Foundation episode 9 recap: we’re in the endgame now
Spoilers follow for Foundation episodes 1 to 9. Watch them before reading on.
Foundation isn’t messing around anymore. Apple’s adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s iconic sci-fi novels has had its ups and downs throughout season 1, but the show seems like it’s finally delivering a spectacle worthy of its source material.
– Episode 9 (of 10), ‘The First Crisis’
– Written by Victoria Morrow
– Directed by Roxann Dawson
That’s true of Foundation episode 9, aka The First Crisis, at least. Foundation’s latest entry provides a pulsating penultimate season 1 entry, with numerous shocks, well-choreographed action sequences and intriguing drama setting us up for a potentially explosive finale. And, no matter how good (or bad) episode 10 is, The First Crisis teases plenty of alluring plot threads that are likely to be picked up again in season 2 and beyond.
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For the first time since episode 5, Foundation focuses on two, not three, of its branching narratives. We’ve been critical of previous entries that have only followed two storylines – they’ve felt ponderous, for one – so we expected Foundation episode 9 to suffer a similar fate.
And yet, from a storytelling perspective, The First Crisis flows really well. It doesn’t feel slow nor struggles to fill its 57-minute runtime. In fact, it flies by so quickly, and is so enjoyable, that we were left disappointed when the episode was over.
Of episode 9’s two storylines, its Trantor-based one is arguably less important than the events of its Terminus arc – but only just.
Picking up where things left off in episode 7, we find Brother Dawn and Azura plotting their escape from the Empire. Their plan to run away together, though, is far from straightforward.
Why? Well, Brother Dusk is onto them. Meeting Dawn at the Empire’s gigantic mural, Dusk subliminally reveals that he knows Dawn lied to him about how many gilliraptors he killed – six, not three as he’d claimed – during their hunt in episode 6. He also lets on that he knows about Dawn’s differences, including his color blindness.
Startled by this revelation, Dawn hastily packs his belongings and decides to leave immediately. That is, until he’s interrupted by Shadow Master Obrecht, who tells Dawn that Dusk wishes to see him. Assuming that Dusk’s guards will whisk him away and kill him, Dawn repurposes his aura shield bracelet and knocks Obrecht out with a concussive blast. He escapes the pursuing guards, trades his bracelet for a poor person’s jacket to use as a disguise in Trantor’s slums, and makes his way to Azura’s apartment.
Given that Foundation has tended to weave seemingly small-scale moments into its narratives, which may have big pay-offs in the future, it’ll be interesting to see if Dawn’s trade with this beggar has repercussions. Will the bracelet fall into the hands of those who can determine how it works, manufacture it on a large scale and sell it to Trantor’s population to protect them from the Empire’s guards? It’d be interesting if they did.
Regardless, it’s fascinating to see more of Trantor’s societal hierarchy, which we last glimpsed in episode 2. Dawn’s walk through Trantor’s poorer districts offers us a window into a world outside of the imperial palace’s aristocratic sensibilities, which allows us to see how Trantor’s citizens struggle to survive even with the Empire on their proverbial doorstep.
Dawn reunites with Azura and they prepare to escape. After Azura leaves the room for a brief moment, though, she returns in an unusual ensemble – and with a gun in hand. Cue shocked faces all round.
Dawn evades her shots and, confused and feeling betrayed, tries to escape. He doesn’t get far, however, before he’s surrounded by Azura’s friends, knocked unconscious and taken to an undisclosed location.
This is where one of episode 9’s major reveals takes place: there’s another Dawn clone who escaped the imperial palace – and this one is in league with Azura and her gang.
Wait, how is this possible? We learn that this other Dawn was stolen from the Empire’s clone facility by Azura’s gang, which was a plan decades in the making. Again, this speaks to Foundation’s ability to lay the brickwork for events yet to come, showing that past narratives get some form of payoff in later episodes.
But we digress: it was always the plan for Azura’s gang to capture the escaping Dawn and, if successful, transfer his nanobots to their reprogrammed Dawn clone. The latter would return to the palace and act as their spy, who could help to bring about the fall of the Cleonic clone dynasty. Oh, and Azura’s gang was also responsible for Dawn’s color blindness and other differences. They altered his genetic makeup before he was ‘born’: further proof that they’ve been playing the long game.
While he’s part of this cyclical dynasty that’s tyrannically ruled over the galaxy, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the Dawn that we’ve followed throughout season 1. He’s had no choice in any of this and, as a clone who seems to want to change how the Empire rules its citizens, it’s slightly upsetting to see him used as a pawn in this way.
When it appears that Azura’s gang is about to get away with everything, though, hope (if that’s the right word) springs eternal. Having followed the escaping Dawn using a dragonfly drone – the same one that Dawn used to spy on Azura in episode 3 – Dusk, Obrecht and the Empire’s guards storm Azura’s hideout. They kill the Dawn clone and everyone except Azura, who is arrested and told she’ll stand trial ahead of her likely execution.
Dusk berates Dawn for his naivety, which isn’t surprising: Dawn has been extremely ignorant throughout this particular storyline. Dusk confirms that he knows of Dawn’s differences, too, and the pair agree – reluctantly on Dawn’s part – that Dawn’s future will be decided by Brother Day, whose return from Maiden is imminent. It seems, then, that episode 10 may be the last time we see Azura and this incarnation of Dawn.
As for the Terminus storyline, we’re finally rewarded for sticking out season 1’s most arduous narrative arc.
Following episode 8’s climactic scene, the Invictus has surprisingly space jumped to Terminus. Knowing that she doesn’t have much time before it randomly jumps again, Salvor makes a potentially ill-fated attempt to reach Hugo’s spacecraft, which she spots floating nearby.
