TV: Silo (Season 1)

Hugh Howey’s Wool series comes to life in Silo, a richly produced mystery box with a first-rate cast. In an environmentally devastated future, a construct called the Silo extends deep underground, a self-contained, fragile ecosystem designed to protect its 10,000 citizens from unlivable conditions on the surface. The people don’t entirely know why they live in the Silo, and are largely encouraged—by the officious hand of a department known as “Judicial”—not to ask too many questions. This doesn’t sit well with Juliette Nichols (Rebecca Ferguson), an engineer in the Mechanical department who has devoted her life to keeping the Silo’s generators going. When Juliette’s boyfriend dies, she suspects foul play, and a conspiracy that has something to do with recent decision of the sheriff, Holston Becker (David Oyelowo), to irrationally volunteer for exile from the Silo—in essence, signing his own death warrant. Becker has nominated Juliette to succeed him as sheriff, which puts her in a position to investigate her ex’s death, and in so doing, edge closer to the Silo’s mysterious secrets.

Like most mystery boxes, Silo has frustrating moments, as key information is deliberately withheld to artificially sustain the intrigue, each answer leading to more questions. But overall, the package is classy and eminently watchable. The world-building isn’t particularly deep, but it’s effective, delivering a convincing authoritarian atmosphere that keeps the scenario menacing. Impressive set design contributes to this, giving the subterranean setting a grungy, lived-in look, and the visual effects are generally stellar. Ferguson delivers an appealingly eccentric lead performance, and there’s loads of talent in the supporting cast, including Oyelowo, Common, Rick Gomez, Rashida Jones, Ferdinand Kingsley, Avi Nash, Tim Robbins, Chinaza Uche, and Harriet Walter. Whether all the investigative hugger-mugger will pay off is yet to be determined, of course; eventually, these things have to explain themselves, which can sometimes be disastrous. But so far the journey has been fun, and the finale suggests an interesting new direction for the next season.

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