EPISODE NOTES 206 – “Why the Gods Made Wine”
Per my notes on episode 205, this is one of those titles that only makes sense once you’ve seen the actual episode. Everyone really enjoyed our “short film” episodes in Season 1 (the opening with the Dying Dusk shuffling off into “Darkness” and Gaal’s back-story on Synnax). At the time we were writing them, Apple and Skydance were very nervous about us breaking format – but I was keen to shake things up with our story structure and I love a well-placed flashback. By the time Season 1 was in the can, Apple and Skydance loved the so-called “short films” and asked if we could do them for Season 2 – which we were all too happy to oblige.
That said, we broke structure yet again by putting the short film that shines light on Hari’s backstory at the end of the episode, rather than the front. We foreshadow it at the beginning of the episode, when Hari is standing at the beach at Dawn – but we don’t fully go there until the end, when Hari is drowning. We also saw a tiny glimpse of Hari’s childhood when he was trapped in the Prime Radiant in 201. Here, we return to that childhood.
Alex Graves also directed this episode and he did a wonderful job spinning all of the dramatic plates. This is me and Alex outside The Holy Redeemer Church, in Tenerife (designed by architect Fernando Menis). The church serves as the location for Hari’s office at Streeling University. Alex actually directed the scene in episode 201 when Gaal first meets Hari at Streeling (we ended up re-shooting this scene after the pilot was completed). So the re-shoot of that scene was shot when we were shooting Season 2!
The ”dawn” scene was shot at “magic hour” over the course of two separate nights. Magic hour is essentially dusk – but because you can only shoot for about 45 minutes, we had to spread this scene over two consecutive shoot days. Magic hour shooting is gorgeous – but it’s a logistical nightmare.
We always knew we were going to tell part of Hari’s backstory in this season – principally how he left Helicon and came to Trantor. In Asimov’s Foundation prequels, Hari’s wife is Dors Venabili, a popular character. Originally, we considered having Dors appear in this flashback. The problem for us was, Dors is eventually revealed to be a robot in Asimov’s books – and that conflicted with our show mythology vis-à-vis Demerzel being the only known robot in the galaxy. So we came up with Yanna.
That said, Dors also had a hand in helping Hari with his research in the books and we’ve transported that same element to Yanna. We wanted Hari’s backstory to be tragic. From a writing standpoint, the whole point of Hari’s arc this season was to show that he is profoundly human – to peel back the layers of his professorial veneer and differentiate him from the disembodied digital being now inhabiting the Vault. I prefer my characters to be complex and to have shades of gray within them. As writers, we were perfectly comfortable with Hari sometimes exhibiting prickly characteristics. And I don’t believe anyone is completely altruistic. I always maintained that it would be impossible for Hari to not have a personal opinion with regards to Empire – to be completely detached from his own, personal feelings. And from a story structure perspective, adding a tiny bit of personal revenge makes him more complex. I realize this will be somewhat controversial stance with some of the 1:1 book readers! Our Hari has feet of clay. He is imperfect. We think he can be largely altruistic, but also embrace personal tragedy and have a healthy ego.
Later in the episode, Gaal gets a little primer on Mentalic powers from Tellem Bond. Here, we tried to establish the rules for what will eventually become the Second Foundation’s abilities. In particular, we tried to differentiate them from the Force. (I believe Lucas was clearly influenced by Asimov’s Second Foundation when he was creating the Jedi.) We also tried to “play fair” with the audience in that every little trick we do in the back half of the season is more or less rooted in the “rules” Tellem lays out in this scene. Careful viewers might want to re-watch this scene as there is a smoking gun hiding in plain sight in a few shots (to be revisited in 208).
Later still, Hober “treats” with the Spacers. Man, I wish we could have afforded to do even more scenes with them. The spacers and their environment are expensive. This is Dimitri on wires, when he first encounters the Home Swarm.
Later still, we have a number of scenes between Salvor and Hari on the beach. The location was beautiful and you really can’t substitute an environment like this for a set – it’s one of the things that sets us apart from other shows, I believe. I like these scenes as well. On the surface, they are pure character – and there’s an obvious friendship forming between Salvor and Hari, despite Salvor’s initial distrust of him. That said, interlaced throughout their conversation is some pretty important world building with regards to both the Prime Radiant and the relationship between Hari and Doctor Seldon. What’s discussed here will have massive repercussions not just later in the season, but in future seasons as well.
The “air car” set, outside Helicon University. Rory, our production designer, based this partially on an old-school Delorean.
The “wedding announcement” scene was originally intended to be in Episode 207, but we had some issues with that episode and ultimately rewrote it so that it could take place in 206. This was actually one of the last scenes filmed for Season 2 and it was Lee Pace’s last scene filmed for the season. Obviously we had a ton of digital crowd replication within the scene.