In this installment of 3 Reasons to Watch, blast off with Apple TV+’s spectacular Foundation, a space opera worthy of the classics of the genre. After a stellar first season of the show, which is based on the timeless novels of Isaac Asimov, the second season is even more tremendous!
Here’s why you should check out this epic sci-fi show if you haven’t already.
3 Reasons to Watch: Foundation
In a distant galaxy, the people of a thousand different planets are ruled by a tyrannical Empire and the three cloned kings who decide its whims. With the predictions of a mathematician and psychohistorian named Hari Seldon, there is born hope of throwing off the shackles of oppression and creating a new form of governance. However, the cost of freedom is never cheap.
This is the story of Foundation, a world-hopping odyssey as concerned with the interpersonal as it is the intergalactic. Here’s why this agreeably byzantine show is worth your time.
1. Commanding performances
The mere presence of outstanding actors Jared Harris and Lee Pace will sell some folks on the idea of watching Foundation, even if they’re not sci-fi fans. Still, it’s worth remarking that Harris and Pace, especially in the show’s stellar second season, are being gifted ideas worthy of their enormous talents.
Pace’s Shakespearian turn as the head of the Empire comes with nude knife fights and bellowed commands during surgery. It’s exactly what to do with the formidable actor under these circumstances. Harris, meanwhile, gets to play a benevolent but mysterious genius in metaphysical pain because his soul has been split in half. That means he can play both wise and sage, and tormented and haunted.
And this is without even mentioning the standouts from the rest of the marvelous cast: Terrence Mann, Lou Llobel, Clarke Peters, Laura Birn, Holt McCallany, Reece Shearsmith, Ben Daniels and Isabella Laughland. Everyone gets real meaty material on which to bite down.
2. Enormous but relatable stakes
The Apple TV+ adaptation of Foundation heaps a goodly sum of the drama on the shoulders of two young women, Gaal Dornick (played by Lou Llobel) and Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey). Despite their ages being roughly equivalent, they are mother and daughter. (Blame the wonkiness of interstellar time and the bizarre breeding practices in this distant corner of the cosmos.)
Gaal and Salvor have both been given tasks on a par with Luke Skywalker, Starbuck and James Holden. They must hold together a fraying rebellion long enough to overthrow the single greatest power in the universe, keep their heads when prophecies foretell death and destruction, etc.
Foundation’s writers, along with Harvey and Llobel, do their best to make the vast responsibilities an outgrowth of personality and social problems that the rest of us mere mortals can understand. Everyone here is dealing with the fate of worlds. But the emotional content remains staunchly human-sized, in all the right ways.
3. Stupefying spectacle
Thanks in no small part to Isaac Asimov having written such compelling stories and ideas, the Apple TV+ version of Foundation brims with a million great images of things beyond our comprehension. Each episode hits us with some excitingly baroque image to feed the inner, paperback-consuming child in all of us.
The breathtaking spectacles just keep coming: A religious pilgrimage-cum-death march. A puzzle cube right out of Clive Barker that holds the mind prison. A new spin on public executions. A ghost ship designed to kill intruders. A planet of oceans. The many regal environs in which the kings and queens of the known universe tread.
Throughout it all, Foundation’s design team, CGI composite aritsts, and directors designed a show as fantastical as it is tactile. You know the size, shape, even the smell of most of these places. And that makes returning to them that much easier.
Watch Foundation on Apple TV+
New episodes of Foundation season two arrive Fridays on Apple TV+.
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 author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper and But God Made Him A Poet: Watching John Ford in the 21st Century, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.