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Vault Boy Won’t Be The Only One Offering A Thumbs Up

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Vault Boy Won’t Be The Only One Offering A Thumbs Up

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Summary

  • Fallout’s pilot episode sets the tone with dark humor in a post-apocalyptic LA, showcasing a unique blend of drama and chaos.
  • The series introduces three main characters with diverse backgrounds, keeping viewers engaged with multiple story threads.
  • Unlike other game adaptations, Amazon’s Fallout offers fresh storytelling while paying homage to the franchise’s signature elements.
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Prime Video’s adaptation of Bethesda’s popular Fallout series opens with a near-perfect sequence: A children’s birthday party — at the end of the world. Set during the 1950s at a well-appointed home in the Los Angeles hills, Fallout’s opening contrasts shots of kids smiling and laughing with frantic news reports about animminent nuclear exchange between the United States and its Cold War enemies. Things are so dire that Cooper Howard (Justified’s Walton Goggins), who was hired to perform lasso tricks for the cowboy-loving birthday boy, refuses to do his signature thumbs up gesture in photos. It feels off.

Based on the video game franchise of the same name, Fallout is a drama series set in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. The series follows the survivors of the human race in an alternate 1950s timeline, where nuclear war laid waste to the Earth, spawning large irradiated areas and mutated humans who now roam the planet.

Pros

  • Fallout retains the game’s dark humor
  • Prime Video’s adaptation is top-notch
  • The series balances brutality with hilarity
  • Fallout doesn’t lean on pre-existing narratives to tell its story

Cooper’s daughter looks out over the LA skyline and asks her dad if she should worry. Moments later, “it’s the end of the world, all over again” as multiple nuclear bombs detonate in the city. As the buildings crumble, Cooper grabs his daughter and flees on horseback. The birthday party erupts into chaos; the hosts attack their guests, refusing to let anyone else into their fallout shelter. Given the video game series’ signature dark humor, the opening sequence sets a promising tone. And then 219 years pass in Fallout‘s timeline in the blink of a title card.

The Fallout TV Show Wisely Splits Its Story Between Three Main Characters

In addition to setting up Cooper’s story, Fallout’s pilot has two other main characters to introduce: Lucy MacLean (Yellowjackets’ Ella Purnell), a Vault Dweller who has never set foot above ground, and Maximus (Aaron Moten), a Wastelander who’s also a member of the Brotherhood of Steel — a quasi-religious technocratic faction responsible for creating Fallout’s iconic Power Armor. While Maximus’ story will excite fans of the Fallout games, Lucy’s is far-and-away the more compelling thread at the show’s onset.

Created by Vault-Tec, Lucy’s Vault is one of many hidden throughout the US. Her father, Hank MacLean (Kyle MacLachlan), is a scientist and the Vault’s leader (or Overseer), and has instilled in his daughter theimportance of carrying on the tenets of civilization (as it once existed). Lucy’s hypothetical children will be able to return to the surface as radiation levels dwindle. Unable to find a suitable partner to rear said kids with — as Lucy notes in a deadpan, she’s pretty much related to everyone in Vault 33 — she’s set to marry someone from a neighboring bunker.

Fallout Nails The Franchise’s Signature Dark Humor

Fallout’s tonal balancing act really shines in Vault 33. Lucy delivers catchphrases like, “Okie dokie” in a completely wholesome and genuine manner, but she’s also capable of killing anyone who crosses her. For example, the brutal conflict that unfolds in the first episode features a moment where one character sticks a weapon in someone’s mouth and fires it through their skull. Moments later, someone else is drowned in a barrel of pickles, while another character frets about a Jell-O mold being in harm’s way.

Although packed with world-building, characters, backstories, and mysteries, the first few episodes of
Fallout
manage to be both accessible and engaging.

By the pilot’s end, a devastating series of events prompts Lucy to leave the Vault and search the Wasteland for her father. It’s a plot point that recalls Fallout 3’s story, as does the introduction of the series’ two major factions: the Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave — remnants of the pre-nuclear exchange federal government. The Brotherhood tasks its members with an all-important mission: Find an Enclave runaway who holds something incredibly important to the future of humanity. Elsewhere, Goggins’ Ghoul, the former Cooper, is still alive — one of the side effects of the surface’s intense radiation.

