Silo is an Apple TV+ dystopian drama set in a distant future that tells the story of the 10,000+ civilians living hundreds of stories under the ground.
Why are they there?
After a mysterious apocalyptic event left the Earth a toxic wasteland, human civilization has persevered in these vast dark corridors for nearly 200 years. These people are trapped underground both because of the over-reaching laws that maintain control and the enduring fear that stepping outside may actually kill you.
But could the cataclysmic event that (theoretically) sent humans in the silo be a lie? And, if so, what is the truth behind the existence of this silo and the real reason these peoples’ ancestors were driven underground?
Based on the hugely popular self-published sci-fi book series by Hugh Howey, created by Graham Yost, and featuring a noteworthy cast — David Oyelowo, Rashida Jones, Tim Robbins, Rebecca Ferguson, Common, Iain Glenn, Will Patton, and Geraldine James — the 10-episode series explores the idea of a future civilization that is disconnected from information and human history.
Rotten Tomatoes talked to Howey, Yost and some of the cast about this world is similar (and very different) from our own. Here are some things audience should know.
David Oyelowo and Rashida Jones are two of the biggest names on the call sheet, playing Sheriff Holston and his wife Allison. But the actors are barely in the series. As Howey explained to Rotten Tomatoes, the two characters were only added to the Silo universe after his first story was published in 2011. So this couple’s story arch acts as a catalyst for the bigger mystery of the series to unfold.
Audiences know Oyelowo has a resume of dramatic acting roles (A Most Violent Year; Lee Daniels’ The Butler). But putting Jones in a role like this might seem challenging for the actress who is known for more comedic parts like in NBC’s Parks and Recreation and TBS’s Angie Tribeca.
Yost justified the casting and said “the thing I had the sense about with Rashida was, and I’d seen a bit of this in one of the films she did, is that if someone can be really funny, they can probably do the … dramatic stuff.”
Maintaining law and order within the many levels of the silo is a complicated endeavor. While Sheriff Holston and his crew come off as the front-facing team that ensure the silo’s citizens remain safe and sound, there is a deeper power dynamic at play. And at the top of it all is a foreboding organization known as Judicial. The Silo citizens must abide by the laws laid out in a book called The Pact (consider it a bible, but without the religion).
“I would look at Judicial as a combination of the CIA and Congress,” explained Common, who plays head Judicial officer Sims. “Judicial enforces certain laws and makes sure that things are physically safe. They also get to watch a lot of the things happening, which you get with the CIA – that, and the FBI. But, they also enforce some of the laws that’s been made, which are already set through The Pact.”
But the security enforcers don’t control everything (something of which they may, or may not be, aware) .
Robbins plays Bernard, the head of IT and the person tasked with making sure the technological systems remain fully functional. He explained that there’s too many cooks in the kitchen. And all division leaders think they’re in charge.
“Every different division believes that of themselves,” he said and added that “even the people in the lowest realms of power believe that they are essential. The truth, as we know, is that no society can survive without all of its elements.”
“For me, the set is the core fundament character in this show,” said Ferguson, who plays lead engineer Juliette Nichols. She said that the production design team “created and put so much effort into building [the silo] as much as possible, within the height of the hangars and the space that we had. It’s to the point that when we’re running up and down stairs, we were exhausted by take two.”
Ferguson’s Juliette spends a lot of time in the generator room of the silo. The actress admitted to the use of green screen and blue screen. But there are some intense sequences that involve her messing around with this giant, imposing mechanical component to the silo. This wasn’t something they could fake in post.
“We have rope we have to get up,” she said. “I don’t know how many feet it is, or meters, but it was high enough that you have to be secured when you’re at the top.”
If a civilization’s history is unknown, are they even more bound to repeat past mistakes? That’s one of the big philosophical questions at the core of Silo. Characters often refer to The Before Times, which signifies the era prior to the construction of the silo and the apocalyptic event that drove humans underground. Yet no one actually knows what happened then.
“We’ve talked about [sci-fi and historical fiction writer author Kazuo] Ishiguro and the notion that he talks about in some of his writing, which is that if you remember everything, then you can’t forget and you can’t forgive.,” Yost said. “But if you forget things, you’re going to lose your soul.”
In Silo, there are no texts or history books that provide an account or a timeline of things. And watches, cameras, and antiquated tech are outlawed.
“There is the idea of, and I don’t like comparing it to second world war, taking away facts and information and literature,” Ferguson explained. She elaborated that, in that era, “it was all about shutting down information to kill curiosity. Curiosity would be your biggest threat.”
As detached as those in the silo are from their history, the basic ideas of math and language have lived on and thrived.
“The history can’t be known,” Robbins said. “But, the mathematics can be known, the technical can be known.”
The actor also reminded that this culture also lacks a belief structure for a deity.
“There is no religion,” he revealed. “There is no God. The maintenance and survival of the silo is in adherence, in a way, to a new religion – which is the religion of a technocracy.”
Ferguson ran a bit further with the topic.
“Living out here, we see the world, and we travel, and we fly. There’s a Godlike experience of how things were created with the Earth, and the planets, and the solar system,” she said. “We have none of that in the silo. We have the walls, and the confinement, and the locked ethos of our world. And that’s it. You don’t ask more questions. There is no necessity for something bigger than us.”