Movie Review - Foundation Season 2

David S. Goyer’s Foundation, one of several well-written science fiction shows on Apple TV+ that have proven to be its distinguishing bread and butter, is distinctive in how it very loosely copies its source material. The show’s first season, inspired by the late Isaac Asimov’s series of novels of the same name, made it apparent that it had quite different ambitions and stories to explore than the author. Those hoping for a more accurate adaptation may be disappointed, with some believing that the program sidestepped some of the deeper concerns Asimov was raising, but the show has nonetheless managed to create a distinct experience with much potential.

Some of this is due to character development, with a slew of new characters being introduced into the plot, but we could only see the beginnings of this immense tapestry. Asimov’s books are simply the foundation for a series that is already evolving into its own visual epic. This season’s complexity comes from pushing into the furthest reaches of the cosmos while also delving deeper into the brains of its protagonists. It might be disjointed at points, but the vision we rush into makes it a science fiction classic.

Foundation Season 2 Trailer


At the heart of everything is Hari Seldon, played once again by the outstanding Jared Harris, who is given a far bigger role in Foundation Season 2 than he was in Season 1. The particular shape that this takes is best left to the program so that some of the discoveries gained on his quest are not overshadowed. Suffice it to say, we are transported through time and space more than ever before as we follow the waves of his prophecies about the Empire’s demise. There’s nothing quite as exciting as the start of Season 1, a series creation that brilliantly defined the stakes of what was to come, but there’s plenty of action here as well. Salvor (Leah Harvey) and Gaal (Lou Llobell) have found themselves in the same place at the same time, discovering they are mother and daughter with a second crisis on the way.

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One can gaze to the future and the other to the past, both establishing a poetic condition of being since they are similar yet fundamentally different. While they journey across the galaxy, the sociopathic dictator Brother Day (Lee Pace) is back home dealing with a personal issue while getting increasingly close to Demerzel (Laura Birn), who is effectively his artificial mother. After all, what is a narrative about an impending power struggle in a cosmos on the verge of catastrophe without a little pseudo-incest?

There’s a lot more to the narrative than a big diagram — or, in Seldon’s case, a mathematical formula based on his understanding of psychohistory. The essence of what makes Season 2 so interesting is how the scene is being prepared for something more possibly disastrous. The first season of Foundation already covers hundreds of years, and the second season doesn’t shy away from that, demonstrating how the looming calamity is something few are prepared for. In this way, it seems more analogous to the ending of the House of the Dragon in terms of how all the shards gather together for a conflict that has the potential to shatter the universe as the protagonists know it. Each of them, new and old, is scattered around the galaxy, with the possibility that they may all be destroyed shortly.

Most intriguingly, Season 2 begins to examine the possibility that folks like Seldon are false prophets whose hubris obscures their vision more than they would want to admit. The chats we have with all of the… let’s call them, variations of the character as he discusses this show Harris enjoying himself in the part. There is a madness in his eyes that is gaining hold, making it difficult to know how much of the confidence placed in him by others like Salvor and Gaal is wrong. There are other individuals that risk their lives for this purpose and are prepared to sacrifice themselves for a future they will most likely never see, but those two have the most emotional dynamics.

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Some of the other plots, if anything, can feel like a sideshow to what they are dealing with. Still, some good arcs hook us in and show the darker aspects of the empire that had previously only been hinted at. It is world-building not for the sake of world-building, but to demonstrate the cost of failure.

The root of this rot may be traced back to Brother Day, who provides a unique threat to a tyrant in that he can generate clones of himself, guaranteeing that his brutal rule never ends. Pace continues to provide one of his greatest performances to date by embracing this. He catches the character’s petulance, which is made all the more terrifying by the fact that he can completely demolish practically whatever he wants. His horrifying monologue from Season 1 weighs huge over this, as we know he has practically infinite resources to exact retribution on anybody who crosses him. Brother Day is also a commanding presence on his own, engaging in a brawl in which his brutality is not the only thing on the show.

Pace gives a sense of levity to the character, displaying Day’s vulnerabilities when confronted with an almost pouty expression that is just lovely. He is the sort of villain worthy of a full-fledged program, making his creation for this narrative justified. His lack of awareness of what is going on around him makes him feel more threatening since there is always the possibility that he will lash out without warning. Birn’s performance as Demerzel is equally impressive.

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Playing a robotic persona is never easy, but she makes it appear effortless, retaining a solid mastery of her physical while subtle traces of her inner condition cross her features. The deeper insights into their connection, both physical and emotional, with one event at the end standing out, all work because of these two outstanding actors. Each transforms moments that may otherwise be dominated by exposition into dramatic ones, where royal intrigue could mark the end of all existence.

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The most common uncertainty in this season is over how everything fits together. Many elements can feel unnecessary, slightly dulling the effect of the more colorful portions of discovery and exploration, but this is the reality of any program constructed in this manner. There may always be stories inside the larger total that aren’t nearly as compelling, but the overall direction Foundation is on seems darkly fascinating. It’s sometimes heady storytelling, but it’s fantastic to see it done so unapologetically. The longer time it spans, leaping into both the future and the past and broadening the breadth of its narrative, the more likely it is to lose the casual spectator. However, for those who are prepared to accept it, the science fiction rewards Foundation provides something unlike anything else on television right now.

More than the spectacle of the season’s numerous explosions, it is the emotional and conceptual ambition behind Foundation Season 2 that holds it all together, even when everything for the characters is falling apart. It will always be a different beast than Asimov’s work, but the second season has proven that it is still a journey worth taking.