Foundation: Death and the Maiden   Books Included 
October 22, 2021 5:18 PM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Brother Day meets Zephyr Halima—a would-be leader who opposes the Empire. Brother Dusk grows suspicious of Brother Dawn.
posted by rodlymight (24 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Everybody who speculated on Hari and Raych's plans in the other episode's thread, you can take a dollar from petty cash, well done, congratulations.

Did it seem like maybe that Salvor didn't recognize Hari Seldon, or are we just holding on to the idiot ball for a bit here in the midst of all of this?

I'm trying to figure out where Brother Dawn's dalliances with the gardener are going to end up. I mean, I assume Empire isn't exactly shacking up with anyone on the long term because Reasons™.
posted by Kyol at 8:15 PM on October 22, 2021

RIP to Abbas but (Salvor/Dawn/Hari) is different.

They are straight up having a maiden/mother/crone religion take down the boy/daddy/geezer empire? Some might say that's a little on the nose, but alright.

I'll take my dollar for prognostication and immediately pay it back for bring wrong about the Anacreonian bloodthirst.

I suspect that the gardener is going to come to a bad end. Dawn and the gardener (does she have a name yet?) represent a different path forward for the empire, new blood and change, but this is a show about the collapse of an empire that won't accept change so that can't happen.
posted by rodlymight at 8:44 PM on October 22, 2021

Yeah, i can't remember it off-hand, except that it starts with A (which i remember because it always seems to start with A in these genres when you're thinking up new names and didn't have any other reason to differentiate in a different direction).

This show, as we know, is remixed using elements of conventions of other popular sff media, and this week to me, the visit to the Maiden really brought up the Dune tropes. Probably because I did watch the movie. I've been listening to the official podcast and Goyer namechecks Tibetan Buddhism, but the bit with the water in the salt container for me is reminiscent of the beliefs surrounding water from the Zamzam well near the Kaaba in Mecca (if you're not of true faith, it will taste bad, not refreshing) as well as the kissing of the sacred mineral.

On that note, Day!Cleon is too quick to assume Demerzel was programmed to serve him-as-Empire. And I've been thinking about the conversation she had with the first Cleon -- maybe this is too much conspiracy because I wonder if they both anticipated the need for an eventual decay of the clones? Certainly having a practically immortal partner would be an important consideration for whatever that Cleon is planning.

And Dawn!Cleon's colour blindness! Not only that explains the hunting but it throws another light to the bit when he requested the mural the last Dusk painted be sanded over in the Ghosts ep. (Of course Demerzel's dismay means I might be disproving my own argument about planned decay)

I have to admit, I miss Gaal this episode. I'm trying to puzzle out if we actually saw her wake up early enough that by the time the Terminus attack happened, a base for a Second Foundation is ready. I vaguely recall Asimov himself basically contradicted/challenged his own premise for psychohistory as stories required it but The Mule aside, I can't remember if he'd ever present "an individual can by a linchpin to the fates of history" the way this show is moving into (which I'm still well-disposed towards but it is very much the stock-in-trade for typical genre writing esp the visual media - so i'm seeing this as the writers cannot yet overcome their habit/convention/training). I'm trying to puzzle it out, because this episode has a Salvor mindslip (that by now I'm realizing are pegged around Raych - she's been seeing variations of Raych.) that I'm trying to figure out when it could have been updated/uploaded into the vault.
posted by cendawanita at 9:38 PM on October 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

...the gardener (does she have a name yet?)...

Don't think the show has told us yet, but according to Wikipedia she's called Azura Odile. (See the Recurring subsection of Cast and characters.) Amy Tyger plays the role.
posted by kingless at 3:07 AM on October 23, 2021

Azura! And no, it actually was used in the show: Dawn asked for her name, and she gave it. I think it's the scene where she ended up giving him the leaf to help with his physical pain, iirc.
posted by cendawanita at 3:15 AM on October 23, 2021

I forgot that, thanks!
posted by kingless at 3:20 AM on October 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the 'Hari says individuals can change everything!' line seemed completely at odds with the underlying premise of psychohistory. Yes, the Mule shows up eventually, but Hari's work is about individuals not really making a difference: civilization is subject to statistical mechanics. If an individual can change the course, one needs to explain why the emperor can't. (One could argue that the foundation itself is one person's difference, but I would counter that it's actually a multigenerational work involving thousands of people.) My interpretation of the books was that yes, all of these events were foreshadowed by psycho history, but the individuals who see through the crises are fairly incidental. In every parallel universe, someone will be Salvo Hardin, though perhaps not exactly.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:27 AM on October 23, 2021 [7 favorites]

Hari said Raych was supposed to be the one in the escape pod, so i figure some people are fungible in the Plan after all then.
posted by some loser at 10:13 AM on October 23, 2021

The problem seemed to be if Gaal and Raych ended up together. Suppose Gaal was Seldon’s successor and she and Raych had kids then those kids would be the logical heirs to a new dynasty. The books suggest that psychohistory had proven that galactic empires end in with the same fate — collapse and long dark ages before some rebirth. That this cycle traps humanity and the Seldon plan seeks an escape.

