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  • Writer's pictureJose "StrawHatRican" Morales

Review: Fallout (TV Series)

Based on “Fallout” by Bethesda Softworks

Publisher: Amazon MGM Studios

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

Orange Colored Sky

Based on the post-apocalyptic RPG of the same name, Fallout on Amazon Prime sometimes feels like a fever dream. The first episode, sardonically titled “The End,” shows fans of the Bethesda franchise see some more of the world before the upcoming apocalypse. Originally released in 1997 by then-developer Interplay, the atomic world of “Fallout” was seen as a precautionary tale of the dangers of nuclear energy and the hubris of post-WWII advancements. The TV series begins with Cooper Howard (Walton Goggins), a seemingly out-of-luck actor who entertains children at birthday parties performing some sort of buckaroo cowboy character, complete with blue and yellow patterns in his outfit—a small hint at his relationship with Vault-Tec. Together with his daughter, Howard witnesses the nuclear holocaust in Los Angeles, California, ending what humanity chose to call “The Great War” on October 23, 2077. But not before dropping subtle hints about some “Vaults.”

Fast forward 219 years later—making this the latest chapter, chronologically speaking, in the video game series’ canon—where we are introduced to vault dweller Lucy MacLean (Ella Purnell), our player-audience surrogate. Lucy has been living in Vault 33 her entire life, a humble corn-farming colony set on re-establishing and repopulating “America.” Chosen to marry someone from the adjacent underground Vault 32 by her father, “Overseer” Hank (the original Paul Atreides himself, Kyle MachLachlan), Lucy is the ever-optimist in the light of (literal) nuclear fallout. But the quaint wedding turns awry when the dwellers from Vault 32 (actually raiders from the outside world) begin murdering and eating Vault 33’s inhabitants. Led by a woman named Moldaver, the raiders kidnap Overseer Hank, prompting Lucy to decide on escaping the Vault to rescue him from whatever may be out there on the surface. The series’ protagonist, like many players who embarked on this journey long ago, is optimistic yet cautiously worried about what may lurk above in the Wastelands.

So Doggone Lonesome

On the outskirts of Los Angeles, far removed from the comfort of Vaults, Maximus (Aaron Moten), a member of the Brotherhood of Steel (pseudo-religious military operation with techno-archeological goals, hmmkay?), winds up as a squire to armored Knight Titus (a hilariously fascist Michael Rappaport) entrusted with a mission to bring back a defecting doctor from the “Enclave”—before the technology he has stolen falls on the wrong hands. While Maximus’ mission lacks the personal stakes of family and home like Lucy’s, his scenes and storyline nonetheless focus more on the atomic punk retrofuturistic philosophical questions that pop up throughout the franchise’s history. The military group he belongs to bestows him with care, food, and, eventually, weaponry. But the Brotherhood is nothing like a family—it acts as a sort of covenant of lost souls, bent on taking some sort of control of the Wastelands, be it by militaristic force or through the discovery and restoration of pre-nuclear holocaust technology. This mission sends him on a path that will eventually lead to Lucy, and one more player that will be added in the hunt of Dr. Wilzig.

Crawl Out Through the Fallout

Perhaps the best cast in the bunch is The Ghoul, a nuclear aberration that crosses the boundary of immortal vampire and cannibalistic zombie. Grotesque as he may be, he is anchored in our reality, a relic of the world before the “Great War” and one who excels at finding his targets. Summoned in the thick of the night by bumbling bounty hunters in search of an easy score, The Ghoul makes quick work of them as soon as he is given a reason to be outside of his well-maintained grave—finding Dr. Wilzig.

While the chewerey of Goggin’s performance could be confused for the old take, “video game adaptations are bad,” we are thankfully far removed from that particular hive-minded rhetoric. Jonathan Nolan is plenty talented, evidenced by the entirety of his criminally canceled series Westworld—a project that may or may not share some similar philosophical and existential questions with Fallout. It’s hard not to think of The Man In Black when The Ghoul may share even his gait.

But despite what I suspect may just be the need to play in a similar playground before moving on to other projects, the love for the franchise’s lore and uniquely dystopian look is present in every frame of “The End.” Like Lucy’s optimism and “go get it attitude” rooted in the charmers of Americana, it’s infectious. Enough to warrant trying to see how humanity tries to repair itself from the Mad Max-ian hellspace they have manifested their destiny into.

Fallout Season One is available on Amazon Prime.

Get out there, vaulties!

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