EntertainmentTV'Foundation' Season 2's Surprising Deaths Explained by David S....

‘Foundation’ Season 2’s Surprising Deaths Explained by David S. Goyer


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Editor’s Note: The following contains major spoilers for the Season 2 finale of Foundation.

The Big Picture

  • Isaac Asimov’s profound impact on science fiction and his influential work on robotics and artificial intelligence is evident in the Apple TV+ series, Foundation. The show stays true to Asimov’s spirit and honors his prolific writing.
  • Showrunners David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman put careful thought and consideration into adapting Asimov’s Foundation trilogy for television. The challenge of transitioning from page to screen and navigating the time jumps was tackled with creative approaches, such as introducing familiar faces across centuries.
  • Season 2 of Foundation introduces new characters and explores the origins of Demerzel. David S. Goyer and Robyn Asimov discussed Season 2’s unexpected plot twists, including the deaths of beloved characters and the future of the series with the introduction of The Mule.

When it comes to science fiction, with a heavy emphasis on science and robots, Isaac Asimov is really one of the forefathers of that genre and subgenre. As the man who was a trailblazer in discussing robotics and artificial intelligence, we can credit Asimov with influencing the very shape of our reality today. From the three laws of robotics to the impact of the Foundation series, Asimov’s prolific writing has an indelible impact on our society. So when showrunners David S. Goyer and Josh Freidman decided to create a television series based on Asimov’s infamous Foundation trilogy, it seemed a daunting and almost impossible task. However, two seasons later, it’s clear to see that Apple TV+’s version of Foundation has made its mark and honors the spirit of Asimov’s work.

Speaking with both Goyer and Robyn Asimov, the author’s daughter and executive producer of the series, it’s clear that a lot of thought and consideration was put into the series in order to make the impossible jump from page to screen. The series stars Jared Harris as Hari Seldon, the mathematician who has developed a way to use algorithms to predict the future using probability, something he calls psychohistory. At his side is Lou Llobell‘s Gaal Dornick, who is able to see versions of the future. In Season 2, they also add Leah Harvey‘s Salvor Hardin to the mix, Gaal’s daughter from the future who has similar abilities to her. As the season follows Hari, Gaal, and Salvor’s story, it also follows the story of the galactic empire ruled by three clones in a genetic empire. The emperor Cleon, played by the talented Lee Pace, exists in three forms — Dawn, Day, and Dusk — and rules over the galaxy with an iron grip with the robot Demerzel (Laura Birn) at his side.

After the seismic shifts at the end of Season 2 of Foundation, we had to ask Goyer and Asimov some of our most burning questions when it comes to the finale. We talked about how Goyer would make the show if money wasn’t an object, would the series be a sort of anthology? Or would it still have the same DNA? And given the massive time jumps in the show, we talked about the hardest part of adapting a story like this over centuries. Demerzel played a larger role in Season 2, and we discussed how Goyer blended Isaac Asimov’s stories about the robots in order to fill in the gaps of her origin story. Of course, we had to ask about some of the biggest plot twists of the finale, so we talked about killing new characters like Bel Riose (Ben Daniels) and Hober Mallow (Dimitri Leonidas) and the death of Salvor, which changes everything. We discussed what it means now that the Prime Radiant is in Demerzel’s hands, as well as what could be in the future for Dawn (Cassian Bilton) and Sareth (Ella-Rae Smith) after escaping Empire — not just in Season 3 but in potential future seasons. We talked a little bit about what we’d see in Season 3 regarding the arrival of The Mule (Mikael Persbrandt), and how Goyer has improved on Isaac Asimov’s original work. Check out the full interview below.

Image via Apple TV+

COLLIDER: So I have to know, when it comes to developing the story and adapting each season, after big-time jumps, what’s the hardest part in going about that process? Especially since, I think in Season 3, you’re going to be jumping forward 150-something years as well. Can you talk about that?

DAVID GOYER: Well, I mean, as Robyn is well aware, probably the trickiest thing about adapting her father’s work, particularly because this book is really an omnibus of short stories where you don’t have a lot of continuing characters, it’s trying to work around the anthological nature of particularly the first book. But also, the whole premise, if you’re trying to tell a 1000-year story, and not have it be an anthology, which no one was interested in supporting at this price point, figuring out how, through some of the tropes of science fiction, to keep some of these characters ongoing.

And Hari Seldon himself — he exists in the prequels — but that was really the biggest challenge, is knowing that the audience would need that tether, some familiar faces to carry them from century to century to century. And because we have the tropes of one of the characters being a robot, and we invented the genetic dynasty, I thought that would be an interesting way to present at least the same faces to Empire, even though they are different characters. And then using things like cryo sleep to have Gaal sleep from century to century, that was the biggest nut to crack, and I’m sure Robyn can speak to previous iterations. But that, that’s the biggest buy-in, I suppose for an adaptation of Foundation.

