Foundation S2E1 Recap: Magicians, Angels, and Provisional Brides

“In Seldon’s Shadow”

Foundation S2E1 - Gaal and Salvor stand holding hands with the rings of Synnax in the sky behind them
Apple TV+/Screenshot

The following recap contains spoilers for Foundation S2E1, “In Seldon’s Shadow” (written by David S. Goyer & Jane Espenson and directed by Alex Graves)

Welcome, dear reader, as we begin to review the second season of the Apple TV+ series Foundation with Season 2 Episode 1, “In Seldon’s Shadow.” The first season of Foundation was a little bumpy, if we’re being honest. The parts from the novels were actually the weakest link, as they fumbled around trying to convert Asimov’s largely cerebral content into a pew-pew style sci-fi action adventure. All the cerebral writing was poured into the added plot line regarding the Genetic Dynasty, which was nothing short of amazing.

This first episode of the second season has absolutely nothing to offer the book lovers. Even on Terminus, the vault opening ahead of the crisis is a divergence from the original stories. Upcoming heroes Hober Mallow and Poly Verisof have already been name dropped and will be participating later in the season, but we’ve not seen anything of them as of yet. And was that The Mule we caught a glimpse of in Gaal’s dream? Time will tell.

Foundation S2E1 - Harry Seldon in black and white raging against something unseen
Hari’s going a little crazy

Hari Seldon

Coming out of Season 1, we had two Hari Seldons left. The living, breathing Hari had to be killed by his adopted son Raych, in order to fade into the legend he needed to become. He left behind not one, but two digital avatars to guide the each of the two Foundations through their parts in the execution of The Plan. For this season, let’s call them First Foundation Hari and Second Foundation Hari.

Second Foundation Hari is going crazy. Again. Last season, he was already going a little crazy from having been frozen in the moment of his death for 35 years throughout Gaal’s cryosleep journey to Helicon. Now he’s been imprisoned by his tormentor once more, fully conscious this time for an additional 138 years. He’s been in isolation with nothing but time on his hands to rail against all the ways his Plan went sideways due to the unpredictable actions of Raych and Gaal. Not good.

Foundation S2E1 - Kalle leaning in close to Harry to whisper something to him
Kalle whispers instructions to Hari

Prime Radiant

When Gaal transfers him to the Prime Radiant, he finds he’s no longer alone. Another entity, who promises to be very much real, is gliding through the familiar faces of Hari’s wife Yanna and the author of the Ninth Proof of Folding herself, Kalle. It would appear that the Prime Radiant has achieved self-awareness, though that should be outside the parameters Hari designed. She helps guide Hari to discover where he is and how to escape, and Hari doesn’t seem to notice that she’s plumbing his thoughts and memories to do so. Which is more worrisome than her vested interest in only humanity’s destiny, as opposed to its survival.

The Prime Radiant seems to have a plan of her own. Once Hari escapes, she wants him to meet her somewhere so they can talk next steps. Somewhere in the physical world? That’s weird, because the Prime Radiant is physically on Synnax, and Second Foundation Hari is tied to it as the substrate for his very existence. She also tells him he’ll appreciate the effort down to his bones. Interesting wording, since he doesn’t actually have bones anymore.

Foundation S2E1 - Queen Sareth stands in the throne room with her entourage behind her
They’re right to be afraid of Queen Sareth


We start off with a bang, so to speak, as we return to Trantor and the Genetic Dynasty. Brother Day is “bedding” Demerzel, and even more shocking than that is their sexy talk. “Call me Cleon, baby! Yeah!” Yikes.

It’s interesting though that after the attack, when his life is on the line, Demerzel continues to call him Cleon. Does she feel something for him, as she apparently did for Cleon I? After all, she apparently initiated this intimacy between them. Wonder if that was before or after the idea of his impending marriage came up?

The provisional bride arrives with an impressive entourage. In the customary exchange of gifts, she is underwhelmed by Day’s gift of Trantor, nicely rendered in brass. Brass? Seriously? Queen Sareth is a feisty one, and Empire is clearly unprepared to be verbally sparring with a female in the midst of their sausage fest. This is going to be a fun development for this season.

Foundation S2E1 - Demerzel stands next to Brother Dawn in the briefing room
Demerzel counsels restraint


Demerzel saves Day from his back-peddle stammering with news from the Outer Reach. The body of Commander Dorwin from Season 1 has been discovered, and the Anacreon capture of the Invictus is now exposed. From there, it doesn’t take much to deduce that the Foundation never withered away as they assumed, but instead has flourished. They’ve been playing dead for over a century.

Brother Dusk urges immediate military action, but Demerzel counsels restraint. Could she be hedging her bets that Seldon was right about the current trajectory of the Empire, and exerting her influence now to protect the Foundation? Probably not, since if she were inclined to do so, she could have just buried the report in the first place.

Foundation S2E1 - Gaal and Salvor look up into the projection of the Plan from the Prime Radiant
The Plan is diverging

Gaal and Salvor

We pick up with Gaal Dornick and Salvor Hardin where we left off with them at the end of Season 1, marooned on Gaal’s home world of Synnax. Though maybe not completely marooned, as the Beggar is still down there some 30 meters below the current sea level, covered in coral.

