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Foundation Season 2 Episode 8: The Last Empress Review

5 min read
The players on the board are shaken up a bit by the end of this episode and it's primed for where it will go to wrap things up for the season.

Nothing shakes up an empire more than a full-on surprise attack..

What They Say:
Enjoiner Rue confides in Dusk about her distrust of Demerzel. Hober Mallow pulls a daring move. Day sets course for Terminus and the Foundation.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Oh, Foundation, how you continue to delight at times and utterly aggravate at others. This season has reinforced full my view of how everything involving the Empire itself is being handled well when it comes to showing the various ways it’s decaying but they’ve lost the plot completely when it comes to almost everything else, especially the Foundation. That we’ve spent so little time with it in general and that the time with various members of it has been as minimal or chaotic as it has is something that hasn’t served it well. And while I appreciate the idea of setting up the Second Foundation and telling its story concurrently, I also feel that it takes out the surprise that would come from actually showing them arrive later in the actual story if they had adapted just a bit more faithfully. It undercuts the reveal of their existence later.

The main issue with the Second Foundation continues here in that it employs both Salvor and Gaal, two characters who should be long dead and buried and not dragged around for more adventures. With Salvor having discovered this Hari’s death, after just getting a body at that, she’s imprisoned quietly to be hidden from Gaal so that Tellem can work her push to get Gaal to be who she needs. And it’s just a mess overall because we get things like Salvor figuring out the Prime Radiant was hidden in her jacket all along and she’s able to open it and use it to communicate with Vault Seldon, who is frustrated to learn that there are others of him out there and that this knowledge impacts what he’s trying to accomplish now. Yeah, science that looks like magic and all that but it all just feels so pointless and counterproductive to the original intent that these sequences, while often filmed well, can make me want to just turn off the whole episode.

Events on Trantor are at least interesting in continuing to showcase the decay of things. Trust between the three aspects of Empire is pretty well broken here but not outright on display. What sets things in motion is the execution event for Constant and Poly, which is being done in a big public way within the palace grounds. It’s set up elaborately enough and we see the grand trappings that pleases Day, but he also orchestrates it again to show his dominance over his bride-to-be. The execution, a beheading, is done with a collar device that the person wears and it just does its job on command. Getting Sareth to pick out which person goes first is a hard thing for her as it doesn’t seem this is how her people operate, but she still needs to keep up the ruse. And knowing it’s not her thing, you see how frustrated Dawn is by it but unable to do anything. And all of this comes after the events with Sareth confronting Day about how Demerzel is a robot.

That at least has a nice path in how some of it unfolds with Rue and Dusk engaged in discussion about it, especially with her reveal that the Cloud Dominion has figured out how to reverse the memory edits done by the Empire. So she knows all of her past, and the secret passages here, and uses that as a way to get Dusk to realize he might be able to find out what memories have been stolen from him as well. Dawn, Day, and Dusk are all the same person but we’re getting court intrigue just within that trio alone with how the manipulations go. And with Dusk realizing that Demerzel has also made significant edits and modifications as well in regards to her, well, it adds another layer of distrust on top of everything else. It’s well done and intriguing and makes me wish we were basically getting a Game of Thrones of Trantor since that at least has the space to operate in without contradicting much of the core ideas of the books.

Everything with Hober Mallow here frustrates me. He’s basically a self-insert reluctant hero type that’s been added when his actual goal was to shove the Foundation away from its religious methods to one of actual trade. Here, we see him, thanks to what we saw with his time with the Spacers, appear in his whisper ship right above the palace, causing a wave of destruction, and managing to rescue Constant as he couldn’t find Poly amid the chaos. This all sets Day to being a journey to Terminus to reclaim what he views as rightly his whereas others thought he would just bomb them into the stone age, but the reality is that they have some high-tech innovations that the Empire needs. So he’s at least making sense. But everything Mallow did/ Just ridiculous and a way to push another relationship that doesn’t need to happen with him and Constant.

In Summary:
The players on the board are shaken up a bit by the end of this episode and it’s primed for where it will go to wrap things up for the season. I am intrigued to see what the next episode is as it’s supposed to focus on a lot of Demerzel’s story and the Robot Wars as viewed by this creative team so there’s a lot of curiosity but also apprehension at the whole thing. Some of it just makes me eager to revisit the novels once again and engage in its kind of storytelling. There are a lot of things I like that have expanded upon with this show and the visual and creative design is just off the charts, capturing a sprawling galactic empire in small but great ways. But so many other areas frustrate with choices that make no sense.

Grade: B-

Streamed By: Apple TV+