After a catastrophe destroys the planet's atmosphere, a group of 10,000 people survive in underground silo, eking out a bare existence following strict societal rules. But more is hidden beneath the surface than just their homes.
Apple continues its pitch to be the place for grand and thoughtful sci-fi with this adaptation of Hugh Howey's book series.
There is much to admire about Silo - especially the fact that when I got a notification that a new episode was out I could sing about its arrival to the tune of Beyonce’s Halo. Lovely stuff.
Gimme the gist:
After a civil war destroys the planet's atmosphere, a society survives in an underground silo eking out a bare existence following strict societal rules. But more is hidden beneath the surface than just their homes.
If The Peripheral is a high brow espionage type action thriller with hints of a western and conspiracy all sewn together in a very expensive dress, Silo is a much more down to (below) earth detective mystery in its well worn trench coat. Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible, The Greatest Showman) is our hard-boiled detective Juliette who unexpectedly gets promoted from the depths of engineering to the higher rank of Sheriff. She uses a spate of deaths that those in charge want neatly covered up to dig around deeper mysteries in the silo.
What’s it all about?
We are well into the future and 140 years after a civil war, people live in an underground silo that neatly matches society's hierarchy: those in charge live in relative comfort towards the top, whilst down at the bottom are the mechanics and engineers keeping the lights on and the heat working. And there isn’t much prospect of changing your circumstances in the silo as people tend to stay generation after generation on the same level doing the same work as there is no mechanised transport allowed in the silo. This is one of many rules in “the pact” that governs the silo - along with one around “relics” (old objects) from the time before the silo. These relics and old technologies are all strictly regulated and monitored.
Another rule is that no one is allowed outside the Silo - in fact, being sent outside to clean the camera lens that beams back a view of the desolate outside world is seen as the ultimate punishment. If you say “I want to leave the silo” then leave you will - and it’s seen as a death sentence, a futuristic sci-fi version of walking the plank that is watched by an audience hoping you’ll survive in your space suit - but no one ever does.
When two high profile people ask to go outside it tips the dominoes onto a bigger mystery as people die, go missing, and we find out who really is making the rules and staying in charge.
Why should I watch?
I’m aware this might sound odd, but if you’re a fan of gritty, grimy, detective shows that uncover dark mysteries then don’t let the sci-fi tag throw you with this one. If you also get a bit of a thrill from conspiracy theories and cover ups and “ooh, the people in charge are up to something!” type shenanigans then you’ll probably get a kick out of Silo. It is no glossy, high tech, universe exploring sci-fi for which you need a guide book and a translator, but a tense, nervy, gripping mystery thriller.
The clues and the trail that Juliette follows are cleverly and patiently pieced together and I suspect will reward a second viewing when you go back and pretend you noticed something all along. It throws in plenty of shocks and surprises and early on you realise that this is one of those shows where you can’t take any character’s safety for granted.
For all the brilliant mystery, perhaps the stand out episode is almost a stand alone one about a dangerous failure of the generator that keeps them all alive. It is almost unbearably tense. I’m normally a pretty passive viewer but I was literally inching to the edge of my seat with my hands over my mouth.
The cast is full of familiar faces and you can play my favourite game of “ooh, where do I know them from?” Rebecca Ferguson is given a lot to do with carrying the show as Juliette - the brilliant but obstinate and distant engineer who left her life of comfort as a doctor’s daughter to learn her trade down below after the death of her mother. We step to the different layers of her character in the same way we step into the different levels of the Silo - slowly. Her mannerisms and spirit speak of someone who is used to fixing things and getting her hands dirty and Ferguson deftly shows us all the suffering even when she’s being belligerent. If this was a detective show set in 2023 America she’d be up for mainstream awards and spoken about like Kate Winslet was for Mare of Easttown.
Will Patton and Geraldine James as Deputy Marnes and Mayor Jahns elevate one storyline to something far more touching than it has any right to be but the two standouts are the always ace Harriet Walker who plays Juliette’s surrogate mother, and Chinaza Uche as Paul Billings. He arrives and brings a compelling balance to Juliette as their investigation veers off course into dangerous territory.
A small aside: it tickles me that so many futuristic stories resort back to what seem like very old fashioned society structures and titles: Mayor? Sheriff? Do we all think our future is simply a retread of the past?
If it’s not abundantly clear already, I am MIGHTLY pleased that Silo is coming back for season 2 (please don’t go back on this one: grow a conscience and pay your writers and actors properly.) I’ve bought the first book in the series to tide me over until the second series but I might have to get the rest of the books just in case.
My biscuit rating? A Border dark chocolate ginger: Expertly made and original with intense flavours and plenty of rich after taste.