Foundation Experiences “A Necessary Death”

Season 2 of Foundation is currently streaming, so I’m doing episode by episode reviews again. For my takes on previous episodes, go here.

Warning! There will be spoilers under the cut!

As has become a pattern during this season of Foundation, this episode focusses most on the storylines that interest me the least, though for once we actually get to see parts of all the ongoing storylines.

Let’s start with the Ignis storyline, which is probably my least favourite. However, it does not intersect with any of the other ongoing storylines.

When we last saw Hari Seldon (the flesh and blood Hari, not hologram Hari), he was experiencing lengthy flashbacks, while being drowned by Tellem Bond and her Mentallics. Meanwhile, Salvor and Gaal believe that Hari took the Beggar and left them behind on Ignis, because that’s what the Mentallics want them to believe.

There is some conflict about this between Salvor and Gaal, because Gaal has very much drunken the Mentallic Kool-Aid. I normally don’t like that metaphor, because IMO it cheapens the horrible events it refers to, but it does fit here, because Gaal is about to be absorbed by a malicious cult. Cause that’s what Tellem Bond and her flock are, a malicious cult. Salvor recognises this and wants to get the hell out of Dodge Ignis. Gaal, meanwhile, wants to stay.

As for why Gaal is so eager to be accepted by the Mentallics, the reason is her obsession with the Mule and with stopping him, particularly with stopping him from killing Salvor. And Gaal believes that in order to stop the Mule, she needs Tellem Bond’s Mentallics. She is not completely wrong. The telepaths of the Second Foundation were at least partly responsible for taking down the Mule – along with Bayta Darrell, who is not a telepath.

However, I still feel that the show is mishandling the Mule before he has even shown up properly – unless the dude dressed like a villain from a third rate cyberpunk videogame we saw in Gaal’s flashforward actually is the Mule. The flash forward itself was okay, though they shouldn’t have shown the Mule himself. But what makes the Mule so scary is that he takes over almost the entire galaxy and that no one can stand against him, because he will manipulate anybody who tries – like Captain Han Pritcher – into his mind slave. The Mule is not scary because he kills Salvor Hardin (who is long dead at this point in the books, presumably died of natural causes in old age) nor any specific person. Never mind that the Mule doesnh’t personally kill anybody; he manipulates people. But once again, the show just has to reduce everything to personal stakes – while adapting a series which is pretty much the anti-thesis to personal stakes.

Also the Mule is not the reason that Hari and his granddaughter Wanda established the Second Foundation. Because Hari Seldon did not and could not foresee the existence of the Mule – that’s the whole point of the story. The reason the Second Foundation was established – which Hari actually says in the TV series – is to keep the plan on track and make adjustments, if necessary.

However, Gaal is totally convinced that she and Salvor need to stay on Ignis with Tellem Bond and the Mentallics. She even gives a little speech in which she tells the Mentallics that she can see the future and that someone like them, someone named the Mule, will try to conquer the galaxy and will also attack the Mentallics (since it’s already been established that the Mentallics care for no one but themselves). But if they all follow Gaal, they will be ready for the Mule when he comes. Tellem Bond beams through it all. Whatever happened to “We don’t want to fight somebody else’s war”?

Tellem and her flock host a grand feast for the new arrivals. The festive meal are some kind of small axolotl like creatures, who get thrown into a pot and boiled alive. The creatures emit a psychic scream, when they are thrown into the pot, which Gaal and Salvor (and presumably everybody else on Ignis) feel as a painful splitting headache.

Tellem explains that her Mentallics and now Gaal and Salvor as well are now connecting to all living things and can feel their pain. Salvor asks if going vegan would help, whereupon Tellem replies that tress and plants suffer distress, too. She then feeds Gaal and Salvor some bullshit about how some little deaths are necessary and that the screaming axolotls are a reminder of that. And besides, Tellem and her people take only what they need, whereas the long gone Emperor who built the ruined palace hunted the axolotls to near extinction, because he enjoyed bathing in a purple pigment derived from their shells. What is it with the Empire and rare pigments?

