'Foundation' Showrunner David S. Goyer Breaks Down Finale's 'Death of Dawn' Scene

Foundation's Season 1 finale was released on AppleTV+ on November 19, and it featured a number of unexpected twists, including the death of Brother Dawn (played by Cassian Bilton).

David S. Goyer, who directed the finale and is also Foundation's showrunner, spoke with Newsweek about the last episode.

Discussing the episode over zoom, Goyer gave a detailed break down of the scene in which Dawn is killed and the creative decisions he made for how to shoot it.

Brother Dawn and Demerzel Enter the Throne Room

The scene opens with Dawn being escorted into the throne room by Demerzel (Laura Birn), who places her hand on the small of his back.

"Right here at the beginning, right before they enter the throne room, it was really important to me," Goyer explained. "One of the things I always said to my cast and crew in this show [is] there's a lot of subtlety.

"There's that little shot of Demerzel where she puts her hand on the small of Dawn's back, when she ushers him into the throne room, and if you go back to Episode 3, when we [showed] how Day, Dawn, and Dusk ascend into the next age of the brother, there's a moment right before Dusk is ascending [and] is going to be turned to ash where he hesitates and Demerzel puts her hand on the small of Dusk's back.

"So, this shot is visually rhyming with Dusk's end in 1.03 and it's a subtle but ominous cue to the audience that things aren't going to end well for Dawn, and I knew even when we hadn't shot the scene in 1.03 that we were going to visually rhyme that shot in 1.10.

"One of the other things that we did with the lighting in this throne room scene is some of the other scenes in the throne room were very dark, it is still dark but I put a lot of golden light in this scene which kind of works against what you think is about to happen."

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Cassian Bilton as Brother Dawn and Laura Birn as Demerzel in "The Death of Dawn" scene in "Foundation." Apple TV+

Goyer added: "What was important to me is that this scene is about chaos being inserted into the imperial system, so I broke the scene into three separate sections.

"The first section we shot in traditional studio mode, meaning with cranes, with dollies, all very formal and elegant. The camera is kind of gliding.

"The second part of the scene, as we start to introduce more chaos, we shot entirely on steady cam which is a sort of gyroscopic stabilised hand camera where audiences can pick it out, the camera is moving around, it's not on dolly tracks, it's not on a crane.

"And then the third part of the scene we shot all hand-held, so we're literally introducing more motion and more frenetic camerawork into the scene as everything is unraveling and becoming destabilized."

Brother Day Choosing to Let Dawn Live

Describing the way in which the throne room is shot with characters at the center, he went on: "You can see how everything is very formal and alive, it's what we call center punch, they're right in the middle of the frame.

"You can see Day and Dusk are, you know, still effectively posturing the same."

The scene sees Brother Dusk (Terrance Mann) chastise Dawn for not being an identical clone to him and Day (Lee Pace), before the latter says he wants to accept him regardless of his differences.

Goyer said: "Terrance Mann, who's been fairly subdued in this season really, lets it rip here, and I love how posed and controlled Day is. Again, by design.

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Lee Pace and Terrance Mann arguing as Brother Day and Brother Dusk in the "Death of Dawn" scene. Apple TV+

"Because I'm telling the audience that Demerzel is going to kill Dawn when she puts her hand on the small of his back, to me the surprise of this scene is that Day actually was moved and was changed by his experience on The Maiden."

He went on: "There's another key insert in this scene where Demerzel is sort of playing with the salt bead on her bracelet, it's right in the midst when Day is talking about 'and yet, and yet brothers.'

"We realize that despite what he did on The Maiden, he did come away from that experience changed and he is actually advocating that the Empire bend, and that we allow Dawn to live, which in its own way is pretty shocking."

As the scene plays out, Goyer added: "[Demerzel] is touching her salt bead there and she realizes that [Day] was changed by his experience, despite how monstrous he was in stealing her vision, and yet because of her programming she still has to do what she's about to do."

Introducing Chaos

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Brother Dawn embracing Demerzel before she kills him. Apple TV+

In anger Dusk begins to argue with Day, and the pair start to shout and hit each other, leading a scared Dawn to hug Demerzel and beg her not to let his brothers kill him.

"I love the performances in this scene," Goyer reflected.

"The filmmaking itself is pretty classic, there weren't a lot of shots in this scene I didn't think it called for it. My basic principle was studio mode, steady cam and handheld.

"And we get progressively more and more chaotic, and I love that [Day and Dusk] come to blows, they have been so in line this entire season and then they just start smacking each other."

Referring to Dawn and Demerzel's embrace he went on: "I think it's really beautiful here because she does hold on [to Dawn] and she says 'I won't let them kill you,' or he says 'don't let them kill me' and she says 'I won't.' And she is consoling him and then she kills him, I hope the audience are shocked by this."

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Brother Day mourning Brother Dawn after Demerzel killed him Apple TV+

He added: "What I hope people take away from this episode is they're wondering did Demerzel kill Dawn because she was programmed to?

"Because she had to in order to preserve the Genetic Dynasty and he's an aberration? Or is a little bit of that payback for what happened in Episode 8?"

Referring to the final look Day gives the robot, he added: "There's a lot of complex emotions here where Day absolutely believes that this was payback for what happened on The Maiden."

"And then at the very end, as we're retreating from them, we go back to the dolly and then we slowly pull away, it's the first time that Day is alone in the throne room, just with the body of Dawn."

Foundation Season 1 is available to stream in full on AppleTV+ now.