Each week Joe and Terry discuss the most recent episodes of Apple TV’s Silo, alternating between our respective sites.
Spoilers follow for Episode 10, “Outside”
Episode 10 “Outside”: Juliette’s fate seems sealed when certain truths finally come to light.
To say I’m gobsmacked at the way the first season of Silo ended would be an understatement, Joe. It’s yet another case of the narrative leading us down a path, only to pull the (probably wool) rug out from underneath us.
The way “Outside” reveals…well, the outside is another subversion of expectations, at least for me, that completely recontextualizes this season and what’s really at stake here. Because Bernard (Tim Robbins) is trying to protect the silo…albeit in a very dastardly way. And while Jules (Rebecca Ferguson) tells him she won’t clean when she’s sent outside, he responds, “nobody intends to…but they always do.”
Why do they always do it?
Because they are being tricked when they go outside into thinking the world is not destroyed and that the sensors are lying. So when confronted with the faked reality that the world is still okay, anyone would obviously clean the sensor as a way of trying to communicate with those inside that everything they’re being told is a lie.
All the way back in episode one, I mentioned the idiom to “pull the wool over” someone’s eyes as the insidious way in which the Founders instruct the cleaners to clean the sensors. I thought that it was a rather humorous way of hinting to the reader/watcher that the inhabitants of the silo were being lied to…but the truth is that with the saying, the wool cleaning and the hints of what Holston (David Oyelowo) and Allison (Rashida Jones) saw was actually pulling the wool over the audience’s eyes.
Holston and Allison are actually dead. And the people inside the silo see their actual dead bodies while those sent out to clean are given a fake view of the death. The twist is that it’s not the people in the silo who have had the wool pulled over their eyes with the sensor, it’s actually the cleaners as a way of forcing them to actually clean the sensor. So the pile of rocks that Jules initially sees is, in fact, the bodies of Holston and Allison. What a fantastic reveal.
But in my excitement over the way “Outside” twisted my expectations so thoroughly, I jumped to the end. Backing up to the beginning, “Outside” opens where “Hanna” ended, with Jules looking over the footage on the HDD.
“We’re being lied to. Everyone has to see this” she proclaims and then forcibly enlists both Patrick (Rick Gomez) and Danny (Will Merrick) to take the HDD and plug it into a terminal to broadcast it to the entire silo. The first part of the episode culminates in a very exciting race, as Jules and co. attempt to outwit Bernard and Sims (Common), using the trash chutes as their way of getting from floor to floor unseen.
When they make it to their destination and plug the HDD in, the watchers who’ve been following her pursuit stare in awe as their windows are filled with an image of the beautiful world, the birds moving through the bright, blue sky.
“Shut your eyes!” Bernard demands. “All of you!”, which includes Sims as well. And when Bernard finally takes over and shuts everything down, stopping Jules’ plan to broadcast “the truth” to everyone in the silo, he warns all of the watchers to “unsee” what they just saw.
Bernard looks resigned and haggard all episode; he’s a man doing the best he can to keep the silo safe. Sims, meanwhile, is on the warpath, slamming chairs as he questions Paul Billings (Chinaza Uche) and barking curse words at Jules for potentially putting his family in danger. It all leads to a fantastically paced episode that deepens the mysteries (what is with the giant door at the bottom of the silo?) and slightly answers lingering questions (what is going on outside?).
I’m very excited with “Outside”, Joe, particularly since the second season has been ordered. So I want to turn it over to you, as someone who’s read some of the books in Hugh Howey’s series, did any of this surprise you? What did you think of Jules’ thrilling chute escape? Does the information gleaned from the twists in this episode make you feel, at all, for Bernard? And were you as excited as I was when Walk (Harriet Walter) conquered her agoraphobia for Jules?
Phew, Terry. I’ve felt like Bernard keeping the truth about this reveal from you all of these months. I truthfully don’t remember if I’ve read the next Wool book, but I will *never* forget this twist, which is how the first Hugh Howley novel ends. What an amazing reveal: not just that the world outside really is poisonous, but also that theirs is just one of several silos.
The first element is such a fantastic subversion because, as an audience, we’re trained to anticipate lies from a totalitarian government so we want to believe that the world outside is safe and the people inside are being duped.
In some ways, it’s a double twist, right? What the members of the silo see as they watch Jules, Holston, and Allison go outside *is* the truth: there’s nothing outside except poisonous death. But in order to provide hope (and create a sensation, thereby quelling rebellion) they need the expunged members to “clean”, and so this VR trickery is implemented to ensure they clean.
It’s both diabolical and ingenious, however misguided and seemingly unsustainable it is. Just look at the flop sweat on Bernard’s brow when he realizes that Juliette has surprised him once again by surviving thanks to the generosity of Martha (Harriet Walter), who ensures the survival of her friend with a “good” supply of duct tape that prevents her from immediately dying outside.
But you’re right that “Outside” is far more than its twisty reveals. They’re fantastic, almost understated ways to maintain audience interest in the (inevitably long) break between seasons, but there’s plenty more going on here.
Hell, the first part of the episode alone, as Jules tries to broadcast the image and then escape from the Raiders via the garbage chute, is on par with some of the best set pieces of the series. I legit gasped watching Jules dodge the garbage falling down upon her, and seeing her let go and fall all the way to the bottom in an effort to escape from the plummeting air conditioner was suitably epic. We’ve praised the acting and the production design on the show, Terry, but when Silo leans into action territory, it has some of the most heart-pounding moments of any series currently on air.