The whole “We are connected to all living things and sense their pain” thing suggests Gaia a lot more than the Second Foundation. But much as I dislike Gaia, they were never as unpleasant and downright murderous as Tellem Bond with her infuriating smile. In my last review, I noted that Tellem Bond is in essence Magneto from the X-Men, but frankly, even Magneto was rarely as unlikeable as Tellem (though I hated him for trying to seduce Rogue and pulling Logan’s adamantium out of his bones and ushering in some really bad X-Men comics). Tellem Bond is a complete pyschopath and easily the least likeable character in this entire episode. Even Day, who is a murderous psychopath himself, is less unlikeable them Tellem. In fact, whenever I see Tellem’s smile, I just want to punch her in the face. And yes, it is problematic that some of the least likeable characters in Foundation – also see Phara in season 1 – are played by women of colour.

Salvor’s feelings about Tellem are not quite as intense as mine, though Salvor also doesn’t trust Tellem or any of the Mentallics as far as she can throw them. On the beach, Salvor has a brief chat with the scarred Mentallic who impersonated Hugo two episodes ago and who appears to be Tellem Bond’s right-hand man. During this chat, Salvor notices that the Mentallics seem to be uncommonly secretive about one of the their watercraft, even though they’re supposedly just going fishing.

Ignoring Gaal’s advice to be careful, Salvor sneaks out by night to check out that watercraft. She notes that the navigation system has been wiped – an odd precaution for a fishing expedition – but the coordinates are still in the buffer. So Salvor takes the watercraft – being once again instinctively able to use unfamiliar vehicles – and heads for its last known destination.

The trip seems to be quite long – or maybe it’s an editing mistake – but by daybreak Salvor arrives at the tidal pool where Tellem chained up Hari Seldon the physical and did her best to drown him. However, even though Hari did seem to drown at the end of the previous episode, his head is still above water when Salvor finds him. Or maybe the tide has already receded and his head is above water again. At any rate, Hari doesn’t seem to be dead, as Paul Levinson predicted.

Salvor immediately jumps in to rescue him, but it stymied by the chains. And then Tellem and two of her goons, including her scarred right-hand man, show up. Tellem says that this is very unfortunate and that she really didn’t want Salvor to see what happened to Hari, but that sometimes little deaths are necessary for the greater good. The final shot shows Salvor floating face down in the pool next to Hari. Is she dead? I doubt it.

While all this is going on, Sareth and Rue are watching a recording of Sareth’s speech in the arena. Sareth is enjoying the displeased look on Day’s face, but Rue reminds her that she is playing with fire and warns her that she should never embarass a man like Day, because it won’t end well for her. Rue is absolutely correct, too, because Sareth is courting disaster and will likely die horribly.

I’ve been wondering why I have been having so many issues getting invested in the whole Sareth storyline, even though Sareth’s dilemma is compelling enough on paper. However, it’s obvious that Sareth and likely her entire retinue, too, will die horribly, even if she does marry Day and becomes Empress.

Cause so far, the wedding is still on. And so Sareth and Rue’s little heart to heart is interrupted by Demerzel who insists that she must fetch Sareth for a gynaecological examination to make sure that she can bear Day’s children.

On the way, Sareth, who really is asking to be killed, tells Demerzel that she knows Demerzel is a robot. Sareth wants to know whether there are any other robots left and Demerzel replies that as far as she knows, she is the only one left. Of course, Demerzel might be lying or mistaken, but I guess this means Hari’s partner Yanna was definitely not the show’s version of Dors Venabili. But then the pregnancy plot in the flashback last episode already put that theory to rest. Of course, there is still Kalle, the woman in the cave on Oona’s World, who also appeared as Yanna at one point and who looks human, but isn’t. And Oona’s World definitely still had functional robots, though those were mining robots, not androids like Demerzel.