As Hardin suggested in the first episode the end of dynastic cloning could preserve the empire a while longer. If Demerzel is able to also see the maths behind psychohistory — and as a super intelligent AI why would she — then perhaps the color blindness and romantic feelings are the result of changes she’s introduced rather than some accident in the cloning.
posted by interogative mood at 11:08 AM on October 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

I miss Gaal because apparently nobody went "it's g-awl" or "it's g-ale" and knocked some heads until everybody was consistent...

And I'm torn between wanting to catch up on her part of the story next week and marching on towards the conclusion of the current Encyclopedist / Anacreon Seldon Crisis or just having Brother Dawn make goo-goo eyes at Azura for an hour. Maybe all three.
posted by Kyol at 8:31 PM on October 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

The colour-blindness reveal did make me re-evaluate the suicidal tendencies and the hiding success in the hunt (hiding differences), especially since some camouflage is apparently less effective against colour blindness.
posted by Marticus at 4:16 PM on October 24, 2021 [5 favorites]

Yeah, the hunt was some subtle storytelling... Color blindness let gives him a big advantage, but an advantage so big that it would call for questioning exactly why he's so much better than his older clone brother who's been practicing for years. Bagging six on the first try demonstrates some real variance in the clones, which undermines the whole premise of the imperial cloning program.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:55 PM on October 24, 2021 [5 favorites]

Oh oh, that's sparked a thought: he'd had to beg his attendant to help him keep his secret. And then there's Azura as well. The sex worker too (to be seen if the mindwipe conveniently leaves a trail or there's a system backup). Like it or not, those are the small stones that may pay off in actual landslide in public trust if the palace staff becomes the first to inevitably create talk about empire's fallibility. And it's a sympathetic secret as well. (Forgot to add: and the show made such a big deal about how overawed and frightened the staff can be around the brothers)
posted by cendawanita at 8:03 PM on October 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

This is also PURE speculation, but narratively one way to manage the revelation of the variance in the clones + the political threat from religious groups who believe in reincarnation is to institute some kind of Tibetan Buddhism Lama system (also similarly found in certain Hindu groupings) or borrow the beliefs that dictate the ordainment, so that Dawn could be an even more mythical (perhaps beloved) pre-genetic dynasty emperor (or someone else of a similar profile, maybe even a Trantorian hero) who's returned to save his people.
posted by cendawanita at 8:15 PM on October 24, 2021

This is also PURE speculation

It won’t end well.
posted by andrewdoull at 12:30 AM on October 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Bagging six on the first try demonstrates some real variance in the clones, which undermines the whole premise of the imperial cloning program.

I wonder how long there have been variants in clones - how many of them have hidden similar traits?
posted by coriolisdave at 6:18 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have to agree with Mr Krugman here. A ground breaking book on the importance of wisdom over brute force has been turned into yet another Star Wars "homage", complete with enemy soldiers who couldn't hit the broadside of a barn, and enemy weapons that cannot injure the good guys.

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent", indeed.

I am intrigued by the goings on in the Emperors' palace on Trantor, though. That does add something to the story.
posted by monotreme at 6:56 PM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

At this point I am hate-watching this show. It is SO. SLOW. Nothing can just be done, they have to take as long as possible to do it, in an attempt to heighten drama. The ending of this episode is a prime example. Salvor has to fly the ship away, a task she's never done. They take a full 2 minutes for her to do it, and it's done flawlessly. At no point was there any suggestion that she wasn't going to do it. It was just bullshit drama, stretched out to fill out two minutes. Like watching someone who's never driven a car before exit their driveway veeeeeerrrrrrry slowly. That could be done for laughs, but here it's Very Serious Stuff.

