Foundation S2E3 Recap and Analysis: Humanizing Hari

“King and Commoner”

Foundation S2E3 - The Prime Radiant sits on the sand with the Beggar's loading ramp down in the background
Courtesy of Apple TV+

The following recap contains spoilers for Foundation S2E3, “King and Commoner” (written by Leigh Dana Jackson & Jane Espenson and directed by David S. Goyer).

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Welcome, dear reader, as we continue to review the second season of the Apple TV+ series Foundation with Season 2 Episode 3: “King and Commoner.” Showrunner David S. Goyer has been saying in interviews that this season they wanted to flesh out Hari Seldon’s back story. Just as he’s being deified by the Foundation, the show would be working to humanize him. Who knew they would take it so literally though?

This episode was one for the boys. Along with Hari’s detour to get himself a body, the large part of the action was dedicated to introducing us to the novel characters Bel Riose and Hober Mallow. Gaal and Salvor function pretty much as Uber drivers, and Queen Sareth sat this one out entirely. Though behind the scenes, it is Demerzel and Kalle (if they can be considered female characters) who are the ones moving around the chess pieces.

Foundation S2E3 - Hari stands between Gaal and Salvor with a smirk on his face
Never let a digital entity control your ship


Even though Gaal keeps saying she doesn’t trust Hari, they let him do the navigating while they chat about the ramifications of Gaal’s vision of Salvor dying. Sure enough, instead of taking them to Ignis to initiate the Second Foundation, he’s brought them to Oona’s World. The place is barely hospitable. A former imperial mining planet that has been hollowed out by Empire and thrown away.

Here I want to take a detour of my own to discuss the use of the word “f***” in this episode. It’s a bit jarring to hear young Gaal drop the F-bomb after Hari drops his own bombshell, though not completely inappropriate. However, she goes on to say it again, and then Salvor says it, and then we get the Foundation Jedi Council scene where everyone takes a turn or two saying it. To the point that seven minutes into the episode, I’m wondering if the writers had a bet with someone to see just how many times they could drop the F-bomb in a single episode. 15 by the way, in case you’re wondering.

I’m no prude, don’t get me wrong. Some of those instances were completely appropriate and flowed like normal conversation you’d expect from fully functioning adults. However, a lot of it came off like middle school boys trying to one up each other in the locker room. I don’t know what the writers were up to, but I sincerely hope this doesn’t continue to be a trend throughout the rest of the season.

Foundation S2E3 - Hari lays on the floor of the Beggar's loading bay looking very scared
How is this possible?


Tired of their bickering, Salvor kicks Hari and Gaal off the Beggar to go do whatever it is that is on the Prime Radiant’s travel itinerary. Along the way, Hari gives Gaal a bit of a history lesson on the planet, because after all, it is called psycho-history. That leads back into the bickering, round and round, until they reach the Monuments to Industry.

When they arrive at the wall that is actually a door, they are met by Kalle. A seemingly living, breathing Kalle, much to Gaal’s surprise, because she was supposed to have died centuries ago. Mysteriously, Kalle says that Gaal can ask what that means when they meet up again—if the future allows it. Hari transfers over to the other side and the wall comes slamming back in place.

Back at the Beggar, Salvor talks Gaal into leaving Hari behind. As they make narrow escape #1 from the mining machines, both the ship and Gaal sense a life form in the mountains. It’s Hari. Salvor flies them over to the outstretched hand of the statue and Gaal rappels down to grab him. They make narrow escape #2 from the machines and fly off with no man left behind. Assuming he is a man.

Foundation S2E3 - Kalle stands in darkness with a glowing orb in front of her
Til we meet again


Book spoilers ahead, skip to the next section if you want to stay clear.

Gaal’s question to the observing Kalle is an apt one, “What are you?!” What, not who. Because when their sensors picked up Hari’s new body as a life-form, they detected no other life forms. Yet Kalle was right there. Despite appearances to the contrary, she wasn’t alive. You know what that means.

In his latest AMA on Reddit r/television, showrunner David S. Goyer dropped an amazing bombshell of his own. “We will be expanding on Asimov’s 3 laws. And Demerzel is Daneel. We can confirm that.” This sheds some rather obvious light on what’s going on in this scene. It would seem pretty clear that Kalle here is a robot. Demerzel is not the last of her kind after all. Though it remains to be seen whether their goals are aligned or not.