Sareth tasks Demerzel how many masters she has served. Demerzel replies that she served many people and was once bound to the Laws of Robotics, like all robots. Though interestingly, Demerzel only quotes the first two laws. So does Demerzel deliberately omit the Third Law or does the Third Law not exist in the show? For Demerzel goes on to say that for centuries she has only obeyed the Cleons and the Empire. And considering that we have seen Demerzel kill lots of people or have them killed, this suggests that the orders of the Cleons supercede the Three Laws of Robotics. I’m also no longer sure that the Zeroth Law workaround applies here, for while the Zeroth Law allows robots – well, Daneel and Giscard – to allow individual human beings to come to harm in order to protect humanity as a whole, a) applying the Zeroth Law and allowing individual humans to come to harm for the greater good is still incredibly painful for a robot and actually fries Giscard’s brain, and b) even if Demerzel is convinced that preserving the Empire and the rule of the Cleons is the best course for humanity (an issue which is actually addressed elsewhere in the episode), she must know that the Empire is pretty far gone by now. And besides, in Prelude to Foundation, Daneel/Demerzel specifically seeks out Hari Seldon, because they realise that the Empire is ultimately doomed and that Seldon can shorten the coming dark age and thus help Daneel/Demerzel fulfill the Zeroth Law.

Considering how fundamental the Three Laws of Robotics are to Isaac Asimov’s work, the fact that the show mostly seems to ignore beyond a brief lip service – note that the mining robots on Oona’s World also clearly weren’t bound to the Three Laws – really, really annoys me. Laura Birn does a great job as Demerzel, but turning her into a stone-cold killer for hire doesn’t work for me at all, even if most of her on-screen victims are not exactly likeable.

Sareth, however, is not at all concerned with any of this. Instead, she asks Demerzel that if she will serve Sareth since Sareth will soon be part of the Imperial family, too. “I serve Empire,” Demerzel replies and it’s very obvious that as far as Demerzel is concerned, Sareth is not Empire and will never be.

The gynaecological exam is exactly as awkward as you imagine it to be. There’s a whole battery of doctors and nurses as well as Demerzel, Rue and Sareth’s entourage all standing around, while Sareth is lying on a gynaecological chair and everybody is staring at Sareth’s womb and ovaries on a screen. The doctors note that Sareth’s ovaries have been chemically stimulated, as instructed, and want to harvest her eggs right now. Sareth and Rue object and point out that the Cloud Dominion has an equal interest in Sareth’s offspring as the Empire and that the harvesting can wait until Sareth and Day are married. Sareth also asks if reversing Day’s nano-tech created sterility will be as unpleasant as the exam was for her. A doctor replies that the process is quick but painful.

Considering that the Empire not only has artificial womb technology, but that there also is a whole chamber full of fully functional artificial wombs right there in the Imperial palace, I honestly wonder why Day and everybody else is so insistent on Sareth carrying the future heir to the Empire in her own womb, especially since the insemination will likely be artificial anyway. Pregnancy and birth will never be without risk for both mother and baby. And while Day doesn’t give a damn about what happens to Sareth, once she has popped out his heir, he clearly does care about his future heir. So why would he put his son (come on, you know he’s going to insist on a boy) at risk via a natural pregnancy? Honestly, someone needs to read Lois McMaster Bujold.

It seems Sareth really, really wants to be murdered horribly, since she lets Demerzel know that she is aware of her “arrangement” with Day and neither minds nor cares what they do, once Sareth is carrying the future heir to the Empire in her womb.

After the examination, Demerzel asks Sareth for a private meeting. Sareth’s retinue isn’t happy about that, but Sareth waves them away. During the meeting, Demerzel tells Sareth that she knows exactly why Sareth is here and that she knows Sareth believes Day had her family murdered. Demerzel then tells Sareth that if Sareth as much as thinks of getting revenge, Demerzel will kill Sareth like she killed the rest of her family. Yes, Demerzel actually admits that she killed Sareth’s family. The Three Laws of Robotics plus the Zeroth Law clearly don’t seem to apply here.

Later, Day and Sareth meet in the palace garden and sit on a bench in the middle of a pond, the same bench where Cleon XII took the treacherous gardener who seduced Dawn back at the end of season 1 to let her know exactly what he would do to her and to everybody who ever knew her. So in short, it’s an ominous location.

