Foundation S2E8 Recap and Analysis: The Outlier and the Left Hand

“The Last Empress”

Foundation S2E8 - Zoom in on Hober and Constant's held hands, showing her handcuff and his chip implanted by the Spacers
Screenshot/Apple TV+

The following recap contains spoilers for Foundation S2E8, “The Last Empress” (written by Liz Phang, Addie Manis & Bob Oltra and directed by Roxann Dawson).

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the 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 8: “The Last Empress.” This was another strong episode, but also a fun episode. Hober Mallow in particular has really come around for me with this episode. I was honestly a bit soured on the character with his introduction, but I’ll happily admit I cheered during Hober’s rescue of Constant.

Another fun moment was the meeting between Salvor and Dr. Seldon. This was even better than the hanging out with grandpa fishing scenes she had with his counterpart earlier in the season. All of which, of course, leads to the explanation for how Hober’s name came to be scrawled across the face of the Vault. An affront that at the time I said would have Asimov spinning in his grave, but now seems natural and obvious. I love it.

Foundation S2E8 - Rue and Dusk standing close and looking at each other face to face
Would their shipping name be “Rusk” or “Due?”

Dusk and Rue

I did not expect to be rooting for Dusk and Rue as a couple this season, but I’m really loving their interaction in this episode. Dusk catches Rue in the act of snooping around Demerzel’s quarters, but when she questions where the robot came from and what her real purpose is, they discover a glitch in Dusk’s mind. A response he’s programmed to have should he ever ponder such questions.

Dusk spots the 8-planet imprint on Demerzel’s tool chest and makes the connection to the one we spotted on the mural in Episode 4. Turns out that is a mural signifying the Robot Wars, and we get another enlightening exposition on the history of that conflict. There is a brushstroke without the telltale chroma pigment movement, but before the two can investigate any further though, they are called away to the execution.

Foundation S2E8 - Brother Day and Demerzel stand amid the ruins of the platform, Day yelling at people off screen
Stop them!

The Rescue

Last week, I had hoped for Hober to come to the rescue of Poly and Constant. I only got half that wish fulfilled, but the way it was done was spectacularly brilliant, and I loved every completely unrealistic moment of it.

Brother Day, once again following in Commdor Argo’s footsteps (from S2E3), has decided to make a public spectacle of executing the Foundation’s two representatives and is broad-beaming the event across the galaxy. After all, it’s perfect timing, coinciding with the anniversary of the execution of the Anacreon and Thespis delegations back in S1E2. Turning on that cultivated public charm, Day is having a grand time playing to the audience, including those back on Terminus.

Unfortunately, this lets Hober know exactly where Poly and Constant are, and he jumps in with the Spirit Rising to cancel the beheading. In the smoke and confusion, he manages to grab Constant, but Poly is still held prisoner. After a tense moment getting the Collar of Typhon off her, they blast off before any of the hostile craft can arrive.

Foundation S2E8 - Dawn looks on in disbelief at Day and Sareth, blurry and almost off screen
Brother Dawn is stunned by Sareth’s sudden loyalty to his brother


Regrouping back inside the palace, the Cleon clones are fragmenting. Brother Dusk, as always, is calling for swift, firm violence, but Brother Day sees another opportunity to go jaunting off-world, as his predecessor did last season. He would rather “talk” to Foundation and get the Empire’s property back. Demerzel chimes in convince him to stay, but Sareth unexpectedly backs up her husband-to-be and the matter is settled. In a slight to Brother Dusk, Day puts their younger Brother in charge and tasks him to keep Sareth safe.

With Day and Demerzel off planet, Dusk takes his girl Rue back to the mural wall and Dawn takes his girl Sareth down to the heat sinks. The older couple discover a hidden passage behind the Robot Wars mural, leading down into a chamber. A projection of Cleon I comes to life and informs them that this chamber was originally a prison. Is it a prison for Demerzel, or for someone she was keeping prisoner?

After a quick nanobot surgery, Dawn and Sareth enact their bloodless coup. They have a conversation paralleling the one Bel Riose had with Glawen, about ways they could remove Day from power. It’s pointless though, because Demerzel would stop them. Pulling on threads again, Dawn comes to the realization that Demerzel doesn’t really serve the Brothers. They’re just puppets. She only serves the original Cleon I. Demerzel is his true heir.

Foundation S2E8 - Tellum stands on the beach with Gaal standing some distance behind her
Tellem is in control of everything

Gaal and Salvor

Gaal confronts Tellem to find out what she has done with Salvor. Turns out Gaal felt Hari drown over the distance and has been hiding that knowledge, even from the Sighted leader. Tellem doesn’t mind though, being excited about this showing just how formidable Gaal has become being among her own kind. She also doesn’t mind because she actually has Gaal imprisoned, and their conversation on the beach is just another illusion.

Salvor is also imprisoned, waking up in a rock-walled silo when Josiah tosses down some food for her. He tells her that Gaal is being prepared for “the table,” a very special honor. Not good. Salvor wishes out loud that Hari was there, leading her to recall his words to her to protect the Prime Radiant. Which she has been carrying it around with her all this time, tucked away in the lining of her jacket! She puts it back together and places a long distance holo call to the Vault.

Foundation S2E8 - Dr. Seldon sits at his desk inside the Prime Radiant, a book spread out before him
The Doctor is in

Salvor and Dr. Seldon

In S2E4, Dr. Seldon told Hober Mallow that a “passing ghost” dropped his name. While it was fairly easy to guess the passing would have to be accomplished through the Prime Radiant, Kalle was my only guess at the time as to who the ghost could have been. Even if it had occurred to me that there were timeline shenanigans going on with our two stories being out of sync, I never would have guessed Salvor as being the ghost.

