REVIEW: Fallout (Amazon Prime)

April 10, 2024

Written by Jamie Galea

It’s an extremely exciting time for video games being adapted as film or TV series. Gone are the days where the expectation was these projects wouldn’t amount to anything, but nowadays, the bar has been raised exponentially. You have projects like HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us or the surprisingly great Twisted Metal to thank for that.

As one of the most popular and well regarded RPG series ever made, Amazon’s Fallout is a prime example of how well a lengthy game can be adapted into long form storytelling, but also one that can leave a little to be desired.

The show follows Lucy Maclean (Ella Purnell), a happy go lucky resident of Vault 33, one of the many Vaults setup across America to protect citizens in the event of an apocalypse. While Lucy leads an idyllic life, not having to worry about the horrors of the Apocalypse, an unexpected event causes Lucy to leave the Vault and discover a whole new world she needs to adapt to.

What initially starts as what you’d expect out of a mainline Fallout game gets a big wrinkle early on – Lucy is not the sole protagonist. Maximus (Aaron Moten) is an Aspirant in the Brotherhood of Steel that wants more for himself than what he’s currently got. Then there’s The Ghoul (Walton Goggins), a bounty hunter that’s been alive since the bombs dropped. All three characters provide wildly differing perspectives on the current state of the world, leading to interesting dynamics when they do cross paths.

To the town of Agua Fria rode a stranger one fine day…

While Purnell and Moten make the most out of their plots to varying degrees, Purnell leading on her character’s naiveté and Moten’s on his desire to prove himself, it’s Goggins that provides arguably the most compelling arc and performance. It also helps that The Ghoul’s arc is bolstered by flashbacks to his life before the bombs dropped.

Through these flashbacks, we follow The Ghoul’s past life as actor Cooper Howard, someone whose marriage to a Vault-Tec executive hasn’t gone down well with the acting community. It’s an angle that hasn’t really been a factor in any of the games, which makes an interesting addition in its own right. It also helps that a lot of Cooper’s plot just so happens to touch upon the very real Hollywood blacklist and Red Scare present in the 1950’s, a time period I find fascinating.

The show does a good job of trying to make Fallout approachable to those who’ve never played any of the games, let alone engaged in anything related to the universe. It won’t explain why the futuristic world has regressed back to the 1950’s both in aesthetic and in politics, or the importance of events like the Battle of Anchorage, but that’s not important to the story that’s being told.

For the most part, the show tells a compelling enough story that doesn’t really meander or spend too long in one place, making the most out of its eight episode run. While the first half is fine enough, the show definitely picks up in its second half where it focuses more on the time before the bombs. That said, the show can also feel weirdly small at points. The protagonists meet up more frequently than you’d expect and there aren’t that many towns or sights to see. It feels just a bit too contained, something I hope gets expanded on in later seasons.

I got spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle…

Which is a shame, because the show otherwise nails the look and feel of the Fallout games. It’s a show that nails the bleakness of the wasteland and the universe as a whole. The show does its best to try adapt Fallout’s dark humour, and while it doesn’t always succeed, instead going more crude, the attempt is appreciated. It also nails its production design, doing a good job of recreating Fallout’s unique take on the retro future aesthetic. Seeing sights inspired by the games come to life is honestly pretty cool.

This also goes hand in hand with the soundtrack, which peppers in period appropriate licensed songs with a score that evokes Inon Zur’s work from the games. If you’re after lesser known Johnny Cash songs and some of the familiar hits from The Ink Spots, this show has you covered.

Where it loses me is the constant ultra violence that should work to compliment the oppressive nature that the Wasteland is all about, but it just becomes ludicrous after a point. It honestly feels like every encounter *has* to have the most violent conclusion and after a while whatever point that was attempted to be made becomes muddled.

While the games have their fair share of violence, it’s nowhere near as graphic as what the show presets. Take it from me, someone who often plays the games with the Bloody Mess perk, it’s too much. It honestly feels like the show took way too much inspiration from fellow Prime Video show The Boys, but not understanding that show is about literal superhumans.

Given that we know a second season is all but assured, and Amazon releasing the show a day early being a good sign of confidence, I’m interested to see where the show can possibly go. There’s definitely a lot of material to pull inspiration from, and I want the team to have another crack at this to iron out the issues present in this first season.

As it stands, I enjoyed my time well enough with Fallout. The show nails its tone and aesthetic, and does feel welcoming enough to people who’ve never played a single game in the series. As by far the shortest way to experience a Fallout story to date, it tells a serviceable enough story that has enough going for it to make watching the season worth it. It’s not the best season of television you’ll see all year, but you’ll not regret it either.

This television show was reviewed with screeners provided by Amazon. For more opinions and takes on Fallout, follow Jamie on all the social media at @jamiemgalea

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