Sareth begins to talk about her family and their deaths, because without the death of her entire family, she would never be here. And besides, they are Day’s family as well. And so we and Day learn that Sareth’s parents were loving and artsy – the entire Dominion seems to be into art – that she had a brother and an older sister and a baby nephew and that she loved them all very much. Day listens politely and then – pychopath that he is – tells Sareth that the death of her entire family was a blessing in disguise, since it brought them together. Sareth womanfully resists kicking him in the nuts and throwing him into the pond.

Of course, Sareth doesn’t just talk about her family for Day’s benefit, especially since he clearly feels zero remorse for having Demerzel kill a bunch of people, including a baby. No, the scene is also for our benefit, because up to that moment, Day’s murdered family had been cyphers rather than people. And indeed, it’s hard to get the viewer to care about the murder of a bunch of people off screen, whom neither see nor know anything about. This scene is obviously meant to humanise Sareth’s family and make us care about them. However, telling us about Sareth’s dead family by episode 7 is too little too late. Maybe a brief flashback of Sareth’s family dying or even Sareth mourning her family in the first or second episode would have been better.

This episode was co-written by Eric Carrasco and David Kob. Now I actually had a brief and pleasant interaction on Twitter (I’m not going to call it X) with Eric Carrasco, after I praised two TV episodes he had written. Though it wasn’t an episode of Foundation but episodes 5 and 6 of Masters of the Universe: Revelation “The Forge at the Forest of Forever” and “Cleaved in Twain”.

The context was a discussion that some people, often young women on TikTok, mainly judge books and other media by whether it makes them cry. I pointed out that I rarely cry at books, movies or TV shows and never at the usual suspects. I’ve sat stone-faced through notorious tearjerkers such as The Champ, Love Story, Titanic, Out of Africa or Doctor Zhivago and the only thing that might have made me cry about any of those was the time I wasted watching them. I also don’t seek out media that makes me cry and when a movie, TV show or book does make me cry, it means the author did something right.

The example I gave were the two Masters of the Universe: Revelation episodes. Now I normally don’t expect Masters of the Universe nor any other western animation to make me cry, though anime occasionally does (Looking at you, Candy Candy).  However, Masters of the Universe: Revelation had me bawling my eyes out, when Orko, Roboto, the Sorceress, Fisto and Clamp Champ all die heroically in the course of two and a half episodes, as do a bunch of Eternian civilians. Now Orko and the Sorceress are main characters from the Filmation cartoon onwards, so their deaths were bound to have an impact. But when I watched Revelation, I remembered Fisto mainly as “the guy with the iron fist and the unfortunate name and anyway, wasn’t he a villain?” Roboto I barely remembered from the old cartoon (he was only in one episode) and Clamp Champ I didn’t remember at all, because he was never in any of the cartoons and the toy was never sold in Germany, because the powers that be mistakenly assumed German kids wouldn’t want a figure of a black guy.

Nonetheless, Masters of the Universe Revelation made me care not just about big name characters like Orko and the Sorceress, but also about more obscure and offbeat characters like Roboto, Fisto and Clamp Champ and made me cry when they died. Honestly, if you’d told me I’d cry about Fisto or Clamp Champ dying, I’d have laughed at you (and probably would have asked, “Uhm, which one was Clamp Champ again?”). But Revelation made me care about these characters and the reason for this is good writing and good acting (a large part of what makes the death of the Sorceress so utterly heartbreaking is Liam Cunningham’s amazing performance as Duncan, while Griffin Newman turned Orko into so much more than just a comic relief).

The scene of Sareth telling Day about her murdered family at the pond is clearly supposed to do something similar for Foundation, make us care about Sareth and her family. Just as the tender moments between Bel Riose and Glawen Curr are supposed to make us care about them, when they inevitably die. And Gaal’s flash forward is supposed to make us care about Salvor dying. However, in spite of some of the same writers being involved, I don’t particularly care about Sareth’s family or what happens to Salvor, though Geek Girl Authority reviewer Julia Roth clearly does. That said, I admit that I’ll be a little sad when Bel Riose and likely Glawen Curr meet their inevitable end. Of course, Foundation isn’t really the sort of story to make you care about individual characters and their deaths. But then neither is Masters of the Universe.

