“Silo” is an unfortunately apt name for a series that feels as if it’s slowly spinning in circles, set in another dystopian future where the lingering remnants of humankind grapple with how they got there and what they do next. Apple TV+ has taken some big sci-fi bets (see “Foundation”), but despite its provocative themes this series inspires a little too much curiosity about when and how to find the exit.
“We do not know who built the silo” and “We do not know when it will be safe to go outside” are part of the mantra repeated by those living in this confined space, who only know that the domicile was built more than 100 years earlier and that it’s likely certain death if they’re forced to “clean,” or venture outside into what appears to be a forbidding wasteland.
Based on the book series by Hugh Howey, the series inspires comparisons to cinematic visions of a world where those in authority aren’t sharing everything with its populace, from “Soylent Green” (was that really a half-century ago?) to “Snowpiercer,” another series (after the movie) boxed in by the parameters of its premise.
Adapted by producer Graham Yost (“Justified”), “Silo” boasts an impressive cast, and exhibits a willingness to introduce and then shed major characters.
At its core is Juliette (Rebecca Ferguson), a technical genius who keeps the silo’s life-support systems functioning, who begins asking probing and uncomfortable questions after a personal loss involving a mysterious death.
Her investigation doesn’t sit well with the bureaucratic figures running the place (Tim Robbins and Common key among them), who clearly know more than they’re sharing with the population in an effort to keep the silo’s residents docile and manageable. That includes rules about who gets to procreate in an effort to sustain and protect this society’s limited resources.
While the 10-episode season begins with a fair amount of momentum, featuring Rashida Jones and David Oyelowo at the outset, forward progress pretty quickly slows to a crawl. That does foster suspense about what’s actually outside, but it doesn’t do a whole lot to propel the audience through this season, much less stoke excitement for another.
Building this sort of elaborate world takes some time, and the inherent warnings about authoritarianism and blindly trusting the government give the series a certain real-world resonance. (As a footnote, the dystopian backdrop has a close cousin in “Black Knight,” a South Korean series premiering on Netflix in May, so there’s a lot of that going around.)
The inherent mystery here, however, feels stretched to the point of strained, exacerbated by characters that don’t consistently pop. When Common’s smooth-talking security enforcer ominously says, “We all work for the good of the silo,” for viewers who actually do have the option of going outside, it’s reason to consider how well a plodding exercise like “Silo” really works for the good of us.
“Silo” premieres May 5 on Apple TV+. (Disclosure: Lowry’s wife works for a unit of Apple.)