Based on trailers and images, it’s pretty easy to write off Silo as yet another stern post-apocalyptic tale. It’s all gray and brown and miserable, with the remains of humanity locked in an underground silo to avoid the toxic outside world. You’d be excused if you mistake it for something like The hunger Games or Divergent. But aside, Silo doesn’t have much in common with the rest of the genre. It’s more of a small town murder mystery that happens to take place after the world has ended.
Silo, based on Hugh Howey’s novels of the same name, is set at an obscure point in the future when the planet has seemingly been destroyed. The humans who survived manage by living in the titular silo, a giant underground structure sealed off from the toxic outside world. The show picks up 140 years after the silo first became the permanent home of 10,000 people.
There are a few key mysteries at the heart of the story. One is the fact that, for reasons that are initially unclear, all of human history has been erased from existence. The people in the silo don’t really know anything about what came before. This includes everything from culture (one of the main characters is Juliette, played by Rebecca Ferguson, and no one seems to know where her name comes from) to nature (the inhabitants can see stars in the night sky, but have no idea what they actually are ). Pre-silo relics are considered dangerous and illegal, even something as benign as a Pez dispenser.
This leads us to the other mystery, which is exactly what is happening outside. Since no one actually leaves the silo because the air is widely believed to be toxic, it’s unclear what it’s really like. Residents can view the landscape through a giant screen in the cafeteria. It shows a typical post-apocalyptic scene: crumbling ruins, rubble strewn everywhere, and nothing that can be considered alive. If someone says they want to go out, they can, but they can never go back to the silo, so it’s the equivalent of a death sentence. (They are also asked to clean the camera outside if they feel like it, which everyone seems to be doing.)
These are all great existential questions. And the show certainly explores them, but cleverly does so on a very human level. The silo is actually a small town: it has a mayor and a sheriff, a market and a farm, and everyone has some kind of job to keep things going. It begins when Sheriff Holston (David Oyelowo) and his wife Allison (Rashida Jones) get permission to have a baby and spend the next 365 days trying to conceive. A lot happens in that year, and over time Allison begins to question much of the dogma preached in the silo, and it reflects on her husband. He eventually meets Juliette, a gruff mechanic downstairs working on the generator essential to keeping everyone alive.
Without revealing too much, someone dies, and the investigation brings Holston and Juliette together. As they try to figure out exactly what happened, they are drawn into the bigger mysteries about the silo and the world around it.
The show does a great job of balancing these two sides of the story. For the most part, it stays focused and grounded; exploring characters by going door to door and questioning people, and all of the larger storylines are directly linked to specific characters and their histories. That includes a shadowy chief of security (Common) and the head of IT (Tim Robbins), both of whom clearly know a lot more about the truth than they let on. Silo slowly reveals itself over the course of 10 episodes, and it kept me guessing most of the time.
That said, there are some very obvious revelations, but they mostly serve to distract from what’s really going on. The things that are easy to guess from the start turn out not to be that important, or at least not in the way you might expect. By the end, my view of the whole story had changed.
I must also praise the production design. A concrete tunnel in the ground doesn’t seem like the most interesting setting visually, but still Silo‘s silo feels like a real lived place. Offices and houses are painted in different colors to give a human touch, and since pictures don’t exist in the silo, everyone has beautiful drawings of their family around. Things feel weathered and used, which makes sense since the place is over a century old, but it doesn’t feel dirty and dirty like many similar shows and movies. The visuals go a long way in selling this as a real place. Also, Silo follows other apple series like Dismissal And Hello tomorrow in having some really excellent retrofuturistic computers and gadgets.
The first season is surprising in the way it uses a worn-out setting to tell a much more classic story. It resembles The hunger Games but changes to something closer Fargo. It doesn’t answer everything in the end either – in fact, the mystery only gets weirder by the time the finale winds down. Fortunately, Apple generally seems willing to give weird mysteries time to tell a complete story. I mean, we’ve got four seasons of it Servant. Hopefully we’ll get just as much time to figure out what the heck is going on with the Pez dispenser.
Silo premieres Apple TV Plus on May 5, with new episodes streaming on Friday.