Archives by Day

May 2024

Fallout (TV Series)

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Amazon Studios
Release Date: April 10, 2024


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

TV Series Review - 'Fallout'

by Adam Pavlacka on April 10, 2024 @ 6:00 a.m. PDT

In a future, post-apocalyptic America, citizens must live in underground bunkers to protect themselves from radiation, mutants and bandits.

What would you do if the apocalypse happened? Would you be able to stick to your belief system and your morals? Would you bow down to baser instincts and do whatever it took to ensure your own survival?

These questions are highlighted in one exchange between Lucy (Ella Purnell) and the Ghoul (Walton Goggins) midway through the series:

"What are you?"

"Oh, I'm you sweetie. You just give it a little time."

The question of nature versus nurture is the core thematic thread that Jonathan Nolan weaves throughout all eight episodes of "Fallout," and it impacts nearly every character that we see on the screen. This includes the three main characters as well as a multitude of supporting characters who come and go as the story unfolds.

We're introduced to the core cast in the first episode. Lucy is a naive vault dweller who's known nothing but an ideal life in Vault 33. She believes the best about everyone and everything. Purnell does an amazing job with Lucy's evolution throughout the show, starting with an incredible level of bubbly optimism that slowly but surely turns to realistic pragmatism over the course of the show.

It's an impressive transition because Purnell never loses the core of what makes Lucy, Lucy. The character growth and the pragmatism come in bits and pieces. There's not a single moment that I could point to where Lucy transforms, but you see distinct changes. When we first meet her, she gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. Later in the series, she still wants to see the best in everyone, but Lucy begins to doubt. The harsh reality of the wasteland drives a bit of cynicism into her.

The Ghoul is more or less the inverse of Lucy. When we first meet him, he is a mutated, stone-cold killer who only looks out for himself. He seems to care only about profit and a mystery drug that's kept him alive for more than two centuries, but his interactions with Lucy also cause a shift within. Much like Purnell's evolution of Lucy, Goggins doesn't portal the Ghoul's change in a pivotal moment. Everything happens in stages, and Goggins conveys it all through body language and tone.

At the same time, Goggins also shows us what the Ghoul was like before he lost his humanity, playing the role of Cooper Howard, an actor in the pre-apocalypse days who just happened to be married to a Vault-Tec executive. As Howard, Goggins was caring and genuinely wanted the best for his family. The Ghoul never reverts to Howard, but by the time the final credits roll, there's a hint of Howard peeking through.

The third major player in the story is Maximus (Aaron Moten), a squire in the Brotherhood of Steel who, through a series of events, ends up with a knight's T-60 power armor. Maximus is somewhere in between Lucy and the Ghoul. He believes the Brotherhood can do good, but his whole reason for signing up was to hurt those who destroyed his home. He wants to do the right thing, but deep down, he's still a scared child.

Much of the detail around how these three lives intertwine delves into spoiler territory, but it's safe to say that it all makes sense. It's not just plot contrivances that force the three into encounters with each other. At the same time, don't expect them to default as friends. "Fallout" is about three distinct personal journeys. It's not a group road trip.

If the main storyline in "Fallout" is about the evolution of the characters, the background themes are about the futility of war and the excesses of unchecked capitalism. We see that in the various factions (raiders, bounty hunters, Vault-Tec vault leaders, surface dwellers, the Brotherhood of Steel, etc.). Everyone has a certain take on how to "save the world." If you're aligned with them, great. If not, you're an enemy to be eliminated.

Thankfully, Nolan and his team managed to present this story inside a framework that absolutely honors the game franchise on which it's based.

Fans of Fallout 4 will likely find the set design of Filly familiar. It's not an exact copy, but the main town square evokes the feeling of Diamond City. Injuries can be healed very quickly if you can find a stimpak, RadAway meds eliminate radiation sickness, and the Pip-Boy is ever-present. Most importantly, the show preserves the franchise's mix of absurdity and violence.

"Fallout" leans heavily into both. It isn't afraid to show violence or the consequences. Shots of one excessively mangled foot were enough to make me squeamish, but the violence is never gratuitous. It's simply part of survival in the wasteland. Humor is used alongside the violence, but it doesn't dull the violence. Instead, it's more of a contrast to show us how those who live in this messed-up world can cope.

While fans of the games are sure to enjoy the show, Nolan also makes sure that you can come to the table knowing absolutely nothing about Fallout and still have a good time. The pre-bomb segments delve into the history of Vault-Tec and the creation of the vaults. There's a great deal of lore, and it is shown rather than told, so they aren't just exposition dumps. We get to see both motivation and action, with early decisions reverberating more than two centuries later.

To get the perspective of someone who has never played a Fallout game, I watched the review episodes with my wife. She recognized some of the game elements, telling me that things like picking up health packs and scavenging items from buildings reminded her of watching me play through the recent Far Cry games, but the story and performances carried the show.

Speaking of story and performances, another element that Nolan and his team executed well were story beats with dual meaning. The first time you watch the series, there are moments and conversations that appear to be benign. Returning to those same conversations after you've finished "Fallout" can reveal a much more sinister meaning, especially when it's obvious that a character knows more than they're letting on. It speaks to the layers within the story when you can have a different experience upon a rewatch.

"Fallout" may be the best video game-to-TV adaptation to date. The depth of story, the production values, and the faithfulness to the source material are all fantastic. The main plotline is resolved by the end of the first season, but there are plenty of secondary threads left open (including a [REDACTED] tease at the end) to hint at a second season. I can't wait to see where it all goes.

Score: 9.0/10

Editor's Note: "Fallout" is an eight-episode series on Prime Video. It is rated TV-MA for nudity, violence, substance use, alcohol use, smoking, foul language, and sexual content.

More articles about Fallout (TV Series)
blog comments powered by Disqus