Apple TV + appears to have found a niche in high-concept science fiction. Silo follows Foundations and Extrapolations as a gritty dystopian future that feels grounded enough, in reality, to hit a nerve with modern audiences.
Silo is based on Wool, a self-published sci-fi book series by Hugh Howey, who also serves as an executive producer on the show. The ten episodes centre on an unknown future where what is left of humanity lives in the Silo, an underground sanctuary where people live under a strict set of rules.
The pilot centres on the Holston family, Sheriff Holston (David Oyelowo) and his wife Allison (Rashida Jones), who are looking to start a family. In the Silo, all women are automatically implanted with a birth control device and must apply for permission to have it removed.
The opening episode sets up this stark world and the strict rules the inhabitants must live with. It also sets up the seeds of doubt that something isn’t right in the stories presented as fact in the Silo. When Allison starts to ask questions and see something she shouldn’t, she is penalised by high powers. The last minutes of the pilot set up the mystery in such an intriguing way audiences will be itching to click to the next episode.
In episode two, we meet Juliette (Rebecca Ferguson), one of the mechanics responsible for keeping the Silo powered. She lives in the lower sector of the Silo in the lower dwellings of the building. Much like High Rise or Snowpiercer, the higher you live in the Silo, the better your class is. The more privileged you are, your accommodation and a chance at starting a family are better.
Juliette becomes fascinated with a suicide case in the vicinity she works, which she believes is a murder. She starts working with Sheriff Holston and falls down the rabbit hole of conspiracies. The secrets of the Silo slowly unravel as they investigate this mysterious death.
The ten episodes do a fantastic job of showcasing how this civilization is formed and the different areas that keep it running smoothly. A lot of disbelief is expected to uphold with how vague this world is. Not because Silo is poorly written but because the entire premise is that everything is unknown, even to those living in this multi-story building. Silo mostly manages to juggle all the mechanics of this civilization and the inhabitants of the building.
This show offers more questions than answers, so it would be impossible to answer them all in one season. A few more answers, even if they were later to be discovered as deceptive, would have made Silo a more fulfilling watch. It’s not until the last three episodes, do we go back to the mystery set-up in the opening episode.
The pilot is captivating TV, but we don’t really see the main characters from that episode again, so getting reinvested often feels difficult. Sometimes it feels like Silo doesn’t keep the stakes high enough to keep you interested. The middle episodes get dragged down by a murder plot that relies too much on classic police procedural tropes. The show does start to feel repetitive mid-season and could have benefitted from being shaved down an episode or two.
There are so many mysteries set up regarding this building that people aren’t allowed to leave, about the outside world that is allegedly inhabitable, and this secret discovered by the Holstons that it’s frustrating to spend so much time interviewing witnesses in a murder case. Little clues and discoveries are peppered throughout the episodes to keep audiences engaged, but Silo could have benefitted from delivering reveals earlier in the season.
Rebecca Ferguson is a perfect fit for cerebral Silo, handling the action sequences and the high-concept dialogue. While her accent (somewhere between American, English and her native Swedish) slips, her performance is always strong. Ferguson toes the line between strength and vulnerability, helping keep the emotional core.
Despite their minimal screen time, David Oyelowo and Rashida Jones’ presence is felt throughout the show’s entire run. Ferguson is at her best when engaged with talent scene partners like Harriet Walter (who plays an agoraphobic mentor-like figure), Tim Robbins (as the head of IT), Common (as a villainous judicial figure) and Sophie Thompson (a mysterious fertility expert).
Silo is a beautifully realized slice of science fiction which bites off more answers than the ten-episode run can chew. The world-building and intrigue will keep audiences watching, and thankfully the payoff is almost worth it to patient viewers.
Silo premieres on Apple TV+ on May 5
by Amelia Harvey
Amelia is a freelance writer, frustrated novelist and occasional wrangling of international students. She is especially interested in LBGTQ culture and 1960s and 70s music. She also writes for Frame Rated, The People’s Movies and Unkempt Magazine, amongst others. Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Moulin Rouge and Closer. You can find her on Twitter @MissAmeliaNancy and letterboxd @amelianancy
Categories: Anything and Everything, Reviews, TV
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