Monday, February 26, 2024

Foundation season two was really good.

I'm not an abject fan of Asimov's Foundation trilogy, as it is rather dry and boring in ways that The Silmarillion by Tolkien is also dry and boring. It takes place over huge swaths of time. Characters rarely last more than three chapters. So you're switching out constantly with new characters who are following the decline of a galactic empire and trying to make sure that instead of 30,000 years of darkness and lack of knowledge, that it only lasts for 1,000 years. But one of the things that the Appl plus series did to correct this was to make concessions for the story that really rile up the "Die Hards" of Asimov's fanbase. I think these changes are a huge bonus to the story. But (I think) people will always be divided between what works in storytelling and what is sacred and should not be altered in any way. My thoughts on this are simple: sometimes big stories are two big for one mind. I think this is the case with Game of Thrones, which functions much better when there's a small village of people providing input than it does with one person's brain who tires and quickly reaches the limits of their imagination and falls short of filling in all the blanks. So what are these changes exactly? There are spoilers ahead in case you intend to watch Foundation, which I hope you do. It's an incredible science fiction series...maybe one of the best in modern times. Okay, now to answer that question.

The first of these is that Hari Seldon gets to die and yet through computer programs and cloning and what all else, he's a continuous character that not only gets to exist to establish the Foundation, but he continues onward as a primary protagonist throughout the narrative. He doesn't just "appear" in the vault as a pre-recorded message every fifty years or so like he seems to do in the book. 

The second thing that Apple's staff of writers did was establish a genetic dynasty of emperors named "Cleon" that continues on and on and on, and is in fact one of the main reasons the whole thing is collapsing.

The third thing they did was bring in the character of Demerzel, who is the real power behind the throne...her story comes to full bloom in season two. Demerzel is the most fascinating character in the show, full stop. Demerzel is the last survivor of this event called "The Robot Wars," which occurred between man and machine thousands of years ago. And her story is extremely sad, having been sliced up and imprisoned for countless centuries within a room, fully conscious of who she was, and just having to stay there without company only to then be freed by a morally ambiguous Emperor who had romantic designs that had to do with her, would force her to love him through programming, and would force her to be a caretaker of his clones for even more centuries to come. How awful would that be?

And the fourth thing they did was invent Gaal Dornick, who is Hari's protege and who they've managed to figure out how to hurl through the centuries as a living person (they use hybernation pods for this to slow down metabolic processes). She's the tape measure by which Hari's plan can be measured. You see, Hari has got this timeline of events that need to be overcome due to what he's learned from his mathematically-based psycho-history. With Gaal Dornick, she's a living person, and thus she can have children. If (for example) a child dies outside of when it is supposed to (as predicted by psychic dreams and prophecies), it means that the future can be changed. I really liked Gaal's kid named Salvor, and I was sad when Salvor died at the end of season two. But this is exactly what shouldn't have happened but did, and because of that they know that the next big bad that they will face, called "The Mule" will be overcome because Salvor wasn't supposed to die when she did (if that makes any sense).

Anyway, I get why some of the "die hards" are upset at all of these changes. But they make for some really good storytelling if you can let go of a stoic adherence to Asimov's actual writing. We have gotten quite a few good things from the books. The Hober Mallow/High Cleric-Brother offshoot of the Foundation arc was fantastic. We also got the Riose-Mallow-Constant arc that was a genuinely interesting adaptation of the books. That arc emphasized the Foundation from Terminus using their soft power. Season 2 also gave us the necessary Second Foundation introduced into the story via the mentalics arc, and we now have Gaal becoming the single most important person in the universe because she has nigh on "magical" powers that are probably aimed at an upcoming boss fight with "The Mule." Even though the writers have had to do a lot of hand wavy, science magic to keep characters from aging out of the story, I think the sacrifice has paid off in spades. And the nothing but spectacular destruction of the planet of Terminus left me awe struck. The way the show has been doing the ships "faster than light" travel is to have each of them use a micro black hole that serves as the engine. Well, they crashed one of the big ones into the planet Terminus, and I never really put together that the singularity in those ships could in fact tear apart a planet, but it totally did. One of the best pieces of special effects I've seen in sci-fi shows.

Anyway, thanks for visiting. On Wednesday I plan to talk about HBO's fourth season of True Detective called Night Country.

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