Ain’t that a kick in the head: A review of Amazon’s “Fallout”

by | May 7, 2024 | Entertainment

Most video game adaptations aren’t great, so I went into this show with low expectations. But when it opened with nuclear bombs dropping, I felt the same way I did playing Fallout 4 the first time–I was in awe of the set piece they’d lovingly crafted. 

Fallout does exposition exceptionally well, starting us off in Vault 33 to set up the plot and characters. The nuclear bunker seems nice at first, it’s driven by the core value of bettering humanity, after all. Lucy, the main character, is signing up for a sort of consensual arranged marriage. This is in place to inhibit inbreeding between members of the vault (as the intent was to stay underground for centuries). But it’s soon revealed why these arranged marriages need to happen. As the series goes on, you learn more about the dark side of  the vaults. This culminates in a grand reveal during the final episode. Just like every other vault in the Fallout franchise, Vault 33 had ulterior motives.

But, just like the seeming utopia of vault life has dark sides, the world above has its light. Civilization started to form again; it worked for a while too. A group called the New California Republic (NCR) formed their own government and controlled most of Western America. But in the end, humanity stayed divided with other factions vying for power, and the NCR fell. The politics of the Fallout franchise are kept intact, which is a pretty big feat considering they only had around 9 hours worth of screentime to establish all of it. And what was once conjecture based on bits and pieces of lore in the games, is now confirmed. Everybody wants to rule the world and war? War never changes.

Photo by JOJO WHILDEN/JoJo Whilden/Prime Video – © 2022 Amazon Content Services LLC via IMDB.

Fallout follows several protagonists that often intermingle. The first one we’re introduced to is Cooper Howard (played by Walter Goggins), an actor known for John Wayne inspired westerns. After the bombs drop, he becomes a jaded bounty hunting ghoul (a sort of nuclear zombie). Walton Goggins is great as both a kind actor and a brutal, cannibalistic bounty hunter. He’s the last one we’re officially introduced to, but shows up during the opening as the bombs drop. He acts as a “villain-turned-ally” for the series’ main character, Lucy. 

As mentioned before, Lucy grew up in a seeming utopia. She starts optimistic and naive, believing anybody could potentially be trusted, but has a realistic though pessimistic character arc. The final episode is the best example of this. It shows how much she’s internalized her traumatic experiences above. She finds out that her life before leaving the vault was a lie. Not only did her father know civilization existed, but he hindered it by setting off the nuke, destroying the NCR, all to protect their way of life.

This scene wouldn’t have been as good without the excellent acting from both Ella Purnell (Lucy) and Kyle MacLachlan (her father). The ending twist of her father being just as ruthless as the actual antagonist, Moldaver (Sarita Choudhury), was so satisfying.

The third protagonist is Maximus and he’s currently the weakest of the three. He joined the Brotherhood of Steel, a militaristic group of technology hoarders, after his hometown is destroyed. While Aaron Morten did a great job as a conflicted soldier, I feel like we didn’t get enough time with Maximus to see his character grow. But this is because he’s still a teenager at heart and hasn’t had the time to mature like Lucy and Cooper.  I’m interested to see where the series goes now that Maximus is a knight (sort of like a Captain in the US military). That isn’t to say I didn’t like Maximus as a character, though. He’s a great middle ground between Lucy’s optimism and Cooper’s pessimism. I just would have liked to see more done with him in this first season.

Then you have the best character, Dogmeat. He’s a german shepherd whose master is killed early on but holds the key to cold fusion in his head (it makes more sense when you watch the series). Everybody else wants the head for one reason or another. Dogmeat follows whoever has it. Those who are confused as to why I think Dogmeat is the best character should play the games.

Now that I’ve given you a run down of the plot and characters, what did I think of it? Outside of being a great adaptation, Fallout is just a great series. From a visual standpoint, it’s absolutely beautiful. They use a mixture of practical and visual effects to bring the world of the games to life and I couldn’t ask for more. The costumes match the source material and they didn’t just give them normal food and weapons, it’s all from the games. The monster designs are great as well. I like that they didn’t overwhelm longtime fans with too many iconic monsters. And seeing as we’re potentially heading to New Vegas next season, there’s a lot more to look forward to.

But as I said before, they focused a lot more on Cooper and Lucy than they did on Maximus. So it felt like his sections were less important and even came off as comic relief from time to time. I saw another review a while back stating that Fallout becomes more interesting when we veer off the main plot and can’t help but agree. The writing is great but, much like the games, the main plot seems secondary to worldbuilding. So While I’m excited to see where it goes in the future, I hope the plot becomes more interesting.

That said, Fallout is a masterclass in adaptation. It builds on the themes of the games with brutal violence, political intrigue and an ironically anti-corporate message (considering what company funded it). The creatives behind it understood that you need to make changes during adaptation and made them intelligently. It doesn’t sugar coat the California Wasteland, that’s something I’m ecstatic to see in the modern age.

They brought one of my favourite franchises to life. As the fella once said, ain’t that a kick in the head.

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