The show — about the last people on earth, who live inside an incalculably huge structure powered by a huge generator — takes a long walk with the mayor for political points. And Juliette lands a job offer, but she needs a big favor before she’s ready to take it.
After so much table-setting, Silo gets down to business in the episode, entitled “Machines.”
Silo recap: ‘Machines’
Season 1, episode 3: Juliette Nichols (played by Rebecca Ferguson) has found something deep within the earth under the parts of the silo where no one is meant to go. She and her friend George Wilkins (Ferdinand Kingsley) used to spend time in a condemned part of the silo to be alone. There they could theorize and think a little more freely, away from the claustrophobia and air of repression above.
Since the suicide of Sheriff Holston (David Oyelowo), her last compatriot in her growing case of conspiracy against the powers that be — people like bureaucrat Bernard (Tim Robbins), justice Sims (Common), Deputy Marnes (Will Patton) and Mayor Ruth Jahns (Geraldine James), the latter of whom are on their way to pay Juliette a visit because Holston named her as his successor — she’s been feeling increasingly alienated.
Juliette knows there are answers that people aren’t willing to give her about the silo and why everyone on earth is still stuck in it so many hundreds of years after being quarantined, an event no living human remembers. All records have been erased and replaced with myths and fables. Her exhaustion is taking its toll elsewhere. She shows up to work drunk and punches her co-worker, Cooper (Matt Gomez Hidaka). Her boss, Knox (Shane McRae), sends Juliette home with a warning.
Into the depths of the silo
Jahns and Marnes take a long walk to go see Juliette, the mayor is savvy enough to use it as a flesh-pressing campaign stop. Jahns knows that people seeing her several-hundred-story descent into the bowels of the silo will make her look strong and personable before the next election.
On their way down, the pair visit shifty Bernard to run the idea of the sheriff’s election by him. They don’t want to elect the people the judicial branch suggested. Bernard doesn’t like the idea of Juliette, and says he couldn’t effectively intervene even if he did.
Then they stop by to talk to Juliette’s dad, Dr. Pete Nichols (Iain Glen). His first instinct is to ask whether his daughter is in trouble. He’s tight-lipped about Juliette. She had some kind of trouble when she was young, and her mom died a long while ago, which didn’t help. Now they don’t see each other that much. Jahns smells something fishy.
Sims comes out to find Jahns on her walk, and insists that she take a meeting with the rest of the heads of Judicial to discuss the appointment. But Jahns blows him off, hating the feeling of being managed.
Drama in the engine room
Jahns gets to the engine room just as the thing pulls a fast one on the team of engineers. The gears of the mighty generator start moving in the wrong direction. Juliette locks herself inside with it to try and fix it, all eyes on her from outside the room. Jahns is very impressed. She asks one last person, Juliette’s friend and co-worker Martha Walker (Harriet Walter), about her before finally offering Juliette the job.
Juliette says no. The job of minding the engine is too important, she says. Jahns is happy enough with her answer, but before she goes back to the top floor she gives Juliette one last thing: Holston’s badge. Something about this gets Juliette’s mind going … maybe there’s an upside to this.
Juliette tells Jahns she’ll take the job on one condition: She needs to shut down the generator and fix it. It’s headed toward its own destruction, having been running for years without a break. Lately, it’s shown signs of damage that won’t be easy to repair. She wants to fix it, and to do so, she’ll need to turn it off. That means the whole silo will be in darkness for eight hours during the repair. Of course, no one’s ever tried this in living memory. There’s a lot that could go wrong.
Now that’s how you generate suspense
The last 20 minutes of this episode are dedicated to Juliette and her staff’s efforts to fix the generator. It’s quite good, probably the best stuff I’ve seen director Morten Tyldum get up to since his 2011 movie Headhunters (which, while entertaining, wasn’t a work of art or anything).
This has that same frenetic, manic energy to it, and the stakes are higher. It’s impressive, and the writers, the designers, composer Atli Örvarsson and the cast work together to make the stakes feel higher, too. It’s a great sequence that may ultimately have no bearing on anything, and yet it felt imperative every second it happened.
I also greatly enjoyed the moment of flirtation between Geraldine James and Will Patton, who does a great job acting embarrassed by his emotions. When Jahns is either poisoned or tries to kill herself, he’s also believably harried and bereft by the turn of events. I wasn’t exactly not interested in Silo after the first two episodes, but for some reason, sci-fi pilots are frequently the deadliest entryways into their worlds. You have to learn all the players and the show’s stupid jargon.
Apple TV+ shows Invasion, Foundation and now Silo really don’t make it easy on first-time viewers before they become interesting. But I’m excited to see what happens next in this one. That much is for sure.
Watch Silo on Apple TV+
New episodes of Silo arrive Fridays on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper and But God Made Him A Poet: Watching John Ford in the 21st Century, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.