Foundation Season 2 Review: A spectacular adaptation expanding Asimov's universe

Foundation Season 2 Review: A spectacular adaptation expanding Asimov’s universe

David Goyer adapted the unadaptable with the first season of Apple TV+’s Foundation. Has he achieved the same with Season Two?

Foundation season two

If there’s one thing that season one of Apple TV+’s Foundation demonstrated, it’s that the seemingly unadaptable novels by Isaac Asimov can indeed be adapted given the right time and budget.

Under the guidance of showrunner David Goyer, this seminal work has been masterfully transported to the screen, seamlessly weaving together abstract concepts like clone emperors and psychohistory. However, it’s important to highlight that this is an adaptation, and as such, changes were necessary.

While some die-hard fans may have been unsettled by deviations from the original text, Goyer’s deliberate changes were crucial in introducing the story to a new medium. The untouched books still exist; what we have now is an interpretation, a divergence, an adaptation. Many of Asimov’s beloved characters remain, their arcs and functions merely expanded, and plot twists that were once a single line now occupy entire episodes. Crafted specifically for television and the streaming generation, this story is truly a testament to the power of adaptation.

Season one ended with a jaw-dropping cliffhanger as Salvor Hardin found herself stranded on a flotilla, (re-)united with her biological mother, Gaal Dornick, despite being born a century apart. Season two picks up moments later, presenting us with two fiercely intelligent and powerful women struggling to define their relationship. But as is often the case with Foundation, there’s no time for such contemplation; they must immediately find a way to survive and return to the stars.

Along their journey, they reunite with a version of Hari Seldon (played by Jared Harris), and the trio continues their quest to uphold the Foundation’s original mission and avert the predicted thousands of years of darkness foreseen by psychohistory.

On the other side of the galaxy, the Empire continues to reign, but after 130 odd years, a new rotation of Cleon clones—Day, Dawn, and Dusk — have emerged. With the revelation that the DNA giving birth to these clones has been corrupted, Day, in particular, embraces his differences, even sporting an earring, believing that his very uniqueness could prevent the Empire’s downfall as Hari predicted. What unfolds is a relentless journey across galaxies, showcasing the beginning of the Empire’s decline from both macro and micro perspectives. Asimov’s renowned grand ideas are prominently featured in season two, but what truly captivates is the intricate interplay between fully three-dimensional characters, driven by their motivations and agency.

To lavish praise on such a divisive series may invite controversy, but if we can detach the books from the show, just as Goyer has done, we are left with something seldom seen on the screen. Foundation is an epic saga that continuously captivates. While it offers glimpses of the essence of each character and story beat from the source material, it navigates uncharted territory, keeping viewers delightfully uncertain.

Lee Pace revels in his role, delivering a mesmerising performance as a maniacal tyrant with the temperament of a child. Another standout is Ben Daniels, who brings Bel Rios to life—a character plucked from the literary timeline and given a new purpose, while still retaining his original motivations and essence, propelling the story forward.

However, the heart of the series lies with its three core women. Lou Llobell’s Gaal Dornick and Leah Harvey’s Salvor Hardin, share a mother-daughter relationship that avoids unnecessary sentimentality, yet every moment on screen reverberates with the gravity of their situation. We can’t help but yearn to embark on this adventure alongside them. Meanwhile, Laura Birn’s Demerzel takes center stage, embodying the ultimate Machiavellian figure with a tragic backstory and delivering a performance of superstar-level restraint.

The scale of Foundation Season Two is monumental, whisking us across galaxies and diving deep into the minds of the main characters — sometimes quite literally. The production and costume design are nothing short of incredible; each frame transporting you to a world previously confined to imagination.

No matter what you think is coming, rest assured, you don’t. Rather than an intimidating tome to be weighed down by, this thoughtful and expansive storytelling unfolds at a fast pace, expertly guided and leaving you hungry for more.

Foundation Season Two is out now on Apple TV+