Led by a great performance from Rebecca Ferguson, this AppleTV+ series is a thrilling dystopian whodunit.
Plot: Silo is the story of the last ten thousand people on earth, their mile-deep home protecting them from the toxic and deadly world outside. However, no one knows when or why the silo was built and any who try to find out face fatal consequences. Ferguson stars as Juliette, an engineer, who seeks answers about a loved one’s murder and tumbles onto a mystery that goes far deeper than she could have ever imagined, leading her to discover that if the lies don’t kill you, the truth will.
Review: Post-apocalyptics stories are bordering on burnout. After decades of zombies and plagues and reaching for creative twists on the genre, we are getting to the point of animal-human hybrids (Sweet Tooth), blind tribes (See), and even deadly fungus spores (The Last of Us). While the creativity in those aforementioned series is impressive, the genre seems to be petering out. Luckily, AppleTV+ has found a solid throwback to the heyday of dystopian science fiction with Silo. Based on the trilogy of novels by Hugh Howey, Silo is an impressive feat of production design and engaging storytelling that is far better than I was prepared for. With a great cast led by Rebecca Ferguson and David Oyelowo, Silo takes a slightly different angle by focusing on the mystery-box factor of the title structure blended with a season-long whodunit.
On the surface, Silo shares a lot in common with many other dystopian stories we have seen adapted for the screen. Notably, City of Ember, a YA action film that also starred Tim Robbins, about an underground society living in fear of a toxic planet. Here, Silo imagines a society of humans developed over hundreds of years where their history has been lost due to a rebel uprising. Not knowing how or why they live beneath a toxic atmosphere, the burden of society has fallen on the roughly ten thousand people in the titular silo. Like Snowpiercer but in a building instead of a train, Silo puts the powerful at the top and the grunts, workers, and mechanics at the bottom. There is law and order and government, but there is also a vocal minority that questions their control. The series drops us into the story of Holston Becker (David Oyelowo), the sheriff of the silo, as he investigates a series of murders that could unveil the truth about what they are all doing in their prison.
From the beginning of the ten-episode first season of Silo, it becomes obvious that Apple has put a lot of money into the quality of this series. Though claustrophobic and almost entirely indoors, the sets are stunningly detailed and look almost like the designers built a massive silo on the set. There is an ominous feel that is both futuristic and simplistic, reminiscent of Dune and the Fallout video game series. Within this world, we have a great range of actors and characters, including Geraldine Hames as Mayor Jahns, Will Patton as Deputy Marnes, Ferdinand Kingsley as George Wilkins, Chinaza Uche as Paul Billings, and Harriet Walter as Martha Walker. But, this series’s main cast is who drives the narrative. Common plays a bold and rigid enforcer named Sims, while Tim Robbins portrays the brilliant and conniving Bernard. David Oyelowo is excellent as Holston, and Rashida Jones gives one of her best performances as his wife, Allison. The real standout though is the main star of the series.
Rebecca Ferguson has certainly developed into a top-tier actress, and between Silo and Dune, she may be cornering the market on scifi franchises. Here, Ferguson plays Juliette Nichols, an engineer thrust into a position of power in a shocking fashion who must carry the burden of revealing the truth about the silo to the denizens within. Ferguson and Oyelowo make a great pair here as they work to solve the spate of murders that may be connected to the truth about why they are underground. In imperfect American accents, both actors are intriguing elements of the massive world-building this series takes on, but which sometimes takes the place of character development. There are so many characters to follow and rules to introduce for this story to make sense that it sometimes loses its way. Luckily, the charisma and presence of everyone in the cast make up for the shortcomings you may think about after the credits roll.
Series creator Graham Yost, best known for the great FX series Justified, shepherds Hugh Howey’s first book in a sprawling trilogy of novels into a dense season with a lot of momentum. With the pace as high as it is, sometimes characters are lost in the shuffle, and it can become confusing to remember who is important to what plot element. But, with director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game, Passengers) leading a group of filmmakers who utilize Gavin Bocquet’s production design and are supported by the sweeping score by Atli Orvarsson to evoke a world that is at once new as much as it is old and lived-in. Silo feels like a real world with stakes told in a manner we have not seen in recent years. By being a throwback to dystopian films and stories of a decade ago and older, Silo is refreshingly familiar.
The twists and reveals through the first season of Silo are meant to be shocking and surprising but end up coming across as more expected than the writers may have realized. However, the directors manage to make the intensity feel tangible throughout the season. Aside from a few subplots that could have been eliminated or streamlined, Silo is an engaging and exciting series that creates an interesting world to explore. Silo works as both a small-scale mystery and a commentary on class disparity while still existing as a piece of entertainment. Taken as a whole or as any of those individual classifications, Silo is an expertly-crafted production with fascinating characters. Full of cliffhangers and throwbacks to dystopian stories we have seen before, Silo has the making of a multi-season hit for Apple.
Silo premieres on May 5th on AppleTV+.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/silo-tv-review/