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Foundation's Lee Pace Breaks Down That Surprising Season 1 Ending

Many considered Isaac Asimov's classic "Foundation" series of sc-fi novels to be unfilmable. Apple TV+ seems to have proved them wrong with the successful, lavish, and spectacular first season of "Foundation," which concluded November 19th. With a second season already greenlit by Apple TV+, not to mention series creator David S. Goyer planning an ambitious eight-season run, the future looks bright. 

It's little wonder that Asimov's novels, starting with 1951's "Foundation," were thought impossible to translate to the screen. Spanning the fortunes of a galactic empire across thousands of years, they often read like a history book from the future –- dry, lacking human drama, and featuring large tracts of sociological, philosophical, and mathematical exposition. The success of Goyer's show lay in adding flesh and blood to Asimov's epic structure, focusing in on individual dramas, passions, and ambitions that represent Asimov's broader themes.

The show follows the unfolding events set in motion when Emperor Cleon XII exiles prophetic mathematician Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) after his personal brand of data modelling predicts the Empire's collapse. The Season 1 finale provided a good share of revelations for a number of story strands and major character arcs. But it was the climactic events involving the mysterious trio of imperial clones that were the most shocking.

The integrity of the Empire is under threat at the end of Season 1

One of the more interesting and dramatic changes which the show makes to the source material is the addition of Brother Dawn, Brother Day, and Brother Dusk –- the triumvirate of imperial clones who rule the Empire with absolute power. The three brothers, all referred to by their subjects simply as "Empire," are cloned from the original emperor Cleon I, and represent the current iteration in a series of clones perpetually refreshed generation after generation. Each newly engineered Brother Dawn grows up to replace the adult Brother Day, each Brother Day ages to become the next Brother Dusk. Each Brother Dusk grows old and dies to make way for the next generation. The cycle iterates generation after generation.

The unassailable authority of the Imperium derives from this genetic dynasty, and its continuous renewal ensures the purity and unbroken integrity of the imperial line. It also confers on the Emperors a form of immortality, as they are effectively reincarnations of the original Cleon I. This god-like status is manifested in Lee Pace's larger than life performance as Brother Dawn.

By the end of Season 1 of "Foundation," it's discovered that Brother Dawn's DNA has been altered and that he's not an exact clone of Cleon I. For this, Brother Dawn is instantly executed by robotic Chief of Staff Eto Demerzel (Laura Birn). Brother Day later learns that Dawn isn't the only Cleon clone to have been "corrupted." This reveal throws into question the whole legitimacy of the Empire itself.

Having already portrayed two iterations of Brother Day in the series, Lee Pace is uniquely positioned to provide insight into what the Season 1 ending means to the Empire.

Pace believes the Season 1 ending reveals crucial conflicts within Brother Day

In an interview with The Wrap, Lee Pace gave his personal perspective on the Season 1 ending, stressing that it doesn't necessarily represent an objective take on the events.

Pace believes core themes of identity and individuality are at play for Brother Day as he processes the revelations surrounding the genetic integrity of the line: "He looks at his brothers and especially his younger brother, who is now shown to be different in all of these ways, and is basically screaming at, 'Me too.' I feel the same way you feel."

Brother Day had already come to explore his own individuality and question the unity of the three Brothers: "The truth that I have learned is that we are actually individuals. And he is an individual who has been suffering under this code. And he doesn't need to suffer anymore if we just admit the truth. That we're not all the same person. We don't have to keep mimicking one another. We can live in a different way."

Pace believes the death of Brother Dawn, whom Day considered his son — "this boy that he raised, he held as a baby and raised to adulthood, raised to take on his legacy and rule after him" — to be a "morbid irony." The boy was killed to protect the fantasy that the three Brothers are identical, but Day was unable to protect him because Day himself had already come to reject that fantasy.

With threats to the Empire looming from within and without, and Brother Day believing his identity to be a "sick joke," it sets up a tantalizing prospect for the character's journey in Season 2.