A season full of questions ends with plenty more of them, as 'Foundation' wraps its opening 10 episodes.
- - From beginning to end, 'Foundation' has been one of the most remarkable visual spectacles of the year in TV
- - Lee Pace's performance is perfectly modulated in this finale
- - The big twist regarding Salvor Hardin feels perfectly logical with what's come before
- - The pacing of the finale is unnecessarily slow
- - What little happens feels vaguely defined
- - It is still very hard to see what the future holds for this show and its vast, sprawling story, in ways that are less intriguing than confusing
Not every literary adaptation fits into a snug box. Some books are best suited for the big screen and wind up as overlong, poorly paced TV shows. Some books end up as films that gut context and character development in place of fast-paced action. Foundation, as it wraps up its first season, occupies a weird little purgatory. There’s no way the Isaac Asimov series could be turned into satisfying films. But the first 10-episode season is an argument against itself. Should this have been something shorter?
“The Leap,” written and directed by co-creator David S. Goyer, isn’t overlong, clocking in at 60 minutes. But arguably very little happens in “The Leap”, and the time spent getting there is draggy. What does happen is momentous enough, though not as momentous as the triumphant music from Bear McCreary would have you believe. (His scoring is good, but it’s elevating undeserving material.)
Foundation's penultimate episode with a cliffhanger: on Terminus, three groups of antagonistic people were greeted by the occupant of the mysterious Vault, Hari Seldon (Jared Harris). Though Seldon is still dead, he holds court in the first quarter of “The Leap,” trying to ensure that the Foundation’s true plot can keep its course. Seldon explains that when his casket was shot into space, it transformed itself into the Vault and revived him in yet another digital form, similar to the one encountered by Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) on a rescue ship. However, as is evidenced by Hari asking where Gaal is, this isn’t the same Hari that she met.
Hari finds some initial unwillingness from the members of Terminus, Thespis and Anacreon, but they’re soon won over by his larger plan. The point isn’t for Terminus to collect historical information for future generations to put a plan into action: it’s for them to enact a plan that will make the Empire think all three planets are wiped out. They can use the Invictus as a Trojan Horse of sorts, creating an explosive effect to fool the Empire and free themselves to shore up an army. They’ll need that army to take on the Empire in what Hari promises will be a war to determine the true fate of humanity.
Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey) is dismayed, but not by Hari’s plan or even that Hari is going back into the Vault for an indeterminate period of time. It’s that Hari says sincerely (but with this guy, who knows) that he’s not responsible for the visions Salvor has had of Gaal’s time with him decades ago. After Hari leaves, and some older members of Terminus reveal their frustrations — Salvor’s mother realizes he’d given them “busy work” to complete for decades — there’s one big revelation left.
While Salvor’s mother gave birth to her, she used a fertilized egg from another donor — Gaal Dornick. And who was the father? Raych Seldon (Alfred Enoch). Salvor has had visions of Gaal, because Gaal is her mother and Raych her father. Salvor decides to leave in the dead of night to find Gaal, bidding a heartfelt goodbye to her lover Hugo (Daniel MacPherson), with the expectation that she’ll never see him again.
On Trantor, Brother Dawn (Cassian Bilton) is praying for deliverance from the newly arrived Brother Day (Lee Pace), after it was revealed that Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann) was aware of Dawn’s genetic imperfections and that Dawn’s tender romance with palace worker Azura (Amy Tyger) was a lie in the hopes of overthrowing the Empire. Brother Day first completes a nasty campaign of vengeance against Azura.
After letting Dawn out of his handcuffs, he takes Azura for a walk around the palace, talking about how she ruined Day’s legacy for the first time. So he ruins hers, by killing the hundreds of people in her bloodline, her friends, teachers, neighbors and distant connections. He doesn’t kill Azura, but he might as well have.
Yet Brother Day’s harshness evaporates when making a final decision about Brother Dawn. To Dusk’s rage, Day acts humanely and liberates Dawn, inspired by his time in the Spiral on the Maiden. Dusk won’t have it though, he and Day begin a vicious brawl. That is until the robot Demerzel (Laura Birn) snaps Dawn’s neck. Despite being a pious believer of those on the Maiden, she reveals her programming is to remain loyal to the Cleon Empire. It’s a horrifying surprise, compounded by the last time we see Demerzel, as the robot literally tears her human face away out of heartbreak.
Day gets one more gut-punch of a surprise from the palace Shadow Master: Dawn wasn’t the only genetically modified clone. So too were Day and possibly Dusk.
The last 10 minutes of the episode take place 138 years later, the exact amount of time it takes Gaal Dornick in a cryo-pod to arrive at her home planet of Synnax. Gaal arrives to find the place in ruins, except for a flashing beacon underwater. She swims down to find another cryo-pod. Who’s inside? Her daughter, Salvor, who returns to Gaal the cube she used to open the Vault.
And that wraps season 1 of Foundation. Once more with feeling: this show looks amazing. As much as “The Leap” moves slowly, Goyer lets the audience drink in the costuming, sets and very believable special effects. And there were no slouches among the performers, though Pace shines brightest in episodes like this, as Brother Day allows a glimmer of pained humanity peek through.
But as much as I appreciate Foundation featuring characters frustrated with Hari Seldon’s sphinx-like approach to sharing the barest amount of information possible, I fear that style is what Goyer is emulating. Withholding information for dramatic purpose is a natural creative choice, but Goyer’s keeping things close to the chest as if he refuses to move things along. “The Leap” has some surprising moments, much like the entire first season of Foundation, but it could’ve covered the same ground much more quickly and effectively.
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