Later, in the catacombs beneath the Palace, two of the doctors that attended Sareth are leaving, only for them to deactivate their holographic masks to reveal Sareth herself and Dawn. Not only is Sareth continuing her attempts to seduce Dawn, she also has a proposition for him. She can’t imagine herself carrying Day’s child, since Day is a monster, but she wouldn’t mind carrying Dawn’s child. She even brought the instrument necessary to reverse Dawn’s sterility.

Dawn is understandably hesitant. Not only does he not see the purpose of having children – which he explicitly tells Day in the first episode of the season – he’s also worried that Day will find out, kill him and have him replaced with the next clone down the line. Sareth, however, reassures Dawn that Day will never find out, because Day and Dawn’s genome is identical, so a gene test wouldn’t reveal the child’s true paternity. “It would be a bloodless coup”, Sareth says.

Of course, Day and Dawn are not one hundred percent identical. Sareth has apparently forgotten the genetic drift which has caused the Cleon’s to move further away from Cleon I. And Sareth definitely knows about this, because she brings it up herself in an earlier episode.

This is the second Dawn who’ll likely get himself killed, just because he fell for a pretty face. So why do Dawns tend to think with the dangly end, when Days and Dusks are more cautious? Is the true reason that all the Cleon clones’ memory files are much smaller than that of the original Cleon, as we found out two episodes ago, that the Dawns tend to be stupid and fall for the wrong women and get themselves killed and therefore have to be replaced by new clones, while parts of their memory are deleted? And this lingering trauma of this the true reason that most Dawns are pretty mellow, while Days and Dusks are hardarses? It’s certainly intriguing.

While all this is going on, Hober Mallow has a meeting aboard the Spacer hive ship with a woman called She-Is-Center, who is the leader of the Spacers. Hober has a proposition for She-Is-Center and her Spacers. He gives her a vial of a nutrient that the genetically modified Spacers need to survive. Up to now, the only source of that nutrient was the Empire and they demanded ten percent of all Spacer children to work as hyperspace navigators on Imperial ships in exchange for the nutrient. However, Foundation scientists have figured out how to synthetise the nutrient, something the Spacers believed was impossible. And unlike the Empire, the Foundation has no need for indentured hyperspace navigators, because they have jumpships of their own. So if the Spacers were to accept Hober Mallow’s offer, they could – quote – “kick the Empire in the nuts” – and travel freely through space like they want to, liberated from the Empire and its demands.

The Spacers actually do exist in Asimov’s fiction, though they are more prevalent in the robot stories, particularly the Daneel Olivaw and Elijah Bailey novels. In the stories, Spacers are genetically modified humans with vastly extended lifespans and a weak immune system. They were altered to become the first humans to colonise other planets and by the time of Elijah Bailey, the Spacers are lording over the unmodified humans of Earth. The robot R. Daneel Olivaw a.k.a. Demerzel was actually built by Spacers. The descendants of the Spacers are still around in Hari Seldon’s time and have their own district on Trantor, though by Hari Seldon’s time, they are much devolved and have turned into weird isolationist cultists who shave off all their hair, oppress women, worship a robot and want to execute Hari and Dors Venabili, until Daneel/Demerzel rescues them. They also have unusual names by Hari’s time, though not by Elijah Bailey’s.

However, the whole plot point about the Spacers, who make space travel possible in the Empire, being dependent on a specific substance to survive is not from Asimov at all. It’s taken straight from Frank Herbert’s Dune.

She-Is-Center is certainly tempted by Hober Mallow’s offer of freedom from servitude to the Empire, especially since Hober also tells her that the Empire will discard the Spacers without a second thought and will also stop supplying the nutrient, should they ever find out how the Foundation’s jump ships work. However, She-Is-Center is also scared of the Empire. For if the Empire learns that she talked to Hober and as much as considered the Foundation’s offer, they won’t just demand ten percent of all Spacer children as indentured navigators. They will demand twenty percent. And She-Is-Center cannot let that happen, so she informs the Empire in the form of General Bel Riose.

