What to Watch Verdict
A season full of questions ends with plenty more of them, as Foundation season wraps up.
From beginning to end, Foundation has been one of the most remarkable visual spectacles
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 still feels vaguely defined
It is still very hard to see what the future holds for this show and its vast, sprawling story
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 a satisfying film. But the first 10-episode season is almost an argument against itself. Should this have been something shorter?
Foundation season 1 finale “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 drags. What does happen is momentous enough, though not as momentous as the triumphant music from Bear McCreary (The Rings of Power) would have you believe. (His scoring is good, but it elevates undeserving material.)
Foundation's penultimate episode ended with yet another 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 mission can stay on 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 meets 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.
Salvor’s mother reveals she used a fertilized egg from another donor to have her. That donor — Gaal Dornick. And 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 all-too-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 to peek through.
But although “The Leap” has some surprising moments, just like the whole first season it could’ve covered the same ground much more quickly and effectively.
More Foundation season 1
- Foundation season 1 premiere review: episodes 1 and 2
- 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 8 review: The Missing Piece
- Foundation season 1 episode 9 review: The First Crisis
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.
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