Silo Season 1 from Apple TV+
SILO – SEASON 1
Apple TV+, 10 episodes
Review by Celia Neri
We do not know why we are here. We do not know who built the Silo. We do not know why everything outside the Silo is as it is. We do not know when it will be safe to go outside. We only know that day is not this day.
The first season of Silo opens with these words, which encapsulate the premise of the show based on Hugh Howey’s trilogy. From the start, you are confronted with the mysteries the characters will strive to find an answer to throughout those ten episodes: why are they here, what is this place, and what is wrong out there?
The outside of the Silo is only glimpsed through the cafeteria: a mound covered in grey soil and brambles, with a poor gnarled tree, rocks, and, at night, lights in the sky the inhabitants of the Silo have no word for. A place where you’ll die within minutes. Because anyone asking to go outside will be granted the request for everyone to see. A few steps, a cleaning of the display to allow people in the cafeteria a better view, another few steps, and the corpse goes to join the others already there.
The inhabitants of the Silo are effectively trapped in it and have been for generations, and the lack of answers drives some of them into reckless enquiries.
Going outside to clean is the fate of the sheriff’s wife, Allison, who worked in IT. Her devoted husband, Holston, will try to understand what led her to choose this. In his quest, he will meet Juliette Nichols, an engineer. Juliette, a persistent woman and a problem-solver, is also looking for answers of her own because her partner, who worked in IT, too, apparently committed suicide. But the powerful and sinister Head of Judicial is determined not to let them unearth secrets that might be best left buried. Unless they’d set them all free.
The cast is extremely convincing. Rebecca Ferguson, as Juliette Nichols, portrays with nuance a character driven by grief to understand. As her enquiries progress, Ferguson shows us a Juliette who feels the ground vanishing under her very feet but still goes on. Chinaza Uche as the newly assigned deputy Paul Billings is another highlight. He remarkably plays a man torn between his values and the grimy reality revealed by Juliette’s investigation. Several famous names join them, including Tim Robbins, Common as the head of Judicial, Harriet Walter, and Iain Glen. All of the actors, whether in main roles or secondary roles, give depth and nuance to their characters. Because so much secrecy shrouds the Silo, those nuances will have you second-guessing every antagonism and every alliance.
Silo’s architecture and engineering are often on display on the screen, giving a clear view of how this closed world works without dwelling for too long on it. The aesthetics, mixing steampunk and Brutalism, gives the Silo an ambivalent atmosphere from the start: are we in a safe haven or in a dystopia? Its rules seem obscure, arbitrary even: why are they only using stairs and no pulley system is allowed? The floors organisation reflects a hierarchy, but what is it based on? Our characters run up and down those stairs, fleeing for their lives or rushing towards a solution. The Silo itself embodies the plot but also becomes a character in itself, one that seems unknowable, except in bits and pieces discovered by chance and research.
The story faithfully follows the first novel, which means that if you haven’t read it, you can expect some shocking twists and deaths happening as early as the first and second episodes. But readers of Hugh Howey’s trilogy will also be at the edge of their seats. The tension is palpable from the start; I was biting my nails during several episodes—even knowing what happened. One sequence of note is in an early episode when Juliette helps repair the engine that keeps the Silo running. It sets the tone for the subsequent episodes in which the tension ramps up even more. Revelations trickle through, but it’s only in the very last scene of the finale that you’ll finally have some answers to the initial speech.
As an adaptation, Silo makes some choices which have all to do with the different medium. Some sequences are given more prominence because they’re particularly suited to visuals. Others are glimpsed through details, lines, or elements in the background. Readers of the trilogy might be surprised where the first season ends—a couple of pages before the end of the novel. I’d surmise it has all to do with production and casting reasons. People who haven’t read the book will find it a tantalising cliffhanger, though, as it opens up new avenues to explore and leave you wanting more.
In our times when SFF shows are often unexpectedly cancelled, it’s a relief to know that Apple TV has already green-lit the second season. The current screenwriters and actors’ strike in Hollywood is bound to have repercussions on it, but it might only be a matter of time before it is broadcast. At worse, the novels are available to those eager to find those elusive answers… Although people who have read the books may cheekily tell you that they’re almost all hidden in the fantastic credits!
Silo is an excellent science-fiction show which faithfully follows the original material, with a remarkable cast and a killer pace that makes it fresh and engrossing. If you enjoy dystopian settings (unrelated to pandemics) and mysterious worlds, wonderful aesthetics and nuanced acting, and a story full of secrets and devastating truths, then Silo is for you.