I do not say this lightly because sci-fi is not typically my genre of choice unless it involves religion or grief, but I am very taken with Apple TV+’s new series Silo. I have not read the source material upon which it is based (and we will likely cover the differences in a later post), but it’s good post-apocalyptic fiction that relies on a fairly simple premise and introduces a number of intriguing mysteries.
The premise is this: An entire community (maybe Earth’s last) has lived for an indeterminate period of time in a silo, which is essentially an underground building hundreds of stories tall that provides all of the community’s needs. The people of the community have lived in the silo since the “rebellion.” The rulers of the silo live on the top floors, the doctors and lawyers and the middle class live on the middle floors, and the plebes live and work on the bottom floors, where they keep a generator that supplies power to the silo running.
There are a number of mysteries, but primarily two: What provoked the “rebellion” and who was involved? The community inside the silo has no idea because “relics” — items from prior to the rebellion — are both scant and forbidden. The people inside the silo are not allowed to know about the time before the silo. The other mystery is: What’s outside? The people inside are led to believe that the air outside is poisonous and will kill them.
There is some evidence to support that belief. The silo community has one hard and fast rule: If you ask to go outside, you can leave, but you’re not allowed back in. When someone leaves, the people inside can watch them on a monitor designed to look like a window. What they see is someone breathing the air, keeling over, and dying. What’s not clear is if what the people inside are seeing is real.
This is where the titles are interesting. I knew nothing about Silo going into the pilot episode, but I was immediately drawn to it because Rashida Jones is the first name listed in the title sequence followed by that of David Oyelowo, who I also like. The only other names listed in the opening credits are Common, Tim Robbins, and Rebecca Ferguson, who gets the “and” credit (Robbins gets the “with” credit).
My thought initially is that this is a series starring Rashida Jones and David Oyelowo, while Ferguson plays a smaller but consequential role. That’s true, but only of the first episode (so far). In it, Jones plays Allison Becker, the wife of Sherriff Holston (Oyelowo), and she and her husband are granted permission by the powers that be to have a child, but they are only given a small window in which to conceive. What Allison discovers is that the government doesn’t actually want her to have a baby (and makes it impossible for her to do so) and she also discovers — along with a Computer Guy — evidence suggesting that maybe what the community has been told about the outside is not true. Allison asks to “go out,” and once someone says that, there are no takebacks. She leaves, and what the community sees on their window monitor is Allison keeling over and dying outside of the silo.
In the next episode, Rashida Jones’ name is no longer in the credits.
It’s smart because if her name was in the credits, we could more safely assume that she is actually alive and that we will eventually reconnect with that character on the outside. It doesn’t happen in the second episode, which sees the Computer Guy mysteriously murdered. Allison’s husband (Oyelowo) also decides he has to go out and find out for himself if his wife is dead. He leaves, and we see his character presumably die, as well.
Meanwhile, by the third episode, Oyelowo is listed only as a special appearance (a flashback), while Rebecca Ferguson — who had the “and” credit — is the first listed cast member followed by Common, Harriet Walter, “and Tim Robbins.” What’s particularly interesting is that the deputy sheriff, played by Will Patton, and the mayor of the silo, played by Geraldine James, have far more screentime than either Common or Harriet Walter, but only appear in the end credits.
In other words, the credits — at least for those who haven’t read the source material — give nothing away. We do not know if the characters played by Rashida Jones and David Oyelowo are dead or alive. It’s unclear after three episodes if we will ever find out. Even if we do, it may not be until future seasons. Moreover, if Jones and Oyelowo disappear, there’s no guarantee that Rebecca Ferguson will survive the next episode, either.
That is to say: The most intriguing thing about an already intriguing series is that none of the characters appear to have any plot armor. That’s exciting, but so are the series’ bigger mysteries, like: Who was behind the rebellion, what was it about, who is actually the controlling entity in the silo, who killed the computer guy, what’s underneath the silo, and do the people who leave the silo die or has the world outside continued normally while everyone else remains trapped in the silo?
It’s a great series, so far, and the title details are only a small reason why.
‘Silo’ airs weekly on Fridays on Apple TV+.