Yesterday, AppleTV+ released the first two episodes of Silo, the new series based on Hugh Howey’s best-selling self-published novel Wool (and subsequent two books in the Silo series, Shift and Dust). Back when the show was in production, I interviewed Hugh, which you can find here!
If you love post-apocalyptic shows, Silo is a little different. As the premise suggests, people live in a cylindrical structure below ground, with only a small view of the outside world. However, unlike many apocalypse shows, these people live comfortably, albeit with numerous restrictions to keep population growth in check. In this regard, the show is a clever mix of end-of-the-world and dystopia. The people are controlled more by denying them information rather than (only) fear tactics. In this way, the story is a fun blend of genres and quite quickly jumps into a conspiracy. The pacing is well-balanced, the characters are likable and interesting, and, overall, it’s a wonderful start to what should be an excellent show that will appeal to a range of viewers. And as a fan of the books, I can’t wait to see how certain aspects are adapted for the screen!
What follows is a recap and review of the first two episodes. Spoilers to follow!
Silo Episode One – “Freedom Day”
The first episode introduces us to Sherrif Holston (David Olelowo) and the Silo itself. It reminds me a Fallout bunker, although with technology that is more modern. What’s interesting about the show is that it leaves a lot for the viewer to infer and figure out as the story goes along—we don’t get a level-by-level tour of the place, just a quick pan of a few areas.
The residents aren’t aware of who built the silo, why they are in it, why the outside is ruined, or when it will be safe to go outside. We learn later that relics from the past are illegal, and all information about the world and the past was lost 140 years ago during a rebellion.
Holston asks his deputy, Marnes (Will Patton), to meet him in Holding 3, within which he jails himself. He says to Marnes he “wants to go outside.”
The intro then begins, which reminded me a lot of Snowpeircer in that it’s focused on the silo itself. In fact, the story’s premise has many similarities to the apocalyptic train show (people contained within a structure due to hostile conditions outside, power dynamics, social control), although a lot less far-fetched (minus the amount of concrete needed to make the silo). The theme song is also very reminiscent of Westworld.
After the intro, we move to a flashback of the sheriff with his wife, Allison (Rashida Jones), as they receive the news they are approved for “reproductive clearance.” This gives them one year to try for a baby. We learn that this is their third and final attempt.
At the doctor’s office, Ali has her birth control removed. Silo has one leg-up on our society, as it appears they actually administer a numbing agent when removing internal birth control, unlike that of IUDs in our world. But, why is it so big?
Over the next year, Ali and Holston are unsuccessful at getting pregnant. During that time, we are briefly introduced to Bernard, head of IT (Tim Robbins), Ali’s boss, who takes down a notice she posted about how to recover deleted files from old technology. This begins Ali’s research into a conspiracy. I won’t go into it step-by-step, but Ali eventually meets George (Ferdinand Kingsley), a techie from a lower level. He has a “relic,” an illegal hard drive, and wants to open the files. Ali is hesitant but eventually is drawn into the mystery and helps him open hundreds of files documenting the silo itself.
An older woman named Gloria (Sophie Thompson) suggests to Ali that the reason she can’t conceive is that the mysterious silo leadership only wants docile, obedient citizens. She and Holsten’s clearance was a lie. This spurs Ali to return to George and look at more files. She finds one called the “Jane Carmody Cleaning,” which shows the outside world with birds flying in the sky.
When Ali misses their final appointment with the doctor, Holston finds her at home, where she’s pale and shaking. She claims the doctor faked taking out her birth control, revealing she just took it out herself. As he runs for the doctor, Ali heads to the cafeteria, where she gives a speech about what she saw from the data. The doctor and Holsten claim she’s having a breakdown, to which she replies she wants to go out. Clearly, Ali sees that no one will believe her (despite the evidence she has) because they think she’s an emotional mess over infertility (which, to me, felt like a bit jab at how women’s health issues are approached in our society today). Holston insists on being the one to cast the final judgment.
As they prepare her suit, Ali says she is going outside to prove that things are better, and that she loves him.
Once outside, she doesn’t clean right away but eventually approaches the windows and clears the view for those inside. She smiles into the camera and then walks away … and dies on the steps leading up a hill.
