Between Star Wars’ humanized approach in Andor and the acclaimed adaptation of The Last of Us, sci-fi has flourished on TV recently, and Silo has recently cemented how high the standards are for the post-apocalyptic subgenre. An adaptation of Hugh Howey’s series of books, the Apple TV+ original wrapped up a riveting first season balancing drama, gripping stakes, and a fascinating mystery to carry the intrigue well into its already-announced second season.
There’s another similar series on the horizon, at least in terms of the premise, in the form of Prime Video’s Fallout adaptation, and showrunner Graham Yost’s Silo arguably just set the standard and laid out a blueprint for it. It undoubtedly needs to stand on its own merits, but the upcoming Fallout series would do well to look at the Apple show’s worldbuilding and production value for inspiration.
Worldbuilding is a narrative device that’s vital to an interesting sci-fi or fantasy series, and it’s a major factor in the critical praise Silo has received. These kinds of worlds need to feel immersive and lived in, and that’s something the video game series excels at. Created by Tim Cain for Interplay Entertainment, Bethesda Game Studios took the reigns of the gaming side of the franchise and fleshed out some of the most engrossing RPG experiences in the medium.
Capturing the scope of these games is surely no small task for creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan (Westworld), and showrunners Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Captain Marvel) and Graham Wagner (Silicon Valley). It’s likely a different beast altogether compared to post-apocalyptic contemporaries like The Last of Us. Even so, this introduction to the world of Silo demonstrates how well it can be done even in the most confined settings.
Graham Yost and the rest of his creative team crafted an evenly-paced adaptation that gives this world the time it needs to introduce its cryptic backstory. Bethesda’s — and Obsidian Entertainment’s — games have no shortage of layered worldbuilding, but the Fallout showrunners will need to value the art of pacing if audiences are to be given a reason to feel invested in their interpretation of the world.
Having a distinctive artistic direction is another factor when it comes to worldbuilding, and one of Silo‘s most consistent praises has been its production value. It’s a dreary, claustrophobic world, and the show’s visual style masterfully conveys that. Fallout is also widely known for its brand of artistic flair, as its anachronistic 23rd-century sci-fi setting mixed with 1950s-era aesthetics is regarded as a series hallmark.
The rule of thumb should be substance over style, surely. However, fans know that Amazon has more than enough money to throw around to ensure Fallout has the budget it needs to make a strong visual impression.
Silo season 1 did an exceptional job of making storytelling within the depths of its subterranean bunker exhilarating. And while there’s little known about Amazon’s Fallout series, it probably won’t spend as much time in a nuclear bunker as the former — assuming it does at all. Fallout 3 did manage to show effectively the story can be set up from within the Vault, as the game’s introduction essentially has players play through a smash cut of the protagonist’s youth there before venturing into the outside world.
It would make for an exciting prologue across an episode or two, building a world within a world and setting the stage for the expansion that’s to come. But regardless of if or for how long Fallout spends in its Vaults, the creative team will need to think about growing the scope of its stories and giving tantalizing answers to their own mysteries sooner rather than later.
While the HBO series started to become uneven as it attempted to unravel itself, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan have shown at least in Westworld‘s first season that they’re no strangers to this. What’s more, the creative team has a distinct advantage in that the Fallout games are largely episodic by nature.
The series could be an adaptation of the likes of Fallout 76 or New Vegas, but it’d be just as valid to carve out a separate story elsewhere in this post-apocalyptic American wasteland. So long as they establish a striking atmosphere through the games’ grim setting — not unlike Silo — and dark, self-deprecating humor and meta-commentary, the foundation will be firmly set.
While it shouldn’t matter that Amazon’s Fallout show is based on video games as its source material, such adaptations have more often than not languished on the big and small screens alike. It’s the elephant in the room, as adaptations like Halo feel cynical and embarrassed of their identity. But the likes of HBO’s groundbreaking The Last of Us TV series and Netflix’s animated Castlevania prove that it can be done.
In the same way that Yost and his team treated Howey’s source material with respect, so too should Fallout‘s writers and showrunners do in keeping with the acclaimed RPGs’ spirit. It’s something that should go without saying, but it seems like studios have only recently started to see the greater picture of what it means to produce an adaptation that feels sincere.
Nonetheless, progress is being made, and Silo‘s blueprint for telling a compelling post-apocalyptic story in a crowd of similar thrillers is worth looking into. Other stories within the subgenre using a nuclear-themed premise as its backdrop are a dime a dozen, but it’s how that backdrop is used to visualize a world worth investing in and pose questions worth seeking answers to that make them memorable.
The 10-episode first season of Graham Yost’s Silo is available to stream now on Apple TV+.
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