TL;DR – Brother Day journeys the Spiral in search for a soul.
Review (warning: spoilers)
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The three threads in this episode revolve around the following:
- Phara (Kubbra Sait) seeks to secure the Invictus while Salvor (Leah Harvey) tries to prevent this from happening.
- Gaal (Lou Llobell) and an “electronic” Hari (Jared Harris) dissect Gaal’s ability for prescience.
- Brother Day (Lee Pace) walks the Spiral to demonstrate he has a soul to the Luminist believers.
The first thread reveals that Hugo (Daniel MacPherson) has survived. Thank goodness because I would have been quite upset if he ended up floating off untethered in outer space and dying. He reaches a communications tower and calls for aid from his native planet, Thespis. Inside the Invictus, Salvor and Lewis Pirenne manage to separate themselves from Phara and secure the bridge only for the ship to make a jump.
The second thread results in Gaal and Hari coming at odds. Gaal wants to know what Hari’s plan is and why they are headed to Helicon (Hari’s homeworld). Hari views Gaal’s ability to see into the future as a risk to skewing psychohistory. This leads to Gaal wanting out of the Foundation and Hari’s plans because she is being kept in the dark. She forces Hari’s hand and goes back into the cryo-pod and programs it to take her back home to Synnax.
And while the above two threads continue to piece the puzzle together, it is the third thread that this episode mostly focuses on and is, by far, the most fascinating.
In Luminist religion, they believe in the goddess Surah who collided with the planet Dol and became three moons – the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. On Maiden, pilgrims journey along the Spiral, a 170km dessert trail, that ends in the Womb of the Mother (a salt pool). The journey must be taken without food or water. And in the case of Brother Day, he has to have his Imperial nanobots removed along with the protective aura bracelet that shields him from harm. Those who manage to survive the journey are said to receive a vision while in the Womb and this is then interpreted by the ring of Zephyrs (holy priestesses).
In addition, one of the central themes of Luminism is reincarnation and the idea that a soul is tied to one body. Thus, when Emperor Cleon the First succeeded in cloning himself into triple copies (Brother Dusk, Brother Dawn and Brother Day), these clones are viewed as soulless by many of the Luminist followers who have been swayed by Zephyr Halima (T’Nia Miller), who is seeking to be the next Proxima and if successful would look to secede from the Empire.
Thus, we watch Brother Day undertake the perilous journey along the Spiral to prove that he has a soul. It is the first time in the series that we see him truly vulnerable and a wonderful juxtaposition to the normally infallible Emperor and ruler.
What adds to the fascination of this episode is that Demerzel (Laura Birn), who is the aide and guardian of the Cleon clones and loyal to the empire, is also a devout Luminist.
And… she’s a robot. Throughout the entire series, the AI that is Demerzel appears to have achieved a level of consciousness that allows her to experience existentialism and emotions.
She instructs Brother Day of what to expect on the Spiral. And as we watch him undertake the journey beneath the unrelenting sun and slowly turn into a crisp burnt piece of flesh, you wonder whether his eyes are being opened for the first time onto something greater than himself.
Indeed, when Brother Day reaches the Womb and collapses into the salt pools, he recounts the vision he received to the ring of Zephyrs. He describes how the salt in the pool began to swirl and lifted from the floor of the cave. And it took the form of a stem with three large petals. The ring of Zephyrs proclaim that this represents the birthroot flower that births three petals from one seed. Just like the triple goddesses that came from Surah, and just like Day and his brothers. The Zephyrs declare that this is a holy vision and that Brother Day, indeed, has a soul that is not mired in stagnation.
Brother Day leaves triumphant with the three trillion Luminist followers still held within the Empire’s bosom. But not before two final acts are done.
The first is that Brother Day orders Demerzel to poison Zephyr Halima, making it look like she died of natural causes. Demerzel obeys but is distraught in having to perform the assassination. She pleads to Brother Day that he has won, so why does Halima need to be killed. But Brother Day does not provide her with an explanation.
The second is Demerzel, when not given an explanation for having Halima killed, makes a comment to Brother Day. She mentions that she has an ancient birthroot flower pressed and framed on her vanity. She obtained the flower when she underwent the journey around the Spiral centuries ago and she asks whether Brother Day had noticed it when he came to visit her in her room. He responds that he didn’t notice it.
A happy coincidence?
Demerzel then adds that though it was eons ago when she took the journey, the vision she received changed the way she looked at everything (impressive for a robot I might add). And she comments that she is “pleased” that Brother Day was graced by a vision as well.
For if he saw nothing then that would mean he is empty (of a soul). And thus, as we watch Brother Day prepare for the jump back to Trantor, we zoom in on his eyes and flashback to the Womb and salt pools. We watch as what really happened was he simply sat in the pools and nothing happened. No vision. No epiphany. Nothing but emptiness.
There can be nothing worse than having the missing piece inside you being your soul.
9.5 out of 10