When we see Bel Riose for the first time since episode 4, he and Glawen Curr are in their shared bedroom aboard the Imperial flagship, watching a video of Day announcing his impending marriage to Sareth. Indeed, as the most excellent Stars End podcast points out, it’s amusing how often Foundation characters are shown watching their own show on screen in this episode.

Later, we see Bel Riose and Glawen Curr on the bridge, analysing the footage the late Ducem Barr recorded on Siwenna together with She-Bends-Light, the Spacer serving aboard Bel Riose’s ship. In particular, they’re interested in the footage of the Spirit taking off from Siwenna. Like everybody else, She-Bends-Light is convinced that it’s not possible to jump through hyperspace without Spacers. However, the Foundation is clearly doing it.

Before they can delve deeper into that mystery, She-Bends-Light suddenly receives a telepathic message from She-Is-Center at the Home Swarm and informs Bel Riose that the Home Swarm has captured the very ship they are seeking. Bel Riose wants to head there immediately, but She-Bends-Light tells him that’s not necessary. The Home Swarm will come to them.

Shortly thereafter, the gigantic Home Swarm itself appears in space next to the Imperial flagship. Bel Riose and Glawen Curr are suitably impressed and it’s clear that they have never seen the Home Swarm before not did they have any idea that the Spacers were able to communicate telepathically with each other. And note that Bel Riose had a good relationship with She-Bends-Light, because he treats her well like all of his crew. But there’s clearly a lot that even a high-ranking Imperial officer like Bel Riose does not know about the Spacers.

So She-Bends-Light, Bel Riose and Glawen Curr go to see She-Is-Center and her captive Hober Mallow. It turns out that She-Bends-Light is the daughter of She-Is-Center, something else Bel Riose had no idea about. The poor guy must be feeling very left in the dark right now.

However, Bel Riose and Glawen Curr are there to see Hober Mallow and so they have a hot and sweaty threesome while smoking cigars and sunbathing in the nude – no, Bel Riose and Glawen Curr try to interrogate Hober and when they are not satisfied with his answers, they proceed to kick the shit out of him.

Hober finally relents and tells Bel Riose and Glawen Curr that the ship isn’t even his, but that he will let them aboard. He also warns them that Foundation ships have a very sophisticated security. Bel Riose opens the ramp and Becky, Brother Constant’s pet Bishop’s Claw bursts out. And since Becky hasn’t had breakfast, she immediately jumps out Glawen Curr and tries to eat him. Hober Mallow uses the confusion to dash aboard the Spirit and recall Becky just before she can enjoy a tasty meal of Glawen Curr. He takes off and makes the jump into hyperspace inside the giant Home Swarm ship, while Bel Riose, Glawen Curr and the two Spacer women keep repeating that what is happening in front of their eyes isn’t possible. These poor folks really have their belief in the Empire and its tech completely shattered this episode.

Bel Riose dutifully informs Brother Day of what has happened and also asks what he is supposed to do now. Brother Day tells him to stand by, so Bel Riose and his flagship are stuck in space without any orders.

A bit later, Bel Riose and Glawen Curr are in their shared quarters (which look as if they are directly next to the bridge), discussing what to do. Glawen Curr wants to know why Bel Riose is still obeying the Emperor’s orders. After all, what can the Empire do to them? Bel Riose replies that they will probably lock him up again, kill Glawen, this time for real, and make him watch Glawen’s death over and over again. Is this what they did to him the first time around?

Glawen Curr goes on to suggest that maybe they could take out the Emperor. Bel Riose replies that even if he could get past the guards, the personal forceshield, the nanites and all the other security measures, it still wouldn’t change anything, because they’d just decant a new Day to replace the dead one. And crashing the Imperial flagship into the Imperial Palace on Trantor would kill a ton of innocent civilians as well as the entire crew. And besides, terrible as the Empire is, the alternative – a galaxy of scattered worlds ruled by warlords and tyrants – would be worse.

