Silo's creepy conspiracy just keeps getting weirder [Apple TV+ recap] | Cult of Mac

Silo’s creepy conspiracy just keeps getting weirder [Apple TV+ recap]

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Common in ★★★★☆
Sims (played by Common) is up to no good.
Photo: Apple TV+

TV+ ReviewApple TV+ dystopian sci-fi series Silo, about the last remnants of civilization trapped in a huge underground structure, ratchets up the stakes as Juliette realizes she has only a few hours to set things right or she and Billings will face the music.

A flashback to a tumultuous time serves as her guiding light in the darkness — and even a reconciliation won’t save her. Entitled “Hanna,” it’s a very good episode of this surprise hit sci-fi series as we head into the first season’s home stretch.

Silo recap: ‘Hanna’

Season 1, episode 8: Juliette Nichols (played by Rebecca Ferguson), prompted by her meeting with former freedom fighter Gloria Hildebrant (Sophie Thompson), is having a flashback to a memory she suppressed. Her mother, Hanna (Sienna Guillory) took her on an errand to buy a black-market rabbit.

The animal was sick, which Hanna told Juliette was much to the point of her experiment. She thinks the rabbit may suffer from the same heart defect that killed Juliette’s brother, Jacob. Hanna wants to study it, to see if she can help other people like her son. Of course, someone — possibly her law-abiding husband Pete (Iain Glen) — tipped off Judicial. They come by and smash Hanna’s prototype for a surgical scope.

In the present, Justice Sims (Common) arrives to interrogate Gloria, by which time her drug regimen has worn off and her memory is clear. She remembers helping Sims and his wife have a kid. And he remembers the help she gave him, so he doesn’t want to send her outside to die like any other dissident.

Sims asks questions about what Sheriff Holston (David Oyelowo) did the last time he visited Gloria. She answers vaguely enough that she doesn’t sell out Juliette, but she also gives Sims enough of what he wants to know that he agrees to dope her up every day so she doesn’t remember everyone she’s lost to the fight for the silo.

“Do you really think you’ll win?” she asks in her final moment of lucidity.

“We have to,” he answers hopefully.

A surprising arrest, and a heart-to-heart talk

Later, Sims sends his thugs around to toss Juliette’s office. She confesses just enough to let her deputy Paul Billings (Chinaza Uche) know that Sims has it out for her. Since she knows he won’t stop until she’s dead, she thinks fast. She and Billings arrest Sims, because his guys technically conducted an illegal search of her office.

Then Juliette gets a look at all of Sims’ files, including the one on her mother. This is where she discovers her dad sold out her mom. Not in the way she initially thought, though: He didn’t tip off Judicial about the experiments, but he didn’t stop them from destroying her machine, either.

Juliette and her dad have a heart-to-heart for the first time ever, and she lets him exhale a little when she tells him that Judicial puts cameras everywhere. That’s how they knew what her mom was up to.

Juliette also tells her dad to radio Martha Walker (Harriet Walter) to tell her she’ll be down soon with the hard drive she got from Holston, who in turn got it from his wife, Alison (Rashida Jones). Alison took it to Lukas Kyle (Avi Nash) back in the day, and they looked through the files together.

He saw when Alison was forced to march outside to her death. And he knows they’ll do it to him, too, and he’s the only one looking after his mother. If he dies, she’ll die too. He won’t help her crack it a second time.

So close …

Juliette flees and is almost stopped at a checkpoint with the contraband, but Bernard (Tim Robbins) intervenes on her behalf. He takes her to a secret meeting point, in the same cornfield where Hanna bought her the rabbit all those years ago. Then Bernard asks her if she’s got “the hard drive.” Of course … there’s no reason he should know about the hard drive.

That’s when Sims steps out from the brush and the two of them take Juliette into custody. Bernard, to the surprise of no one, is behind all this. She tries to run, but they catch her and beat her up pretty good.

Billings is brought down to complete her arrest as she protests her innocence. His grip on her slackens when the tremors from his secret illness flare up, so she frees herself, steals the bag again and leaps over the railing. Solid cliffhanger.

I want to go outside

Rebecca Ferguson in "Silo," now streaming on Apple TV+.
Rebecca Ferguson sells the sci-fi in Silo.
Photo: Apple TV+

I always think it’s funny in literature how much power is given to the spoken word. In those ubiquitous Harry Potter books, people are afraid to say the name of the villain. In Lois Lowry’s The Giverchildren are forbidden from saying “released.”

The thing is, there are about three or four words you “can’t” say and haven’t been able to say throughout the last 200 years — and none of them is as vague or specific as a guy’s name or a verb with hefty connotations.

Even so, it hasn’t exactly stopped people from saying them anyway. So I’m always a little baffled by sci-fi stories that insist some words have power. In Silo, it’s “I want to go outside.” Old laws say if you say it, they have to take you outside. It’s a very silly concept to try and make work when you’ve got real actors saying the phrase out loud, rather than just being something you’re reading on the page and doing all the work on behalf of the author.

Strong acting makes Silo believable sci-fi

It’s a testament to this cast, Rebecca Ferguson and Tim Robbins especially, that this comes close to working. But even if the scenes where the phrase is invoked didn’t work (and I’m going as far as to say that they don’t in the first episode of Silo), we’re far enough in now — and the show has generated enough goodwill — that you can overlook it.

I like the idea of a place that seems, if not utopian, than at least functional, that suddenly becomes as bleak as it always looked. Ferguson’s ferocity is key to this shift working. She’s the only thing that hasn’t changed in the last seven episodes, and she’s where your eyes naturally fall and follow. She sells every plot point, no matter how much you might have gone “Oh come on,” when they happened. At least to me, she does.

We’ve got two more episodes of Silo to go. I’m excited to see where we end our first season. (And, yes, Apple TV+ just renewed Silo for a second season.)

★★★★☆

Watch Silo on Apple TV+

New episodes of Silo arrive Fridays on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch 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.

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