Can I ask if money wasn’t an issue, and you were allowed to do an anthology, would this series be very different from what we’re seeing now?

GOYER: I don’t know. I like to think of it as a hybrid of a serialized show, and an anthology because Season 1 has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and many characters that don’t continue on from Season 1 to Season 2. And Season 2, as you know now, has a beginning, middle, and end, and many of those character stories are complete, and the plan is to do something similar for Season 3 and Season 4. It’s just that, there aren’t a lot of shows like this, but it would be if you took something like Fargo and had two characters that continued from season to season. But I don’t think I would have wanted, even in a perfect world, to have done a straight anthology. And I like that it’s kind of an unusual format. But I don’t know what other people were attempting, prior to me. Again, Robyn can speak to that in terms of adapting it or, whether people were thinking of doing it as an anthology or not. I have no idea.

ROBYN ASIMOV: No, they weren’t. And it was hard for them to even go forward beyond the initial idea of bringing in all the stories that were spoken about offline, and making it more action-oriented. But people really couldn’t get beyond that. So, what you’ve done is almost a miracle in my mind.

Image via Apple TV+

I’d like to know a little bit about incorporating the rest of Asimov’s work, because I feel like with Demerzel, you have an opportunity to sort of bring in other threads, so to speak, because of her extended long life. Can you talk a little bit about that? And also can you talk about exploring her origins in the series in the season?

GOYER: Well, I had read, not all, but quite a bit of The Caves of Steel robot stories growing up, and those rights are bifurcated, we don’t have the rights to those, and to be frank, I had not read the prequels and the sequels until this opportunity came up. I’d only read the original trilogy. So when I read that Demerzel was a robot character, that was part of the Foundation story, and part of Asimov’s attempt to reconcile the Robot universe with the Foundation universe, I just thought that was a really exciting possibility, not the least of which because she’s this character — he in the books — they are this character that exists for thousands and thousands of years. So if you’re telling a story that’s essentially a 1000-year chess game between the ghost of Hari Seldon and Empire, and you already have a character who’s immortal, that just seemed so exciting.

So I thought, let’s take Demerzel from the prequels and inject her into the original trilogy. That and the genetic dynasty were my big “aha” moments when we were first figuring it out. Asimov’s robot characters always seemed almost more human than his human characters, and really soulful, and that was something that I also really appreciated. And so Demerzel just felt like one of the perfect point-of-view characters to wrap this millennia-long story around. So when I read the prequels, and had seen that Asimov had brought a character which was R. Daneel into the Foundation universe, that was a real gift and an “aha” experience for me.

Honestly, Laura Birn is just amazing as Demerzel, and the way that she plays that character, it does feel very, very human to me. Especially the way she connects with religion and things like that. I think it’s really well done. But I just have to touch on some of these big twists at the end of the season, especially that you guys killed Salvor, which I don’t think I saw coming. I thought eventually it would happen.

But did you go into the season knowing she would be sacrificed? Similarly, I mean, when we’re talking about like other characters that I really fell in love with the season, like Bel Riose or Hober Mallow, I love these characters and I didn’t expect them to depart so quickly. But can you talk about that?

GOYER: Well, I love all three of those characters, and I love all three of those actors. But I feel we’re on to something when we’re in the writers’ room when the plot almost demands that you kill a character you like. Even though I love all of those characters, and I would say Bel is probably my favorite Foundation character, and I just adore Ben Daniels, it seemed appropriate. We always planned to kill Bel and Hober, and I like that they meet their fates twinned together, but Salvor was not originally planned that way. But I thought it would be surprising, and I thought her death would be meaningful because one of the themes that we’ve been exploring in the show, it seems like psychohistory predicting a probable future because conditions can change, you know? That Empire can fall on this date or the Empire can fall on that date. So it’s not a deterministic future, it’s a probable future.

Lou Llobell and Leah Harvey in Foundation
Image via Apple TV+

And then we had introduced this idea that Gaal could see the future and so far, everything that she had seen had come true, and that pointed towards a deterministic future where nothing anyone did mattered. One of the other themes, clearly, that Robyn’s father was dealing with was, is everything preordained? Or does the agency of an individual matter when mapped against the math? And I thought it was this interesting juxtaposition between this probabilistic future that psychohistory was predicting and this seemingly deterministic future that Gaal’s vision was telling her, and if it was telling her that her daughter was going to die 150 years now on a battlefield, I think the audience has all assumed that that that’s written in stone.

