Foundation review: Episode 106, “Death and the Maiden”

Last week’s episode of Foundation was the most eventful since the series opener. We left behind storylines surrounding the Cleon emperors for a week and focused on the return of Gaal Dornick and the fallout from Raych’s apparent murder of Hari Seldon. With the colony on Terminus having fallen and an imperial ship downed, things seem to be escalating. This week we return to the clone emperors, and see that the threat is coming on several fronts.

The dynamics and ethical questions posed by the three clone rulers have been among the most interesting on the show, alongside those presented by Eto Demerzel. So it’s smart thatFoundation‘s sixth episode, “Death and the Maiden,” focuses on these elements, revealing early that Demerzel is still teaching the emperor even when he becomes Brother Day. Not only that, but she believes in a religion, which is interesting for a robot.

On The Maiden

Brother Day is on his way to confront Zephyr Halima, picking up a storyline from a few episodes ago that revealed the empire was now being challenged on religious grounds after the death of Proxima Opal, a pope-like figure of one of the galaxy’s major faiths. Halima was preaching that clones did not have a soul, which obviously bothered the clone emperors.

Despite the dire warnings that Zephyr Halima’s teachings may cause the empire’s downfall and fulfill the prophecy of Hari Seldon, when we’re finally introduced to her, she is courteous to Brother Day. She is far from the firebrand we might have expected; her respect is disarming. T’Nia Miller is a fine addition to the cast and a name we’re likely to hear a lot more of in the future, since she’s been rumored to be in the running to play the lead in Doctor Who.

Day pulls the age-old colonial trick of offering Zephyr infrastructure in exchange for allegiance, essentially bribing her to quash dissent. However, at the funeral for Proxima Opal, Halima makes an impassioned speech on the nature of the soul and rebirth. Her religion believes in reincarnation, and according to her Cleon’s soul left him 400 years ago to be reincarnated elsewhere, leaving the remaining clones empty. Like Hari Seldon, Halima encourages change and progress in place of stagnation and corruption. Everyone heeds Halima’s words, including Demerzel, leaving Brother Day standing alone.

The sequences at the Salt Palace look gorgeous and expand the Foundation universe even further, delving into religion and political influence and reminding us of the questions surrounding the nature of the Cleon dynasty. It’s excellent world-building. Standing alone without Demerzel for the first time in 400 years, it seems that times are indeed changing for Brother Day and the rest of the empire. How he reacts to her siding with Halima and the challenge from the new Proxima will undoubtedly play into events going forward.

On Trantor

Returning to yet another thread, Brother Dawn continues to express an interest in the young gardener, Azura Odili. Dawn is different from the other clones, and his romantic overtures seem out of step with his brothers, with no other incarnations of Cleon having shown any interest in having a partner. In many respects, he seems more human than his counterparts.

Cassian Bilton in “Foundation,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Rejecting the casual sex that’s typical for the emperors, Brother Dawn shares a special moment outside his window with Azura where he reveals that he is color blind. None of the other Cleons suffer this affliction, proving that he is not a perfect clone.

So the new Brother Day is imperfect because of his empathy and willingness to love. It’s an interesting twist. When he becomes Brother Day, will these traits make him weak or capable of change?

On Terminus

On Terminus, we discover that downing the imperial ship wasn’t the Anacreon’s final plan. The real goal was to staff the legendary ship Invictus that disappeared centuries before.

Leah Harvey in “Foundation,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Salvor Hardin escapes from Phara’s clutches and links up with Hugo and Abbas. Discovering that the Anacreons have lied and are attempting to destroy the city, Salvor is about to strike back when she suffers another seizure, and we see the truth of what happened on the day Raych killed Hari.

Seldon explains to Raych that the entire project will collapse if he stays with Gaal. He explains that the fate of the galaxy rests on what Raych does next, and hands him the knife. Hari instructs him on how to escape, but fate intercedes and Raych sacrifices his own life so that Gaal can get away. While it was obvious that the “murder” of Hari Seldon was pre-orchestrated, Raych being the one intended to survive is unexpected, but makes sense in retrospect.

Meanwhile, Salvor’s collapse starts a firefight, and Abbas sacrifices himself to destroy the corvettes. Devastated by his death, Salvor rashly decides to return to the city with Hugo. They are quickly captured before a convenient deus ex machina allows them to join the other colonists chosen to crew the Invictus.

The action-packed events on Terminus contrast nicely with the quieter and more thoughtful moments at The Maiden and on Trantor, with the question of Salvor Hardin’s link to Hari Seldon raised again. We now have final confirmation that Raych’s “murder” was part of the plan all along, and wonder how Gaal taking Raych’s place changed things. That said, the “twist” about Hari’s death was obvious, and I didn’t like the lazy plotting that allowed Salvor and Hugo into the ship at the end of the episode.

Overall, Foundation continues its momentum from last week as it picks up several threads from earlier in the season and introduces new revelations and questions. The introduction of Zephyr Halima is a huge positive for the episode; T’Nia Miller steals her scenes, even next to the excellent Lee Pace. The expansion of Brother Dawn’s story is also welcome. It seems the two characters will be playing an essential role over the final four episodes and into Foundation‘s recently confirmed second season.

Rating: 8.0

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