So, I've watched the 8th episode and one of the "fictitious" storyllines (totally made up by the screenwriters), that of the clone Cleons, in particular Brother Day, continues to be the most interesting part of the show. I wonder how much of what Brother Day did during his visit to the Maiden was planned in advance, how much was just luck, and how much was an honest quest to see whether, by the standards of Luminism, he has a soul or not. (Random thought..."clone" is an anagram of "Cleon." I wonder if the writers realized that?) Seeing the flower on Demerzel's vanity was obviously just dumb luck, a bit of luck that helped him accomplish the goal of his trip. But I think part of his reason for taking the Spiral pilgrimage was actually for self-discovery. I also think the writers may have said, what's a plotline where we can have Lee Pace out of most of his clothes for an extended period? Also, I think the director may have said, "OK Lee, stagger through the desert" but Pace heard "swagger through the desert." Seriously, I haven't seen an actor physically swagger that much since Yul Brynner played Rameses in The Ten Commandments. Methinks the young man knows he looks good scantily clad.
Kidding aside, this storyline raised a much more serious question: how is Demerzel able to kill? Goyer has said the show has the rights to the Three Laws of Robotics, but suggests Demerzel may no longer be completely bound by them. That in itself is a deviation from Asimov's robot lore. The Three Laws were not just software, which could be corrupted, written over, or replaced. They were designed right into the chip architecture. The only way that robots could violate the First Law, the prohibition on killing a human or allowing a human to come to harm, was a late development in Asimov's writing, the Zeroth Law introduced in Robots and Empire. The Zeroth Law takes precedence over all other laws and states that a robot cannot harm humanity or allow humanity to come to harm. And of the three robots in Asimov's stories that take actions that result in death, albeit to the betterment of humanity, only one is sufficiently advanced that his belief that he is doing the right thing allows him to survive. And even he is very judicious about how much he interferes in human affairs, always fearful of that moment where he crosses the invisible line and his brain shorts out. So does Demerzel believe that in doing the Emperor's bidding, it is for the betterment of humanity? Or is she somehow miraculously no longer bound by the First Law?
It's a little embarrassing to say, but even through I reread the whole series in late summer, some of the specifics of the early books have faded already. That said, I think that the storyline with Salvor and the Anacreonians is actually a combination of two different Seldon crises from the books. I suspect that when it comes to a head, the Vault will open. Goyer has said that if you have read the books and think you know what the Vault is, you are wrong (which begs the question, are you making Foundation or are you just taking the names and telling different stories?) Every week, the podcast host asks Goyer what's in the Vault, and Goyer gives a different cocky answer. But it looks like in the next week or two, we will see what he thinks is in the Vault.
The show is also taking a much more circuitous route to setting up the Second Foundation. Goyer correctly says that in the books (if read in publication order), you don't find out much about the Second Foundation until the third book, and correctly states that show needs to set it up earlier and not wait to the third season to spring it on the audience. However, the second prequel, Forward the Foundation, dealt in some detail with the genesis of the Second Foundation. I've gotten that the show is not going to adapt the prequels, not even to the extent of using some of their storylines as flashbacks, but rather is limiting itself to cherry-picking a few characters and ideas. So I think we are going to get a different origin for the Second Foundation, and possibly a different location for it as well. The location and nature of the Second Foundation are the background mystery running through the original trilogy. Half the second book and all of the third are quests to find the Second Foundation. It's not until the end of the third book that you learn where it is, and it's a bit of a jaw dropper. If that is changed for the show... well, it doesn't automatically change the nature of the story or its ability to get to the same end point as the novels, but it does take it unnecessary steps further from Asimov.
Where I feel this show is on the fidelity spectrum is a weekly calculus. Compared to adaptions of other sci fi or fantasy stories, it is definitely not among the more faithful. Take Dune, for example. Nearly 100% of what you see in the movie is from the book, and where it diverges from the book is through omission, not commission. A less faithful adaptation would be Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. It's relatively faithful, but invents a fair bit in addition to altering some things. And at the far end of my scale would be the I, Robot movie and the Nightfall movie, which include little other than basic ideas and a few names. I, Robot took basic ideas and characters and told a completely "fictitious" story that felt very faithful to the spirit of Asimov, whereas Nightfall, well Nightfall was just a mess that didn't feel at all like it should've. Foundation is relatively more faithful than I, Robot, because it is using the actual story as a leaping off point, whereas I, Robot adapted none of the stories from its source book. Yet Foundation tends to feel like it has strayed down the garden path as far as Nightfall did, particularly with this Luminism arc (religion was a major element in the Nightfall adaptation).
The series is certainly interesting (and visually stunning), and I'll tune in every week. It may be a good show, and may even end up being a reasonable adaptation of the books. But I think it is reasonable to say that the lust to have another Game of Thrones (with a smidgen of Westworld thrown in for good measure) is dragging it well past the level of alteration and invention that was actually needed. Stay tuned!
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."