Fallout Season 1 Review

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“War. War never changes.” This is a threatening line, which opens each one of the Fallout RPG series’ games for 26 years now. However, while this may resonate with the tone of the endless nuclear wasteland setting, thankfully there has been a major shift in TV adaptations of video games. Followed by HBO’s The Last of Us as well as Netflix’s Arcane, Prime Video has taken Fallout on board, positioning itself among the best ever post-apocalypse shows ever made; an epic science fiction drama that on top of being able to stand alone as its own piece is not shy about its heritage – literally since it comes with its iconic blue-and-yellow Vault-Tec jumpsuits.

It is easy to understand why Amazon backed Fallout. It is a crazy, sometimes satirical black comedy that can be loosely connected with The Boys in terms of genre. Never as childish or disgusting as some of Vought’s cruelest parts, Fallout nevertheless uses its irradiated world’s darkness to construct darkly absurd gags from a talking brain-in-a-jar to an organ-stealing robot sounding remarkably like Matt Berry (of What We Do in the Shadows fame).

Fallout has been produced by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy from Westworld who have placed it within the world and continuity of the game but had nothing to do with anything that you may have played in its eight-episode season-one in any way whatsoever. So it doesn’t matter if you’ve never experienced any previous entries because this totally new group begins with Ella Purnell’s Lucy. Raised inside Vault 33- one among hundreds constructed by Vault-Tec over two centuries ago- she has only known life behind these lovingly crafted steel and concrete fortifications. Consequently, she embodies American pre-Great War will-do spirit that has continued underground for many generations.

Like in fall out 3 when lucy’s father (kyle McLachlan) goes missing, she has to head to the surface. She is a bright and lively girl, who is always polite and pleasant; however, she is not at all ready for the journey that waits outside the vault’s sealed door in post-apocalyptic California. A lot of early jokes come from Purnell’s ability to project whimsical naïveté amidst so much rusted destruction – but more significantly, it marks the beginning of a character arc that demands her to see through an existence where lies and deceit are ubiquitous and life comes cheaply. Although Fallout does have well-drawn villains concealed in its shadows, it is wasteland itself that serves as a central antagonist with its dog-eat-dog mentality even forcing our heroes into adopting such behavior.

However, Aaron Moten’s picture as Maximus is a lot more fascinating than Lucy. Maximus was abandoned by his parent at a tender age, and he has found solace in the Brotherhood of Steal. The brotherhood of steel does not fit him to be precise; Maximus is an inept and sometimes fearful person who lacks confidence in power-armed warriors like the Brotherhood and this contrast creates both excellent comedy and grimness. One needs to lose his way in order to find it among other things that are not what they seem, so to speak. Fallout would not have had those moments that make you watch it with bated breath if he had found himself grappling with some false truth regarding a haphazard lie. I could not always identify with or cheer for the flawed character Maximus is, however, this was precisely why he became such a compelling figure for me.

Lucy and Maximus can therefore be seen as two sides of the same coin: one representing the safety provided by vaults while the other symbolizes harsh conditions outside. Apart from its lead antagonist The Ghoul who epitomizes pre- against post-apocalyptic world we see excellently displayed through him, also Walton Goggins plays another key role in Fallout’s cast – Drugged up loner wanderer who just doesn’t care about anything but drugs. It can be argued that The Ghoul’s arc is rather superficial compared to Lucy’s or Maximus’, but since Goggins’ performance is awesome, The Ghoul still gets my vote.

Nevertheless, there are some characters beyond The Ghoul whom Goggin depicts throughout Fallout which take us back into time long before apocalypse happened on earth surface when they were still alive. This first half of his life seems boring until Cooper Howard turns into an interesting enigma because it appears dull at first sight while considering the duality between Hollywood fame (a concept embodied by Cooper) and the loss of humanity (a notion illustrated by The Ghoul). This creates an engaging mystery that Goggins has been craving for. The Fallout story also uses this plot to bring out the satire aspect of it where the anti-capitalism message is well delivered.

The narrative tends to focus on Cooper’s life which seems unrelated to broader Fallout events because it portrays a different world altogether, but his past intertwines with his present in a more significant way than mere background information. This is one thing that makes fallout so interesting and addictive: even apparently inconsequential threads like vault 33 storyline after Lucy quit are indispensable elements in its structure as they turned out to be essential blocks of orientation. Everything moves forward breathlessly and efficiently towards a climatic ending. I am not sure there was enough balance between different storylines and rhythm in the second half with only a few episodes somewhat stumbling though for most part, it was just perfect pacing as far as I am concerned.

Each episode has a distinct plot in itself, such as Lucy’s meeting with the aforementioned liver thief, or an encounter with an enormous mutant salamander, which though smaller than the whole are substantial enough to be seen as satisfying stories in their own right. In other words, it is designed like a series of RPG quests. That’s really quite refreshing compared to the endless stream of mushy plotlines and capricious episodes that most shows on streaming services offer; so why exactly all eight episodes are released at once is bewildering. If Fallout was aired weekly, we could have had loads of fun talking about it nonstop up until the next one.

The live-action incarnation of this game-world presented one of the biggest challenges for Fallout. However, thanks to lots of money from Amazon and talented production designers like Nolan and Joy and showrunners Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Graham Wagner it came out very well. This is beautifully tactile end times stuff filled with garish weirdos bouncing along to fifties’ pop tunes. Every space brims with personality, much of it being generated through meticulous attention paid towards all things items/weapons/iconography. Nuka Cola bottles line shelves while characters rely on stimpacks to heal themselves back into shape; Vault 33 itself is almost perfect – even down to emergency override switches. You don’t need to know anything about this game series to appreciate its craftsmanship but if you do there’s plenty here that will delight.

Most interestingly though, Brotherhood Of Steel’s T-60 power armour is without doubt a joyous sight when brought into play. What should really feel like something taken straight from the games because it looks computer-generated and remains faithful to their design ported over into reality as another mostly practical prop with massive presence? Although Fallout can hardly be called an action show per se, when fight breaks loose there isn’t any better time for T-60— that’s when Bloody Mess starts working and delightful sloppy blood effects are brought up.

The Verdict

Fallout is one of the best game adaptations ever made as it represents a bright, funny apocalypse filled with dark punchlines and extreme violence similar to The Last of Us. The three main characters are strongly built as they move through interconnected narratives that culminate in an amazing climax. In the process there is a host of fan services due to immaculate production design and attention to detail, but not at the expense of being accessible for newbies. Another impressive outing from Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, who easily deserve a thumbs-up.

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