The following contains spoilers through Foundation S1E8, “The Missing Piece,” on Apple TV+, and also references the Foundation series novels.
Welcome, dear reader, as we continue to review the Apple TV+ series Foundation with Episode 8, “The Missing Piece.” While most of the episode titles have been pretty straight forward in their applicability to the content, I have to admit I’m not really sure who or what was the “missing piece” in this episode. Ah well. Maybe it’ll become clearer in hindsight as we close out the season with the final two episodes in the weeks ahead.
Not that it took away from the enjoyment of watching this epiode. It’s pretty obvious now why showrunner David S. Goyer said this one was his favorite of the season. It was a minor disappointment that we are back to putting one of the storylines on the shelf again, with the honor going to Brother Dawn this time. The Brother Day scenes more than made up for it however, with Demerzel just straight up stealing the show in the end. It’s departures for everyone, as Day leaves the Maiden, Gaal leaves the Raven, and Salvor leaves the entire galaxy potentially.
We start with Phara being all chatty with Salvor about her truncated childhood and her corresponding holy quest for revenge against the Empire. Their boarding party continues to plod along through the ship, getting picked off one-by-one as if they’re in a schlock horror movie. Eventually, Phara’s reverse Stockholm syndrome leads her to let her guard down enough for Salvor and Lewis to escape onto the bridge, just minutes ahead of the next scheduled jump.
While Phara has been trying to sway Salvor, Salvor has been cozying up to her second, Rowan. She can sense doubt in him. To Phara, there are no more children back on Anacreon, only warriors, but he actually has a daughter back home and probably disagrees. Maybe, just maybe, we are starting to get a glimpse of the Salvor who will someday embrace the mantra that “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” In between her fist fights and shoot outs with the Grand Huntress, of course.
Even though she didn’t get hooked up to the Invictus’ navigation system, I would guess that somehow it will intuit her desired destination and drop them all into a perfect orbit around Terminus. Note that while Phara passed out as the ship jumped, Salvor was still awake (just like Gaal). Perhaps while in transit, she’ll get to the navigator’s pod, plug herself in, and give the ship the guidance it seems to desire. Maybe she won’t even have to plug in. Presumably, when the Invictus jumped, it took all the Thespin lancers buzzing around with it, since they are also going to be needed to play out the final act of this crisis.
In last week’s review, I said Hologram Hari was getting pretty saucy with Gaal. This week, it’s Gaal’s turn, and she has had it with Hari keeping her in the dark. Granted, Hari makes a pretty good point that her “prescience” has already screwed up the plan twice now. Perhaps a little caution is not wholly uncalled for. But Gaal’s instincts are telling her to leave, and she forces the issue by taking a crowbar to the heat transfer system. We are dropped the hint that Hari could just program the cryopod to go where he wants it to go. For now though, we are left to assume that once again, Gaal has checked out of the story, and we won’t see her again for 138 Imperial standard years. Or next season, whichever comes first.
There are a few interesting revelations that come out of Hari and Gaal’s back and forth. Hari is forming a sister Foundation, which we’d expect from the novels, but so far they have nothing to do with mentalic abilities, which is a change. In fact, Hari is interested in studying Gaal’s ability to see if it could be of benefit to the Second Foundation. Spoiler alert: yes, it could. Goyer has said that he did not want the formation of the Second Foundation to occur off screen and have them sweep in as a deus ex machina in the third act to save the First Foundation. Apparently, we’re going to start from the ground up.
The bigger deviation that is probably going to have the hardcore book fans up in arms is the relocation of the Second Foundation to “here, at Star’s End, on Helicon.” The secret location of the Second Foundation becomes a driving factor in later novels, as the alias of “Star’s End” becomes this overarching riddle, with no one knowing what exactly the phrase means. Here, the interpretation is apparently going to be the only inhabited planet that orbits a dark star (a dark star being the “end” or a star’s life cycle, I guess?). Then again, since this is just the very early formation of the Second Foundation, the final location could certainly change once they are up and running in earnest.
Skip this part if you do not want a serious book spoiler. In the novels, the actual answer is Trantor, being the center of the Galactic Empire, “where all stars end.” Which was kind of a cool answer, as they were hiding in plain sight behind enemy lines all along. However, recall that Gaal’s opening narration from Episode 1 implied that Star’s End was at the edge of the universe, similar to Terminus: “When I was a child, I told my mother I wanted to learn every planet in the Galactic Empire… beginning in the center and moving out to Star’s End.” More unreliable narrator trickery, or a hint at a future deviation from the novels for a final location of the Second Foundation?
