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‘Fallout’ Series Review: Satire Never Changes

As the show provides dangerous locations, radiation monsters and a soundtrack lifted directly from the game, the invariable charm of “Fallout” is sure to win over anyone.
Key Art for Fallout (Courtesy of Prime Video © Amazon Content Services LLC)


It’s been 26 years since video game developer Tim Cain’s darkly satirical post-apocalyptic action game “Fallout” hit store shelves. The game series took aim at the costs of human greed and the absurd lengths those in power would take to stay that way. The live-action adaptation airs on the streaming service operated by the largest company in the world, Amazon.

The series is adapted from “Westworld” team, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy after their last series was abruptly cut short. The team also worked with Bethesda Game Studios Executive Producer, Todd Howard. Nolan and Joy often employ mystery-box storytelling, and there certainly is a compelling mystery at the heart of “Fallout” as the show progresses following three leads who traverse the wasteland to echo what was once an idyllic 1950s-esque America in specifically what was once Hollywood.

The Prime Video “Fallout” is an original story not directly adapted from the games two centuries after a nuclear war, seemingly caused by an extended Cold War, which began in 2077 and then decimated the world. The story proper then picks up in 2296 placing it further on the timeline than any of the games and long after everyone has forgotten the idealism of the past. Those who were wealthy enough retreated to Fallout shelters developed by Vault-Tec, and those unlucky enough to have been left on the surface were left to pick up the pieces.

Welcome To The Wasteland

Ella Purnell (Lucy) in “Fallout” (Courtesy of Prime Video © Amazon Content Services LLC) (JoJo Whilden/Prime Video)

Oddly, the entire season was dropped early on Apr. 10, even though other Prime Shows have done well week to week like another Prime Video series, “Reacher” and this series could’ve done the same. While this show touts an impressive $153 million budget, it looks and feels cheap. In the age of cookie-cutter streaming shows it’s par for the course to look so basic. However, other streaming series like Netflix’s “Ripley” and FX/Hulu’s “Shōgun” look significantly better than this, to no surprise HBO’s “Westworld” looked better. Certain action scenes are disorientingly edited with noticeably bad VFX, particularly the two action set pieces from the first two episodes.

And yet, there’s a certain, inescapable charm to the show’s atompunk aesthetic and to the larger mystery that’s guiding the story from plot beat to plot beat. There’s an over-the-top quality to the graphic and sometimes hilarious violence, similar to Prime Video’s other crown jewel “The Boys.

As the season goes on and new locations, radiation monsters, both beast and human and the soundtrack lifted directly from the game’s featuring songs from the time period, the invariable charm of “Fallout” is sure to win over anyone. A clever story is always bolstered by its characters, particularly the three leads of the show each embody the main theme of the show. Each of them are at varying stages of their ideology being dismantled by the harsh realities of the world that are stripped away to show that their former ways of thinking were flawed.

The story mainly follows Lucy Maclean (Ella Purnell) a wide-eyed girl who must leave her life in Vault 33 for a mission on the surface. The people living in the vaults consistently believed for two centuries that they were preserving that lost optimism and way of life from before the bombs dropped and that one day they would restore it. Purnell is charming and oddly funny in her character’s naivete and later becomes hardened throughout the season. Her funniest, and most poignant, moment happens when she meets a surface dweller to whom she explains the importance of Vault-Tec by cheerfully saying, “We’re saving America!”

Walton Goggins (Cooper Howard/The Ghoul) in “Fallout” (Courtesy of Prime Video © Amazon Content Services LLC) (N/A)

Cooper Howard/The Ghoul (Walton Goggins), an actor who plays a quintessential all-American cowboy who becomes the spokesperson for Vault-Tec and then after the war, as well a “Ghoul,” a person exposed to copious amounts of radiation from surviving on the surface. Goggins continues to be a national treasure who steals every scene he’s in from a Hollywood actor navigating the Red Scare, to a cynical husk of a man wandering the wasteland. He’s an unpredictable force that commands attention every time he’s on-screen because he can go from speaking calmly to blasting his shotgun in an instant. His interactions with Lucy showcase spectacular acting on both their parts as the two characters couldn’t possibly be more different but make for a great pair.

