blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Silo (2023) s01e01 – Freedom Day

“Silo” is about future humans living in a giant, hundreds of levels deep silo because the outside atmosphere is toxic. They don’t remember why it’s toxic; just it’s toxic. They also don’t know how they got to living in the silo. If you say you want to go outside, you have to go outside. And die. They ask you to clean the single video camera with a piece of wool as you go outside.

“Silo” is based on Wool, by Howey, the first book in the Silo series. I read the comic book adaptation, Wool. I sort of assumed the series was a one-and-done, but if it’s a series now, maybe they’ve got future seasons in mind. I don’t remember the comic very well, other than it being pretty good and thinking a movie or TV show would be solid.

The TV show’s okay. I’m not sure if it’s solid. It’s prestige-y streaming, with Rashida Jones playing a rare dramatic role in a special appearance. She’ll come back in flashbacks later, I’m sure, but the cold open—slowly—spoils she’s dead, having gone outside, and her husband, the sheriff, played by David Oyelowo, is going out after her. Sometime later. We later learn it’s two years later. There are lots of indeterminate time periods used for dramatic effect, which the show can get away with because it takes a full day to walk from the top of the silo to the bottom.

Would it help to understand how life worked in the silo? Oh, heck yeah. I skimmed my old posts about the comic and the show’s following its narrative structure (and presumably the novel’s), but it’s a bad structure for TV. We start in the present with Oyelowo, jump back to Jones’s story, jump forward in Oyelowo’s a bit so the show can introduce eventual lead and executive producer Rebecca Ferguson, then jump forward back to the present to get ready to kill Oyelowo off.

Neat trick in a novel if the writer can pull it off. Neat trick in a comic if the writers and artists can pull it off. Neat trick in a TV show if the showrunner, episode writer, show director, cast, and crew can pull it off. Director Morten Tyldum really doesn’t get it. Graham Yost—also the showrunner—gets the writing credit, and he doesn’t not get the relatively simple noir structure, but Jones isn’t playing for it. The actors in “Silo” don’t get much direction, whether Tyldum’s got a good idea or not. Professional competence and affability get them through.

I mean, Will Patton’s the deputy. There’s basically a genre of “Will Patton’s the deputy” TV shows now.

The flashback’s about how renegade IT clerk Jones and husband Oyelowo got permission to try to have a baby for a year, and over that year, their continued failures to get pregnant will drive Jones to question their reality. Oyelowo’s got an iffier part the longer the episode progresses, as he eventually manages to gaslight Jones both as a lawman and just as a man. It should be a better part, and it’s not Oyelowo’s fault at all. In this case, it’s mostly Yost’s.

Jones teams up with computer repair guy Ferdinand Kingsley to uncover the secrets of “Silo,” and then she can’t live with them. Fast forward two years but not to the present, Kingsley’s dead, and Oyelowo’s investigating. Patton’s voiceover tells us Oyelowo then has some reinvigorating due to Ferguson (who may not even have an audible line of dialogue, just sweaty biceps).

Then the episode’s over, and they’ve killed off (imminently) two likable protagonists.

Tune in next time for a third?

It’s nice to see Jones in a dramatic thriller, I guess. And it’s decently produced. Unfortunately, there’s just nothing particularly exciting yet.

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