And now, what seemed at the time to be one of the most egregious affronts to the original novels imaginable is explained away in a genuinely satisfying full-circle moment. As predicted, just the merest hint of how Salvor appeared is all Dr. Seldon needs to piece together that there is a Second Foundation and that his role is to be the “left hand” blissfully unaware of what the right hand is doing.

Ever the outlier, Salvor throws in one more tidbit on her way out the virtual door: Hober Mallow is going to “pierce the Empire’s hide.” Dr. Seldon admonishes her that she shouldn’t have told him that, but once she is gone and he’s sitting back at his desk, he has a Bilbo Baggins “after all, why shouldn’t I?” moment. He picks up a tablet and scrawls the name “Hober Mallow,” which appears on the Vault exactly as we saw in S2E2. Well done writers.

Foundation S2E8 - Selmak sits alone on the Vault hillside, looking at the empty seat behind him
Sermak waits


Hober and Constant arrive at Terminus to find it surrounded by hundreds of Imperial vessels. Running dark and unable to jump away without alerting the fleet, they seize the moment to have sex. Afterwards, Hober is going to finally open the Locris wine to celebrate, when they are surprised by the voice of General Roise over the ship’s comms. They’ve been re-apprehended in the name of Empire, though strangely he promises to make them comfortable on board the Shining Destiny. Interesting.

Meanwhile, Constant’s father walks out to the Vault to vent his grief in the general direction of Dr. Seldon, and the ghost actually comes out to talk with the Director. Once again, we revisit the overarching theme of psychohistory not being able to account for individuals. Dr. Seldon reiterates that he cannot predict the fates of individuals, such as Brother Constant, but adds that it is built upon the foundation of individuals—their memories, choices and stories. Individuals do matter.

Looking down on Gaal laying on a stone table
A very special honor

Tellem Bond

Gaal awakens on the aforementioned table where, as we predicted, Tellem is going to relocate her consciousness into Gaal’s mind. Tellem villain monologues the rest of her backstory, and we find out she’s done this many times, gaining power with each incarnation. Gaal tries to appeal to the Sighted surrounding them, but it appears they are all under Tellem’s direct control, and maybe they have been all along.

Looks like this was the real reason for the celebration earlier. Their goddess’ impending resurrection ceremony. Even the pipe playing was part of the preparations. The tuning plates are aligning. Salvor had better hurry up.

Josiah peers down through a square hole into a dark space
Josiah peeks in on Salvor

Quick Takes

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

  • Roxann Dawson, the director of this episode, is better known in sci-fi genre circles for having played B’Elanna Torres on Star Trek: Voyager. She was also the guest for this week’s Official Podcast.
  • The green brushstroke on the neck of the central figure on the Robot Wars mural is similar to the one Brother Dusk pointed out to Brother Dawn on the mural of the traitorous Emperor Algren back in S2E5. Assuming that figure is supposed to be Demerzel, who did she betray? Her fellow robots? Or Empire, and this is the secret she has been keeping from the Cleon clones?
  • What is the last secret that Gaal is keeping from Tellem?
  • Oh no! Good girl Beki died. I guess that means they aren’t using bishop’s claws to pilot their whisper-ships through hyperspace. So much for that theory.
  • Bel Riose and Glawen Curr cheering for Hober Mallow was definitely an amusing little aside. I’m looking forward to seeing the General and Hober face to face again more so than I am seeing the rematch of Brother Day and Dr. Seldon.
  • Director Sermak tells Dr. Seldon that he didn’t want his daughter becoming one of his mendicants. Had to look that one up. Roughly, it means monks of a religious order that live as homeless beggars.
  • Will Hober ever guess Constant’s real name?
  • Constant points out that Hober’s wrist is glowing, the thing that we spotted still embedded in there after She-Is-Center released his handcuffs last episode. Was it a tracker of some sort, and that’s how General Riose found them? Or have the Spacers been spying on his continuing adventures?
  • Day wonders what Demerzel sees while the humans are sleeping through the hyperspace jumps. Given the possibility of an impending Spacer treason, I wonder if that was brought up because that’s how he’s going to meet his demise?
  • If Gaal hadn’t shown up, I wonder if Josiah would have been Tellem’s next vessel? She didn’t say it was always a girl, only “another child.”
Dr. Seldon looks down through a clear tablet surface on which he has written "Mallow" in cursive
Putting his thumb on the scale

Best lines of the episode:

  • “She will always be here, as she always has been.”
  • “Please, no more babe-in-the-woods from you.”
  • “Guide me through the darkness.”
  • “Damn fool just declared war on our behalf.”
  • “Just close your eyes, and if you hear something drop, well, just know how grateful I am to you.”
  • “How did you even find us?” “You kidding? The whole damn galaxy knows where you are.”
  • “Still think it should’ve been us?” “Nah. Our ship would never fit on that balcony.”
  • “You will have a planet as a wedding gift.”
  • “Wife and widow are both called Empress.”
  • “I shouldn’t say, but it’s a very special honor.” “I don’t like the sound of that.”
  • “F—. I’m the left hand.”
  • “You tell me she’ll survive, and I’ll believe you.” “If that was so, you would’ve chosen the robes.”
  • “There is no egg so strong it survives a nuclear blast.”
  • “You’re worried this would kill my father?” “Sermak? No, no. Arguably that’s a plus.”
  • “If the left hand doesn’t get to put its thumb on the scale, what’s the point in having a thumb?”
Zoom in on Demerzel's face, lit by red light
The last empress


Last week I declared Episode 7 my favorite of the series, but this one might come in a close second. Lots of good full circle moments paying off things that were set up earlier in the season. They even made me care about Director Sermak for a moment there. And we still have two more episodes. This sophomore season is turning out to be solid improvement over the first.

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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