Working backwards then, the Kalle in the Prime Radiant was likely planted there for one of the two digital Hari’s to discover. Planted by whom? Well, who helped Hari program the Prime Radiant? His wife Yanna. Coincidentally, the first form the entity in the Prime Radiant took. Also coincidentally, Hari mentions on the trek out that they were unable to have children of their own, as would be true if your wife was a robot. While she is not a character from the books, Hari’s wife in the prequel novels was the robot Dors Venabili, who was initially assigned to protect Hari by none other than R. Daneel Olivaw.

Foundation S2E3 - Commdor Argos holds up his left wrist with the castling device on it
He knows what he’s doing

Hober Mallow

Bless Director Sermak for voicing the concerns I raised last episode. “How could Seldon’s math foresee someone specific like Hober Mallow could even be born, much less request his presence?” Nonetheless, the Foundation Council sends High Cleric Verisof and his trusty sidekick, Brother Constant, to go fetch the man of ill repute and walk him into that Vault.

Hober is on the planet Korell, pulling off an elaborate heist, apparently before a world-wide television audience. They love their public spectacles on Korell, it would seem. He’s using Foundation technology to steal the Eye of Korell from right under the nose of the planet’s despotic ruler, Commdor Argo. Apparently, his plan is to steal the gem, get caught, almost get executed, re-steal the gem and make yet another thrilling narrow escape—on purpose.

The only way I can make sense of this “plan” is if he was intending to assassinate the Commdor in the process. A nicely ironic “Death by Titan’s Prick!” Perhaps Hober is more noble than I give him credit for, and not just a con man turned thief. He is certainly not the master trader of the novels. Nor is it readily apparent how this could possibly be the guy who, according to the Mule, is going to pierce the hide of the Empire.

Foundation S2E3 - Demerzel stands in front of Prisoner 713 standing in a pit, other guards and prisoners look on from all around
An offer he can’t refuse

Prisoner 713

On the prison world of Lepsis, Demerzel arrives to bring an offer to Prisoner 713. Empire needs the Hero of the 20th Fleet. Demerzel lures the General into thinking he is negotiating from a position of strength. She denies his request that all his fellow prisoners go free, which he knew was unrealistic, but does grant them longer breaks, better equipment and medical care. Then she topples his arrogance with the mention of one name, Glawen Curr. His husband.

There is a wonderful moment here between Demerzel and General Riose after she dangles the prospect of that reunion. She tells him that she knows hope is painful. Oh yes, she certainly does. We’ve witnessed her seeing a Brother Darkness off to his Ascension, noting that he always leaves her. She also had to kill young Cleon XIV with her bare hands, rending her face off in agony afterwards. Now with Cleon XVII, who is mentally just as divergent as his color blind, left-handed predecessor, she is doing everything she can to avoid the same fate.

Assuming the Zeroth Law of Robotics applies to this series, Demerzel and Bel Riose have much in common. For Demezel, that Law would have her put the long-range interest of humanity as her foremost driving concern (not too dissimilar from Kalle’s “vested interest in humanity’s destiny”). Riose is likewise constantly looking out for other people, be it his sailors in the 20th Fleet, his fellow prisoners on Lepsis, or the trillions of people who are disposable to their weak emperor. Both are working within the confines of the Galactic Empire to attempt to enact an unobtainable utilitarian ideal.

Foundation S2E3 - The Galactic Empire symbol branded is revealed on the back of Bel Riose's neck
The mark of the Empire

Bel Riose

On Trantor, Riose tries to regain the upper hand with Empire by coming to him in the disheveled state that he made him. Day is unimpressed, dismissing him to go back to Lepsis and have the husband killed. Riose wins him back though with a request to speak frankly and privately. Likely the idea strikes a similar bell to his verbal sparring with Queen Sareth the previous day, which he seemed to enjoy.

Empire tries to egg Riose into striking him, but the General refuses on the grounds of his oath of service. With that, Riose is finally permitted to be reunited with Glawen, who helps him get cleaned up. When Glawen finds Empire’s brand on his neck, Bel finally breaks down, apologizing for sacrificing the last six years of their relationship.