Before that, Salvor remembers to tend to the injured Lewis’ wounds. Or she would if he wasn’t already dead. Poignantly, it was Lewis who plugged himself into the Invictus’ navigation module and transported them back to Terminus. Doing so, however, cost his life and, despite their differing opinions, his death hits Salvor hard.
But there’s no time to wallow in sadness. Salvor makes the perilous journey from the Invictus to Hugo’s spaceship (just about) to try to contact Terminus’ forces. When no one responds, Salvor realizes that the Vault’s null field must have expanded in her absence. The race is on, then, to rescue everyone.
Thankfully, Salvor’s not alone in her attempts to do so. Hugo – yep, he’s back again – suddenly reappears. He reveals that the Thespin Lancers, one of which he was stationed on, got caught in the Invictus’ space jump and inadvertently travelled to Terminus, too. After a tearful reunion, the pair concoct a plan: Hugo and the Thespins will work out how to stop the Invictus from jumping again, and Salvor will head planetside to stop the Vault’s null field from growing even more.
Salvor lands on Terminus and the true extent of the Vault’s impact is revealed: every living creature has been knocked unconscious and, if she doesn’t hurry, they may not survive.
Racing to the Vault’s location, Salvor finds her mother near its original border – and she’s holding Hari’s Prime Radiant. Remembering that she tried to use the device once before, Salvor makes a connection between the Vault and Hari’s prized possession. She purposefully instigates one of her mind seizures, which provides her with a link to Hari and Gaal Dornick’s past conversations, to find out how to unlock the Prime Radiant.
Returning to the present, Salvor uses the Prime Radiant to open the Vault and deactivate its force field. It all feels a bit easy from a plot device perspective but, hopefully, we’ll get some proper answers about Salvor’s links to Hari and Gaal in episode 10. Is she the daughter of one of them? Given that she’s able to warp into their memories, we’d be amazed if she isn’t at this point.
With the null field disabled, Terminus’ population and its Anacreon invaders regain consciousness. It seems that a happy ending is in order – until the Thespins make landfall. A Western-style standoff ensues between all three parties until Salvor makes a proposition: Terminus, Thespis and Anacreon should form an alliance and use the Invictus as leverage to prevent the Empire (or any other invading forces) from attacking them.
It’s a proposal that everyone agrees to, apart from Phara. The Anacreons’ leader, who had evaded the clutches of Hugo and the Thespins earlier on, still wants revenge on the Empire and refuses to cooperate.
Suddenly, the Vault sends a pulse of light into the atmosphere. Thinking that it’s an Empire weapon that’ll destroy them all, Phara opens fire on it. Knowing she has to stop Phara, Salvor grabs Phara’s bow and looses an arrow at her adversary. It flies into Phara’s neck, which unsurprisingly causes her to choke to death. It’s a grisly and slightly ironic death, all things considered.
Just when it seems like episode 9 can’t deliver any more enthralling moments, it has one left up its sleeve. A mysterious figure emerges from the Vault and, to everyone’s surprise, it’s Hari. Or, rather, it’s a digital construct – similar to the one we saw with Gaal on the Raven – of the Foundation’s former leader. Is it the same AI we’ve previously seen or a new version? We’ll have to wait until next week to find out.
Foundation episode 9 is the series’ best entry yet. The First Crisis superbly dials up the tension and draws two of its main storylines toward their respectively ominous and intriguing conclusions.
Not only that, but it also provides action and drama in equal measure, delivers on the narrative promises that were set up earlier in the season, and produces numerous shocks and surprises. With no noticeable issues with its pacing, character decisions or set-pieces, too, The First Crisis is everything that we expected Foundation to be and more.
With one entry left before the curtain falls on its first season, Foundation has definitely found its feet, and it seems set to supply a grandstand finish that’s sure to leave us anticipating season 2’s arrival. Here’s hoping that it’s all been worth it.
- Unless we see her in a flashback in future seasons, or her body being buried in the season 1 finale, this is the final appearance of Phara (Kubbra Sait) in Foundation.
- It’s also the second and final episode that Roxann Dawson has directed for season 1. Given that this is our favorite episode so far, here’s hoping she returns for season 2.
- The First Crisis is the first sci-fi TV episode that Victoria Morrow has written in her career. Her other TV writing credits include comedy-drama show Weeds and drama series Big Love.
- Salvor’s Invictus deal with the Thespins and Anacreons actually has its roots in Asimov’s books. In Foundation, the first book in Asimov’s mainline trilogy, Salvor plays the Outer Reach planets against one another, which leads Salvor effectively becoming the ruler of the Empire’s outer colonies. That doesn’t look like it’ll happen here, but it’s intriguing to see that she uses her political know-how to defuse a tense situation in Apple’s TV adaptation as well as the novels.
- The First Crisis is one of only two episodes so far that Laura Birn’s Eto Demerzel hasn’t featured in.
- Lee Pace’s Brother Day, meanwhile, only makes a fleeting appearance in episode 9. However, unlike Birn, he receives an appearance credit in the show’s opening titles for The First Crisis.
- One of the lines of dialogue that Abbas (Clarke Peters) says to Salvor, during episode 9’s opening flashback scene, is directly lifted from Asimov’s source material. His "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" quote is actually said by Salvor in Foundation, the first book in Asimov’s seminal sci-fi series.
- Interestingly, another of Abbas’ quotes is also a paraphrased version of one used by many psychologists throughout human history. His "Past behaviour is the best predictor of future performance" line has been attributed to US and Austrian psychologists including Albert Ellis and Walter Michel. Some individuals have even claimed that US writer and humorist Mark Twain is the person behind the quote’s origins!
New episodes of Foundation debut exclusively on Apple TV Plus every Friday.
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November 12, 2021 at 04:16AM