The mission statement for Foundation, the Apple TV+ sci-fi epic based on Isaac Asimov’s novels, is pretty clear in season 2. As the season’s trailer ominously intones, “this is an age of darkness.” That’s right: it’s time for war.
But one needn’t have watched the season 2 trailer nor have read Asimov’s books to know that the confrontation between the Galactic Empire and Hari Seldon’s Foundation was inevitable. One need to have only listened to Seldon himself. The mythical psychohistorian played by Jared Harris revealed at the end of Foundation season 1 that his ragtag group had successfully conquered their First Crisis and the Second Crisis was on its way. And it’s something that Harris hammered home in speaking with Den of Geek prior to the release of season 2 on July 14.
“Inevitably there’s a conflict on offer between Empire and Foundation. And the question is ‘can they get ready in time for that conflict?’ Will they be ready to meet the Empire when it finally arrives?’” Harris says.
Befitting its status as an adaptation of a sci-fi classic, Foundation is a big, big story. Asimov’s novels imagine a distant future where humanity has organized into a galaxy-spanning Empire that only Seldon and his acolytes know is on the verge of the collapse. If Seldon can successfully establish a Foundation on the outskirts of the galaxy, then humanity should be able to reduce its time spent in violent post-Empire entropy from 30,000 years to under a thousand.
Provided with an ample Apple budget, showrunner David S. Goyer spared no expense in crafting season 1. That arc’s 10 episodes take place over the span of centuries with some characters living longer through the science of time travel, others continuing to pop up thanks to a genetic dynasty, and one even finding life after death thanks to advanced holographic technology. Simply put: a lot happened in Foundation season 1 and even more is set to happen in season 2, set 138 years further into the show’s future.
With that in mind, we decided it would be helpful to take stock of what exactly happened in Foundation season 1 to get prepared for what’s to come in season 2.
What Happened in Foundation Season 1?
Factoring in a flashback to the beginning of the Cleon Genetic Dynasty, Foundation season 1 takes place over the span of 400 years. Most of the action, however, takes place in two distinct time periods. The first period covers the events of the “Era Imperial” years 12,067 E.I. to 12,086 E.I. This timeframe constitutes the basic beginning and setup of Foundation‘s story and runs for about two and a half episodes.
The rest of the story takes place in what can be described as “present day” in 12,102 E.I. (Since we’re not accustomed to seeing five digits in years, perhaps its easier to simplify the timeline down from 67 to 102, or 35 years. Or at least it simplifies things for me.) What follows then is a rough retelling of the events of Foundation season 1 in chronological order.
11,667 – Cleon I establishes the Genetic Dynasty.
11,686 – Cleon I dies.
11,700 – Cleon II sabotages the Anacreon Huntress with Thespin King Throy un Thark. Hari Seldon’s hologram will reveal this to the Foundation centuries later as an example of how the Empire has kept dissent at bay.
12,067 – This is the year the series premiere begins with. Mathematical prodigy Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) travels from her home world of Synnax to Galactic capital Trantor to meet with brilliant mathematician and psychohistorian Hari Seldon (Jared Harris). Both are quickly arrested for treason due to Seldon’s model that predicts the Empire’s imminent collapse and subsequent 30,000 years of human suffering. Gaal and Seldon are ultimately spared when terrorists from Anacreon and Thespis destroy Trantor’s crucial space elevator, called the Starbridge. Seldon is allowed to bring some of his followers to a remote world called Terminus to establish his Foundation, which Seldon sells as a repository of human knowledge that will decrease the dark interregnum between the fall of the Empire and whatever comes next.
12,068 – Just one year into the Foundation’s trip aboard the slow ship, the Deliverance, disaster strikes when Seldon is stabbed to death by his adopted son Raych Foss (Alfred Enoch). Raych places Gaal in an escape pod with the murder weapon and then fires her off into space. When Gaal wakes up aboard the Raven roughly 35 years later, she learns the truth of it all from Hari’s hologram (who was embedded in the knife). Hari intended to commit suicide because he knew he had to be mythologized for his plan to work. Unfortunately, Raych and Gaal’s burgeoning relationship wasn’t part of Seldon’s plans so he convinced Raych to murder him to separate them.
12,072 – Sans Seldon, Gaal, and Raych (who was executed for his crime), the remaining Foundation members arrive at Terminus. There they encounter a mysterious diamond-like structure called “The Vault” that generates a null field.
12,086 – In episode 3, 19 years after the Starbridge attack, we get to see what’s known as the Changing of the Brothers. Cleon XIV is born as the new Brother Dawn (Cassian Bilton), Cleon XIII (Lee Pace) becomes Brother Day, Cleon XII takes on the advisory mantle of Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann), and Cleon XI is briefly known as Brother Darkness before being euthanized. There are a lot of Cleons and Brothers floating around season 1, but from this moment on, these three Cleons maintain their respective positions.
12,102 – This is the year that the vast majority of Foundation season 1 takes place in. If you remember a particular event from the show’s first season, chances are it occurred in this year. This timeframe picks up with Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey) serving as the Warden of Terminus. Soon she will have to deal with what Hari calls “The First Crisis” as the Anacreon civilization led by Grand Huntress Phara Keaen (Kubbra Sait) attacks the Foundation. Ultimately, the First Crisis resolves with Terminus making peace and allying with both the Anacreons and Thespins. An apparition of Seldon then emerges from the Vault to reveal that the real purpose of the Foundation is not to just survive the fall of the Empire but to eventually succeed it.
Meanwhile, over on Trantor, the Cleons get into some funny hijinx. Cleon XIII a.k.a. Brother Day is challenged by a religious leader named Zephyr Halima Ifa (T’Nia Miller), who asserts that all bodies must have one soul per the Luminist faith. That could be a problem for the Cleon dynasty, which derives its authority from being three perfect copies of one man. Cleon XIII solves this problem by walking across hundreds of miles of desert in a religious ceremony to receive a vision to prove the validity of his soul (which he lies about). He then just secretly has Zephyr killed for good measure.
Cleon XIV a.k.a. Brother Dawn gets wrapped up in a dangerous situation when he realizes that he’s different from his brothers. He’s both color blind and a more skilled hunter. He also gets swept up in a romance with a common woman who turns out to be a member of an anti-Empire group that planned to replace Brother Dawn with an imposter. It’s around this time that the Cleons learn that Cleon I’s genetic code was meddled with and none of them will ever be pristine copies.
12,240 – Finally, Foundation season 1 concludes with the news that Salvor Hardin is actually Gaal Dornick’s daughter. That information is delivered back in 12,102, but the season ends 138 years later when Gaal and Salvor meet on Gaal’s home planet Synnax. This is where the story resumes in season 2…
Foundation season 2 episode 1 is available to stream on Apple TV+ now. New episodes premiere each Friday culminating with the finale on Sept. 15.