Day and Demerzel engage in a little voyeurism foreplay, watching the two men reconnect on an intimate level. Day confesses there was no right answer to his test, Riose just seemed like a strong person. Demerzel tries to find praise in this capricious decision, but Day can only wonder if he’s making the decisions, or if it’s just a genetic sense memory of good policy that guides his actions. Bottom line, he’s a hot mess.

Foundation S2E3 - She-Bends-Light stands on the bridge in uniform
She-Bends-Light has a sense of humor

Quick Takes

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

  • Gaal also now knows she isn’t going to die in the next 150 years.
  • Poly’s metaphor that psychohistory is “a landscape that sometimes narrows down into a dangerous mountain pass that can’t be avoided” is brilliant. That is exactly how the crises are supposed to be presented and solved.
  • Commdor Argo says they’ve heard “gruesome stories of men porting across planets collapsing in agony.” I hope we get a follow up to that little tidbit.
  • In case you missed it, Hober pretty much announces at his execution that he was about to invoke the castling device, saying “And here I am, I have no move that will not put me in check.” Bold as brass, that one.
  • When General Riose is reunited with the crew of the Destiny, we meet She-Bends-Light and learn a bit about spacers. We knew her kind had been genetically engineered to withstand hyperspace travel by the Galactic Empire (pre-dating the Genetic Dynasty). We did not know that they also built in a need for the substance opalesk, which Empire keeps stranglehold on to control the spacers. Look for that to become important in some future season when the Foundation frees the spacers from their servitude.
  • Now Gaal can slap Hari. Probably also worth noting that he will now be susceptible to mentalics as well.
  • They literally winked at the audience with that final vision of Kalle standing in the closing eye of the statue.
Foundation S2E3 - A symbol is engraved in a circle on a stone wall
What do we make of this symbol?

I’ve been a little remiss in pointing out interesting articles and interviews in the last couple of recaps, so here’s a few to get us caught up.

  • S2E1 featured a box in Demerzel’s possession decorated with what can only be interpreted as the planets of the Sol system (source: Reddit r/FoundationTV).
  • Redditor u/atticdoor is also maintaining this amazing timeline on r/FoundationTV of all the events seen or called out in Season 1 and Season 2 thus far.
  • The Streaming Heap podcast (formerly known as Cracking Foundation) has returned for this season and is always a worthwhile listen.
  • Comic Book Resources has a brief interview with Cassian Bilton (Brother Dawn) about how he sets that version of Cleon apart from the others.
  • The Hindu has a really nice interview with Nimrat Kaur, who played Hari’s wife, Yanna Seldon. Makes it sound like we’ll be seeing more of her this season.
  • interviews Pace Lee (Brother Day) and Laura Birn (Demerzel) together to discuss the dynamics of the complicated relationship between their characters as it has evolved in this new season.
  • WhatToWatch talks to Ben Daniels (Bel Riose) about the vibrant backstory he gave his character, based off the Roman general that Isaac Asimov based the character on.
  • One last post from r/FoundationTV with some fun behind the scenes photos from the assassination attempt fight in S2E1.
Foundation S2E3 - Salvor sitting at the controls of the Beggar giving a hard eye roll expression
Moms universally annoy their daughters

Best lines of the episode:

  • “Uninhabited doesn’t mean we’re alone.”
  • “Whatever the case, we don’t have time to cry and clasp our icons.”
  • “How do you know all this? Why do you know all this?” “It’s called psycho-history, Gaal.”
  • “Well Gaal, it is my plan.”
  • “I ain’t afraid to die.” “That’s why we want you.”
  • “I know hope is painful. You don’t have to hope. Just come with me.”
  • “Hmm. It’s very bad.”
  • “Open a wall, it becomes a door.”
  • “Yeah, that’s the thing with parents, isn’t it? Never quite who you build them up to be.”
  • “A weak emperor needs a strong general.”
  • “They’re not on your face.”
  • “All those years opalesk mining, and you still only brought me remnants under your fingernails.”
Foundation S2E3 - Gaal yells at something offscreen
What is Kalle?


With the detour to make Hari a real boy complete, our Second Foundation crew should hopefully make it to Ignis next episode to see who is calling to them there. With General Riose out of his hair, Empire can turn his attentions back to Queen Sareth and vice versa. Meanwhile, Bel Riose himself seems to be on a collision with Hober Mallow, his polar opposite. Can war with Empire be avoided? Not according to the trailers, but we’ll see how it all plays out.

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.

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