Such a flame of excitement flickers in and out with this second season, which focuses on broader themes—the power of faith and the disarming vulnerability of love—but also can be too dense with its mind games. As “Foundation” indulges more in its world-building, different game boards are stapled together, many new pieces are brought in, and rules are changed. The series has even more twisty allegiances this time around but is presented in a fashion that’s often too dense and dormant.
This second season concerns, even more, the fate of Foundation—a society founded by fearless mathematician Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) before his death—and all that of humanity. A war is impending between the regal forces on the planet Trantor (including three differently aged clones of the same king, known as Cleons) against the people on the outer fringe planets of the Empire. Thanks to the showmanship and dedication of clerics played with wit and color by Kulvinder Ghir and Isabella Laughland, the Church of Seldon is becoming more and more revolutionary. This massive conflict clouds the already fraught existence of everyone in this show, but the stakes aren’t as prominent as they could be.
Instead, “Foundation” invests more in toying with the science of its indulgent world-building, which includes the ability for physical manifestations of someone’s consciousness and a very important tchotchke that has people saying “quantum” casually. The visual effects remain superior, letting the viewer behold sights like an intricately designed spaceship or a mega-canvas of moving colorful sand. It’s warming alone that this dialogue-driven show gets such care for its production design across the board.
Much of the show’s world-building involves Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) and her daughter Salvor (though Salvor is older than her—it’s a “Foundation” thing) and a non-human version of Seldon who helps them escape a type of exile. Gaal and Salvor (Leah Harvey) are privy to an ominous premonition about a god of war known as The Mule, including the destruction they bring. And yet fearing The Mule, or what terror they symbolize, becomes one of many promises from “Foundation” that become devalued with the story’s stubborn lack of momentum. When they later meet a cult-like group of mind-readers (led by an incredible Rachel House), it can almost be too on the nose for the show’s themes of everyone playing mind games.