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What is Fallout: The Series?

Based on one of the greatest video game series of all time, Fallout is the story of haves and have nots in a world in which there’s almost nothing left to have. 200 years after the apocalypse, a peaceful denizen from a cozy fallout shelter is forced to return to the surface–and is shocked to discover the wasteland waiting for her.

Review

*plays Atom Bomb by The Five Stars*

I love Fallout to an unhealthy degree. Seriously, I had a Fallout wallet for years. My wife got me a Fallout themed Xbox as a birthday present. I’ve loved Fallout since Fallout 3, like many fans, but have also played the original Interplay games. I can tell you the secrets of the Vaults, who three fictional Presidents were, and why you should never eat Iguana on a Stick. So, I am THE target audience for Fallout: The Series. Mind you, I’m also going to be one of those annoyingly hard to please people that notices everything wrong too.

So is it fantastic? Or an atomic bomb? Well, much like the games themselves, it has a little of both but is closer to Fallout: New Vegas versus Fallout 76. It is something that my wife, who is only familiar with Fallout through what she can see over my shoulder, enjoyed very much and probably benefited from someone to tell her little details about but is perfectly accessible to a newcomer. Indeed, what I think people are most likely to complain about is going to be from hardcore fans who are going to be upset about some lore changes-probably unreasonably so but fan is short for fanatic for a reason.

The premise for the franchise is that it is an alternate 23rd century where the world was nuked two hundred years ago. Technology is more advanced in some ways with power armor and robots on one-hand but black and white televisions on the other. The nuclear war that happened has still not been recovered from, if such a thing were possible, and it remains a mixture of Mad Max and Sixties science fiction movies. This is already a thing super-Fallout fans will be annoyed by as some fans insist the Earth would rebuild and only Bethesda Games is keeping it stuck in ruins.

The story follows three protagonists with the first being the Ghoul/Cooper (Walter Goggins), who is a survivor of the Great War and a former Hollywood cowboy. The years have not been kind to him and he’s gone from being a singing good guy cowboy to a murderous Spaghetti Western one. The second is Lucy MacLean (Ella Purnell), the daughter of Vault 33’s Overseer (Kyle MacLachlan), who is setting up for her arranged marriage with a stranger from Vault 32. Finally, there is Maximus (Aaron Moten), who is a new recruit to the Brotherhood of Steel and a survivor of the sacking of Shady Sands.

I’m disinclined to spoil any of this show because it’s such a wonderful road trip that involves so many Easter Eggs, callbacks, plot twists, and surprises. We get a longstanding mystery from the franchise resolved as well as the plugging of a plot hole that has existed since Fallout 2 (why are Vault-Tec experimenting on people after the apocalypse when all of that data would be seemingly irrelevant?). We also get nods to all of the games ranging from the first (“Our water chip is busted”) to New Vegas and the Commonwealth.

The GOAT (Greatest of All Time) for this series is definitely Lucy and I hereby dub her “Vault Girl” as her official nickname for inclusion among such luminaries as the Vault Dweller, Courier, and Lone Wanderer. She is naive without being stupid, kind without being insipid, and believable in her journey to becoming a survivor. She never quite sheds her Good Karma Pacifist Run playthrough ideology and is all the more lovable for it. Cooper is almost as entertaining and utters an immortal line about how, no matter how important your goal is, you will always be sidetracked from it in the Wasteland. Maximus, by contrast, is…okay. This is no fault of the actor but he seems to be a lot more naive than Lucy in some ways with none of her excuse.

The show manages to achieve a fun balance between world-building, characterization, plot, and humor. The humor, especially, works well by exploiting Fallout’s peculiar tone of zany over-the-top violence with an alternate 1950s wholesomeness. Poor Lucy will be splattered with blood many times in this show and never quite lose her perky can-do attitude for example. She needs to definitely put a few more points into her Speech score, though. Fans of the Fallout soundtracks will note a lot of the songs get use in the show and it is all the better for it. They can also afford actual Johnny Cash tunes this time around too.

The show makes the correct choice to embrace the absolute ridiculousness of Fallout‘s retro-future aethstetic with appearances by a Mr. Handy, the 1950s dinner decor of the Vaults, green DOS computers, and how the fact PipBoys geo-tracking works exactly like they do in the games. We don’t see as many robots or mutants as we might have in the games but I suppose even the show’s extensive budget had to draw the line somewhere.

There’s been some confusion over an error in the show’s timeline, though. One that some fans believed resulted in New Vegas being rendered non-canonical. The developers have already come out and said this is not the case and the show makes many-many references to the game, so its extra strange but some people presumably need a reason to complain. Fans of NCR will also be upset with some of the developments in-universe but, well, War never changes. Oh and I was upset they didn’t get Ron Pearlman to do a voice over. Those are my only complaints.

I can’t wait for Season Two.

Available here

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