Brother Day’s big gamble paid off and he is feeling pretty smug about avoiding one of Seldon’s dire predictions. Not just in calling the audible on walking the Great Spiral, but also in bucking tradition by leaving Trantor and coming out to the Maiden in person. Through his not-at-all rash decision, he has not only preserved their legacy, but further cemented it with the 3 trillion followers of Luminism. No way Brother Dusk could have pulled this off. But the victory comes at some serious personal costs.
The first is his relationship with Demerzel. We can see Empire is still smarting from Demerzel’s “betrayal” as he rips the salt crystal off her bracelet, garnering a small gasp from her. Upon his return, he continues to test her loyalty by sending her to quietly assassinate Zephyr Halima. It was not enough to rub the heretic’s nose in his victory as he made his way through the “clamoring masses” he had originally anticipated.
As we previously discussed, Demerzel clearly backed Halima, initiating with her opinion that the Zephyr would have made a compelling Proxima. Like Brother Dawn confessing to the concubine who will have her memory wiped, Demerzel opens up to Halima and tells her the truth about herself. She is a prisoner in her own mind, able to have disloyal thoughts, but unable to act upon them. She thinks she has no soul, because if she did, perhaps she could disobey. Halima sees through the programming to the compassionate, remorseful soul within, forgiving Demerzel even as she is unknowingly administering her own death.
The second cost to Empire is even more personal. As haunted as Day has been by the “ghost of a dead man” up until this point in his life, his encounter—or lack thereof—in the Mother’s Womb is sure to haunt him for the rest of it. Even Demerzel, a robot, was graced with a vision. His mind flashes back to it as he is attended to by the Spacers, whom he declared so genetically altered that he barely thinks of them as human just a few days ago. Now, he has to face his own lack of humanity. One wonders how much of a push Demerzel is going to have to apply at his future Ascension, and how much she will inwardly enjoy it.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- This is reaching all the way back to Episode 6, but it occurred to me that it might not have been a coincidence that there was a concubine at the Gossamer Court who looked like Azura. Maybe Brother Dusk is not just onto Brother Dawn, but many steps ahead of him. The “special challenge” of the camouflaged raptor for his first hunt could have even been intentional.
- I’m a little late to the game here, but many online viewers have commented that there is a gardener who features prominently in the Foundation novels, wondering if Azura will play a similar role. This is a reference to Mandell Gruber, a character from Forward the Foundation, who ends up assassinating none other than Emperor Cleon I.
- We find out that Gaal has been able to “feel” the future for as long as she can remember. So much for the theory that it was somehow caused by waking up on the jump ship. Someone pointed out in a comment that she sensed Jerril, the Emperor’s spy, speaking to her before he actually spoke, and that was before the jump—so that theory was doomed anyway.
- I had a brief flash of disbelief that Hugo could so easily connect his suit to the Thespin mining operation communication system, but then recalled that he told Salvor that they were reliant on Empire technology. 35-year old technology, in fact, perfectly matching the aging space suit he’s wearing.
- Nice effect when the last of Phara’s redshirts got sucked into the hull breech and plugged it with his body until it could self-repair.
- The 700-year old Invictus predates the creation of the Spacers. Are they also something that Cleon I came up with? Or maybe the genetic technology that created them enabled his genetic dynasty scheme.
- Now we have Salvor fully buying into her “chosen one” status, believing herself to have been anointed by the great Hari Seldon himself to do what no other can do in her place! Uh, yeah. Given that Hari is still trying to recover the Plan from the monkey wrench that Gaal’s abilities threw into it, I’m doubtful this is going to be the truth of the matter for Salvor. My hope would be that the message coming out of the next two episodes is that Lewis was right. She is an outlier that psychohistory cannot account for, and the Plan is barely going to survive her attempt to carry it solely on her back.
- I guess we attribute the 700-year old gun still working for Salvor as another instance of her “luck” kicking in. So was it likewise her luck when it jammed when she had the drop on Phara?
- The length of the Great Spiral, 170 km, is just over four times the length of a marathon, to put it into perspective.
- So Demerzel can rip a person to pieces and secrete a contact poison through her skin. Yikes.
- I noticed that Demerzel did not directly tell Zephyr Halima that she is a robot, even though their escalating conversation practically demanded she just come out with it. It took Halima asking the right question for her to be able to drop the right hint. This had the same dodgy feel as her redirect of Brother Day’s question from “how” she came to believe to “why.”
- Finding the skulls and smashing one was a bit over the top. Why were there even skulls there? If there was some metaphorical message there, I missed it.
