What to Watch Verdict
While this episode of Foundation raises the emotional stakes for its leads, the cumulative effect is less impressive.
Lee Pace pulls off a carefully sly performance here as Brother Day's dark interior is further revealed
Jared Harris is agreeably coy as ever
The tension in all three storylines is solid without being truly remarkable
It's hard to see how any of these storylines are going to connect with each other by the end of the season
As impressive as this show looks, its characters remain a weak spot
There's an emptiness to the current cliffhanger surrounding Gaal Dornick
Every episode of Foundation season 1 feels like two steps forward, and one step back. That sense hovers over the entirety of "The Missing Piece," the eighth episode of the show's first season, in which three of the four major storylines get screen time but without any feeling of progress toward an endgame. If anything, this episode only exacerbates the distinct feeling that we're watching very separate storylines that are nowhere near coming together.
Think of the general arcs of each of the stories we focus on in this episode (the events on Trantor with Brothers Dawn and Dusk have to wait, as they're sidelined). First, there's the story with Brother Day (Lee Pace). While Pace's performance is excellent as usual, with an effective balance of cruelty and charm, what occurs to Brother Day in this episode only teases at the crux of the clones' arcs. Brother Day is currently being challenged by Zephyr Halima (T'Nia Miller) as being the defective end result of a decades-long experiment that has removed any humanity from the Cleon Empire. To prove her wrong, Brother Day has committed to run a physical gauntlet, in which he will walk through the vast Spiral. Legend has it that anyone who completes this arduous journey is greeted by a profound vision that will reshape their entire worldview. The question at the core of Brother Day's journey is simple: will he be able to complete the trek, see a vision and be able to prove his humanity?
At first, the answer to both questions appears to be a resounding "yes." On the first question, there's no doubt: though Brother Day winds up with sunburnt skin and chapped lips (having to walk through the Spiral in a baking desert), he completes the quest. When he returns to share his vision with Zephyr Halima and her fellow Zephyrs, it seems like he's being genuine about what he saw at the cave at the end of the Spiral. It wins over Halima's fellow Zephyrs and even Demerzel (Laura Birn), Brother Day's robotic advisor.
Once Brother Day has completed his journey and proven his worth, he gives Demerzel a flower as a sign of her next job: to murder Zephyr Halima, which she does bloodlessly (through poison secreted on the skin). Demerzel, though she's still just a robot, seems to have far more humanity than her master. In the final moments of "The Missing Piece," she says she's glad Brother Day had a vision because to reach the end of the Spiral and be greeted by nothing at all would be a fate worse than death. And it's more than obvious from the look on Day's face that his description of his vision earlier was a complete (yet effective) lie. He saw nothing at the Spiral, thus confirming that the dead Halima was right — he has no soul.
The storyline imbued with the most mystery continues to be that focusing on Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell). After having wound up on a mysterious rescue ship 35 years after being sent into a cryogenic escape pod, she encountered a digitized version of the now-dead Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) while also realizing that the ship is headed to Helicon, Hari's home planet. In this episode, Gaal learns why from the ever-enigmatic Hari. Although she was meant to lead the Foundation on the planet of Terminus, Hari had something of a backup plan. Yes, there's meant to be a second Foundation on Helicon, one that's so secretive that the denizens of Terminus aren't supposed to be aware of its existence.
Gaal's own ability to see briefly into the future is somewhat sidestepped here because she's understandably more concerned about why the second Foundation needs to exist and more importantly why it needs to be kept secret from everyone else. Hari, even in digitized form, refuses to share any further details of the second Foundation. And so Gaal decides to call his bluff. She has a violent temper tantrum and destroys many of the ship's protective systems. She gives Hari a couple of choices: either he can come clean about the second Foundation or Gaal will hop into another cryogenic escape pod and head back to her own home planet. Though Hari points out he could reprogram the pod to go wherever he wants it to go, he seems to let Gaal carry on with her bluff. She sets the destination for her home planet, in spite of the fact that she'll be in cryo-stasis for more than 100 years.
There are just two episodes left in the show's first season, so there's every hope that this is not the last we have seen of Gaal and Hari. Because if this is where the story ends (at least for now) for Gaal, it is mightily disappointing. Though we've already gotten clarity about why Hari died and why his adopted son was the one to do the deed, there is a maddening sense that we've just gotten to know who Gaal is. She serves as the show's narrator, and her journey felt like the core arc of the two-episode premiere. Since that time, Llobell's performance has felt as adrift as Gaal herself is. Fingers crossed there's more to learn about Gaal in the final two installments.
There is, of course, one major storyline left to discuss, and that's the one focusing on Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey), the Warden of Terminus. The primary thrust of this side of things is a ticking-clock deadline: there's only so much time left before the Invictus, the previously-thought-vanished ghost ship, makes a jump through space into parts unknown. Phara (Kubbra Sait), the leader of the Anacreons who forced Salvor to leave Terminus, is desperate to use the Invictus as a massive suicide-bomb ship of sorts, intended to destroy Trantor from the outside in.
Throughout the episode, as Salvor tries to get Phara — who we first see in a brief flashback as a child, radicalized when her planet is attacked for no good reason — to lay down her arms and change her plans, it's clear that a path of peace is impossible. The ship has been located by roving members of the planet of Thespis, but more importantly, Phara is steadfast and stubborn in her refusal to change her mind. The resolution of this storyline, for now, involves Salvor's fellow Terminus compatriot Lewis (Elliott Cowan) being shot for trying to help Salvor change the ship's course. And then the ship itself reaches its final countdown and makes the jump through space.
We will presumably find out the answer to this question soon, but here's the core issue with Foundation so far: all of these storylines seemingly have nothing to do with each other. It's not that the performances here are bad, and the show's production values remain remarkable. But it's hard to see where Foundation is going. And just like Gaal Dornick herself when faced with the ghostly and Cheshire Cat-like Hari Seldon, I'm getting tired of not knowing the endgame.
More Foundation season 1
- Foundation season 1 premiere review: episodes 1 and 2 review
- Foundation season 1 episode 3 review: The Mathematician's Ghost
- Foundation season 1 episode 4 review: Barbarians at the Gates
- Foundation season 1 episode 5 review: Upon Awakening
- Foundation season 1 episode 6 review: Death and the Maiden
- Foundation season 1 episode 7 review: Mysteries and Martyrs
- Foundation season 1 episode 9 review: The First Crisis
- Foundation season 1 episode 10 review: The Leap
Josh Spiegel is a freelance cultural critic who has been published in Slashfilm, SyFy, ScreenCrush, The A.V. Club, The Hollywood Reporter, The Washington Post and others. His favorite films include Singin’ in the Rain, The Rocketeer, Pinocchio and A Matter of Life and Death. His favorite TV shows include Ted Lasso, Only Murders in the Building, Deadwood and Lost. He lives in Phoenix with his wife, two sons and too many cats.