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‘Fallout’ Review: A Post-Apocalyptic Story Worth the Wait

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Dust off your Pip-Boys, crack open a Nuka Cola, and get ready to enter the Wasteland! Fallout has blasted onto Prime Video after years of waiting. Whether you’ve braved the desolate land before or even if it’s your first exposure to Rads, you should immediately tune into this series.

All episodes are being simultaneously released on Prime Video, which makes for a wonderful weekend binge. I’ve been excited about this series since it was announced, and thrilled to share after my early viewing of the series that I’m entirely satisfied with everything I saw on screen.

[Warning: Light spoilers for the series below, approach this review as if you were walking into Minefield for the first time!]

Fallout is a visually accurate extension of the game series

Various images come to mind when you think of Fallout, from the interior of the underground Vaults, to the highly irradiated surface above. Jonathan Nolan encapsulated perfectly every pile of rubble and each minute piece of metal inside the bunkers. The sets were meticulously recreated with high accuracy (Nolan must have put most of his points into Perception and Intelligence), only someone who has thoroughly delved into the games would have executed it this well. It’s no secret that Nolan potentially delayed The Dark Knight Rises because he was obsessed with playing Fallout 3.

It’s not just the sets, the props are important too, and they’re even more wonderful than I could have imagined. Technology in various forms is vital to survival, and the heft of the Power Armor suits is translated to what I had envisioned from the first time I put one on.

Kyle MacLachlan as Overseer Hank in Fallout
Kyle MacLachlan as Overseer Hank in Fallout (Prime Video)

The interfaces on the Pip-Boys and terminals are exact recreations, down to the smallest details with sounds. All the noises you’re used to hearing in the games were used as they should have been. Even a scene of a Raider using Jet (chem, aka wasteland slang for drug) had the visual effect, and the scene was slowed down momentarily to match its intended effect.

The biggest impression left on me was the use of real-life locations for many beautiful shots in the desert. They had to fly out to remote coastlines of Namibia that had never been filmed before. Although the Vaults were constructed within soundstages the quality is top-notch. Long ago, we saw images of a Red Rocket Fueling Station and a Super Duper Mart from a fenced-off distance, and both looked fantastic.

Walton Goggins’ Ghoul and Ella Purnell’s Lucy are delightfully contrasted leads

We’ve known these castings for quite some time, but finally seeing them play out speaks to why they were the first ones selected. Ella Purnell’s naive but chipper Lucy MacLean embodies the hopefulness instilled from Vault-Tec’s carefully managed teachings.

Walton Goggins’ was obviously the only choice to play Cooper Howard in flashbacks and the menacing Ghoul in the present. It’s not a hard role, but I see why they had Goggins in mind when writing the character. He balances the curiously skeptical Howard in the past, and equally nails the cruelty of an embittered forgotten man.

The journey for Purnell as Lucy most mirrors one that players would experience themselves: optimistic and well-intentioned, until the realities of the harshness of the wasteland rise to the surface. Stand back? Not on her watch! Even if this means letting feral ghouls run free, and then having to gun one down to save her own life. Her Charisma (in terms of skills in the games) is put to the test and fails the skill check more than once. But she finds ways around that more than once by demonstrating her resourcefulness to accomplish her mission.

Goggins has been a star for a while, and I truly believe this series may catapult him into a higher stratosphere. I’m still torn on which version of him I like better, human or Ghoul. Cooper Howard reminds me of the movie stars of the 40s and 50s who were typecast and viewed as their characters, having heavy associations to their roles. One bad role (spokesperson for Vault-Tec) derails his entire career as he’s become affiliated with “the end of the world”.

Aaron Moten as Maximusin Fallout
Aaron Moten as Maximus in Fallout (Prime Video)

The other major player is Aaron Moten as Maximus, a squire in the Brotherhood of Steel. He intersects with Lucy more than once, and his tragic backstory could have been explored much further. It almost reminds me of Din Djarin’s experience as a child with the Mandalorians. Except the stark difference is that Maximus can see through the Brotherhood and is at odds with their beliefs. While all three characters go through the wringer, his story is the one I sympathize with the most.

The soundtrack and score of Fallout is perfect

Something that instantly attracted me to this universe was the music, old-timey tracks that would have been on old records. Having a radio embedded into the Pip-Boy was a highlight because I could navigate my way around with classics from Marty Robbins, Andrews Sisters, The Ink Spots, and Nat King Cole.

Alongside Power Armor and Vaults suits, the songs are a staple and instantly recognizable as having that Fallout feeling nailed correctly. They managed to capture that same feeling with music, having it play while the characters ventured around. I had zero expectations of Johnny Cash, so I was content to hear him more than once. 

But, it’s not just needle drops that caught my attention, it’s the score from the legendary composer Ramin Djawadi. As a teenager, I had the Iron Man score saved to my iTunes, and later on, the iconic Game of Thrones opener was a tune I found myself humming.

I genuinely did not know he was the one scoring the series until the credits rolled. So, it was a bit of a surprise to find out that Inon Zur, who wrote the original theme for the series and worked on Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, Fallout 4, and recently, Starfield, had no hand in the show. I’m hopeful the reasoning is that he’s hard at work on Fallout 5. There’s just something about how they waited to deliver those 3 piano notes in the latter half of the season. Rather than hitting nostalgic impressions, they delivered it with a brilliant carried weight when necessary.

