Sometimes, Foundation can fall into a bit of a self-imposed trap. It gets so wrapped up in lofty ideas and math that it occasionally forgets it’s supposed to be entertaining. We love beard-scratching intellectualism in the best sci-fi series, of course, but we also want our pulse to quicken as civilizations crumble and spaceships explode. Well, this week, we got everything we wanted and more.
The genius of this week’s masterful Foundation installment, cementing it as one of the best TV series of the year, is how it juggles its myriad tones. It’s simultaneously the most spectacular episode of the season, the funniest episode of the season, and the most emotionally devastating. Quite frankly, writers Jane Espenson and Eric Carrasco and director Roxann Dawson deserve to take a bow. And then take another one. They should milk it.
We’re nearing the end of the Foundation season 2 release schedule and, much as Game of Thrones used to do, one of the best Apple TV shows has allowed a colossal amount of shit to hit the fan in its penultimate episode. We loved every moment and we’ll forgive the show for every ponderous monologue if we can have one of these episodes per season.
What the Demerz-hell?
We begin with a flashback, heading 600 years back to the time of Cleon I. As a child, he found the secret room we saw in Foundation season 2 episode 8 and discovered it was a prison for an 18,000-year-old robot segmented into pieces: Demerzel (Laura Birn).
By the time Cleon was an older man, her increasingly suggestive stories on his visits had helped him to fall for her. He came up with the idea of the Genetic Dynasty to prevent the need for an heir. Demerzel was upset at the idea of being “loyal to shadows” of Cleon for centuries, but accepted his proposal to secure a version of freedom.
The show reveals that Cleon I had been telling this story to Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann) and Rue (Sandra Yi Sencindiver) in the secret room. Dusk thinks this information is irrelevant due to the impending marriage between Day (Lee Pace) and Queen Sareth (Ella-Rae Smith), but Cleon imprisons Dusk and Rue in the room.
The name’s Bond, Tellem Bond
Tellem Bond (Rachel House) is midway through her ritual of taking over Gaal’s (Lou Llobell) body and mind, until Salvor (Leah Harvey) shows up and breaks up the party, slapping some sense into her mother (it’s still weird). They realize that their ship, the Beggar, never left Ignis, and make a run for it.
Loron (Michael Akinsulire) fights Salvor while Tellem intercepts Gaal aboard the ship, deploying her weird Mentalic power to use the Force – we don’t quite understand this yet – to overpower her. Salvor manages to trap Loron in the airlock and suffocates him. Gaal and Salvor are struggling to best Tellem when Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) emerges out of nowhere. Tellem dismisses him as a “poor illusion”, right up until he bludgeons her to death in an ugly pile of blood and skull bits.
You just can’t keep a good psychohistorian down. It doesn’t matter how many times and in how many ways you kill him. We’re fascinated, though, that this seems to be a corporeal version of Seldon, and possibly the very one Tellem believed she had drowned at the end of Foundation season 2 episode 6. Or is it the version from the Prime Radiant that Salvor spoke to last week?
Ignis might not be the center of everything this week, but there’s a lot to be resolved over there in the finale.
Day and Demerzel arrive on Terminus and Day becomes furious on discovering the technology the Foundation has created, stabbing Sermak (Oliver Chris) and ordering his forces to “kill the priests and councilors but take the scientists alive”. Day sees the Vault in the distance and becomes fascinated, arrogantly approaching while the null field allows him to do so. Eventually, Seldon appears – of course he does – and beckons Day and Demerzel into the Vault.
Seldon and Demerzel, the two beings old enough to care about the bigger picture, keep talking directly to each other while Day becomes increasingly unhinged. He loudly declares that psychohistory “never accounted for me” and his decision to end the Genetic Dynasty. Seldon’s response is pithy and brutal. “I’ve met outliers,” he says. “You’re not one of them.”
Meanwhile, in a very Star Wars space battle above Terminus, Bel Riose (Ben Daniels) and his husband Glawen Curr (Dino Fetscher) are leading an aerial scrap with the Foundation’s stolen vessel Invictus. Glawen leads a squadron of fighters and lands a fatal hit on the Invictus, but sustains damage that sends him into a spinning crash-landing on the planet’s surface.
Day says he will spare Terminus if Seldon admits his math is flawed. When the scientist refuses, Day orders Riose to bring Invictus crashing down on to Terminus, inevitably killing everybody on the planet. But just as he is about to give that order, Riose learns that Glawen has survived the crash and is alive on the surface.
Demerzel states that she has been called away and, when Day protests, she turns on him and says she has to apologize for what he has become. He calls himself a “complete man”, but Demerzel responds that he is merely “a sperm led by its waving flagellum mistaking its random motion for complexity”. Another burn for Day. He’ll need some ointment.
Glawen tells Riose that he has to go ahead and give the order, while they share a tearful and devastating goodbye. The order is given and, as Terminus burns, the episode ends on Day’s ecstatic expression, basking in the reflection of the flames. The contrast between Day’s elation and the grief on the face of every other character – including the watching Demerzel – speaks volumes.
This was as close to perfect an episode of television as we’ve seen from Foundation. The script delivered peak melodrama through the vessel of some astounding performances, especially from Lee Pace and Ben Daniels. The stakes just kicked up a notch as the Second Crisis has truly begun, and it will take something special to resolve it.
This succeeded on every conceivable level. Foundation has always been a lavish and expensive show, but the space battle was something beyond what we’ve seen before. And with Day negged into insanity by both Seldon and Demerzel, he’s going to be a terrifying antagonist when next week rolls around. We can’t wait.
For more Foundation, find out which Asimov change made the show way better and delve into why Raych killed Hari, before he died every week. You can also find out how to watch Foundation on Apple TV Plus and look back at how this season began with our Foundation season 2 episode 1 recap.
If that’s not enough great sci-fi, look ahead to the For All Mankind season 4 release date and find out why we think For All Mankind is the natural successor to Star Trek. Speaking of which, check out our guides to the Star Trek 4 release date and how to watch the Star Trek movies in order.
Foundation season 2 episode 9 recap
Foundation has found its perfect episode, combining high emotion, lofty themes, cinematic spectacle, and a robot emasculating a pathetic man with too much power. Roll on next week’s season finale!