Foundation Season 1 ends with scads of space drama [Apple TV+ recap]

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Foundation recap: The Leap
Lies, treachery and surprises -- in space!
Photo: Apple TV+

The first season of Apple TV+’s epic space opera Foundation winds down this week with a drama-packed final episode.

Terminus has a big shiny weapon to use against the Empire, which is renewed in its conviction that all rebellion must be dealt with. Between a rock and a hard place is a human coffin that spouts wisdom like Yoda. Read on to find out what I mean by that.

Foundation review: ‘The Leap’

Hari Seldon (played by Jared Harris) has emerged from his coffin inside the vault on Terminus and he’s got some knowledge to drop on everyone. Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey)’s boyfriend Hugo (Daniel MacPherson) had called in reinforcements from his home planet Thespin, the sworn enemies of the Anachreon.

So, with an audience of mortal enemies, Hari tells them the story of the start of their hatred — and tells them it’s based on a lie. The first clone of Emperor Cleon arranged the act to keep them from aligning and posing a threat to the empire. What if they banded together, and put aside old grudges to take on the most powerful regime in the galaxy?

Hari’s been in the vault and been the vault, the whole time, having had nanotechnology convert him into machinery so he can live for as long as he needs to to be able to see the whole of human history, even though he’s technically dead. It’s a pretty silly concept, but Harris delivers the speech with such beatific, good-natured charisma you just kind of roll with it. It’s what Harris does.

Send in the clones

Meanwhile, Brother Day (Lee Pace) has returned from his sojourn to be told by Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann) about Brother Dawn’s (Cassian Bilton) misfortune. Dawn’s complaint that he just wanted to feel like something other than a cog in the machine is the last thing he wants to hear after having just put down a potential coup on a foreign planet.

If even the other clones don’t buy the cloning program anymore, how is Day supposed to keep the galaxy’s belief in the clones alive? Demerzel (Laura Birn) winds up breaking the tie in a very grimly literal way when Dawn pleads his case to them. The effect it has on her is intense.

All this leads to progress on both sides. It’s clear that when, inevitably, the Empire and the people on Terminus do finally meet in battle, they’re going to be more formidable and ferocious than ever before. Chief among them with renewed purpose will be Salvor, whose mother finally shares that she was the product of IVF. Her donor? None other than Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell), which explains why they share a sort of foresight that allows them to intuit future events.

So rather than stay behind and help the people on Terminus, she leaves for the stars to find Gaal. And where is Gaal? She’s 134 years in the future back on Synnax. And she’s about to get a visit from someone unexpected.

Au Revoir, les Anachreon

Actor Lee Pace gets a gaggle of great scenes here, telling Azura that he’s had his guards track down everyone who’s ever known her well enough to remember her (all 712 of them). And with a wave of his hand, he’ll have them all killed to ensure that no one ever remembers her. Chilling stuff. Even worse and weirder, he makes it clear that he’s doing it just because of how much he loves Brother Dawn, who he might kill anyway.

The family dynamic here has ossified, while every performer has gotten a chance to dig into their characters. From the synchronized breakfast table choreography in the opening to this final breaking point has been quite the ride. It’s really something to see the way Dusk went from proud, cold paterfamilias to miserable, murderous hard-ass, while Day was reduced from preening god to a man whose sense of self has been completely shattered. Pace, Mann and Bilton did fantastic work this season and I’m anxious to see what the changed dynamic will look like when we return.

I had my doubts about Foundation. But I’ve been so consistently impressed by this show that it’s tough to remember what it felt like to have those reservations. I anxiously await the next season and the proper reunion with these actors playing these characters. It’s been emotional.

Watch Foundation on Apple TV+

Season 1 of Foundation is available to stream on Apple TV+. Season 2 is in the works.

Rated: TV-14

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.