The side characters were more than just living NPCs

NPCs (Non-playable characters) are just as important as the main characters because they flesh out the absurdity of the wasteland and provide much-needed humor. We meet so many people throughout the season and I hope to see them return, if and when there is a second season. Some standouts to me were Thaddeus (Johnny Pemberton), a fellow squire with the funniest lines in his last appearance. 

Leslie Uggams of Deadpool fame is another excellent get who is part of an important committee within Vault 33. Matt Berry (What We Do In The Shadows) is a hilarious and spot-on choice as the voice of Codsworth, a floating robot simply trying “to harvest your organs!” with an alarmingly eager attitude about doing so. There are even a couple of other surprises in store that you need to see for yourself, both in the present and in flashbacks. 

Michael Emersonas Wilzig in Fallout (Prime Video)
Michael Emerson as Wilzig in Fallout (Prime Video)

Of all the “side” characters, Moisés Arias as Norm MacLean had the most intriguing storyline. As the younger brother of Lucy, seeing his big sister leave the vault and community puts a tremendous strain on his perceptions of the Vault’s honesty. I didn’t expect an entire sub-plot that stayed parallel with surface activities.

Beyond that, they weaved his discoveries of Vault-Tec with his sister’s narrative, which reminded me of the big reveals we got in Westworld. This shouldn’t be entirely too much of a surprise, as Nolan’s arguably best work was the first season of that show. If you’ve watched Westworld, you might notice the similarities within the last two episodes. Norm’s revelations of the true nature of the Vaults were a fascinating mask-off moment that will leave viewers in disbelief when all the pieces come together. 

I don’t have the names for every character handy, but the Ghouls, both feral and not feral, were about as scary as they could be. Raiders left a little to be desired, they were far too clean and well-preserved for their lack of running water and soap. The other residents of the Vault were good enough to be background fodder as intended. I’m a big fan of Zach Cherry (Severance, Shang-Chi) and always appreciate seeing him get more work, his role is small, but he’s an actor who tends to add to whatever he’s on. 

Prime Video’s Fallout Series Discussion (Cosmic Circle Ep. 54)

The Cosmic Circle: Fallout Discussion Banner 54

The essence of Fallout was well-captured in this new Prime Video series

As I had mentioned in my What To Expect article, there were some things I strongly hoped to see in the series, and I’d say a majority of them made it into the show. The cameos I noticed made me happy. There were no V.A.T.S. used, but it would have been difficult to adapt into live action (although there’s a slow-motion effect in the second episode that was about as close as you can get to it).

The music, as mentioned above, was spot on. It gave me more than I had asked and included some radio action. Through flashbacks, we spend a decent amount of time with Pre-War Goggins and the origins of the thumbs-up for the Vault Boy are indeed clever.

I’d imagine some may be asking if they should play the games before pressing play. I feel it’s unnecessary to fire up any titles to enjoy it, but there may be some moments in the finale that might not hit as hard. The little details are just a touch more enjoyable if you’ve played through some of the titles. I’ve put many hours into the last 3 releases (Fallout 3, 4, New Vegas) so I did catch quite a few things here and there. Some are, blink, and you’ll miss it, levels of quick. 

For example, a television set with Grognak the Barbarian plays out during a children’s birthday party that has a Sugar Bombs commercial preceding it. A conversation, held by a committee of sorts, mentions various Vault experiments such as Vault 27, 87, and 106, and a couple more were brought up, but I couldn’t figure them out. I’m no Fallout historian nor a keeper of lore, so my understanding of the timeline is not all there, but I will say that the series should make fans of each title feel seen.

Fallout has always had an essence of humor, darkness, and absurdity and frankly, the show balanced it well. It doesn’t undercut serious moments with crappy jokes, but it also doesn’t pass up an opportunity to make you laugh. It’s rife with characters hiding ulterior motives and many truths kept secret.

There’s a clear quest set from the beginning and obstacles along the way that send Lucy on side missions before her final confrontation in the finale. Again, if you’re familiar with any of the games, you’ll understand that this is precisely what happens in the main questlines. The only inaccuracy (and this is just a joke for those in the know) is that there’s zero looting of corpses in the Super Duper Mart.

Overall, I’m incredibly satisfied with what I was so impatiently waiting for. The only thing that baffles me about the show is the choice of releasing all episodes at once! Each episode starts with a “Previously On” segment bringing the viewer up to speed, and almost every episode ends with a bombshell that would have made for some interesting discussions if it was in a weekly format. I do recall that the first season of The Boys released all at once, and then the following seasons all started with a few episodes then the rest came out weekly. 

The finale left me with a few more questions than answers and I hope to hear of a season 2 order soon as I already have theories and excitement about where the story can pick back up. 

Do you have a Nuka-Cola in the ice box in anticipation of the release? Are you ready to explore the wasteland when all the episodes are released on Prime Video ? Let us know on social media @MyCosmicCircus and join our discussions on the official Cosmic Circus Discord!

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Aaron Moten as Maximus in Power Armor, Walton Goggins as the Ghoul on a couch with Ella Purnell's Lucy MacLean

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Anthony Flagg

Howdy! I cover a variety of topics for The Cosmic Circus. My favorite topics to write about are video games, Pokemon and music. Drop me a line on Twitter! @redovah_

Anthony Flagg has 91 posts and counting. See all posts by Anthony Flagg