Glawen Curr then asks, “What about this Foundation? Couldn’t they take over?” Bel Riose replies that the Foundation is too weak to take over the remnants of the Empire. And at this point in the timeline, they still are. However, Glawen Curr does have a point. Because the best thing Bel Riose could do is take his ship and his crew and defect to the Foundation. And indeed that is what his historical counterpart, the Byzantine general Belisarius, does in L. Sprague De Camp’s 1939 alternate history novel Lest Darkness Fall, whose basic set-up – the one person who knows what’s going to happen in the future tries to prevent the fall of a mighty Empire and the dark age that will follow – is so much like Foundation’s that I suspect both books sprang from the same writing prompt, especially John W. Campbell was known to give prompty to his authors. However, we know Bel Riose won’t defect, because that’s not the kind of man he is. Which means that he’ll die and so will Glawen Curr.

However, Bel Riose isn’t the only one who is concerned about the Foundation. Brother Day and Demerzel have been concerned about the Foundation and what’s going on in the Outer Reach since the first episode of the season. Day is informed that two self-styled ambassadors from the Foundation – Poly Verisof and Brother Constant – have been arrested. Day and Demerzel watch some footage of Poly and Brother Constant and wonder about their robes (“Those are clerical robes for the Church of Hari Seldon”, someone says). Day also notes that it’s one hell of a coincidence that just as he sends Bel Riose to scout out the Outer Reach, the Outer Reach reaches out to them. Of course, it’s not a coincidence at all, but the machinations of the dead hand and living hologram of Hari Seldon.

While all this is going on, Poly Verisof and Brother Constant are locked up a detention facility in the Imperial palace, watched by approx. twenty guards, which does seem like overkill for two missionaries. Poly Verisof is depressed, because he fears that he failed the prophet. Even though Poly and Brother Constant getting captured was very likely part of Hari Seldon’s plan from the beginning.

Once Day has been informed of the capture and escape of Hober Mallow and that Mallow tried to persuade the Spacers to defect, he realises that he has two Foundation prisoners in custody and sends for Poly Verisof and Brother Constant. So Poly and Constant are taken to see the Emperors Three and Demerzel. Poly Verisof introduces himself and Brother Constant as ambassadors of peace and even offers a gift in the form of an atomic ashtray. Readers of the books will remember that atomic ashtrays were the sort of gadgets traders like Limmar Ponyets and Hober Mallow peddled across the Outer Rim to spread the influence of the Foundation in the stories “The Wedge” and “The Big and the Little”.  It’s a fun nod to the books, especially considering an atomic ashtray was a stupid gadget even back when I first read the books more than thirty years ago.

Day counters that if the Foundation really wants peace, then why have they sent Hober Mallow to try to turn the Spacers against the Empire. Poly Verisof is genuinely shocked, because he had no idea about Hober Mallow’s Brother Constant just gives Day a very strange look. She also clearly isn’t very impressed by him. Day notes that she’s from Thespin and that the Empire doesn’t trust Thespins since the attack on the space elevator way back in the very first episode. Talking of which, did we ever find out who really was responsible for that attack, since the Thespins and Anacreons were clearly just fall guys?

Constant blinks and suddenly she turns into Hari Seldon or rather his hologram. Turns out that when Hari blessed Constant in the Vault, he hitched a ride with her.

Hari now confronts the Emperors Three and notes that everything still looks like it did the last time he was there, up to Dawn, Day, Dusk and Demerzel. Hari also tells Day that he didn’t send Poly Verisof and Brother Constant to prevent a war, because he is afraid that the Foundation will lose. No, Hari knows that if it comes to war, the Foundation will win. However, he would prefer a more peaceful solution.

A variation of this discussion actually does happen in the books, more precisely in the story “The Dead Hand”, but not between Hari and any Emperor, but between Bel Riose and Ducem Barr. Here, Ducem Barr is the one who is absolutely convinced that Hari Seldon is right and that the Foundation will win any war with the Empire, while Bel Riose doesn’t want to believe it. However, this conversation is actually more effective, when it happens between the leaders of the Foundation and the Empire respectively rather than between their representatives.

