Foundation’s third episode does something amazingly different this week. The first half of“The Mathematician’s Ghost” spends time with the audience getting a chance to know Cleon I. For the first time this season, we get a chance to see how the government functions. We get to interact with Brother Dawn, Brother Day, and Brother Dusk. The audience is allowed to look inside the sanctuary. We also get the opportunity to see how decisions are made and what level of power each individual has within the political sphere.
The other half of the story is rather forgettable. The audience is asked to follow Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey), who we met at the very beginning of the pilot. She is some sort of security for those who landed on Terminus. Salvor Hardin notices the forcefield surrounding the tableau has grown significantly and investigates why the field may have widened.
I have to be honest with the audience and let you know that while watching this episode, the most interesting part was seeing the traditions of the three leaders. Every moment with them is so nuanced, deliberate, and focused within the tradition of how society has been led. This process was far more intriguing than anything that happened in the second half of the episode. This was especially true when examining how brother dawn saw the world. A curiosity was present with the infant version of Cleon that fades away as he ages due to more experiences and more knowledge of how the world works.
It’s a powerful statement about how life works for people as they evolve through childhood. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Brother Dusk spent the entire episode preparing for his death. While watching the episode, I thought Brother Dusk was just going to die of natural causes and what actually happens is the biggest surprise of the episode, and I was left aghast when it happened.
I think Foundation is at its strongest when it’s tackling the themes of life. All the other science fiction ideas around it are interesting but not as compelling as mortality, what it means to be humane, and how we grow as people. These are the types of things I want to see reflected in science fiction because it informs us of who we should be rather than who we are.
Salvor Hardin is a messy character. She looks like a bounty hunter and has a cold exterior. Her main motive is just to get the job done and protect the people in the small town they built on Terminus. I don’t know if there’s any kind of dimension to her, but if there is, I haven’t seen it so far. She has a boyfriend that is actually a bounty hunter or scalper of some kind. Everyone in the village that’s a child seems to be impressed with whatever he can bring back, but he doesn’t really showcase any other skill other than knowing how to use a weapon.
I honestly need a lot more time to examine their dynamic before I make any hard decisions on whether this romantic couple works as a whole. This episode is just above middle of the road because of the themes it represents rather than the main character it introduces that we’re supposed to be rooting for.