- The representative Zephyr asks Empire if he is familiar with the “mythology of the birthroot flower.” What religion refers to its own stories as mythology?
- If there are rumors that Cleon had the last intelligent robot, how could they not be linked to Demerzel? Does she change her appearance every so often? The glimpse we had of her 400 years ago with Cleon I would say no. Also, given that they want to use the same actors as visual anchors throughout the series, in past and future scenes, this seems unlikely just from a show mechanics perspective.
- Halima assumed Demerzel coached Empire. She knew that Cleon’s “vision” was all an act and that she had been played.
- The panel of Zephyrs call out Halima without calling her by name and with knowing looks in her direction, just as she did to Empire during her eulogy. Nice parallel and no doubt very satisfying for Empire.
- We get another planet in ecological disrepair with Nishaya, the manufacturing planet.
- Wild theory time: Maybe when they get back to Trantor, Demerzel will help Brother Dawn and Azura escape. Dawn could possibly even release her to some degree from her programming. Or, if Dusk doesn’t wait that long to make his move, perhaps Dawn does it to get back at his elder brothers for killing Azura and/or waking his replacement. Or better yet, the replacement does it.
- Now that we’ve seen this darker side of the Cleons’ relationship with the robot, it puts an even creepier spin on the idea that they might have sexual relations with her.
Best lines of the episode:
- “The gods did not just approve of my mission to destroy the Empire, they engineered it.”
- “I solved the Abraxas because I worked my ass off.”
- “I’m surprised they’re not all just hallucinating about food.”
- “You do luck, I do skill.”
- “Well, if one of us is going to sacrifice ourselves, it might as well be the outlier.”
- “This isn’t a trick. The Null Field doesn’t give a damn what planet you’re from.”
- “You can’t just die here.” “How could I choose to die anywhere else?”
- “Bye Hari.” “Goodbye Gaal.”
- “I wanted to express my condolences. You would have made a compelling Promixa.”
- “I see…genuine compassion in your heart, true remorse and I…I can’t explain it, but…I know that you have a soul. But the one who forces you to do this, who so cruelly tests your faith and loyalty? To me, he is a soulless man. I forgive you, Demerzel.”
- “Seeing nothing? I would not wish that emptiness on anyone.”
In the News
Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week (or so) related to Foundation:
- Comic Book Resources dropped another interview with Kubbra Sait (Phara Keaen) in which she unknowingly gifts us with her and Leah Harvey’s characters’ shipping name (“Phalvor”), and talks about how it felt to walk in the villainous footsteps of her idol and fellow Indian actor Amrish Puri, who played Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
- Bear McCreary (composer) posted a pretty cool video on his YouTube channel about the making of the music for Foundation and how they used mathematics and algorithms to build the score.
- We also learned from r/FoundationTV that production has begun on Season 2.
- He explained that they had to ditch the space suits as soon as possible during the Invictus scenes because it was so hard to film in them. For what it’s worth, he now wishes they had just cut to the raiding party already on board.
- The Invictus also jumps by making a black hole in its donut hole.
- There were two main pitches for the series. One was that it was a thousand year chess game between Hari and the Empire, with all the other characters as pawns. The other was the mentor-student relationship between Hari and Gaal. That relationship is at the heart of the show.
- He says both that the Second Foundation doesn’t appear until the third book, and that they couldn’t have them exist off-screen for three seasons. This gives us a little bit of an idea of the road map of novels to seasons, with Second Foundation (Book 3) starting in Season 4.
- He tells his actors he doesn’t want them “playing the future,” i.e. acting on foreknowledge of what comes next in the script. Therefore, only Jared Harris (Hari Seldon) was allowed to read all 10 scripts in advance, since it was in-character for Hari to have insight into the future. The others got their scripts doled out episode by episode.
- Goyer wants to get to a point in the show where Hari, or later Gaal, has to sacrifice an entire planet.
- He acknowledged that the Brother Dawn story is kind of a YA novel.
- The Cleon clones are sterile on purpose, recognizing that an heir would be threat to the whole system.
- Decanting a replacement Cleon has happened in the past.
- Hologram Hari was experiencing being stabbed over and over for 30+ years, until Gaal brought him out of it. They may explore long term effects of that trauma in the course of the show.
- Hari’s speech in the laundry room was also part of his myth making.
- Goyer points out some of the religious parallels, in that Hari can’t make it to Promised Land, and he had to die by a betrayer. I’d add that he even had a last supper.
That’s all for this week. Please let us know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episode, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below. Remember that 25YL will provide continuing coverage of Foundation throughout Season 1 and beyond.
All images courtesy of Apple TV+