With all three of its main characters searching the Wasteland, Fallout leans into a tried-and-true hook: How will all of these stories connect? Although packed with world-building, characters, backstories, and mysteries, the first few episodes of Fallout manage to be both accessible and engaging. Those who aren’t familiar with the franchise may need a moment to calibrate to its unique tone, but splitting the story into three threads keeps the bevy of information digestible.

Prime Video’s Fallout Differs From Other Video Game Adaptations In A Key Way

Unlike other video game adaptations, Fallout benefits from not replicating a pre-existing narrative. That worked for a linear game-to-screen translation like The Last of Us, but for an open-world game like Fallout — one that’s packed with limitless stories and choices — creating something fresh for TV is a solid choice. Jonathan Nolan, who co-created the Fallout TV series alongside fellow Westworld alum Lisa Joy, is clear: The aim isn’t to please fans of the franchise. At least, that fool’s errand is not top of mind. It’s a bold but sensible approach, especially in the wake of Paramount+’s Halo woes.

The cast of Fallout also helps the post-apocalyptic drama stand out…

Even so, it’s clear that the series’ creators are Fallout devotees. From the retro-futuristic aesthetic and blue-and-yellow jumpsuits to Lucy’s use of a Survival Syringe and the myriad posters Vault Boy (Vault-Tec’s mascot), Fallout is packed with nods to the franchise. Refreshingly, the series doesn’t take itself too seriously. When Lucy prepares to leave the Vault, her fellow bunker-dwellers call out to her, insisting that she come back. After she steps out into the bright light of Wasteland, one of them grumbles, “Well, that didn’t work.” It’s exactly the kind of thing you’d say to your TV, and that’s part of Fallout’s charm.

The cast of Fallout also helps the post-apocalyptic drama stand out in a crowded field. Yellowjackets season 1 star Purnell, who cut her teeth on another genre mashup, is given a chance to truly shine as she shoulders a large chunk of the series. Goggins’ Ghoul, formerly known as Cooper Howard, embodies the contradictions of the Wasteland. The gunslinger may seem at ease in the harsh, radiated world, but his haunting backstory deepens what could’ve been a one-note character.

MacLachlan, a frequent David Lynch collaborator, clearly knows how to infuse his earnest Hank with offbeat humor. Sarita Choudhury (The Green Knight), who plays the mysterious Moldaver, is captivating as ever in her portrayal of a character who straddles the Wasteland’s moral gray areas. In fact, Fallout’s cast is a beautiful blend of actors who have as much comedic chops as they do dramatic ones. While Amazon Prime Video went week-to-week with recent Reacher and Invincible episode releases, all 8 episodes of Fallout season 1 drop on April 10. Replicating the Netflix release style invites marathon viewings and doesn’t allow for too much dwelling on the misfires.

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The series wants to pay homage because it’s fun to do so, not because it feels beholden to the franchise’s devotees.

Although Fallout may boast one-too-many slow-motion montages set to oldies tunes, there’s no denying the care that went into crafting the series, from its practical effects to its franchise references. The series wants to pay homage because it’s fun to do so, not because it feels beholden to the franchise’s devotees. Translating an open-world game with near-endless conversation permutations and choices is a tall order. Part of what makes video games so difficult to adapt to the screen is the loss of interactivity.

Player choice defines Fallout more than the average game, but the passive medium of TV doesn’t inherently implicate its audience. To account for this, Amazon’s adaptation makes watchers feel like they’re “in” on a joke; it doesn’t break the fourth wall, but there’s a deft self-awareness. The beats don’t always land, but, in its best moments, the show’s approach makes you feel like you’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Lucy in your own blue-and-yellow jumpsuit. The series isn’t precious or withholding. Instead, Fallout knows its viewers, and it isn’t afraid to give them a Vault Boy-style wink.

All 8 episodes of

Fallout

season 1 will be available to stream on Prime Video Friday, April 12.

Fallout TV Show Poster Showing Lucy, CX404, Ghoul, and Maximus in Front of an Explosion with Flying Bottle Caps
Fallout

Based on the video game franchise of the same name, Fallout is a drama series set in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. The series follows the survivors of the human race in an alternate 1950s timeline, where nuclear war laid waste to the Earth, spawning large irradiated areas and mutated humans who now roam the planet.

Cast
Walton Goggins , Ella Purnell , Kyle MacLachlan , Xelia Mendes-Jones , Aaron Moten
Seasons
1
Writers
Lisa Joy , Jonathan Nolan
Showrunner
Lisa Joy , Jonathan Nolan



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