Massive brands that entered the television industry later, unfortunately, find themselves squarely in my crosshairs, particularly with their series. They occasionally squander their substantial resources, often due to politically correct approaches. Amazon’s “The Rings of Power” and “The Wheel of Time” are prime examples. Apple’s other sci-fi series, “Invasion,” can also be added to this list. However, we are aware that both companies also have some fantastic series in their catalogs. “The Boys,” “Invincible,” “Dead Ringers,” “Silo,” “Severance,” “For All Mankind,” and many other commendable projects are at their disposal. When viewed from a distance and a broader perspective, it is possible to assert that they have not utilized their resources effectively. Particularly in the initial seasons of their series, they encounter difficulties in conveying the story to the audience and building the expected tension. We see that the same is true for the Foundation.
For instance, “The Peripheral,” despite having significant potential as a concept, was canceled after its first season. This was because, once again, they failed to construct the narrative correctly in the first season, leaving the concept hanging. Conversely, “Carnival Row,” with a budget perhaps three times larger than “The Peripheral,” managed to avoid cancellation and made a strong comeback in its second season. However, it did not satisfy me in its first season. “Foundation” also faced the same issue in its first season.
The series, based on Isaac Asimov’s famous novel series Foundation, failed to generate the necessary tension in its first season. It had an apparent problem: it couldn’t deliver on the high expectations it created by claiming the downfall of a colossal empire. Even worse, it dealt with minor anecdotes within a vast universe and a grand imperial story. While Asimov had crafted an expansive narrative inspired by the political issues of his time, the first season of the series focused on the story from a narrow perspective. Had I not watched HBO’s “House of the Dragon” series, I could have defended it by saying, “But that’s the story.” With its skillful handling of makeshift stories, meticulously weaving and filling them, and turning them into high-tension seasons, HBO proved that when technical prowess is employed correctly, any project, no matter how tedious, can be executed with high suspense.
Just like “Carnival Row,” “Foundation” eventually reached the expected level in its second season. Although I felt like I was facing the same dull series in the early episodes, it managed to reach the tempo and grandeur I was looking for towards the middle. Especially the last four episodes contained everything I expected from a sci-fi series. I believe the series captured Asimov’s fundamental starting point well and is among the best of this year.
Let us briefly delve into the plot… Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) succeeds in finding Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey) and attempts to bring back Hari Seldon (Jared Harris). Gaal and Salvor endeavor to verify the accuracy of Hari’s perfect future formula, while on Trantor, Brother Day (Lee Pace) begins to act unlike he ever has before, as he invests in the cruel side of wielding imperial power and simultaneously plans his marriage to Sareth. While Gaal and Salvor struggle to survive in a corner of the galaxy, the capital wastes time with political maneuverings behind the preparations for the wedding, and on the other side of the universe, Brother Constant (Isabella Laughland) and Poly Verisof (Kulvinder Ghir) search for Hober Mallow (Dimitri Leonidas), who is destined to change the fate of the universe.
Born in the wake of the First World War, Asimov bore witness to all the hardships of the Second World War, living through the evolving and changing new world in all its years. His story is, in essence, a political speculative tale. The second season is a season that correctly follows the Foundation that Asimov wanted to establish in the book and now embeds his curiosity about robots within the story. Especially when the series follows Asimov’s path and places Demerzel (Laura Birn) right in the midst of the conflict, the expected tension and mystery naturally emerge. The series, having wasted a character like Demerzel filled with question marks and cunning in the first season, positions her at the heart of the story in the second season. In the series, especially in the final episodes, the central character is no longer Day but Demerzel. In a potential third season, we now know what to expect and whom to fear. Predicting what could happen in the second season for someone not familiar with the books was challenging.
The second season of Foundation also addresses the problem of remaining small, albeit with minor issues. Unfortunately, Gaal, Salvor, and Hari’s adventures still revolve around minor issues. In fact, if Gaal and Salvor were removed from the second season, it would not harm the flow of the story. However, the story of Day and everyone around him manages to achieve the grandeur I was looking for. Hober Mallow’s palace raid, Cleon’s confrontation with Hari Seldon, Cleon’s descent into madness to the extent of destroying a planet (Terminus), and the final fight were precisely what I had hoped for. After introducing an emperor who rules the entire universe and boasts about the size of his armies, confining him to the palace for the entirety of his days was a great disappointment. The second season, by offering both the action I sought and the Cleon I anticipated, succeeded in delivering what I wanted.
In summary… By avoiding the mistakes of the first season, the Foundation season two is a successful season that fulfills the promise of grandeur. The season also intelligently integrates Asimov’s fascination with robots into the story through Demerzel, giving us hope for the upcoming season. The first season offered a tedious spectacle by addressing an immense subject within an expansive universe in a very limited manner. The second season generates ample chaos, conflict, and war through the extremes of Cleon and Hobar Mallow. The underlying political message is reinforced, and the new season has now clarified its direction. We can anticipate whom to focus on and the potential conflicts in a possible third season. I wasn’t particularly eager for the second season, but I am quite hopeful for the third season.
Cast & Crew
creators: David S. Goyer, Josh Friedman
starring: Lou Llobel, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Leah Harvey, Laura Birn, Isabella Laughland, Kulvinder Ghir, Dimitri Leonidas
USA | 2023 | 10 EPISODES |