Maximus (Aaron Clifton Moten) is a refreshingly flawed protagonist who believes in a world that no longer exists and maybe never did, that of chivalrous knights. As a child, Maximus survived the destruction of Shady Sands, and after seeing a knight in T-60 power armor from the Brotherhood of Steel, a paramilitary organization rescuing survivors, he joins in earnest. He’s willing to cross lines to maintain this delusion he lives under, but he remains sympathetic throughout because he genuinely wants to do good. Along the way he meets with Lucy and they develop a romance of sorts after sharing their unique perspectives having come from two different worlds with the same goal.

Back in Vault 33, Lucy’s younger brother, Norm (Moises Arias) and Chet (David Register) form a funny little “Scooby Gang” as they attempt to explore the adjoining Vaults 31 and 32 only to come to a startling discovery about Vault-Tec’s true plans. Indeed there is a larger, multi-corporate scheme at the heart of “Fallout” that paints a scathing and frighteningly plausible picture of late-stage capitalism.

A New Frontier

Power Suit and Aaron Moten (Maximus) in “Fallout” (Courtesy of Prime Video © Amazon Content Services LLC) (JoJo Whilden/Prime Video)

With “Fallout” being another successful video game adaptation that’s praised by critics, fans and newcomers alike, it seems that the entertainment industry is setting its sights on video games as the next trend.  While “Fallout” is not based on any of the games, the story adds to the franchise without disrespecting the preexisting story, themes or lore, which is why adaptations like “Halo” failed but adaptations like “The Last Of Us” succeeded. Perhaps the sweet spot is hiring creatives behind the camera who are actually fans of what they’re adapting to work with the video game developers themselves.

Although it took a few episodes for Fallout to come around and it doesn’t exactly end as strongly as the highs of this season one, there is still enough here to build for a second season and potentially even more from there on. Vault-Tec was not the only company involved in selling the End of the World as the show ends with a tease that links back to “Fallout: New Vegas” hinting that Nolan and Joy have plans to ingratiate their story more explicitly into that of the games.

“Fallout” has a 94% critical rating and 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, an 8.6 user score on IMDB and is number 5  in ratings on Variety’s Overall Streaming chart with 285.3 million minutes watched as of Apr. 14. A second season has already been cleared for a $25 million tax credit to film in California, meaning a renewal announcement is imminent. It has not yet been a full week at the time of writing so these numbers may not stick and it’s too soon for Nielson’s ratings to come in; however, the entire season is available to binge for anyone to make up their minds at their own pace.


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About the Contributor
Andre Montoya
Andre Montoya, Arts Writer
Andre Montoya is a senior at the University of Utah double majoring in English and communications with an emphasis in journalism. He began writing for the Arts Desk at the Daily Utah Chronicle in Fall 2022. Previously, he has written for the West View Media and Voices of Utah, formerly run by now retired U professor Dr. Kim Mangun. He can often be found around campus glued to his laptop working on assignments or at the Student Life Center exercising. In his free time, he enjoys reading novels, photography, binge-watching shows and movies, or spending time with friends.

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  • S

    SteverApr 19, 2024 at 8:58 pm

    Great series. I know nothing about the video game itself but could recognize the story line, characters, artifacts, etc., as being representative of the few games I HAVE played over the years. Like, I loved the Squire character lugging around the ‘tool’ bag, the wealth accumulation ‘caps’ and can just imagine them as being a part of the Game(s).

    Purnell is beautiful and plays a wonderful role. Naive, funny, cutesy/sexy. Goggins is terrific as an Ed Harris Westworld type villain and Moten is also great in his role.

    I’ve been pretty burned out by the post-apocalypse genre but I was hooked on this series from the first ten minutes of Episode 1 and spent the past week happily binging through the rest of it. It was time well spent!