Let’s start with last week’s big reveal. The real power behind the silo isn’t Judge Meadows, it isn’t Sims and his Big Brother squad, watching everyone through hidden cameras. It’s Bernard Holland, the soft-spoken I.T. director and acting Mayor, who takes Juliette into a cornfield — a rare spot where they can’t be overheard — only so he and Sims could corner her, and frame her for a death penalty crime: saying she wants to go outside.
But they leave her deputy and inevitable replacement, Billings, in charge of escorting her to jail. He’s been able to hide the affliction that makes his hands shake, but the stress of recent events is making things worse. He loses his grip on her, and she escapes over the railing — the same way her ex-secret-boyfriend George met his end.
But to quote Christina Ricci in The Opposite of Sex, “of course I don’t die, I’m the narrator!” Juliette falls two levels onto concrete, stunned and gasping for air, but alive. As Billings and Sims tear down the stairs in pursuit, she limps into the crowded hallways of the silo, and disappears.
Sims and his men search under every bed and in every closet, but there’s no sign of her. If she found a way onto a lower or higher level, she could be anywhere in the Silo. Billings feels responsible, and his wife turns on a dime from reassuring him it isn’t his fault to scolding him for wanting to come clean about having the syndrome that makes his hands shake (whose medical name seems to be The Syndrome). And that’s just a cover for her real fears — the last two sheriffs were sentenced to die, she doesn’t want him to be next. But Billings leaves determined to prove himself, by capturing Juliette.
Judicial’s brute squad shake down the people close to Juliette — her mentor Martha, her father Peter. And while Peter’s spent most of his scenes meekly advising caution, he stands up to Sims, accusing Judicial’s enforcers of driving his wife to suicide, and asking why Sims would expect him to snitch on the only family he has left.
The enforcers come for Sims’ own family too — they show up at the apartment as his wife Camille and their son are coming on, demanding to come inside for their protection. His wife is outraged, and insists she can take care of herself. But when she goes inside, she finds the mirror smashed and the hidden camera behind it broken. But she can handle herself — she pulls a gun from her purse (I’m not sure we’ve seen one thus far, even the Sheriff isn’t issued one.) She leaves her child in the bedroom and goes into her own to find something shiny left on the bed — the hard drive, that Juliette managed to grab back from Sims before her dive over the railing. She’s distracted enough to give Juliette time to come out of the shadows and put a knife to her throat. And we’re only at the opening credits.
Camille says cool under pressure as Juliette holds the gun on her, and has her handcuff herself to a pipe in the kitchen. His own apartment is the last place Sims is going to look, but that’s not the real reason she’s there — his computer is one of the few in the silo that can access the hard drive. She decrypts th edrive, but has no idea how to access the information. While she ponders George’s notes (and the notes Allison wrote on top of those), Camille quietly picks the lock to her handcuffs.
Billings breaks into Juliette’s apartment — now sealed off as a crime scene — and find it’s been stripped clean. All that’s left behind is a piece of the smashed mirror — it’s not lost on him that it’s reflective on one side and transparent on the other. He also knews Juliette well enough to search the vents, but those have been stripped clean as well. He’s thorough enough that he notices the strip of insulation around the medicine cabinet is loose… and behind it he finds the kids guide to Georgia, the forbidden book passed down through generations. He’s so unsettled by what he sees that he burns the book. But not without tearing out a page to keep for himself.
Holland joins the investigation too, questioning Lukas the stargazer. Lukas works in I.T., so Holland is his bosses boss, and threatens him with demotion to sanitation or the mines before threatening to send him outside. But Juliette dragged Lukas into her plans very briefly, so he doesn’t know much. Just that the hard drive had a number on it: 18. That’s enough to upset Holland, who has a mysterious light labeled “18” on a keychain that occasionally flashes red.
I.T. is able to track the hard drive back to Sims’ apartment, and as he sprints home, Juliette scrolls through an endless list of files, until she finds one labeled “Start Here.” It’s a video message from George. He knows full well that if she’s watching it without him, that’s probably for a reason. But there are things on the drive the people of the silo need to see.
Except time’s up for Juliette. Sims is closing in, and Camille has escaped her handcuffs and grabbed the gun. But whatever her motivation, she warms Juliette off. She knows Judicial can track the drive, she knows her husband is on his way and she warms Juliette — she can watch the rest and get caught, or she can escape.
She escapes. With no one in the law-abiding world to go to, she turns to the ex-con she shook down earlier in the season for fencing forbidden relics. He summons a crooked I.T. employee, who knew George, and knows how to access the drive without being found by Judicial. She’s able to finish watching George’s message. He tells he got together with her intending to use her for information, but then really did fall in love with her. And he mentions a door, that he doesn’t know how to open, but is hoping she can.
As always, mysteries in the silo just lead to more mysteries, but unlike previous mystery-box shows, it always feels like we’re working towards something. And the silo itself is, as usual, a perfect metaphor. Claustrophobic, oppressive, and no matter how deep you go, there always seems to be another level.
• We try and do reviews here at Subject and not simply recap the plot. But this episode had a ton of plot. Yet none of it feels like an infodump — every scene either opens up the mystery of the silo a tiny bit, or tightens the noose around Juliette’s neck. It feels like all nine episodes so far have been rising tension, and yet the show is able to keep escalating with one more to go.
• One thing the show does a terrific job of demonstrating without ever having to say explicitly is how, under an authoritarian regime, no one’s happy. A few weeks ago we saw Judge Meadows, an ostensibly powerful and comfortable figure in the silo, miserable and living in fear. Sims gets chewed out by Holland for taking the time to protect his wife and child instead of focusing on Juliette. And Holland himself is more anxious every time we see him. There are no winners in a place where everyone’s spying on everyone and the people in power are constantly watching their backs.
• The mirror fragment Billings finds in Juliette’s apartment is one-way glass, but that’s not a real thing. One-way mirrors are semitransparent on both sides, with people in a dark room able to see through, and people in a bright room only able to see a reflection. It’s the same principle that means you have to turn off the lights in a room to be able to see out into your yard at night.