There is a sense of doom throughout the season-two finale of Foundation. Things are worse than ever, but rather than resignation, there’s a feeling of defiance, of knowledge that the characters are playing their part in pushing humanity forward, even if they’ll never see the fruits of their labor.
After destroying Terminus, Day gets bloodlust and orders the fleet to travel to and destroy every world allied with the Foundation. Except, right as the ship’s spacer puts in the jump sequence, the mark on Hober Mallow’s wrist glows, and hundreds of imperial ships start exploding. Turns out, this was all part of Seldon’s plan. Hober Mallow did make a deal with the spacers, and they did win the Second Crisis technically without firing a bullet. The spacers used Mallow, who had to be captured so he could give the jump sequence encrypted in his wrist mark to an onboard spacer to execute the plan — to have each imperial ship jump into the space occupied by its neighbor. Every spacer on the fleet dies, but their sacrifice saves their entire species.
Seldon baited Cleon into a war, and he fell right into it, bringing his entire fleet like an idiot because he is predictable. And predictably, the mighty Emperor, the undying one, resorts to physically fighting Hober Mallow before getting punched by Constant and then Riose. It is a bloody, ugly fight, which ends with Day throwing Bel Riose off the airlock and into space. However, in a clever switcheroo, Rose activates the mini-teleporter and trades places with the Emperor. It is quite satisfying to see the smug expression on Day’s face disappear as he floats away into the vastness of space, freezing to death, alone. In a way, Curr’s wishes did come true. They did rebel against Empire, and they won.
Still, everyone on the fleet is dying, the death of a few thousand to save the lives of billions. Rose and Hober Malow lead Constant to the one working escape pod, knowing that her infectious optimism is more important to the future of Foundation than anything else. Hober Mallow and Bel Riose, resigned to their deaths, have some of that fancy wine Mallow was saving for years — which tastes horrible, as he was storing it wrong. But hey, at least Riose got to shove Day out of an airlock, so that must count for something.
Of course, the news of Day’s death and the destruction of the fleet don’t make Demerzel very happy. Making matters worse, she still has to deal with Rue and Dusk figuring out her secret. Laura Birn has been fantastic as the murder robot all season long, but she is outstanding in this episode, showing Demerzel at her most emotional and vulnerable. She hates Cleon for twisting their history, for mixing his coercion with communion and her captivity for love. She misses the tender boy she met, the passionate and noble man he became, and yet he programmed her to love, so she can’t even be sure if her feelings are real, and she hates Cleon because of it.
She confesses to having hired the assassins, all so she could frame Sareth and have her executed. Her programming prevented her from supporting Day’s marriage, but she couldn’t voice her concern. Dusk, resigned to his fate, tells Demerzel that none of them were ever free. He forgives her and hugs her. Demerzel cries as she approaches the two, holding back stronger emotions than any human on the show but pushing them down her robot exterior. She is the big puppeteer, but she is also pulling her own strings, which are stronger than anyone else’s.
Later, she tells Dawn about Sareth, who is charged with treason. Dawn does not believe it, but then he notices the green mark on Demerzel’s neck — Dusk’s last act of revenge, symbolizing her betrayal like in the painting he told Dawn about. Realizing he’s in mortal danger, Dawn escapes Trantor with Sareth, who is pregnant with his child. Somehow, perhaps showing some actual, unprogrammed emotion, Demerzel breaks down crying as Dawn tells her he hopes she is happy for him and that he always loved her as the mother he never had. She should hunt them down, but she doesn’t, and the two escape, knowing that many things could go wrong with their child, but they will love them regardless.
Of course, Demerzel does not let that be the end of the Cleonic dynasty. She thaws out three new Cleons at the same time, which has never happened before. But she is not alone; she has the Prime Radiant, and she will learn how to use it. Is this the start of R. Daneel Olivaw? Or the start of something else, a villain stronger than anyone on the show will have dreamed of? That remains to be seen.
On Ignus, we learn that Gaal unlocked the next level of her psychic powers and was able to not only control the mind of the guard watching over Hari as he drowned and make him kill himself but also swap their places and fool the entire village into seeing the corpse of Hari Seldon instead. But even with Tellem Bond dead, they are not out of danger yet. Before she dies, the cult leader possesses Josiah and forces him to shoot at Gaal, but Salvor jumps in front of her mom and sacrifices herself. As she dies, she calls out to her mom. “It means we’re not trapped,” she tells her. The future can be saved and Gaal can get it back on the right course.
Utterly devastated, Gaal tries to make sense of the sacrifice. She needs it to mean something. Seldon, seemingly having learned from their ordeal for once, says the losses they are unable to prevent matter if we make them matter. Individuals matter because we say they do, because they help the rest of us go forward. Seldon wouldn’t have continued his work without Yanna. To quote Erwin Smith in Attack on Titan, “Their lives have meaning because we the living refuse to forget them! And as we ride to certain death, we trust our successors to do the same for us.”
After some convincing from Gaal, Seldon finally puts people ahead of the math, and rather than leave Gaal alone while he sacrifices himself for the plan, the two spend the next year training the mentallics in psychohistory before going into cryosleep. They will awake once a year for the next century, until they are ready to face the Mule. The Second Foundation has officially begun.
As for Brother Constant, she is rescued, not by a ship, but by the Vault, which opens and reveals that everyone on Terminus survived, including Poly, Constant’s dad, and even Glawen Curr. This was always the plan. Terminus sacrificed so the foundation would survive. The maniacs did it, they pulled off the magic Seldon reveal, where he explains that it was all his plan all along. It is a bit absurd and silly, but it is also very cathartic and fun to watch.
And with that, season two of Foundation is done. This has been a fantastic season of TV and a vast improvement over the first season. I hope we get many more because there’s one more thing. We jump forward in time, 152 years later! The Mule says he has been dreaming of Gaal for years on end, but now she is finally awake in his time, at his throat. He will find her before she finds her. He has to destroy her even if he has to burn everything to do it. We have ourselves one hell of a villain for season three.
The Prime Radiant
• Until the end, Constant and Hober were a delight together. In her final moments, she lashes at him for denying her a martyr’s death. She asks Hober if he still wants to know her real name and says it is Hope. Of course, she is lying, but wouldn’t that be a cool reveal? Unfortunately, it seems with Hober’s death we say good-bye to the last romance on the show, which is a shame.