Salvor is trying to reach out to Gaal and form a bond, but Gaal keeps pushing her away. Salvor had time to consider what this reunion would be like. She came to Synnax to find her mom, and hopefully to find her place in the universe. Gaal came here to die. She had no plan B to get off planet. She had lost everyone she loved and been betrayed by everyone she trusted.

Salvor does manage to coax Gaal into checking on the progress of the Plan, and they find out it’s not going well. Things have been diverging since the First Crisis was resolved, and only look to get worse. Gaal is finally motivated to try to get off world, and together they bring the Beggar back up to the surface. Gaal also opens up a bit and finally acknowledges a connection with her daughter, in that they are the last Synnaxians, sharing the bond of having everyone they knew and loved behind them.

With the hurricane looming, Salvor can’t get the systems online without the help of a digital ghost, Second Foundation Harry. Gaal refuses because she still doesn’t trust him, but Salvor only has the vision of the legend who she met at the Vault in mind. They need him. The decision is made for them when Hari finally escapes his prison and, in a booming digital voice, calls for Gaal and himself to have a reckoning.

Brother Day stands up in the healing pool with med techs standing all around him
Someone get this man a robe

Quick Takes

A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:

  • This Brother Day is Cleon the 17th. We ended Season 1 with Cleon the 12th in power.
  • There were quite a few instances of the Race Against the Clock trope in this episode. 12 seconds before Empire dies. The impending hurricane on Synnax. Holding their breath underwater. It feels very artificial and purposeless when we know these characters are not going to die in the given here and now. I hope this is not a sign of things to come this season.
  • So, who did attempt to assassinate Brother Day? Will this be like the central mystery of Season 1, who bombed the Star Bridge and introduced the genetic drift into the Cleon clones? A mystery which was never resolved. Are those central mysteries the work of the Mule operating in the background?
  • I love the little smirk Day gives Dawn when he sends the med techs scurrying to go find him a robe. Boys will be boys.
  • When he had the Shadow Master executed, Brother Day made the same hand gesture from Season 1 when he had everyone Azura ever knew executed. They always choose this.
  • Demerzel says that her consciousness is decentralized. In a way, so is Cleon’s.
  • Brother Dusk thanks Rue for the gift of the active chroma paints, rather than directing his thanks towards the Queen. That seemed a tad odd. Rue did mention having left Trantor some years ago as she and the Queen arrived via jump ship.
  • The Rings of Trantor fulfill the promise Cleon XII made to Cleon XI in S1E3 to build something from the remains of the Star Bridge, as they destroyed it during his Ascension.
  • In a flashback to Harry growing up on Helicon, we learn that his father was abusive. We’ll see where they go with this development. It certainly isn’t going to help his ever-worsening relationship with Gaal.
  • It’s a bit of a plot contrivance how Commander Dorwin’s body was found in the heart of the Outer Reaches, given that Empire had withdrawn from that area even before he was sent there in Season 1.
  • Entertainment Weekly has an interview with Lee Pace (Brother Day) where he breaks down the development and filming of that “cheeky” opening scene.
  • Foundation: The Official Podcast will be back for this season, featuring showrunner David S. Goyer and a rotating set of guests from cast and crew.

Best lines of the episode:

  • “What do I call you? Because, um…‘mom’ feels a little loaded.”
  • “Not a chance I’d let these butchers put me to sleep.”
  • “So, did they exploit someone’s gross negligence or were they assisted?”
  • “Right, nothing in common then. Except for that thing.”
  • “Any gift that’s given freely out of love is never indecent.”
  • “Oh, rest assured she’s enjoying my position very much. “
  • “We are drifting, surely, but steering into the rapids seems an odd cure.”
  • “You’re the last person I know, you are not allowed to die. “
  • “What if that darkness was by design rather than desperation?”
  • “Gaal Dornick! It’s time you and I had a reckoning!”
A mysterious shadowy figure stands in the midst of fires and destruction
Was this a glimpse of The Mule?


We end S2E1 with the First Foundation heading into their Second Crisis, war with Empire, as predicted by Hari Seldon’s psychohistory. However, without the unseen shepherding of the Second Foundation, the Plan is in jeopardy of actually increasing the coming age of darkness, instead of shortening it. Empire is facing a crisis of their own, a crisis of faith in the Genetic Dynasty. Brother Day wants to bring in new blood to rule the Empire with him, and someone else wants him dead for it. Overall, a promising beginning to this second season.

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 TV Obsessive will provide continuing coverage of Foundation throughout Season 2 and beyond.

All images courtesy of Apple TV+

Written by Brien Allen

Brien Allen is the last of the original crazy people who responded to this nutjob on Facebook wanting to start an online blog prior to Twin Peaks S3. Some of his other favorite shows have been Vr.5, Buffy, Lost, Stargate: Universe, The OA, and Counterpart. He's an OG BBSer, Trekkie, Blue Blaze Irregular, and former semi-professional improviser. He is also a staunch defender of putting two spaces after a period, but has been told to shut up and color.

One Comment

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  1. We must have different thoughts about “promising”. This was terrible. Worse than S1, and that’s saying a lot.

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