TL;DR – While still showing promise, the follow-up does not hit as hard as the first.
Disclosure – I paid for the Apple TV+ service that viewed this episode.
Foundation Review –
Adapting a work from one medium to another is a complex process. Indeed, the media landscape is lifted with the failed attempts and aborted projects. This danger is amplified further when you adapt a work that is older and does not play within modern narrative frameworks. Today we continue to explore a show that is charging through this dangerous terrain by adapting a pillar of Science Fiction’s canon.
So to set the scene, Trantor is a planet still reeling from the terrorist attack in The Emperor’s Peace that destroyed the Starbridge sending the space elevator plummeting towards the planet, killing hundreds of millions on the ground. In the opening, Eto Demerzel (Laura Birn) leads a task force to Dwarf Planet Aethra to hunt down whoever financed the attack, but no clues could be found. But while the Empire reals, the Foundation is making the slow 5-year journey to the outer rim, but for all their training, projections still show that 30% of the colonists will still die in the first year. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.
Where this episode excels is in designing the show to allow actors to command these fantastic performances. Brother Day (Lee Pace) swaggers through this episode leaving all in his wake. He has been the source of absolute power for thousands of years, but now he knows he can bleed. Lee Pace gives an operatic performance promoting power and trying to hide his pain while committing planetary genocide. On the other side, there is Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann), a man seeing his end rushing towards himself, the planned obsolescence in human form. There is a rage against this outcome, a deep fear for the coming abyss, and bundled in a man starting to lose his facilities. Terrence Mann charts this difficult path with the power of an actor at the top of their craft.
The episode falters in its depiction of the Foundation making the long trek through the cold black space. The original book has a habit of glossing over big chunks of time, and I wondered how the show would combat that. What we get is the show filling in some of the gaps, which is a perfectly valid technique, but it does not quite land here. So while it was nice to see Gaal (Lou Llobell) put the committee in their place, seeding some of the coming calamity. The rest of the story felt haphazard, with conflicts dropped on the audience with no build-up leading to the big pivotal moment of the apparent death of Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) at the hands of his own son Raych (Alfred Enoch), feeling forced rather than fitting.
In the end, do we recommend Preparing to Live? Well? Look, it does not hit as hard as that first episode, and there was not as much wonder in the deep space setting to make up for that. However, in those moments where it let the cast swing for the fences, it continued to show that this will be a powerful contender as we advance if they can nail that tone.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Foundation
Directed by – Andrew Bernstein
Written by – David S. Goyer & Josh Friedman
Created by – David S. Goyer & Josh Friedman
Based on – Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Production/Distribution Companies – Skydance TV & Apple+
Starring – Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Lou Llobell, Laura Birn, Terrence Mann & Chipo Chung with Alfred Enoch, Elliot Cowan, Sasha Behar, Clarke Peters, Carolina Main, Antony Bunsee, Brian Bovell, Reece Shearsmith, Cassian Bilton, Vanessa Ifediora, Cooper Carter, Florence Ordesh, Kim Adis, Ahd Tamili, Johanna O’Brien, Georg Nikaloff, Sehan Aar, Laila Pyne & Abdul Alshareef