Those who have followed Foundation on Apple TV+ since the beginning are aware of it: we are talking about one of the most complex sci-fi TV series of the last few years, based on a long series of novels written by Isaac Asimov in the 1940s and ’50s. A whole universe where everything can be developed, and the Apple TV show managed to introduce new elements that differ from the original story. The genetic dynasty that governs the Empire, with Cleon, all his clones, Dawn, Day, Dusk, and the robot Demerzel, are the crucial elements of the plot and definitely need to be explained. Let’s explore how the Empire is ruled in this article.
You can watch the official trailer for Foundation Season 2 here on Youtube.
Foundation explained: Cleon, Demerzel, and the Genetic Dynasty
Since Season 1 of Foundation, one of the primary timelines of the plot spins around the Galactic Empire. The Empire is ruled by the so-called Genetic Dynasty: a never-ending succession of clones of Cleon I, conceived to establish a permanent dominion of the same perfect emperor. And to take advantage of the different wiseness and energy of life stages, three clones are always ruling the Galactic Empire at any given moment: Brother Dawn representing youth, Brother Day representing adultness, and Brother Dusk representing old age. Around them is Demerzel, the immortal robot programmed to “serve and protect Empire.”
Season 2 of Foundation is the moment when many doubts and questions arise around the Genetic Dynasty, Cleon, and Demerzel: Cleon XVII, Brother Day in season 2’s timeline, decides to officially end the genetic dynasty and the succession of clones. The reason is apparent: years before, Hari Seldon and his psychohistory predicted the fall of the Empire, so Cleon wants to prove him wrong by invalidating one of his predictions, the immutability of the genetic dynasty. Against Dawn and Dusk’s positions, Day decides that the genetic dynasty of clones ends with him. After him, the new heir will be a man born from the union between him and Sareth I, Queen of Cloud Dominion, selected as the first Empress of the new era.
With this sensational decision, Cleon XVII interrupts the concept on which the whole Empire was founded. He’s depicted as an Emperor who’s destroying all traditions, ignoring the advice of counselors and brothers. Brother Dawn and Brother Dusk start seeing him as a traitor and investigate how the Genetic Dynasty was born, with what purpose, and how Demerzel became a permanent presence around them. Demerzel is seen as the real character who holds power: while the clones succeed each other, she’s always there, guiding the Empire’s decisions and actions.
The truth about the Genetic Dynasty, the Cleon clones, and Demerzel is explained in Episode 9 of Foundation Season 2. At the beginning of that episode, in a flashback, we see what happened centuries before: 610 years before the events in Season 2, Cleon I was the heir of the last Emperor of the Entun Dynasty. Cleon I will become emperor and is called to continue the dynasty with a new heir. But he won’t: since childhood, he discovers the presence of Demerzel behind the mural and starts a secret, life-long relationship with her.
Demerzel is an enigmatic, intelligent robot held prisoner in the Imperial Palace for thousands of years. When Cleon I discovers her, he secretly visits her frequently, hearing her stories. Demerzel is the last living example of a robot that survived the Robot Wars between Humans and Robots. When captured, Emperor Aburanis decided to fragment her body and study her. She needed to stay prisoner, but the Emperor decided not to destroy her, as the last, precious example of its species. Obviously, she wants to be freed, but Cleon I has different plans.
As an adult Emperor, Cleon I is in love with Demerzel. He doesn’t want to marry anyone else and has no heirs. So, in his old age, he decides to finally free Demerzel, with a condition: he installs a chip inside her to prevent her from hurting him. From that moment, Demerzel is programmed to serve and love the Empire and his dynasty. The Genetic Dynasty was born: by the decision of Cleon I, all heirs will be clones of himself, replacing the previous Emperor when he gets old.
Every clone has limited memory of this, so the genetic dynasty with its clones of Cleon and Demerzel keeps ruling the Empire until the timeline of Foundation Season 2 is fully explained. This marks one of the most significant differences between Asimov’s novels and the Apple TV+ series: in Asimov’s books, there is no genetic dynasty, and every emperor has a biological heir. Moreover, in Asimov’s universe, Demerzel is a male robot.
As Foundation continues until the ending, the destiny of Cleon, Demerzel, and the genetic dynasty is uncertain and will need to be explained. What will happen after Season 2? We will see together how the story continues.