Fallout (2024) series review

You would think as a gamer, I would leap at the opportunity to catch my favorite video game characters on a different medium, but even before this renaissance of video game adaptations I’ve mostly stayed away. I’m just one of those people that are content with playing the game rather than watching the same stories in an episodic manner (yes, I’m totally a hypocrite, given I’ll watch most comic book movies). However something about Off Kilter Films’ adaptation of Fallout made me tune it (also helped that I got a screener courtesy of Prime Video…so studios take note?), specifically the show wasn’t going to be a straight retelling of an entry in the series, but rather a tale set in the world of the franchise. So in a very non-characteristic way, I sat down on a weekday and binged all 8 episodes of season 1, is that a good sign? I guess you’ll have to find out.

Fallout (the Series) centers around the trio of strangers who are ultimately brought together through seemingly unrelated circumstances. The first of the trio we are introduced to is Lucy MacLean, played by Ella Purnell. She’s an upstanding citizen of Vault 33, who is perfectly content with life in the Vault. It is only because of an inciting incident that is forced to leave the confines of the vault and experience life on the surface. Aaron Moten is Maximus, a Brother of Steel aspirant who is given a chance to redeem himself by assisting a Knight of the order in a mission that could determine the fate of the shattered nation. Character actor Walton Goggins does double duty as Cooper Howard/The Ghoul whose story straddles the present and the pre-war past.

In terms of the trio, I initially preferred Lucy as she’s the most “main character”-ish, her naivety and how much of a fish out of water she is in the wasteland makes all her segments fun to watch. Of all the characters she goes through the greatest growth in the series and while the decisions she makes aren’t something I’ll always agree with, I was always rooting for her success. Maximus is an interesting case, as a young man who was rescued by the Brotherhood of Steel as a child, he wants to do right by the wasteland by advancing their mission, but he’s just not that great an aspirant. You want to root for him, but he does so many questionable things…it gets hard to. It really sets up that to survive on the surface, you have to do what you need to do in order to see the next morning.

The Ghoul/Cooper Howard is probably the breakout character of the series for me. The Ghoul is a bounty hunter who has been active since after the bombs have dropped. Why has he opted to persevere over 2 centuries when others have just given up the ghost? What is he after? He’s played as a man of few words, but he carries one hell of a boomstick. While initially the Cooper Howard character seems out of place, the writing team did a fantastic job crafting his story in a way to reveal a look at why the bombs drop.

Unadvertised by any of the marketing materials was the character of Norm MacLean played by Moisés Arias. He’s Lucy’s brother and while he doesn’t join his sister on her quest, he does get a B plot that could easily be considered an A plot. Norm is jaded and apathetic, practically a polar opposite to his sister, however after the attack that sent his sister to the surface he finally finds motivation to investigate how the seemingly impenetrable Vault was breached. His plot does on to show that while Lucy is out and about, Vault 33 has and will move on regardless.

The show’s sets and costuming does a relatively good job of replicating the game. The vault dweller suits were gussied up and made a bit more complicated as compared to depictions in-game. Another costuming nitpick was how clean and untattered some wastelander outfits were, while others felt they belonged in the Mad Max universe (headcages?). Filly (wish they chose a different name as without closed captioning I was under the assumption they were going to “Philly”), which acts the large human settlement of the area looks like a cobbled together, but once again certain parts were a little too “clean”. Pre-war, I was expecting more “atomic cars” instead of cars of the 50’s…but I did smile when I saw Howard’s car had sliding doors rather than the hinged ones.

While some things felt too clean, the team did nail iconic items from the franchise. Terminals look like they came straight out of the game as they glowed with monotone green text. Vault Doors are giant metal cogs which need an industrial drill to open. T-60 Power Armor looks awe inspiring and seeing the Vertibird emerge from the horizon would either instill fear or relief depending on which faction you are part of. On the creatures front, we manage to get Rad Roaches, Yao Gaui, and the most nightmare fuel inducing creature of this show, the Gulper that features a throat filled finger like lining…I shutter just thinking about it. Perhaps the most shoehorned creature was the german shepherd CCX40, yes the series has a history of having german shepherd companions, but its inclusion felt a tad forced.

For an 8 episode series, the plot moves pretty quickly and I appreciate that. We get the major players established immediately, they cross paths and the only deviation occurs around episode 5 and 6. While I make this sound like a bad thing, after some thought, even though those episodes have tenuous connections to the main plot, it is in spirit like one of the many side quests that you could partake in the game. Cause honestly who plays Fallout without getting wrapped up in side content? Those episodes did a great job of highlighting the franchise’s frequent use of dark comedy as well as the absurdity of man.

The finale brings it all together and while the ending didn’t feel satisfactory to me, it did feel earned. It certainly lived up to the mantra that is alluded to during the course of the show “Everyone wants to save the world, they just disagree on how”. Some plot points were left to linger, possibly to be further explored in a second season and given the quality of the show I certainly hope a second season will come sooner than later.

Fallout managed to do something that I can’t say about any other TV show. It made me sit down and consume every episode in one sitting. I know after the show debuts, I’m certainly going to look for youtube channels like Screencrush or Heavy Spoilers to illuminate all the easter eggs and plot points I might’ve missed. So yeah the next couple of months I might be back in the Fallout rabbit hole for a bit (I might even take a trip to Applachia and finally start Fallout 76, is it still bad folks?). So if it did this for me, someone who is pretty familiar with the franchise, I can certainly expect that the world of Fallout will welcome some more vault dwellers into the midst. Perhaps when they’re done with Fallout, maybe Off Kilter can do something for Starfield…lord knows they need it.

Fallout the series is available now on Prime Video