There are two sections on Apple TV+. There is the Emmy-award-winning section, where you’ll find shows like Ted Lasso and The Morning Show, and then there is the hodgepodge of genre shows that no one watches. Unfortunately, Silo is more likely to end up in the latter. Based on the post-apocalyptic book series by Hugh Howey, Silo is too afraid to part from its source material. As a result, the adaptation is messy and generic. It tries to sell itself as a commentary on government conspiracy, population control, and rebellion, but doesn’t explore them enough to offer anything new.
The series, created by Graham Yost, takes place in a dystopian future where people believe the outside world to be toxic for reasons unknown. The last ten thousand men and women live in a giant underground silo, forced to follow the rules they believe are in place to protect them. Silo creates an intriguing premise built around a singular mystery that is painfully obvious from the get-go – the government of an underground silo that’s claiming to protect the people living inside is, gasp, lying?
Silo is structured identically to the books. The audience is caught up to speed in the first two episodes as the story of Sheriff Holston (David Oyelowo) and his wife, Allison (Rashida Jones), unfolds. Herein lies the most frustrating aspect of Silo: it reveals its hand way too early, as all the mystery lies in their story.
For context, Book One of the series, Wool, is actually a collection of Howey’s self-published short stories. He published it after his first one grew in popularity, so naturally, the subsequent short stories take somewhat of a different turn with mostly new characters, and that’s exactly what happens in the series. Episodes One and Two explore the original short story, Holston. These are the only two that feel like they have direction and purpose because they are the core of the author’s original idea. However, to the show’s detriment, it doesn’t function nearly as well set up for television.
Because of this, Silo doesn’t introduce its real protagonist, skilled mechanic Juliette Nichols (Rebecca Ferguson), until the end of Episode 1. Her lack of presence in the first hour creates an emotional disconnect that the series can’t shake, even with ten episodes. None of this is Ferguson’s fault, as she does her best with the material provided. In all honesty, Juliette simply feels like a bland carbon copy of every Katniss Everdeen-type character that already exists in the dystopian genre. Most of the time, it feels like she doesn’t have a place in the main storyline but has been shoehorned into it. This is mostly because she is in a constant state of catch-up to what the audience is prematurely let in on or figures out first.
One of the more tedious aspects of the show follows Juliette searching for a hard drive left for her by her hacker boyfriend, George (Ferdinand Kingsley). The audience comes to learn what’s on this hard drive pretty quickly, but it takes Juliette an extremely long time to find it and learn about its contents. It becomes very boring very quickly. Another thing Silo loves to do is end an episode with a close-up of a character staring at an unreadable file – due to dim lighting – as they discover some not-so-shocking news. When shows like Succession exist, you need more than that to bring people back every week.
Some fans of the book may love this adaptation. Others will not. This season only covers about half the first novel, which gives the impression the creators are trying to buy time so they don’t burn through the story. People endlessly complained about 2021’s Dune doing the same, but Dune is a two-and-a-half-hour movie. Silo is a ten-hour television series. It would have been far more interesting if the writers used the medium and length to explore new stories and characters within the silo instead of spinning the same wheel over and over again.
In an entertainment landscape driven by pre-existing intellectual property, it’s not surprising that Apple jumped at buying the rights to Silo. The current mentality among studios is to buy anything with a semblance of a fanbase to avoid any creative risk. But Silo is a reminder that not everything is meant to be adapted for the screen, especially when its only purpose is to beef up a streaming library.
The first two episodes of Silo debut May 5 on Apple TV+, with new episodes airing every Friday.