I haven’t read the “Foundation” books, so unlike Hari Seldon, I’m not armed with foreknowledge in that respect. Obviously, the name Isaac Asimov carries weight in science fiction, and for genre fans, his three laws of robotics (which play into the backstory of season 2) have long since become part of general awareness. However, in evaluating the storytelling decisions the “Foundation” TV series makes, I can only go by what’s onscreen, without knowing whether those decisions originated from the writers’ room or Asimov’s original source material.
That said, “Foundation” has a way of undoing certain twists, even re-undoing what’s already been undone once or twice over. But while it sometimes goes a little overboard with audience manipulation and lands like the Show That Cried Wolf, season 2 succeeds in cultivating an atmosphere of danger as it progresses. Characters, even those who can be resurrected via established cloning mechanisms, seem genuinely at risk. We get the sense that anything could happen since psychohistory is a psycho-killer that favors sweeping population patterns over any one person’s life. As Hari observes, there are “infinite ways to arrive at the inevitable.”
The show isn’t as ruthless as “Game of Thrones,” though David S. Goyer has compared one moment to the Red Wedding, and here again, we have the rhythms of another diffuse drama with a sprawling cast. In “Foundation,” it’s as if Westeros is the whole wide universe, which means that there are cliffhangers, court intrigue, and even an element of light horror (specifically, folk horror) as the series sets down among a colony of Mentalics, led by Tellem Bond (a bewitching Rachel House). They can read minds and “un-voice” their thoughts rather than speaking them, but since we humans are wired differently, let’s be clear: once you get past the stage setting and fake-outs, “Foundation” season 2 improves on season 1 with a narrative that eventually comes into its own and feels like time well spent.
/Film Rating: 8 out of 10
New episodes of “Foundation” season 2 stream weekly, beginning July 14, 2023, on Apple TV+.