear and tells Gaal she shouldn’t be here. Gaal rushes to Hari’s side to try and stop the bleeding but it’s no use. Alarms start blaring indicating detection that Hari’s life functions have ceased. Raych grabs Gaal’s arm and takes her to an escape pod. He shoves her in there along with the knife he used to kill Hari and watches as the pod fills up with liquid which will put Gaal in a form of stasis. As the liquid rises, you can see Gaal’s confusion and disbelief as Raych reminds her to stay calm and keep counting primes. He confesses his love to her and then ejects the pod into outer space.

Thus ends episode two and I’m left picking up my jaw off the ground.

9 out of 10

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