Apple TV+ dystopian sci-fi hit Silo sends Juliette out on her second day as sheriff and into a minefield this week.
The show, about the last few thousand people on earth living inside a massive underground structure, unveils more tentacles of its political conspiracy. When Juliette and her new deputy look into the murder of their predecessors, they find corruption and lies in every corner they search. The episode, entitled “The Janitor’s Boy,” is a thrilling chapter in the Silo saga.
Silo recap: ‘The Janitor’s Boy’
Season 1, episode 5: It’s still the first week of Juliette Nichols’ (played by Rebecca Ferguson) tenure as sheriff of the silo, and already she’s got questions, headaches and suspicions. She only took the job as a beyond-the-grave favor from her one-time cohort, the former Sheriff Holston (David Oyelowo). He gave her a message that reminded her to look into the truth of the silo and the death of his wife, Alison (Rashida Jones), who chose banishment on Earth’s toxic surface rather than continuing to live in the silo.
As Juliette’s looking through old files, including interviews with Holston, Alison and Juliette’s also deceased friend George Wilkins (Ferdinand Kingsley), she gets a summons. Deputy Marnes (Will Patton) has been murdered.
This comes hot on the heels of his would-be girlfriend, the former Mayor Jahns (Geraldine James), also getting murdered. This is all very fishy.
High-ranking bureaucrat Bernard (Tim Robbins) has been promoted to interim mayor in the meantime, and he comes up with an idea: Tell people they were in love, bury them together, and spin a brutal crime into a tragic romance. Justice Sims (Common), one of the officials of the Judicial branch of the silo government, doesn’t like it. He thinks the death has something to do with Holston, Jahns and Marnes appointing Juliette as sheriff.
Who can Juliette trust?
After the funeral, Juliette gets a visit from the deputy of her home district down by the generator, the bottom floor of the silo. Deputy Hank (Billy Postlethwaite) is worried about her taking on all this responsibility and then stumbling into the deaths of the public officials who oversaw her transition. It all seems like a lot, and he’s worried that her immediate deputy, Paul Billings (Chinaza Uche) — who was everyone else’s first choice for sheriff — might not have her best interest at heart.
Knowing this, Juliette decides to send Billings on a lunch break while she breaks into a suspect’s house, finds planted evidence, and puts the suspect in question, Patrick Kennedy (Rick Gomez), into protective custody. Kennedy doesn’t even live there anymore.
Juliette puts out a bunk arrest warrant for Kennedy, then gets back to the house in time to see an official from Judicial named Douglas Trumbull (Henry Garrett, a character whose name is a clumsy reference to a sci-fi pioneer) coming back to clean up the evidence. Juliette chases him for several stories, and he almost throws her down a hundred-story drop, but she manages to break his middle finger and escape.
Billings puts together that it’s Trumbull (who he saw in Sims’ office a few hours earlier), but by the time they get to him, Sims has killed him. They report it to Judicial, who tell them it’s a thin story and demand Juliette and Billings drop it. Which they knew would happen, so they agree to it … and then get right back to investigating Jahns’ and Marnes’ deaths.
A police procedural in a sci-fi suit
We get an excellent mid-episode chase scene courtesy of this week’s director, David Semel. When Juliette catches Trumbull returning to the scene of his crime, she chases him into the middle of a relay race, so they’re bumping into dozens of guys trying to outrun each other. Then, when he pushes her over the side of the staircase, it’s genuinely gripping in a way I wasn’t expecting.
The more Silo gets into the nuts and bolts of Juliette navigating the shadowy political minefield while investigating conspiracy and murder, the better the show is. I don’t and didn’t need to learn so much about the practical aspects of the silo, because I’d rather get down to business. And, since the show is a police procedural in dystopian science fiction clothing, the quicker we get to the fact-finding and suspect-chasing, the better Silo becomes. This week’s episode shows why.
I liked the guest turn from Chipo Chung as Marnes’ and Holston’s one-time secretary, Sandy. The character shows her distrust of Juliette from the jump. However, her attitude softens when it becomes clear that Juliette actually is the successor to both men she was hoping the office would land. And then, of course, predictably and sadly, Sandy still quits because she didn’t think Juliette was going to prove her presumptions right. And in so doing, she has proven that things are even more crooked than Sandy imagined.
That’s the kind of little character beats that sell a sci-fi universe — not lingo and elaborate names for simple concepts. Also: Putting Rebecca Ferguson at the center of the mystery certainly helps. She’s a no-nonsense screen presence with real ferocity. This show works well as it does because of her.
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.