And it has been a long, long time since I read these books, but I remember the central conceit of psychohistory was that it worked because it measured the movements of civilizations, not individuals. The junk lately about single people being able to change the fate of history isn't supposed to be the norm. I remember one of the most dramatic moments of the books being when Hari's projection shows up to talk about the next crisis, and it's completely wrong, because The Mule has shown up and now the plan is completely off-course. In the books, that's the first time that there is actual panic on the part of the encyclopedists, because it's the first time the plan has been wrong.

Meanwhile we have the show where Hari is doing something else I guess? Seeding the plan into a couple of mentats or whatever? I guess? I feel like the trick here is that the people on Terminus are just a decoy foundation, and that Gaal and Hari are goign to do the real work somewhere else. Which kind of makes sense, considering the Foundation has been at it for 30 years and still haven't decided whether to measure time using sundials or waterclocks. (Why not both?)

So yah, hate-watching. Because this show is supposed to go for EIGHTY. EPISODES. And I can see why, as there's like eight minutes of plot per episode, and another 12 minutes of unbelievably slow exposition/people staring at things.
posted by nushustu at 1:02 PM on November 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

I remember the central conceit of psychohistory was that it worked because it measured the movements of civilizations, not individuals.

That's the pravda that the people on Terminus are told, but in the reality of the books it's all being managed by a small group of psychics on Trantor.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:57 PM on November 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

And I've been thinking about the conversation she had with the first Cleon -- maybe this is too much conspiracy because I wonder if they both anticipated the need for an eventual decay of the clones

If I understand the Dermerzel character, she is the last of her kind, and not publicly known to be a robot. The idea of a robot who believes in a divine creator other than the actual humans who built them is strange, and especially so as the catechism focuses on death and rebirth. A sort of take on the Bicentennial Man eager to become fully human by embracing death, with the added stakes of a soul.

Their conversation, to the extent I recall it, sounded like an acknowledgement that she might not enjoy immortality.
posted by pwnguin at 10:15 AM on November 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am really enjoying this series, even if it is far more "inspired by" the Foundation books than "based on".

A few things little things really bug me though. Like Cleon having a personal shield. The books make a big deal about how revolutionary it was for the Foundation to have developed a personal shield, and even state that not even the Emperor has such a thing. It is a big plot point to demonstrate the difference between the advanced science of the Foundation and the decay and stagnation of the Empire. There are lots of other things; many of them have been pointed out already. For most of them I can just go with it, this is a fun space opera romp vaguely based on Asimov's works.

But I'm having a really hard time with the religious stuff. I'm currently re-reading the Foundation trilogy. Asimov was a hard-core atheist, and the religious stuff is so far removed from the philosophy of the author and the books. In the books, the Foundation even sets up a fake religion of science to control the surrounding kingdoms, and the books go out of their way to make a point that religion is nothing but superstition to control the masses. Sure, have religion in the series if you want as a plot point, but to have a Robot believe in it? To blather on about souls and religious visions?
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:49 PM on November 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Sure, have religion in the series if you want as a plot point, but to have a Robot believe in it?

Well, pretend to believe at least. Like I said, it seems like a contradiction for a Robot to believe. Maybe they're taking it in a new direction; maybe a Robot is also forbidden by the religion and thus pious behavior is a safeguard and her reason for staying on ship was to avoid risking detection and destruction.

I'm currently re-reading the Foundation trilogy. Asimov was a hard-core atheist

I haven't read the books, but the show at least, hasn't portrayed religion in a great light. Synnax deep six'd a dude who know of and liked Kalle's Ninth proof of folding. The Foundation itself seems to treat psychohistory as a religion and Hari as its prophet. They take his forecast as an article of faith; everyone's concerned about whether the math is correct or not but nobody puts in the time and effort to check it themselves. The Luminists seem to be an exception (so far), but even if their role in this episode is to portray the decline in Imperial power by publicly criticizing the Emperor, based on what we've been told so far I could see the Primary Octavo as responsible for justifying the Robot Wars.
posted by pwnguin at 2:31 PM on November 17, 2021

My read is that even a robot, which demonstrably has no supernatural aspect to its sentience (possesses some divinely granted a soul), can still be conned into believing religion. Demerzel is demonstrably a smart cookie, and still falls for it.

So religion is just a tremendous con job. No judgment if you're a smart cookie too and happen to still be religious.

Now, if one starts to question whether a divine power can grant a human created entity a soul - just because it could - that invalidates a lot of modern arguments that use religion as a bludgeon for (targeted) oppression.

But, yeah, a common interpretation is that a non-soul-bearing sentient being just saying stuff to get-along-with-the-natives.
posted by porpoise at 11:05 PM on December 14, 2021

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