Day, however, still has an ace up his sleeve – or so he believes. He tells Hari that he studied him and his predictions, while he was still Dawn. Specifically, he latched on to Hari Seldon’s claim that the genetic dynasty was weakening the Empire. However, Day has found the perfect solution to the problem. He’s going to end the genetic dynasty by marrying Sareth and having children with her. Day gives Hari a triumphant “Well you didn’t predict that” look. Hari even has the decency to look shocked, before Day orders his guards to electro-shock Constant, causing hologram Hari to flicker out.

“What sort of prophet keeps his missionaries in the dark and possesses a girl to send a message?” Day says. Then he tells Demerzel to send Bel Riose and the fleet to Terminus, besiege the planet and steal any useful tech. I really hope that She-Bends-Light hears all that and informs her mother and the Home Swarm of Day’s plans.

Day is clearly convinced that he has won and beaten Hari Seldon’s prophecies. Coincidentally, this also explains why Day is so eager to marry Sareth, a woman who neither likes nor respects him, because he honestly believes this will save the Empire and make sure he leaves his mark on history. For Day is clearly an adherent of the great man theory of history. Of course, he’s also tragically wrong, because the genetic dynasty no longer is the main problem of the Empire, if it ever was. The Empire is so far gone by now that it will collapse eventually, regardless whether it’s ruled by a triumvirate of Cleons or some descendant of Day or Dawn and Sareth.

Three episodes from the end of the season, the adventures of Hober Mallow, Brother Constant and Poly Verisof are the most compelling part of the show, even if Hober Mallow and Poly Verisof are very different from their book counterparts. Coincidentally, this is also the storyline that gets the least screentime. The Cleons and Demerzel continue to be compelling characters, though I can’t muster much interest in Sareth, because it’s pretty obvious that she and her retinue will die. Bel Riose and likely Glawen Curr will die as well, though I find myself much more invested in Bel Riose in the show than I ever was in the books. Meanwhile, the Ignis storyline is the least interesting, even though the establishment of the Second Foundation should theoretically be of interest.

Last season, the pacing was also badly off and the show spent a lot of time on storylines like the endless Luminist plot that had fuck all to do with the books and then managed to mostly pull itself together in the last few episodes. I hope that season 2 will follow suit. Also, season 3 was apparently already filming, even though production had to be halted due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, so maybe we will get to see the Mule after all.

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3 Responses to Foundation Experiences “A Necessary Death”

  1. They certainly packed a ton into this episode. I agree that it certainly looks like like Sareth and Rue are doomed, but I kind of hope it’s a head fake and we get more of them. I believed, like the Stars End guys, that Sareth had evil intentions at first, but now it seems clear she’s a victim. Hope the show has some Asimovian style tricks up it like it did in the final episodes of season 1.

    Unlike you, I’m quite interested in the Ignis storyline, and especially in the fates of the trio of Salvor, Gaal, and Human Hari. As much as I’d like to see more of the latter, it would feel kind of cheap for him to pull off another miracle resurrection at this point. Clearly Salvor will somehow survive and I’m curious how they explain that. This was the most appealing her character has been in the show – but I think she’s been getting more interesting this whole season. I suspect Gaal’s apparent fealty to Tellem Bond is an act and that she will be key to Salvor’s survival.

    Incidentally, this is the first time all season I’ve not seen the show as soon as it aired, as I’m on vacation with my family in Manhattan. I look forward to watching it tomorrow on my flight back to California.

    • Cora says:

      Initially, I also suspected Sareth had evil intentions, but she very much is a victim of Day’s desire to write himself into history as more than just another Cleon.

      I haven’t found the time to watch the latest episode yet, though I’m pretty sure Salvor will survive. And I agree that I actually like her more this season, probably because I’m no longer comparing her to her book counterpart.

      I hope you and your family had a great vacation. BTW, I know I owe you an e-mail, but this has been a very stressful week for me.

  2. Pingback: Foundation Discovers “The Last Empress” | Cora Buhlert

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