But none of that would work without the quieter character beats. Take, for example, how impactful it is watching Martha conquer her agoraphobia to leave her apartment, or the sinking feeling we feel when Bernard sentences poor Lukas (Avi Nash) to ten years in the mine. These moments work because Silo has done a great job of developing these interpersonal relationships. So much so that even a brief moment, such as when Shirley (Remmie Milner) blames Knox (Shane McCrae) for giving up Jules to Judicial so easily, it lands!
Terry I’ll turn it back over to you so you can circle back to the end. I’m curious what you thought of the visuals that conclude the episode? My husband and I knew what to expect, but we thought the 360 degree aerial drone shots as Jules stands on one of several Silo circles was understated and could be misunderstood by audiences who don’t entirely know what they’re looking at. I wonder if you found it easy to understand or if you think casual viewers might miss its significance?
Beyond that, I’d love to read your overall thoughts on Silo’s first season, your grade for the season, and your predictions for S02.
Joe, when Jules let go of the ladder as the giant piece of machinery was lobbed down the chute, I gasped. While logically I knew that, as the protagonist, Jules had to be safe, Silo also has a penchant for killing characters you think should be safe in this kind of narrative. As you said, this sequence speaks to the enthralling way the series handles action set pieces.
I’m glad you brought up the aerial shot at the end because I assumed we were to understand that each of those circles were other silos, but I wasn’t positive. You’re right that some viewers might miss those understated cues, but I think that’s what grabbed me from the beginning of Silo.
It’s not afraid to be mysterious…but not mysterious in the puzzle box way that something like LOST or From deals with. There’s a life and a history that has existed before we peek into the lives of Silo 18 and we aren’t handed a note card on its existence. And the writing is smart enough not to hand us everything on a silver platter.
I wouldn’t say that it’s as dense and complicated as some fantasy/sci-fi stories, but the series still doesn’t hold your hand and have a character expound on the world. I like that. So if viewers miss that key signifier, I think that’s okay. First of all, they have us here breaking things down. But more importantly, Silo peels back its layers slowly and that mounting sense of awe and wonder would have me hooked, even if the aerial shot didn’t show the other silos.
This cliffhanger does what a good cliffhanger should do: it answers big questions but then leaves others tantalizingly out of reach. Was there a nuclear explosion in Georgia that caused this devastation? We see the skyline of a city in the distance (presumably Atlanta?). Is that equally destroyed? Is it just this area? Is all of America devastated? What are these silos ultimately for? So many tantalizing threads I’m excited to explore in the second season.
I will say that this reveal made me laugh a bit because it’s suspiciously like the Vaults in the video game series Fallout. It makes me wonder if Hugh Howey was a fan of that franchise, because the visuals are on point. In Fallout, a company developed the Vaults as a survival shelter in case of nuclear fallout, and the people are corralled into them with the understanding that when nuclear winter was over, the people could leave the Vaults and rebuild society. But what actually ended up happening is that the people in each Vault were experimented on in different ways. It makes me wonder if something similar is going on in Silo…
But that’s a question for another day.
This first season of Silo surprised me, Joe. I went in expecting a kind of riff on the YA dystopian novel and while it definitely shares some similarities to those types of narratives, Silo grounds its story in an exciting and thoughtful detective story. Using noir storytelling techniques, as well as detective stories, and throwing in enough science fiction trappings to make it seem both familiar yet alien, Silo subverted pretty much every one of my expectations.
Looking at the series as a whole, it’s hard to find much to fault – from the acting to the production design to the writing, it’s truly an exciting piece of science fiction.
I have to give it a solid A, Joe.
What about you? Do you have any lingering thoughts about this first season? Do you have any predictions or thoughts on what the second season might look like? And what do you ultimately give Silo’s first season?
A second season prediction that seems easiest to make has to be that Juliette will find her way to either another silo, or in the decrepit runes of whatever city that is. The show has to expand on this mystery, otherwise why end with it.
But that does raise a number of new and intriguing questions, doesn’t it? As you said, the series isn’t exactly precious about its cast, so does that mean that S02 will follow Jules and abandon most of the characters that we’ve come to know? Or will we split time between two very different narratives? That seems likely, but could also be something of a distraction if not done properly (would, say, an entire episode dedicated exclusively to Bernard or Sims or Martha prove satisfying?)
But those truly are questions for another day (or year, considering that the show wasn’t picked up for another season until the Writer’s Strike, which means we’re a loooooong way off from the start of production).
Looking back on S01, I have to say that I, too, am appreciative of how well-balanced and well-executed the series is. We’ve had nothing but praise for the acting, the production design, and the slow, but methodical way that the show’s creator team have rolled out these mysteries. Even when I knew something was coming, it was done in such a way that the series feels fresh, not derivative or tied-down by its refusal to move away from its source material.
And some of these episodes and set pieces have been among my most enjoyable TV moments this year. Off the top of my head, I can immediately identify at least two or three sequences that were absolutely pulse-pounding (The chase sequence down the stairs! Yes, the air conditioner down the shaft, and – our favourite – that generator episode, Terry!)
Overall this has more than exceeded my expectations for the show and it’s been one of the few shows that I’ve genuinely had difficulty resisting hitting play on the next episode after finishing one (while Apple TV doesn’t adhere to the binge model, I do think this one would have made a good exception…or even drop it in two blocks and just let folks go rabid).
So yeah, full agreement on its strength and successes. Bring on S02!
Season Grade: A
Silo has finished airing S01 on Apple TV