And then to have that not be written in stone, I think is surprising for the audience and emotional for the audience. But her sacrifice also is kind of a gift because it means that that future now can no longer happen, it means that there’s possibility. There’s a possibility, not just for Gaal, there’s a possibility for the plan even in the wake of The Mule showing up. That there’s possibility. So while I think it will be emotionally difficult, and I don’t know if Robyn’s seen Episode 10, I hope we didn’t spoil that…

ASIMOV: It did, it did! I’m dying in here!

It’s emotional too! I cried!

GOYER: I just realized as we were talking about it, many people cried. I’m so sorry, Robyn. There are a couple of other surprises in 10, but that one really caught people off guard, and it’s surprising I’ve seen people online talk about, “Well, Salvor has plot armor because we know her character is destined to show up against The Mule.” And I just think that’s exciting as a viewer when something happens that you don’t expect. And we didn’t do it for shock value. There’s a reason for it. But I also think good shows also kill characters that you really like.

You did it multiple times! So it was a lot to handle in that final couple of episodes.

GOYER: OK, I don’t want to reveal too much more because poor Robyn hasn’t seen it, but as shocking as Episode 9 is, I think in some ways, Episode 10 is even more shocking.

Dimitri Leonidas as Hober Mallow in Foundation
Image via Apple TV+

Yeah. No, you’re not joking with that comment. So can we talk about what we can expect from The Mule? Because we kind of get a little glimpse into it, and there’s sort of like this element of like horror to his character. I feel like any time people see him, or they talk about him, there’s this really immense fear. Can you talk about what we might expect from that character in Season 3? Because I know you guys had started the production process before the strike. So I’m kind of interested in where you guys are with that.

GOYER: We had started the pre-production process. We have written the scripts. Well, The Mule is obviously this character that looms really large in the book, Second Foundation. And this is another example of filling in things that Asimov had deleted. But there’s this discussion in the books that he’s this larger-than-life character who’s got these immense powers. And I think they said he wears goggles, is that right Robyn, or something like that?

ASIMOV: Right.

GOYER: And there’s a suggestion that he can kill you with his gaze. But all of that’s off-screen in the book. And so, because we’re largely adapting the Mule novella for Season 3, we needed to see that on-screen and have him really be a boogeyman, kind of a Darth Vader character. The exciting thing for us was that we found a tricky way to introduce the character even a little bit in Season 2. What’s really exciting, when I met with Apple and Amazon and all the various people that wanted to do the show, everyone said, “When are we gonna get The Mule? When are we gonna get The Mule?” And I said, “I’m sorry, but we’re not getting The Mule until Season 3.”

I think the reason why The Mule was shocking to me when I read the original books, is because he comes out of nowhere and he completely T-bone’s psychohistory and T-bones Hari’s plan, and just puts everything into this immense upheaval, and it was shocking. And if we had started with that, it wouldn’t be shocking. And so I said, “We really have to earn The Mule. So you’re not going to get The Mule till Season 3.” I figured out a tricky way to introduce The Mule in Season 2 but look, Season 3 is all about The Mule. The mule is here, and what’s exciting about The Mule is all bets are off.

And that’s what was exciting and brilliant about what your father had done Robyn, because The Mule could not be predicted. The Mule was this outlier. The other thing that I’m excited about for Season 3 is when you introduce a character like that, that is such an existential threat to Foundation to Second Foundation to Empire, it creates an opportunity for some uneasy or unusual alliances between these different factions that would not normally happen. In the same way that there were, you know, Russia and America allied against Nazi Germany, which was unusual in World War II. And I think that’s really exciting. Just something that I’m really excited to explore in Season 3. I think you’re going to see some very unusual pairings.

Image via Apple TV+

Well, that’s fascinating, because actually, in the season finale, we have an interesting pairing — and I’m sorry Robyn for spoiling some of this for you — but Demerzel gets her hands on the Prime Radiant from Hari. And I thought that was just such a… maybe a questionable decision on Hari’s part because I don’t know if he knows Demerzel’s origins. She’s kind of pulling the strings now as it were with Empire in this newly decanted trio. Is this the last we’re going to see of Empire at its full power? Is Demerzel fully in control now? What’s the temperature like?

GOYER: Well, I don’t wanna spoil everything, but the question audiences should be asking… I like to differentiate the two Hari’s. Hari is the one on Ignis with Gaal and Salvor, is the one with human feet now, and Doctor Seldon is the digital being in the vault. Why would Doctor Seldon give the Prime Radiant to Demerzel? It raises a lot of questions and I see Robyn’s mind racing, and I’ve seen a lot of theories online, most of which aren’t right, but which is cool.

ASIMOV: That’s good to know.

