SILO Review: I Want to Go Outside

Rashida Jones, David Oyelowo, Rebecca Ferguson, Common and Tim Robbins star in the sci-fi series, created by Graham Yost, debuting on the Apple TV+ streaming service.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
SILO Review: I Want to Go Outside

Leaving home usually doesn't cause death. At least, not right away.

The first two episodes are now streaming on Apple TV+. Subsequent episodes will debut weekly. I've seen all ten episodes.

I think we can all relate to people who suffer from agoraphobia, especially since 2020, when the world shut down and it felt scary even to step out your front door. (OK, maybe that was just me.)

Based on a series of stories by Hugh Howie that began with Wool, published in 2011, Silo starts from the idea of a multitude of people who live underground in an incredibly tall silo, where they have formed a totalitarian society, one that demands obedience and adherence to a set of rules and regulations that sound draconian, if not entirely arbitrary and bizarre.

Thanks to giant generators in the lowest levels, however, they can recirculate their water, power their lights and machines, and grow their food. It functions much like a modern-day city, with credits as a form currency and strict controls on pregnancy, lest an increasing population deprive everyone.

Who built the silo? Why was it built? Outside, it looks like a post-apocalyptic landscape where no one could survive. An insurrection some 140 years in the past destroyed all records of what went before, though some strange rituals have developed, including the law that anyone who expresses a desire to go outside is sentenced to go outside, where they promptly die in front of everyone watching, safely inside. OK, everybody, back to work.

Into this environment, IT worker Allison (Rashida Jones) and her husband Holston (David Oyelowo), who serves as Sheriff over the entire silo, win a lottery to have a child. That inauspicious beginning plants a few story seeds that bloom in the first two episodes, as well as a few more seeds that blossom over the course of the remaining eight episodes.

The show is sneaky good, in that certain sequences appear to be time-wasters, yet are so skillfully accomplished that they are immediately compelling. Rest assured that Juliette (Rebecca Ferguson), an engineer; Sims (Common), a so-called Judicial, or member of the enforcement team; and Bernard (Tim Robbins), head of IT, will take on larger roles as the series progresses.

Watching the actors navigate the changing nature of their characters is a joy to behold. Canada's own Graham Yost created the series; beyond writing Speed (1994) and Broken Arrow (1996), he created the superb Justified TV series, and his mark of quality plotting and character development is all over the show, even though he didn't write all the episodes.

Likewise, Norway's own Morten Tyldum (Headhunters, 2011, Counterpart, 2017) skillfully weaves together action and suspense during the first three episodes, establishing a high mark of quality that the other directors on the series maintain, making for a fluidly enjoyable series. The photography, production design, costuming, and visual effects effectively convey a feeling that people have been living in a contained structure for a very long time -- at least more than 140 years -- yet are making the best of it.

Everything is a bit dingy and dirty in Silo, which makes the punchy drama stand out, along with the stinging dramatic performances by Rashida Jones, David Oyelowo, Rebecca Ferguson and Tim Robbins. Common oozes self-righteous anger and menace.

Watch the first two episodes to absorb the mood and atmosphere, which slowly sink into the fabric of the show. Watch the remaining eight episodes to piece together the many mysteries and savor the sharp writing and nuanced performances.

Then maybe step outside and enjoy a big gulp of fresh air.

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Apple TV+CommonDavid OyelowoGraham YostHugh HowieRashida JonesRebecca FergusonTim RobbinsUS

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