‘Silo’ a fascinating descent into underground world of the future

Part conspiracy thriller, part social commentary, part police procedural, Apple TV+ series holds our interest with intriguing characters and effective twists and turns.

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As the engineer of the generator, Juliette (Rebecca Ferguson) is one of the most important people in the below-ground civilization of “Silo.”

Apple TV+

In the post-apocalyptic world of “Silo,” the air is fresh and clean, the waters are clear and blue, the unpolluted sky stretches to the unblemished heavens, the government is benevolent and serving the interest of the people, and the citizens of the world wear brightly colored clothes as they embrace education and enlightenment and enjoy the fruits of a society that values work but puts the highest premium on family.

Ah come on. You know that’s not how it works with these dystopian series and films such as “The Last of Us” and “Station Eleven,” “Dune” and “Blade Runner” et al. The world of “Silo” is gritty and dark and violent, with the people struggling to grind it out every day while a largely unseen government keeps an eye on their every move. You know the drill. What makes “Silo” so fascinating is the shifting points of view, the intriguing characters on all sides of the moral compass, and the slow and intense build of the storyline.

Based on the popular series of sci-fi books by Hugh Howey, brought to stunning visual television life by showrunner Graham Yost (“From Earth to the Moon,” “Justified”) and running for 10 gripping episodes on Apple TV+, this is a well-staged, claustrophobically effective Sci-Fi Noir story with a myriad of intriguing characters, some hauntingly effective twists and turns, and strong performances by the ensemble cast. From the mystery-laden opening few moments to a season finale that unveils a shocking reveal while leaving more questions open than answered, each episode of “Silo” leaves us eager for more. (The good news is that a second season is already in the works.)

‘Silo’

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First two episodes available now on Apple TV+, with a new episode premiering each Friday through June 30.

“Silo” is set in an undefined era at least 140 years after the Earth has been rendered uninhabitable: stripped of all vegetation, devoid of life, the air filled with some kind of toxic element that will kill you within a matter of minutes. For generations, a society of some 10,000 people has existed in an underground silo; think of a giant, rather grimy but functional high-rise beneath the surface, complete with agricultural levels, a common cafeteria, a medical center, a sheriff’s department, a mayor, individual apartments for the residents, annual celebrations and rituals, and strict adherence to the laws as laid down by the Founders and enforced by the all-powerful Judicial Department.

The pilot episode focuses on David Oyelowo’s Sheriff Holston and his wife Alison (Rashida Jones), a tech whiz with a dangerously inquisitive mind. (It’s clear from the start you’re better off not asking questions in the Silo.) It’s the sheriff who recites the mantra we’ll hear every time someone in the Silo makes the request to go outside, which is tantamount to a self-imposed death sentence: “We do not know why we are here. We do not know who built the Silo. We do not know why everything outside the Silo is as it is. We do not know when it will be safe to go outside. We only know that day is not this day.” When someone does step outside, they’re asked to clean the window that shows the stark and deadly landscape just outside the Silo, and then they take a few steps up a hill before collapsing and dying.

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The first “Silo” episode focuses on the sheriff (David Oyelowo) and his wife (Rashida Jones), a tech whiz.

Apple TV+

In addition to Holston and Allison, early primary characters include the stately and respected Mayor Jahns (Geraldine James) and the dedicated lawman Deputy Marnes (Will Patton)—but the bulk of the series shifts the focus to a whole new round of players, with Rebecca Ferguson emerging as the lead, Juliette, an engineer of great skill and a serious rebellious streak (uh-oh) who keeps the Silo’s power generator running. That’s the most important task in the entire community, because if the power generator gives out, the Silo will be plunged into eternal darkness and left without hope.

“Silo” shifts gears through a number of genres, from conspiracy thriller to big-picture social commentary to police procedural to end-times romance, with well-timed flashbacks providing insights into the origin stories of a number of pivotal characters. Tim Robbins is low-key chilling as Bernard, the head of the IT department and one of the most influential individuals in the Silo, while Common is a leather-clad enforcer who is in charge of security for the all-powerful Judicial System, and Iain Glen turns up in a pivotal role as Dr. Nichols, the estranged father of Juliette.

It’s a well-cast show, and in the tradition of series such as “Lost,” we learn the back stories of many of the prime characters—first and foremost Juliette, who had a tragic childhood and had to grow up at a very early age and finds herself as the classic Reluctant Anti-Hero while the body count piles up. The people of the Silo don’t know it yet, but the woman who has kept the generator running for years is now their last best hope. That gives them at least a fighting chance.

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