Two years later, Holston receives a notice that George fell over a rail and died. An engineer is claiming it’s murder.
They go down to see the body, but the engineer is not there as per expectation. Hank (Billy Postlethwaite), the officer on that level, says she’s working on the generator and that she’s keeping everyone alive.
Down the depths, they find and absolutely ripped Juliette (Rebecca Ferguson).
Then we’re back to the present, where Holston says he’s going outside to find the truth.
Episode Two – “Holston’s Pick”
The next episode begins with Holston heading outside. It appears Ali was correct, as Holston exits to see a lush garden-like landscape. He cleans the windows, wishing to show everyone. Then, he starts to asphyxiate. He manages to remove his helmet and tries to climb to Allison to die with her body.
Juliette, watching from engineering, doesn’t believe what they’re seeing is true. A fight breaks out as she storms away. She picks up a wrench to smash the generator but instead whips it at a water pipe.
Meanwhile, Marnes, the deputy, has to deal with the start of societal unrest. He heads to Mayor Jahn’s (Geraldine James) office, where she’s knitting. She offers him a drink, which she says comes from before the rebellion. She wants him to be sheriff, but he declines, and she’s unsure who to hire for the position.
Juliette enters an older woman’s house. The woman is working on tech and convinces Julitte to explain herself. She does, which leads to an extended flashback showing that Juliette and George were an “unsanctioned” couple, and how on the night he died, George left a note and Pez dispenser in Juliette’s home.
Holsten shows Juliette where the body was found. They think he fell 100 feet. She tries to argue that it wasn’t a suicide. Finally, the cops agree to ask the Porters, people who climb the stairs bringing things up and down levels, if they saw anything. He asks her if she wants to see the body. They talk, but it’s clear neither is convinced by the other.
She agrees to show him what George left her if he pretends he found it somewhere else when he confiscates it. The note says, “Remember where you last saw this” (of which she removed the rest). She then takes him to a tunnel with carvings on the walls. She climbs down a hole to show him a tunneller machine (they call it a digger) that was abandoned after it completed its dig. It’s like an inverted Bagger 288.
They climb down a rock face on a rickety ladder to reach a lower level nearer the machine. She shows off a box of relics George had been collecting to sell and trade. A wire is missing from a spool, and she finds it attached to something, which leads them across some beams. At the end is a bag filled with instructions on recovering deleted files (with handwriting on the back) and a hard drive.
When Holston says it’s Ali’s writing, Juliette accuses him of looking into the murder only to find out why Allison did what she did. He denies it, takes the drive, and says he’s filing George’s death as an accident. She says he should have listened to his wife, insinuating that his stubbornness is what killed her. He explains how he’s heartbroken, and he’s going to look into the situation. He tells her to lay low, and he’ll give her a sign when he has the info.
Back in the present, she says she never got a sign from him before he went to clean.
The other side of George’s note read, “I found what I was looking for,” but she’s not sure what that means.
Meanwhile, Jahns and Marnes are looking into new candidates for sheriff. Marnes has a message from Holston that his last act as sheriff is to nominate Juliette as sheriff and give his property to her. The mayor decides to trek down to see the people and meet Juliette herself.
Juliette has a memory about George, where he admits he found a door on the blueprints. It’s revealed she’d afraid of water, which is a great moment of vulnerability for a woman who, so far, has appeared tough as nails.
She decides to go into the water, despite her fear. She drags a rope out to the gangplank and climbs it down to the water. She falls as she nears the bottom and drops her light. The episode ends with her hanging off the rope, staring down at the dark pool.
As a huge fan of Wool, it was so interesting to see a longer version of what happened to Holston’s wife. It was also a great way to introduce the world-building of the story and the societal set-up to those unfamiliar with the story. So far, the show seems a faithful adaptation of the novels, with logical tweaks to accommodate the different format. Rebecca Ferguson is also mesmerizing to watch; the casting for Juliette, in my mind, is perfect.
I can’t speculate on what will happen, as I already know, but I will say I think this is a fabulous series so far, and I can’t wait to see how it diverts and keeps with the books.
The next episode airs on AppleTV on May 12th.