“Freedom Day” & “Holston’s Pick”
- Creator: Graham Yost
- Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, David Oyelowo, Rashida Jones, Tim Robbins, Common, Ferdinand Kingsley, Harriet Walter, Chinaza Uche
Warning: Reviews of Silo season 1 will contain spoilers.
Every great sci-fi property begins with an intriguing hook. And every great pilot episode – regardless of genre – begins by introducing its primary players and setting up the conflicts to come in the upcoming season. Freedom Day and Holston’s Pick, the introductory episodes of Apple TV+’s Silo, have both of these elements. Maybe I’m just a sucker for dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories, and maybe my deep-seeded love for the Fallout games is what drew me to this show in the first place, but series creator Graham Yost does an effective job at setting up the stakes and characters in the premiere’s opening minutes.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about Freedom Day is in how little it feels like it will play into the rest of the season. Rather, it’s mostly exposition told through character details. Indeed, Rebecca Ferguson, who is essentially credited as the series’ lead, barely appears until the episode’s final moments. A structure like this could derail the show, but it’s a nice way into unfamiliar territory.
There’s certainly a lot to unpack below the surface (no pun intended) of the show, and comparisons to Lost aren’t entirely unwarranted. Of course, Silo has the benefit of a rich source material – the book trilogy by Hugh Howey – and Yost is a veteran with a strong TV pedigree. Freedom Day may not always hit its exposition in the cleanest way possible, but there’s a lived-in quality to the proceedings that’s hard to replicate. We’re introduced first to Allison (Rashida Jones) and Holston (David Oyelowo), a married couple living within the titular silo.
Intriguingly, nobody knows who built the silo or why the surface world is inhabitable. There are many references in each episode to a mysterious rebellion over 100 years ago but nobody, not even those in charge, know what caused it. Any item from before the rebellion is strictly forbidden, and anyone found guilty of a crime heinous enough is sent above ground to clean the camera observing the barren landscape that is Earth.
Allison and Holston are a compelling couple, so it’s a big question as to how much the rest of the season will return to them. Juliette (Ferguson) takes over in Holston’s Pick, and it’s here where the show digs even deeper into its mythology. But beyond discovering the truth of Allison and Holston’s deaths and, by extension, the silo itself, the episode shows that Silo will prioritize its characters on the same level as its mythology. Just as Severance succeeded because it had dynamic heroes and villains to fall back on, and just as The Last of Us transcended its genre fare, Silo seems just as interested in laying the groundwork for memorable characters. Juliette is a bit of a blank slate herself so far, but Ferguson is such an interesting presence that I can’t help but want to know more.
Within the various vaults to explore in the Fallout games often lies a commentary on class. Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer worked in a similar manner, but on a horizontal axis, rather than vertical. So far there hasn’t been a great deal of class warfare in Silo, but it’s certainly an avenue that the show could easily explore. Holston, and the mayor (Geraldine James) living in the upper levels of the silo, and their unspoken disdain for traveling to the lower levels, carries with it a greater unease towards the people that literally keep the silo running.
As Holston’s Pick goes on, the mystery behind Holston and George’s (Ferdinand Kingsley) deaths gets more and more interesting. Obviously those in charge are hiding something about the silo and the world above, but it’s not immediately clear why. Why project a desolate landscape when the reality is more palatable but is still just as lethal? Who found out about George’s hard drive, and what exactly did they want to keep hidden? We still have more to uncover throughout the season; Common’s mysterious Judicial enforcer is only shown in a brief scene, and the same for Tim Robbins, on top of the above-mentioned lingering plot threads. Thankfully Silo has the solid combination of its sci-if backbone and its diverse array of characters to be a show worth returning to week after week.