Silo: Locked Inside Without a History (Series Premiere)

S1E1, “Freedom Day” & S1E2, “Holston’s Pick”

Holston stands in front of a window with a desolate tree outside in the Silo premiere
Apple TV+/Screenshot

The following recap contains spoilers for the two-episode premiere of Silo on Apple TV+: S1E1, “Freedom Day” (written by Graham Yost and directed by Morten Tyldum) & S1E2, “Holston’s Pick” (written by Jessica Blaire & Cassie Pappas and directed by Morten Tyldum)

Silo opens with Sheriff Holston Becker (David Oyelowo) getting ready one morning, while his narration introduces us to the premise of the show:

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.

We’ll later learn that this is something of a mantra, with these words recited when someone is sent out to clean (and die), but in the first pass I found it an effective way of establishing the world of this story. Everyone is living in a silo and can’t go outside because it’s not safe, but they don’t know why it isn’t safe.

It’s really this erasure of history that makes Silo a compelling standout from so much other post-apocalyptic fare. The prevailing tendency is to belabor the catastrophe that led to whatever set of circumstances, even if details are left mysterious. In Silo, everything about the inaugural past is left a mystery. If there are any characters in this story who know what happened, we have yet to meet them through two episodes.

It’s also striking how willing we are to immediately believe what Holston tells us through the opening voiceover. I, at least, did not question the idea that it wasn’t safe to go outside, and it’s a nice effect on the viewer to put us in a position that parallels that of the people living in the silo. This is what they’ve been told and what everyone believes, and so they believe it too.

When Holston says he wants to go outside, it’s a shock. We need his backstory to understand why, and “Freedom Day” proceeds to give it to us.

Allison makes a pained face
Apple TV+/Screenshot

Holston’s wife, Allison (Rashida Jones) went out two years prior. She’d become convinced that it was actually safe, and that for some reason they were all being fooled into thinking it wasn’t. She claims that what they see with their own eyes through the window in the cafeteria is false, without knowing how such a thing could be possible to the extent that we do. But, more viscerally, she’s come to believe that the powers that be do not want her to become pregnant, that the doctor did not really remove her birth control implant, and that she’d found proof of this by cutting into her body and ripping it out.

She gives the cover story to Holston herself (if it is that): that what she cut out of herself was some kind of placeholder to prevent infection. But in seeing things from her perspective throughout the bulk of Silo Episode 1, I believed her. She wonders to Holston why those who are condemned to go outside clean when nothing compels them to do so and suggests it must be because they want the others to see what they see. She says she won’t do it if she’s wrong.

A figure in a spacesuit stumbles near a tree
Apple TV+/Screenshot

So when she does and she smiles, I believed she was right. And when I saw her stumble and fall from the perspective within the silo, I believed that the image was being manipulated to keep those inside duped. I was no longer shocked that Holston wanted to go outside as well; I was shocked that it took him two years to follow his wife’s lead.

Of course, it’s hard to disbelieve the evidence of our own eyes. Silo reinforces this with how it opens Episode 2: We take Holston’s perspective and follow him outside where he sees a lush world, indicating Allison was right, but the perspective shifts back to inside of the silo, where we watch him die.

Did Holston die? Did Allison? Or have they somehow reunited on the other side of the hill?

A lush field with a tree and blue skies
Apple TV+/Screenshot

I’m a little concerned with how hung up I remain on that question, as “Holston’s Pick” does not return to it. Instead, we pick up with Juliette Nichols (Rebecca Ferguson), whom Holston met shortly before his decision to leave the silo because her lover George (Ferdinand Kingsley) died under suspicious circumstances. Allison and George had worked together to uncover information about the silo’s past (not that either Juliette or Holston know the extent of this), so there is a narrative connection, but it’s still a risky move on the part of the show. Having finished Episode 2, I’m still not sure I care about Juliette, though she seems primed to be the actual main character in this story.

Holston apparently nominated her to be his replacement as Sheriff, which makes me wonder if there is a secret reason he had for choosing her, though I’m not sure it will be plausible if she gets the job. And as Episode 2 comes to a close, she’s decided to follow George’s lead in descending to the depths of the silo, but she’s desperately dangling from a rope when the credits roll.

Juliette, speaking
Apple TV+/Screenshot

It’s an odd instance where a literal cliffhanger feels almost devoid of stakes. We basically know Juliette is going to be fine, and what we actually care about is what she would have found beneath the water. Overall, Episode 2 fails to give the series momentum. Instead, it feels like we’re starting over from a less interesting place.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m being too harsh on the show in saying that. I’m still immensely intrigued to discover where all of this is going. There is a real tension between the idea that the rebels destroyed all of the historical records in their uprising 140 years ago and the fact that seeking out historical relics is forbidden. It would be all too easy to conclude that it wasn’t the rebels but the existing government who erased history because that history would show that the rebels were right, but perhaps things are more complicated than that.

If Allison and Holston actually did die, then it could be the case that it isn’t safe to go outside even though it looks like it is, with the illusion of a desolate landscape outside the window maintained as part of an attempt to forestall another rebellion. I don’t know that I think the deception would be warranted even under those circumstances, but it’s interesting to think about.

Another possibility is that it’s something in the helmets people put on to clean that kills them. We’re basically told that Holston is the first to have ever taken his helmet off. Maybe he was too late. Or maybe it’s the suit more broadly that emits some kind of poison.

Along similar lines, could it be the wool they use to clean somehow? I haven’t read the books by Hugh Howey on which Silo is based, but I see that the initial short story is called “Wool”—could this be a clue?

Personally, I’m still hoping that Allison and Holston are alive and that George found some kind of secret passage that will lead Juliette to hook up with the resistance. But I’m not sure if that would be the most interesting path for this story to take. Maybe Silo has something better in store for us.

I’ll be watching each week to find out.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos


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    • Yeah I mean we see it through the cafeteria window but what we see from his perspective is really limited and then we’re back in the silo. It’s an interesting effect

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