Foundation S2E9 Recap and Analysis: This Is Not Freedom

“Long Ago, Not Far Away”

Foundation S2E9 - Demerzel looks out a ship view port, the blazing swirl of the destroyed Terminus reflected in the window
Courtesy of Apple TV+

The following recap contains spoilers for Foundation S2E9, “Long Ago, Not Far Away” (written by Jane Espenson & Eric Carrasco and directed by Roxann Dawson).

Welcome, dear reader, as we continue to review the second season of the Apple TV+ series Foundation with Season 2 Episode 9: “Long Ago, Not Far Away.” Another solid episode, with two very large surprises dropped in our laps. Just when I had completely accepted that human Hari was dead, he pops back up, deus ex machina style, and resolves the conflict with Tellum Bond rather flamboyantly.

Not to be outdone by the usually lesser storyline, Brother Day has General Rios drop a singularity on the First Foundation, wiping out not just the settlement, but likely the entire planet of Terminus as well. We go into the final episode of this season of Foundation next week with nary a Foundation to be found. The First is gone and the Second has yet to be formed. It’s an interesting corner the writers have written themselves into.

The segmented Demerzel looks on as teem Cleon I stands before her pointing angrily at her
He’ll be back

Young Cleon

The episode begins with Brother Dawn and Rue hearing the tale of how a young Cleon I discovered the segmented woman in the hidden chamber. Demerzel carefully grooms the young boy, using the only power left to her, the power of story. She begins with tales of adventure and heroism, suitable to his age. Stories of the Empire’s expansion, of the Robot Wars, and of a home planet called “Earth.”

She bides her time. She doesn’t point out the mechanism that would make her whole, she lets him discover it and bring up the subject. When his mother dies, Cleon comes to see her one last time before they chain him to the throne. While his advisors seek to restrain Cleon with talk of tradition and alliances, Demerzel entices him with the idea that he has the power to shape the Imperium into what he wants. If he happens to want her by his side, all the better.

Demerzel kisses the elder CLeon I passionately
Was it love?

Emperor Cleon

As he ages, her stories begin to take on a different character. She plays to his ego, telling him that he is brighter and wiser than his predecessor. Emperor Aburanis liked to imagine she could feel pain, so she produced tears for him. Emperor Cleon begins to imagine she can feel love. He eventually turns down a marriage in his later years, instead pledging his love for Demerzel. Did she produce love for him? He never knew, because he didn’t think to ask until after he overwrote her programming with a new law.

Of course, we are only getting all of this from a Cleonic point of view. He might even be an unreliable narrator—almost certainly is, in fact. However, the hologram plainly states that Demerzel was wooing him with stories that grew more explicit, tempting him to desire her. The implication seems to be that her desire was false, fabricated to get him to free her. And yet, there was that pause. Where she could have broken his neck and ran, but she didn’t.

Foundation S2E9 - Gaal and Tellum lie side by side on a stone altar, both with heads turned to the side and telling something
Stop her!


On Ignis, Salvor arrives as the transfer ceremony is kicking into high gear. Gaal’s struggles have subsided, and she’s succumbed entirely to the older woman’s influence. The two move and speak in tandem, calling on their followers to “stop her!” Using the dampers as psychic hand grenades, Salvor pulls Gaal out and a couple of trope-filled moments later, Gaal is back to herself and they flee to the Beggar.

At the ship, Salvor and Gaal pair off against Loren and Tellum respectively. Outside, Loren is a bit of a one-trick pony, constantly flipping into the guise of Hugo. It’s hard to knock him though since it works on her, every…single…time. Nonetheless, she finally traps him in the airlock and vents all the oxygen, tearfully letting go of Hugo for the last time.

On board, Tellum establishes the upper hand in the psychic battle, digging at Gaal’s wounds with the memory of her father and the future vision of Salvor dying. Gaal manages a dig at Tellum’s fear of the Mule, but that just provokes the older woman to give up the idea of preserving Gaal’s body for her use and really lash out.

Salvor comes to her mother’s aid, but Tellum cuts her down, literally. She appears to be victorious, looming over the two, when Gaal conjures up an illusion of Hari coming up behind her. Except it’s not an illusion, and a very real Hari bludgeons Tellum to death with a big stick. Well, that was certainly unexpected.

Hober and Constant sit on the floor of a holding cell with the backs against the wall, looking bored
Much nicer than the palace prison cell


General Rios stops in to visit Hober and Constant in their prison cell. While his guiding dead man is bigger than theirs, he can’t escape the nagging feeling that he’s being lured into this obviously one-sided conflict. Brother Constant is inspired by that idea to suggest maybe he is here to catch a germ of her faith and resolve the Second Crisis bloodlessly. Always good to avoid blood, the General acknowledges, but rarely possible.

Their chat is interrupted by the arrival of Empire. Rios makes a pitch to take the planet without firing a shot, and to his surprise, Empire agrees. However, he wants to go down to the planet in person to accept their surrender. Yet again, the General has a bad feeling about how easy things are going.

Foundation S2E9 - Brother Day looks on in the background as Poly and Sermak face each other in the foreground
Sermak lends Poly his strength


Planet-side, Empire insists on making a pilgrimage to the abnormally hot church they spotted during reconnaissance. Seeing that they are not, in fact, making the Encyclopedia Galactica he paid for, Empire puts the High Claric on the spot to perform one of his shows and convert him like he’s some hayseed on Siwenna.

