Silo review: Apple's slowburning dystopian drama will reward patient viewers

Rebecca Ferguson in Silo. (Apple TV+)
Rebecca Ferguson in Silo. (Apple TV+)
  • 📺 Where to watch Silo: Apple TV+ from 5 May

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 3/5

  • 🍿 Watch it if you liked: 1984, The Power, Westworld, Station Eleven, The Handmaid's Tale

  • 🎭 Who's in it?: Rebecca Ferguson, Iain Glen, Tim Robbins, Common, David Oyelowo, Harriet Walter, Rashida Jones 

  • How long is it? 10 x 1 hour episodes, 2 available at launch then weekly thereafter

  • 📖 What’s it about? Men and women live in a giant silo underground with several regulations which they believe are in place to protect them from the toxic and ruined world on the surface.

Deep in the depths thousands wait in darkness as their sole source of power gets an overhaul. Sealed within the Silo, Juliette (Rebecca Ferguson) battles to keep it from overheating, as this Apple original sci-fi balances on a knife edge.

Writer and show runner Graham Yost (Speed), tackles the first instalment in Hugh Howey’s science fiction trilogy over 10 hours of television, establishing characters, defining the drama, and hinting at an outside world ravaged by an ecological disaster.

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Miles of propagated plant life produce food enough for thousands, while inhabitants actively contribute to their subterranean home. There is an unspoken class system in line with the levels, while everything else is determined by ‘the pact’: a democratic document handed down through the decades designed to maintain order.

Watch a trailer for Silo

In an opening hour which introduces this multi-storey monolith, law enforcement is the first port of call, as Mayor Johns (Geraldine James), Sheriff Holston (David Oyelowo), and Deputy Marnes (Will Patton) prowl a floodlit fortress. With engineers, academics, and numerous grades of office-based admin populating each domain – their jurisdiction feels infinite in those opening minutes.

From an audience perspective, this cavernous construct feels overwhelming, as numerous narratives jockey for attention in the shadow of the engineering marvel. This initially threatens to derail this drama, as show runner Yost draws people in with a pregnancy sub-plot involving Holston and his wife Allison (Rashida Jones).

However, that this storyline does more to illustrate the intrusive nature of the society than inject any degree of humanity into proceedings is extremely telling. In many ways, Silo shares more in common with George Orwell’s 1984, as that sense of big brother watching is overtly oppressive from the outset – making an emotional investment on the part of audiences a challenge.

Rashida Jones and David Oyelowo in Silo. (Apple TV+)
Rashida Jones and David Oyelowo in Silo. (Apple TV+)

Cumbersome hard drives packed with illicit data, random searches conducted by Silo style militia, and the threat of banishment awaits anyone in possession of suspected contraband. Expulsion itself is accompanied by a public display of pomp and ceremony, where indifferent onlookers watch in anticipation, as one of their number heads outside to clean.

However, this adherence to tradition conceals darker secrets beneath the surface which no amount of rules could hope to hide. Slowly but surely cracks begin forming in the façade of a society founded on falsehoods, by those with ambiguous intent. Secrets, which are embedded in the foundations of this Silo, offer up more questions than answers as the sci-fi rabbit hole just keeps getting deeper.

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In a society defined by rules and regulations, where bureaucracy and tradition are held to account, comparisons with contemporary modes of government are unavoidable, as information in any society equates to power, which is why a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Rebecca Ferguson and Harriet Walter in Silo. (Apple TV+)
Rebecca Ferguson and Harriet Walter in Silo. (Apple TV+)

If that sounds like a whole world of heavy lifting, then rest assured Silo might be big on ideas, but ultimately boils down to a very human story: one shaped by parental disconnection, secret liaisons, and intentional abuses of power.

Key to making that work one hour in is Juliette, an engineer who exists in the belly of this beast, keeping those home fires burning for everyone else. Her story is one of many convoluted connections which brings this series together, and it might test the patience to begin with, but tenacity on the part of anyone willing to commit gets rewarded eventually.

Through a combination of flashbacks which consistently link back to that first episode, Yost and his collaborators unravel the intricacies of this story — incorporating murder mystery elements alongside political powerplays, before deviating into old fashioned thriller territory.

Tim Robbins in Silo. (Apple TV+)
Tim Robbins in Silo. (Apple TV+)

Key characters which emerge in those early episodes include Doctor Pete Nichols (Iain Glen), who shares a crucial connection with Juliette, as well as the nefarious head of IT Bernard (Tim Robbins), who hides behind an academic demeanour but reeks of ulterior motives.

There is no denying that Silo benefits from having a passionate team of creatives behind it, while the presence Hugh Howey as an executive producer brings its own kind of kudos. Not only ensuring that this world is authentically replicated on screen, but that any story within its walls benefits as a result.

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As the convoluted connections between these principal players gets revealed, it becomes clear that deep down in the darkness something else is hidden. A secret buried beyond the reach of inquisitive eyes, which is sure to keep audiences tuned in, as Silo offers up its secrets and closes off an intriguing opening season.

Silo is available to stream on Apple TV+ from 5 May.