Rebecca Ferguson Delivers the Sci-Fi Hero We Need in Apple TV+’s Silo
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Author: Leila Latif
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Few actors can pull off what Rebecca Ferguson seems to do effortlessly. Whether she’s facing sandworms in Dune or sword fighting in Mission: Impossible, she radiates a preternatural level of strength. And when she appears in the final moments of the first episode of Apple TV+’s Silo, she doesn't even have to speak: Glistening with sweat, she turns to the camera with a piercing stare. Immediately, it's clear the show has found its champion.

Ferguson plays Juliette, a hard-as-nails engineer working in The Silo, a self-sustaining underground system where the remnants of humanity live out their days. It has crops and cattle and is designed to sustain life indefinitely, and it has functioned for over a century. As we learn from a quasi-spiritual chant delivered in the opening moments, “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 how it is. We do not know when it will be safe to go outside. We only know that day is not this day.” The rules in this place are draconian, and one exists above all others: If anyone says they want to leave, their request is granted, and the rest of the population watches them march out, only to be poisoned to death by the air.

While Ferguson (who also executive produces) dominates the majority of the 10-episode season, the premiere focuses on Sheriff Holston (David Oyelowo) and his IT worker wife, Alison (Rashida Jones). After the couple is given permission to try for a baby, Alison has the mandatory birth control extracted from her body for a period of three months. But while trying to get pregnant, she starts noticing things are amiss. Both what is happening in The Silo and outside in the world may be far from what the residents (and the audience) have been told. As new information emerges, Alison becomes increasingly desperate for the truth.

The self-contained drama of the first episode is a compelling hook for the series, and within Alison’s arc, the world is fully realized, ready for Juliette’s entrance as she investigates the rot in The Silo’s foundation. Jones brings her easy charm to her character, which might make her seem like a natural audience conduit to this post-apocalyptic dystopia. Skeptical of the powers that be, Alison jumps to conclusions with zeal. She needs answers, and she needs them now.

Rashida Jones in Silo (Photo: Apple TV+)

Rashida Jones in Silo (Photo: Apple TV+)

It’s a striking choice to pass the narrative baton to Juliette instead, signaling that this series will upend expectations. In contrast to Alison, Ferguson plays Juliette with grit and determination. She’s spikier than Alison and much less obvious as a surrogate for the viewer’s experience, but the series demonstrates she’s the type of character who’s best equipped to navigate this world of secrets and confusion. Most importantly, she’s meticulous, and once she takes over the story, the drama unfolds patiently while she gathers information. In fact, the third episode virtually grinds to a halt, but the show layers in enough mystery to keep up the intrigue as Juliette turns over every stone.

Bodies and conspiracies pile up, but Silo always has a near-regal air, guided by creator Graham Yost (Justified.) The show also gains heft from its accomplished supporting cast, including Tim Robbins, Harriet Walter, and Common. All these characters prove crucial to answering Juliette’s questions: Who built The Silo? Why is everyone inside it? What made the rest of the world a toxic wasteland? In her quest to find out, Juliette also meets IT worker George (Ferdinand Kingsley), who carries around banned objects from the “before times”. Among his treasures, she finds an old hard drive that contains secret information the authorities want kept from the population at all costs.

However, like everything else on the show, the hard drive isn’t quite what it seems. Silo is not concerned with stuffing a complex world into an easily digestible box and seeking out post-apocalyptic happily-ever-afters. True to the spirit of the Hugh Howey novels on which it’s based, this series is proper hard-core sci-fi, and every detail of the dystopian nightmare is thought through with impressive aplomb. The Silo itself is stunningly realized, with a true sense of the scale of an ecosystem that could contain 10,000 lives. The hierarchies of the society are equally detailed, with systems that determine the comfort and opportunities of its inhabitants' existence. Everything from fertility to furniture to food depends on the level at which a person is allowed to live. At the bottom, where Juliette begins, privileges are few and far between, but as she progresses upwards it becomes apparent that even those at the top are in gilded cages.

Unlike the clear “eat the rich” satire of Squid GameSnowpiercer, or The MenuSilo’s class structure has everyone suffocating and bruised by the interminable weight of maintaining the status quo. Much like in Apple TV+’s sister dystopian series Severance, advancing within the system offers little respite from its broader cruelty. Deep underground, the malaise seems airborne: Everyone from engineers to sheriffs to mayors struggles to find a reason to survive. Given the weight of despair, and the cruel fates that await so many in this hellscape, the strength and serenity of Rebecca Ferguson’s performance are all the more impressive. Even in the worst places, the series suggests, some people are born heroes.

Silo premieres May 5 on Apple TV+. Join the conversation about the show in our forums.

Leila Latif is Contributing Editor to Total Film, the host of Truth & Movies: A Little White Lies Podcast and a regular at Sight and Sound, Indiewire, The Guardian, The BBC and others. Follow her on twitter @Leila_Latif.

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