Foundation season 2: the great SF fresco we deserve (review)

Foundation season 2: the great SF fresco we deserve (review)

After a first season that set up the stakes, it’s time to take off for the Apple TV + series.

Two years after the season 1 finale, it’s time for the big comeback of Foundation, this Friday on Apple TV+ (and Canal Plus in France). A long-awaited return, after a season 1 which had rather seduced, but not completely conquered. The moment is crucial for the series created by David S. Goyer. Foundation can it take flight and escape the tragic destiny of SF shows which have not been able to fulfill their ambitions?

Goyer explained it before the launch of season 2. The hardest part of adapting a huge literary series is the exposition stage: “You have to explain things and hope that the audience is still there. I feel like we no longer have this enormous weight on our shoulders“. From the opening of the first episode, we are thus entitled to a superb close combat where the Emperor Cleon (Lee Pace, gaulé as ever), naked, resists an assassination attempt.

A century later…

More than a century has passed since season 1, fortunately the series uses many scriptwriting tricks to make its characters survive and allow spectators to follow this grandiose adventure with familiar faces. The Emperor clones, a great find from season 1, are of course back. Just like Gaale Dornick (Lou LLobell) and Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey), who crossed time thanks to cryo-sleep. Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) continues to torment the Empire and unfold his plan with his digital copies.

Everything is going as Seldon had planned, or almost. The Empire’s influence is waning, and the Foundation, based in Terminus, is expanding its influence by taking control of several worlds at the edge of the Galaxy. To better hide its design and seduce gullible populations, it disguises itself as a religion, scientism. A very interesting arc, embodied by a new duo of endearing characters: High Cleric Poly Verisof and his young sidekick Frère Constant (who is a woman).

In Trantor, the atmosphere is deleterious. After the revelations about the compromised Imperial DNA, the Brother in the Great Day (the middle-aged Cleon) wants to shake things up. No more cloning, the Emperor wants to take a wife and have descendants, hoping to make Hari Seldon and his psychohistory lie. But with the revelations about the childhood of Cleon 1er and the origin of Demerzel, the robot butler of the emperors, we understand better and better which knot bag is the great galactic capital…

During this time, we follow in parallel the adventures of Salvor and Gaale, who does not yet know that she is the mother of her wandering partner. They will cross paths with a colony of Mentalics, telepaths capable of influencing the thoughts of others, led by a strange woman, Tellem Bond. An arc perhaps less attractive but which we feel will be essential following the plot.

A beautiful betrayal

To adapt is to betray. To tackle Foundation, the monument of science fiction literature written by Isaac Asimov from the 1940s, David S. Goyer has taken this old adage as a screenwriter fully to his account. And he was quite right. No offense to fans of the books, staying true to the novels would have been suicide. In Foundation, the centuries go by at full speed and the generations of characters follow one another. Can we imagine a big budget show renewing its cast every season, or even several times a season?

But the betrayal has its limits, and the show doesn’t completely abandon the books either. Season 2 successfully introduces other characters from the novels, such as Hober Mallowa kind of Han Solo who will offer his services to the Foundation, and Bel Riose, the Grand General of the Galactic Empire. Through Gaale’s visions, the series also gives us a glimpse of the Mule (The Mule in VO), a mutant capable of disrupting the Seldon plan with his ability to influence masses of individuals.

Despite a probably inevitable soft stomach, season 2 of Foundation leaves us with a very good impression, in particular thanks to a Dantesque last third, including a breathtaking final episode where twists and revelations follow one another. Well paced, between scenes of dialogues and skilfully balanced twists, old-fashioned fights and epic space battles, and still as polished visually, despite its “modest” budget (season 1 had cost only 45 million dollars), the Apple’s SF show confirms that it is one of the platform’s flagship programs and has undoubtedly won its renewal for a third season. This story of a collapsing empire, terribly close to our reality, is decidedly fascinating.

Season 2 of Foundation is broadcast on Apple TV+ (and Canal Plus in France) from July 14, 2023, at the rate of one episode per week every Friday (episodes viewed: 10/10).

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