Foundation is now officially a space opera, and what better way to celebrate that shedding of any pretense otherwise than by including a Star Wars-esque secret super-weapon like the Invictus?
In “Death And The Maiden,” we learn that Phara’s actual actual plan with the settlers isn’t to take revenge (though that was a welcome bonus) but to gather a group of Encyclopedists fluent in ship mechanics and astronavigation to help unearth and repair a mythical weapon with which the scrappy group of dying Anarceons can wage war against the Empire.
Altogether, the battle on Terminus, Brother Day’s attempts to maneuver the Byzantine political landscape of one of the Galaxy’s major religions, and Brother Dawn’s own personal awakening made for an entertaining hour of television. But how the show clings to the thin remnants of the Big Ideas introduced in the first episode remains its weakest aspect—by treating characters as foretold agents of destiny in a grand mathematical formula. At some point, the show will actually have to reckon with the religion it’s making of math, and continuously having characters punt the comparison down the road by saying “No, it’s not!” has long since ceased being a satisfying answer.
There’s no shortage of the regular, old-fashioned kind of religion in this episode, however, as Brother Day visits the seat of one of the Galaxy’s largest faiths in order to assure the ascendancy of a leader supportive of the Empire. It’s always great when sci-fi invests in creating religion because when done properly, you can get so grand with the scope of the world-building.
Luminism, older than the empire, is centered on three moons that represent the trinity of goddesses themselves—of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Only Maiden is hospitable, and even it is an arid place, not dissimilar to the Middle East and dominated by salt mines that produce the faith’s signature religious trinket, the leviathan crystals. But more interesting than the arguably superfluous details of the faith itself is that Demerzel is one of its three trillion adherents. Why an android thousands of years old would choose to pursue faith, or even more basic, how it could do so are legitimate questions Brother Day raises. Demerzel’s answer is vague, but essentially no different than what you would receive from a non-robot believer.
Zephyr Halima (T’Nia Miller) is the heretical leader Brother Day meets upon landing on Maiden. She comes alone with no entourage to provide the expected level of pomp and obedience that would normally greet their arrival. It’s a power move and Halima is unwavering through the entire episode. Even after Day promises a massive infrastructure project to shore up support for the sympathetic candidate, Halima arrives at the funeral of her predecessor to provide some old fashioned testifying that decisively wins her the hearts of everyone in attendance. Most alarmingly, Demerzel herself bows down to the upstart Zephyr, with unknown implications for her future with The Empire.
We learn a little more about the ennui that seems to afflict Brother Dawn as well. Apparently, four hundred years of reproducing the exact same genetic code is beginning to produce galactic Hapsburgs. While initially it seemed Dawn wanted to hide his hunting prowess from Dusk because he feared his older brother, it appears that Dawn was afraid his older brother would be able to intuit that he’s color blind, which gave the younger man the edge against the camouflaged prey they hunted.
And while Dawn only admits to his emerging gardener paramour about his color-blindness, it seems it’s only one of a few possible afflictions Dawn experiences. He’s fully aware of the consequences of being deficient in any way, and he’s right to distrust Dusk, who deploys conscripted concubines from the gossamer court to spy on his siblings. Until now, we’ve only seen the three brothers act in tandem, deferring to the will of Day. This iteration of Dusk seems much more aggressive than previous versions, and it’s not difficult to imagine he would gladly sacrifice one generation of clones if it meant preserving the dynasty.
Things continue to be terrible on Terminus. In pursuit of the aforementioned Invictus, the Anacreons have killed a good portion of the settlers of Terminus. Thanks to the unexpected melee prowess of two of the scrappy kids we met at the beginning of the series, Salvor is freed from captivity and reunited with her father and Hugo. The trio execute a (fairly impressive-looking) raid on the Anacreons base in order to destroy the trio of ships the soldiers arrive on. They succeed, but at the cost of Salvor’s dad’s life.
The big moment from this scene, however, comes from a vision Salvor experiences just as she’s moving into position. She transports into Gaal’s body, or memory, or consciousness at the time of Hari’s murder and bears witness to the lead up between the two men. We learn that yes, as suspected, Hari knew he had to die. The main deviation is that he originally expected Raych to leave aboard the escape pod, making sure not to implicate Gaal, but not bring her along, either.
As it was, Hari felt his whole theorem would crumble if he survived and Raych and Gaal remained together; once again insisting on a very granular interpretation of his prophecy. As we know, Raych did not follow those orders and his own life was forfeit. However, this decision does explain why the ship Gaal landed upon was locked against her, which thoroughly discredits my thesis from last week’s review. How Salvor experiences these visions and how the Vault facilitates these psychic events remains unknown.
Hugo and Salvor return to Hugo’s ship, hoping to intercept it before Phara and her crew arrive. No such luck, and Phara, despite previously wanting to keep Salvor alive due to her connection to the Vault, decides the woman is too much a liability. Hugo cleverly locks the ship to Salvor, forcing Phara to bring the two along. Which should be fun for them, because who doesn’t want to see a spooky ol’ phantom ship?
- Despite Phara’s claim that imperial technology is good at keeping people alive, it was a bit of a coincidence that the one person they were looking for happened to be the one crawling around in the wreckage of the warship they destroyed last episode.
- Nice prop design work on the hunting rifles Brothers Dawn and Dusk used this episode. Some of the show’s costumes are a bit goofy (the gardener’s in particular bugs me), but the overall production design remains fantastic.
- The siege against the Anacreon corvettes was very satisfying. The lava effects at the end were a bit janky, but overall, some good spectacle.
- Congrats on the show for not having either character fall or get pushed off the balcony during Brother Dawn’s confession. The last 10-15 years of television has conditioned me to no setup being too easy for someone not to act on it.
- Salvor acts with the perfect level of ew upon learning her old man joined the Foundation to get laid.