Skip to main content

'Foundation' 1.06 review: Death and the Maiden

'Foundation' takes two steps forward and one step back with its latest installment, holding off on revealing more about its most fascinating story thread.

Leah Harvey in 'Foundation'.
(Image: © Apple TV+)

Our Verdict

Yet another episode of 'Foundation' that pushes pause on its most compelling story arc, and it's getting to be a very frustrating habit.

For

  • - As ever, 'Foundation' looks truly incredible, well beyond just about every other genre TV show
  • - Leah Harvey's performance is a consistently solid aspect of each episode
  • - Getting Salvor off Terminus should be an intriguing twist

Against

  • - Leaving Gaal out to dry again makes for a vexing viewing experience
  • - By leaving Terminus, there are still a vast amount of questions, such as the deal with the Vault, that are left hanging in a way that makes you wonder if the show will ever answer them
  • - The inexplicable nature of the flashbacks surrounding Hari's death is more head-scratching than compelling

This post contains spoilers for Foundation. Check out our last review here.

Let’s talk about credits, again. If you’ve been sticking with these recaps of Foundation, then you know credits are something that have revealed themselves to be weirdly near and dear to my heart (I’m surprised too). I’ve noted in past weeks how some of the regular cast members on this show — at least Jared Harris and Lee Pace, as Hari Seldon and Brother Day, respectively — will only appear in the opening credits if they’re actually in the episode. All that does is essentially spoil whether or not we’re going to see Hari or Brother Day, and considering that Hari died in the second episode that’s kind of a big spoiler. Even though Harris’ character died, the actor has appeared in one form or another in five of the first six episodes.

But let’s think of the closing credits today. There are, on any given TV show, essentially three tiers of credits for the cast of an episode. There’s the regular cast members, the primary guest cast and the secondary guest cast. Sometimes, a show will display its primary guest stars right after the opening credits; Foundation includes both primary and secondary guest stars in its closing credits. And that’s fine. What’s not fine, or is at least downright baffling, is the fact that the secondary guest cast — as in, the actors whose appearances are apparently so fleeting that their names are listed for the briefest of seconds during the last chunk of credits — for this show has included Clarke Peters. 

Peters is an excellent character actor who’s arguably best known as Lester Freamon from the HBO drama The Wire, but has also appeared in John Wick, Da 5 Bloods, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Treme, among countless other TV shows and movies. 

I’m calling out Clarke Peters now because — barring any timey-wimey timeline goofiness — the character he’s playing on Foundation, Abbas, the father of Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey), is no more. Abbas sacrifices himself during a can’t-win attempt on the part of Salvor and a few other freedom fighters from Terminus to take down the Anacreon warriors who want to subjugate the Terminus people for initially unknown ends. It seems genuinely wrong that Peters didn’t even get primary-level guest status, considering that he’s been a recognizable part of a lot of great TV shows and movies for the last two decades. And it’s not as if Abbas was a nothing role — his loss is keenly felt, not just by Salvor, but the audience as well.

What's also frustrating is that Foundation does its now-standard “two steps forward, one step back” routine with “Death and the Maiden”, the sixth episode. Last week ended with two big cliffhangers: in one, the Terminus folks struggled to make a stand against the Anacreons, who destroyed a massive Empire ship and started killing innocent people. In the other, Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) was shocked to discover none other than Hari Seldon, not entirely dead, on the rescue ship where she landed in an escape pod 35 years after Hari was seemingly murdered. Would you like to know what’s going on with Hari and Gaal this week? Well, so would I, and we will have to wait another week. 

It’s nothing against the events on Terminus, which this week grow ever closer to bringing Salvor Hardin into the sphere of Hari Seldon himself. But Gaal’s story remains the most compelling and the one the show’s writers seem least willing to explore, even briefly, every single week.

The Anacreons in 'Foundation'.

