Foundation review: Episode 109, “The First Crisis”

As we open the penultimate episode of Foundation‘s first season, we flash back to some of the earliest days on Terminus and see a young Salvor Hardin questioning the very existence of humanity and where we came from, the whole idea of Earth having become mere myth. All the races we have seen so far are descended from us, with nobody genuinely being an alien. The scene is some interesting sci-fi food for thought and reemphasizes Salvor’s loss following the death of her father a few episodes back.

At Terminus

Back in the present, the Invictus is jumping to parts unknown, with both the Anacherons’ and Salvor’s plan seemingly having failed, with neither managing to take control of the colossal planet-destroying ship. After being somewhat cowardly throughout the series, Lewis Pirenne’s sacrifice is a redemptive ending for the character. Yet, like many of the secondary characters, he feels a little under-serviced; it’s hard not to thin he could have featured more.

Realizing there’s no escape, Salvor undertakes another impressive spacewalk back to the ship she arrived on, which again shows off just how visually remarkable Foundation is. The survival of Hugo, meanwhile, almost stretches credibility, yet having already lost her father, it’s understandable the writers didn’t want to further torture Salvor by killing him, particularly considering the carnage that greets her upon her return to Terminus.

Hundreds of bodies lay throughout the colony. Angered, she makes for the Vault. As the original and perhaps central mystery of the show gets brought back into play, Salvor again embodies Gaal and successfully activates the immense structure, waking up those rendered unconscious. Finally, it’s confirmed that the Vault was connected to Hari Seldon all along; it’s another part of his plan that has yet to be revealed. While it’s no great shock, the scenes are again highly impressive-looking.

With a door now revealed, Salvor thinks about heading straight through before a good old-fashioned Mexican stand-off develops between Hugo’s landing Thespins and the Anacherons, all of it ending with Phara’s death. However, as one era ends, another begins as Salvor proposes an alliance and Hari Seldon walks from the light as if he were a messiah. While everything seems right on Terminus, Seldon’s return is unsettling; he’s transitioned from a man of science into the religious icon that many have warned against throughout the series.

On Trantor

After a break last week, we return to Brother Dawn and his young love, the gardener Azura. Their plan to escape from Dawn’s royal life is well underway, and there’s an inescapable sense of looming tragedy. Dawn is significantly different from his clone brothers and it has not gone unnoticed by Brother Dusk.

Under the guise of educating the youngest Cleon on his future as a royal artist and historian, Dusk lets Dawn know that he is aware of what happened during the hunt, and about his color blindness; the elder Cleon has painted six birds on the wall, but Dawn can only the blue and red ones. It’s a great moment that’s reminiscent of Game of Thrones at its most conniving and political. You can almost see Lord Varys watching from the shadows. While such political maneuvering is common in the Foundation books, it has sadly not been a large feature of Apple’s adaptation, so this was welcome.

Dawn attempts to flee with the palace guards on his trail. While this storyline is one of the show’s strongest, it’s also a shame we don’t get more tension at the palace. There’s a lot of material in Foundation and the first season is speeding through much of it.

Dawn escapes into the water system of Trantor and finally gets to see how the other half of the planet lives as he comes face to face with the homeless and the poor. Dawn is amazed as he travels on the transit, finally living life outside the palace. From children playing in the street to vendors selling their wares, Dawn starts to see what humanity is really about. Perhaps he can break free of the duty to essentially become a monster when he becomes Brother Day.

The twist of Azura being a plant is entirely unexpected and a brilliant swerve in a storyline that appeared to be going in a somewhat stereotypical Romeo and Juliet direction. Dawn is caught, and it’s revealed that there is already another Dawn walking around Trantor. The rogue Dawn was smuggled from the palace as part of a plot decades in the making to seize the throne. The new development is hugely interesting, and it’s a shame that, once again, it wasn’t given more time to breathe before it’s abruptly brought to its bloody end.

After a daring rescue, Dusk reveals that he has outsmarted everyone, pulling the strings to lead the imperial guards right to the plotters. Dawn’s life hangs in the balance, with Brother Day headed home for judgment.

Rating: 9.0

Events on Trantor continue to be the highlight of the show. Meanwhile, Terminus will never be the same again as Hari Seldon makes his second coming. Overall, this was an excellent episode of Foundation. It’s full of intrigue and unexpected twists, and successfully begins to draw together the series’ many threads ahead of next week’s season finale.

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