Girl standing in door frame and house is abandoned.

Series Review: Fallout (Season One)

Film Reviews

Fallout (Season One)
Director: Jonathan Nolan
Bethesda Game Studios
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video: 04.10

Oh, Fallout—how much do I adore thee? Like the fiery beauty and devastation of the mushroom clouds themselves, my love burns brightly. All jokes aside though, the Fallout series will remain one of the most successful RPGs in video game history. The world-building, the lore, the mechanics and sometimes the graphics (if you can look past a few bugs here and there) makes the post-apocalyptic landscape feel real enough to experience on your own. So when I heard that Amazon Prime Video—the same company who tarnished J. R. R. Tolkien’s legacy by shitting out the afterbirth abomination known as The Rings of Power—was about to release a live-action series on the cult-following franchise, to say that I was hesitant to move forward would be an understatement. However, I loaded up on a few spiked Nuka-Cola Quantums, maxed out on Rad-Away and proceeded onward into the wasteland of streaming services.

The eight-episode season follows three main characters in this plotline triangle: Lucy MacLean (Ella Purnell, Arcane), the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed resident of Vault 33 who ventures to the surface after her dad (Kyle MacLachlan, Twin Peaks) is kidnapped by raiders, Maximus (Aaron Moten, Emancipation), a Brotherhood of Steel squire who seeks praise from his supervisors and The Ghoul (Walton Goggins, The Hateful 8), a Hollywood gun-slinging mutant who’s been looking for his family for the last 200 years. All three hope to find some answers by collecting the bounty on runaway Enclave scientist Dr. Wilzig (Michael Emerson, Arrow) and the Good Boy of the Year, CX404 (Sorry, Hondo—you might’ve been dethroned). With every near-death and bizarre encounter with the nuclear elements of the wasteland, the three begin to unravel a monopolized mystery that stems all the way back to before the bombs drop. It’s equal parts atomic drama and satirical backscattering to Cold War-era America. 

The problem with video game adaptations has always been conflict with the fanbase. No matter how much you try to stay in accordance with the source material, there’ll be a fraction of the fandom that will be displeased due to creative deviance from the production alone. There’s too much of a digital world that can’t be squished into a two-hour film or ten-episode series without leaving some major canon events out. However, Fallout sticks to the script while developing characters you’re actually rooting for. Lucy, for example, starts out as a naïve patriot that believes the United States will cleanse the radiated surface for a brighter future. As her story plays out, her downfalls become learning experiences and structure her into a more capable survivalist. Each lone-wandering character feels as if they come with their own side quest that has led them to this point. I’m not sure what that story may be, but the audience doesn’t need to know. It’s almost like modern filmmaking can actually make believable characters, with strengths and flaws, without making them bland, fill-in protagonists with zero personality (cough, The Marvels, cough).

I would say the series’ weakest attribute, though also it’s strongest, has to be its production design. The environmental storytelling alone is an excellent example of what made the games so iconic. Like, how in the hell did a USSR satellite end up wrecked in a Los Angeles riverbed? I don’t have the slightest clue, but it’s this exploratory eye for detail that keeps people invested. I also think that the chromed-out and bulbous technology of the 1950s works perfectly with the Roy Rogers sci-fi aesthetic that was so prominent during the time. However, you would think a literal hell hole surrounded by ravagers and hybrid mutants would be a little more grimey. The Brotherhood of Steel rocks plain white tees under their power armor, alongside cannibalized raiders in brown leather jackets without a single blemish. A few cans of rust-colored paint and sandpaper weren’t in the budget, but a cherry 1954 Kaiser Darrin was?! 

Fallout won’t be the greatest show ever made, but it stands out as a picture-perfect standard for a show that respects both age-old fans and newly-discovered audiences. It’s an entertaining journey that doesn’t take itself too seriously in overall message, yet carries a ton of heart and soul. I’m truly excited to see what’s in store next (Hopefully, more of a budget in the art department.) And for the good folks at Bethesda Studios: If you’re looking for a late-20s, chubby-faced greaser archetype to cast in the season two New Vegas tie-in, your boy is a free agent. –Alton Barnhart

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