The Anacreons in 'Foundation' (Image credit: Apple TV+)

But let’s talk about the Salvor connection, because there’s quite the interesting twist to parse. Salvor is broken out of her makeshift prison cell by two of the kids from the pilot episode (Jairaj Varsani and Chloe Lea) who tried and failed to touch the mysterious Vault. But the escape only lasts for a certain time — after she and Hugo (Daniel MacPherson), along with Abbas, try to take down the Anacreons and fail, they’re brought along with a lot of other folks from Terminus to understand from the Grand Huntress (Kubbra Sait) what’s really going on. The Anacreons need the help of a few key members from Terminus to fix a thought-to-be-dead ship called the Invictus, and if they refuse to help, the Anacreons will kill everyone.

That’s rough enough, but more confusing is the key reason why Salvor and Hugo’s sneak attack fails: she has something equivalent to a seizure, during which time she inexplicably is able to a) inhabit the body of Gaal Dornick right before the death of Hari Seldon, and b) gets an answer to a question I pondered in last week’s recap. 

There, I wondered how much of Hari’s death was pre-planned by both his adopted son Raych (Alfred Enoch) and Hari himself. “Death and the Maiden” confirms that to be true: the entire plan of the galaxy will apparently be upended if Raych stays romantically with Gaal, so Hari not only must die, but it must be at Raych’s hand. Raych is understandably furious about this turn of events, but even though he obviously goes through with it, he does ignore one specific guideline Hari gives: that it’s Raych who should be in the escape pod, not Gaal. That gets tossed out the window when Gaal spies the end of Raych’s murdering Hari, but here, of course, it’s Salvor who sees it. The episode doesn’t explore much beyond this, aside from Salvor repeating Hari’s line about the entire galaxy’s fate sometimes being left in the hands of one individual. 

For Hugo, when he hears this, he chooses to believe that individual is Salvor. So he decides to make things tougher for the Anacreons: he sabotages the ship being used to fix their Invictus so that it can only be maneuvered by Salvor herself, with him at her side. 

Before the episode concludes on the dark images of Salvor and Hugo steering the ship away from Terminus, there are two other storylines to discuss, both involving the three Brothers. The aforementioned Brother Day travels to the Maiden, another planet full of religious believers (or zealots, if you like), with his android Demerzel (Laura Birn), who surprisingly follows in the belief of Luminism. Once off their ship, Brother Day is perplexed to be greeted by who he deems a heretic, Zephyr Halima (T’Nia Miller), whose whole belief system argues against the existence of any of the three cloned Brothers, believing each soul belongs to just one body and just one body should live just one life. Ostensibly, Brother Day is visiting to support Zephyr Gilat (Julia Farino) upon the death of Proxima Opal, noted a couple episodes ago. But even after Brother Day pledges to build a desalination system so the planet’s denizens always have clean water, it becomes clear that just about everyone on the planet sides with Zephyr Halima ... even Demerzel.

Foundation

Leah Harvey in 'Foundation' (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Back on Trantor, the rest of “Death and the Maiden” is about Brother Dawn (Cassian Bilton) and Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann), as the latter attempts to teach the former how to be a man. And Brother Dusk’s perception of masculinity is very retrograde, in that it leans heavily on how to hunt and how to have sex with beautiful women. Of course, as previous episodes made clear, Brother Dawn has his eyes set on just one woman, Azura (Amy Tyger), who tends to the garden outside of Brother Dawn’s sleeping quarters. Though Brother Dawn is plenty skilled in hunting — on his first day, he bags more alien creatures than Brother Dusk ever did, a fact he chooses to hide to avoid any issues of pride — he’s unwilling to perform sexually with a comely maiden whose memory will be wiped clean the next day, thus ensuring no awkward post-coitus. Instead, he brings Azura to his room and reveals something that’s no doubt a point of trouble going forward: he’s color-blind, the first clone of Emperor Cleon to be color-blind. After this revelation, he makes his move on Azura, and they kiss passionately. The tender romance aside, it’s likely not a good thing that Brother Dawn is color-blind, because if such a cosmetic flaw can exist in a clone what else could be changed?

For Foundation, the question is different. How else could this show maintain its momentum? The good news is that the events on Terminus with Salvor Hardin have become more important over the last few episodes, after barely being a whisper in the two-episode premiere. But considering that Gaal Dornick continues to offer narration at the start of each episode of the show, the writers aren’t doing their best job handling the character outside of that narration. Gaal is quite clearly a very important character, but every time the show acknowledges this, it runs away. Embrace the reality! Please.