GOYER: It wasn’t a capricious act, I’ll say that, and you don’t know the whole story. So, he does say though, in that meeting in Episode 9, he mentions Demerzel’s programming. So it’s heavily implied that Seldon knows she’s a robot. So the other question people should be asking is, how does he know? And when did he know?

I think there are a lot of blanks to be filled in with that, those two characters. And then just touching on, Dawn’s character and his sort of escape with Sareth. I think I kind of question whether they’re meant to be like star-crossed lovers in this situation or is there an element of manipulation? Because obviously, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Dawn get duped by a woman that he loves. He has a sort of element of simplicity to him, and I’m just curious about that.

GOYER: I like to dabble in shades of gray. So there’s no question that Sareth is attempting to sometimes awkwardly manipulate Dawn, and really all the genetic dynasty this season. She’s trying her best. She’s fairly canny, but she’s also very young. I think she’s doing her damnest to manipulate Dawn, but I also think she likes Dawn genuinely. I think it can be both.

Robyn, I’m actually curious about what your thoughts are about the Demerzel-Hari of it all. Because I could see that you had some feelings about that.

ASIMOV: I really think he captures the essence of what happens in the books in the series without necessarily copying the book. And I feel that it’s, we’re all thinking this, we all feel there’s some sort of association, and we want there to be one. So I’m excited about it.

Are there any changes that you feel David really nailed when it comes to your father’s work that maybe you were a little bit apprehensive about when you were going into this process?

ASIMOV: I love the character development. That was not my father’s strong suit, and not necessarily his interest per se. It was all about the storytelling, and he did that so well that it was okay that the characters were a bit flat. What David did was especially, I love the Cleon story. He gave life to these characters, and it brought the story to another level. The story was great anyway, but I think if, if my father had lived to see this, I think he would have been very, very impressed. My father would have loved to have seen the characters come to life. That’s something that was not in his wheelhouse per se. And I think this would have excited him.

I think the best part about this show is how it has such a large expansive plot. But then you really know the character specifically, which is why losing somebody that we only met this season can feel so, so painful at the same time, even though it’s only through 10 episodes that you got to enjoy their company.

GOYER: One of the things that I’m really genuinely thrilled with is the fact that you feel that way, and the fact that audience members feel that way and that new brand-new characters that we’ve introduced in the second season, people have gotten really attached to, it’s not just the original seven that they’re invested in, they’ve become really attached to these other characters. And I think Bel and Hober, certainly in the second book, up to that point, were my favorite characters from Foundation. And then later on, I love Toran and Bayta and some of the other characters that you will get to meet in Season 3, hopefully.

I can’t wait to meet those characters also. I want to go back to the question that I asked earlier, which is I’m curious, with also incorporating sort of this new political dynamic in Season 3 with the Cloud Dominion, what, what was that like? And also like developing this sort of odd manipulation relationship between the Empire, the three Empires, and also with Claude Dominion.

GOYER: Well, Cloud Dominion didn’t exist in the books, but then again, the genetic dynasty didn’t exist in the books. And so one of the things that we talked about way back in the beginning when I was first developing the show with Josh Friedman was that, not dissimilar to Game of Thrones, you had these siloed stories, and so with the beginning of the first episode in Season 1, in which Empire is directly dealing with Hari Seldon and Gaal Dornick, their story in Season 1 then becomes completely siloed. So, one of the things that we realized as writers that we needed to do was to introduce drama into the Empire storyline until it hooked back up again with the Foundation storyline. So that meant we needed to come up with palace intrigue, we needed to come up with different threats. And so instead of looking to the future, we look to history and historical antecedents.

In Season 1, we had a threat come in the form of Lumisnism, and this sort of firebrand figure who was being very critical of Empire, and they couldn’t control her. So it was like an internal threat and that became interesting. Then we decided, ok, what else can we look to in history? Oh, let’s look to a marriage that a king wants to do, that’s changing the balance of power and a child bride, there are certainly lots of antecedents for that throughout history, and can we create drama and palace intrigue from that? And then by the end of Season 2, and as we get into Season 3, all the storylines are really converging and weaving.

But Dominion initially came out of a need. We need some internal pressure, aside from some external pressure which is being applied from Foundation, we need some internal pressure, we need some palace intrigue. But I will say if the show goes on long enough, I don’t want to reveal this too much to Robyn because she hasn’t seen Episode 10. But the hanging chad of Dawn and Sareth what that child could potentially mean or what a descendant of that could potentially mean if the show goes on six seasons, that will circle back around the plot, and we’ve again seen antecedents of that in history. We’ve seen someone have a bastard child who then came back and threatened the throne. Or we’ve seen, even famously, the Roman Empire kind of split into two. We’ve seen examples of these schisms.

All of Foundation Season 2 is now available to stream on Apple TV+.



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