Poly has a rough start of it. He’s pretty beaten down at this point. Sermak lends him his iron and his strength, and the entire church chimes in to remind him that “there is no end to what the Spirit can do.” Reinvigorated, Poly lays it on thick, but every word he speaks just seems to be raising Empire’s ire. He kicks Poly into a case that spills out with personal auras. A device that only an emperor may wear, yet the Foundation has been giving them away to rabble.

Having seen enough, Brother Day does what Cleons always do. He resorts to violence and orders all the priests and councilors to be killed.

Foundation S2E9 - Dr Seldon sits at his virtual desk looking smug, filled bookshelves and candles in the background
An offer they can’t refuse

The Vault

Before leaving, Day makes another pilgrimage, this time to the Vault, where he is invited to discuss a resolution in Dr. Seldon’s office. Brother Day insists that Seldon’s math doesn’t account for him. He is fighting the stagnation, adapting and evolving the Dynasty. Seldon counters that he’s met outliers and Day isn’t one. Still, the math does allow for inflection points where opportunities may lie, and in that spirit, he unexpectedly offers up the Prime Radiant.

Day doesn’t want Seldon’s road map to ruin. He just wants Seldon to admit that his math is flawed and allow the fate of humankind to be determined by those who are actually human. Dr. Seldon refuses and Day orders General Rios to bring the Invictus down on the planet, where its singularity will turn the planet inside out.

Foundation S2E9 - The young ensign looks up and to the left, a questioning look on her face
That was bad, right?

Space Battle

Back on the Destiny, Demerzel pauses on the way to the bridge and announces she needs to tend to another matter at home on Trantor. When Day questions her leaving during “their moment,” she proceeds to rip him to shreds even worse than she did to Sareth. She basically confirms Seldon’s declaration that he is not an outlier. He is merely an anomaly, one that she caused through her oversight during his formative years.

Reeling from her half confession / half admonition, Day enters the bridge and is immediately set upon by Hober. That gives him just the excuse he needs to drop a ship onto their palace in reply. As he orders the General to fire on the Invictus, Glawen comes in over the comms. He survived the crash of his switchback, but now Bel informs him that the moment of atrocity is here. Glawen urges him to give the order, for the sake of the whole galaxy, and he does.

Foundation S2E9 - Riose and Day stand on the bridge looking out the view port
An easy victory

Quick Takes

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

  • We learn a quite a few interesting tidbits from Demerzel’s stories to Cleon:
    • Cleon I discovered Demerzel 610 years ago. She was just over 18,000 years old at the time.
    • His mother was the actual ruler, the last Empress of the Entun Dynasty.
    • The name Cleon means “famous.”
    • The mechanical people consisted of “large ones” (that hid in very large spaces) and “small ones” (that hid in very small spaces, with their knees folded up to their ears).
    • She was a leader of mechanical forces in the Robot Wars. After she lost a famous battle, she was taken captive by Emperor Aburanis.
    • She had been held prisoner in the chamber for 5,000 years.
  • Demerzel says she is “the key to making more of [her] kind.” Expect that idea to come up in future seasons.
  • Cleon claims her programming chip came from Earth, meaning a) it’s not entirely lost in this adaptation of the novels, and b) there was still someone or something there as of 600+ years ago.
  • Along with the new law, her reprogramming also keeps her from transmitting herself out of her body. So much for all the “distributed consciousness” theories floating around Reddit that Demerzel could be this character or that character.
  • Tellum Bond declares herself “Pa’a, goddess of light, wisdom, flying things, and the second chamber of eternity.” Quite the portfolio.
  • Bel Riose doesn’t know what the thing embedded in Hober Mallow’s wrist is, to the point of calling it a “weird variable.” Interesting. So, it must be for the Spacers’ benefit only, whatever it is.
  • The transmutation machine is a device pulled from the original novels, featuring prominently in The Traders.
Foundation S2E9 - Poly stands in the plain of flags looking up at the Vault
Poly finally plants his flag

Best lines of the episode:

  • “How I wish I’d asked you before I made it compulsory.”
  • “Stories end gracefully. Everything else ends in shock and horror, falsely certain of tomorrow.”
  • “So, you let yourself be pushed around by the dead hand of Hari Seldon?” “Like you’re pushed around by the ghost of Cleon I?”
  • “General Riose, you once took pleasure in reminding me that I’d never seen battle. Let’s make a virtue of it.”
  • “This is not a war, it’s a police action.”
  • “Weren’t these assholes supposed to be merchants?”
  • “You’re projecting.” “Well, I am a hologram.”
  • “Demerzel, you said you didn’t come here for tea leaves. What if I offered you a crystal ball instead?”
  • “I never liked her.”
  • “No, you’re a sperm led by its waving flagellum, mistaking its random motion for complexity.”
  • “Wow, well, there it is.”
Foundation S2E9 - Brother Day smiles happily while his face is in a warm orange glow of something bruning
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder


A good episode for the Second Foundation crew, as Tellum Bond is defeated, and Hari turns out to be alive. Looking forward to the explanation of that big reveal. However, the big win on Ignis is vastly overshadowed by the staggering events on Terminus. Did we really just witness the decimation of the First Foundation? Or, given the previous timeline shenanigans, could this have been another illusion cooked up just in time by Gaal’s newly inherited mentalic army?

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *