Eto Demerzel and Cleon 1’s enigmatic relationship has always been something we’ve pondered over. Why did the late emperor put all his trust in a sentient robot even when he was aware of the devastating Robot Wars? There were few scenes in Foundation Season 1 that hinted at a romantic relationship between Demerzel and Cleon. We want to revisit a scene in the third episode of Season 1 where Demerzel urges Cleon to entertain the prospect of marriage to get a biological heir which he quickly refused. In the scene, Demerzel places her hand on Cleon’s back, which at first seemed like a romantic gesture, but maybe it was more than that. It was the exact spot where Cleon 1 had attached a programming device on Demerzel’s body to stop her from acting on her will and ensure her loyalty to the Imperium. The question remains: did Demerzel do everything out of love and loyalty, or was there something else? We know that Demerzel had a far bigger role to play in Isaac Asimov’s books but it seems like the Apple Series has taken a different path altogether.
Through a flashback that took us some 610 years back, we were introduced to the sentient robot that had been locked in a secret chamber for more than 5000 years. The voiceover revealed to us that Demerzel belonged to Earth, perhaps the planet where the Robot Wars started. It is crucial information because as audiences who haven’t read the books, we are still not sure of Demerzel’s origins, and maybe these details will be explored further in Season 3. Needless to say, the way Hari Seldon hands over a copy of the Prime Radiant to the robot, it suggests that Demerzel is indeed going to play a huge part in shaping the future of the Galaxy in the upcoming season. Although we cannot say this with exact certainty, considering the way Hari Seldon had been talking to Demerzel during her visit to the Vault, maybe she knows much more than what has been revealed to us so far.
We can speculate that maybe it was Demerzel who orchestrated the death of Hari’s wife, Yanna, so as to compel him to raise a voice against the empire and let the public know about the fall of the Galactic Empire in the future. Throughout the series, Demerzel has constantly questioned her feelings for the emperor. She made us wonder quite often whether she really loved Cleon 1 or it was the device that he had fixed inside her that forced her to feel that particular way. Additionally, the creators of the Apple series introduced the fact that it was Cleon 1’s mother who ruled the Entun Dynasty, suggesting that Cleon believed that his mother was a better ruler than any man could ever be. Perhaps it was why Cleon believed that Demerzel could become a better ruler than his own half-human clones, which forced him to fit a device in her body and rob her of her freedom.
After the end of Season 2, it is quite evident that Cleon 1 was madly in love with the robot and perhaps she was the reason why he never married. Maybe love was why Cleon 1 never wanted to get a biological heir and therefore laid the foundation of the Clone Dynasty so that he could make Demerzel the empress against her wishes. Obviously, clones were the only way to fit Demerzel in the role of a mother. However, the question here is: did Demerzel want to be a part of all this? Cleon 1 never dared to ask what she wanted. Like a true emperor, he only imposed his wishes on an individual because that’s how autocratic rulers function.
After the device was fitted in her body, Demerzel was bound by certain laws, which, to make it clear, were not Asimov’s Robot laws. The term is indeed mentioned in the series, perhaps to pay homage to the creator. However, Demerzel had clearly told Queen Sareth that she no longer followed ancient Robot laws and only served the Empire. We believe this particular line justified Demerzel’s ruthless action against humans and the clones in the Foundation series. In season 1, she had killed Zephyr Halima on Brother Day’s wishes and in Season 2 she orchestrated an attack on present Brother Day as he was trying to change the system laid down by Cleon 1. She wanted to frame Sareth for Day’s assassination because that was the only way to stop a marriage and possibility of a biological heir. Later, she killed Brother Dusk and Rue Corintha, irrespective of the fact that one was a successor of Cleon and the second one was a human. In all these cases, Demerzel was serving the Empire and defying the Robot laws which might hint at the possibility that she could end up becoming a killing machine in the near future in order to protect the fall of the Empire.
We believe Season 1 was just the introduction of Demerzel’s character, while season 2 established who she really was and what she was capable of doing. Perhaps in the third season, we will find out the true nature of her character, whether she is going to become an ally in Hari Seldon’s plan or she is one of the crises in the path of the Foundation. As far as the book goes, she may not hinder Hari Seldon’s plan but the Cleon 1’s device has changed her character arc completely. One can say she is not her real self anymore and just a puppet controlled by Cleon 1 who has no means to stop what he had started.
In most cases, violence is always the result of one’s inability to control the situation. For example, Demerzel couldn’t erase Brother Dusk and Rue’s memory and therefore had to kill them so as to eliminate a threat to Cleon 1’s system. However she failed to stop the second most alarming threat as Sareth escaped Trantor with Brother Dawn and the couple are indeed going to give birth to a biological child which Cleon 1 never wanted to happen. It is probable that Demerzel is going to lose her mind over this fact and make more reckless decisions to stop them in the upcoming seasons because of her programming. As a robot, she cannot accept the fact that she had made an error and had failed to follow the instructions of Cleon 1. At the end of Season 2, Demerzel does activate the backup clones of Cleon and is going to make sure that they act according to her wishes. But will her own decisions be influenced by Hari’s Prime Radiant?
Even the second season of Foundation leaves us with a plethora of questions, the most important one being Demerzel’s role in the fight against The Mule and the mentalics. Is she going to help Hari and Gaal stop the menacing clown, or will she remain neutral in the fight against the threatening psychic? Season 3 will tell us better.