Image of Ella Purnell as Lucy in Prime Video's 'Fallout.' She is a white woman with long, dark hair pulled into a ponytail and wearing a blue 'Fallout' vault suit. She has a Pip-Boy on her wrist and she's sitting on a box in front of a fire at night, resting her arms on her lap as she looks out into the distance.

‘Fallout’ Is a Pitch-Perfect Adaptation That Will Start a Flame in Your Heart

5/5 Nuka-Colas

There are always two questions whenever a video game is adapted into another medium. Will fans of the game like it? and Will people who’ve never played the game like it? In the case of Prime Video’s Fallout, the answer to both questions is: YES!

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Fallout tells the intertwining stories of three characters. Lucy MacLean (Ella Purnell) lives in Vault 33, a place that considers itself a meritocracy and values morals, ethics, and … rebuilding (and re-populating) America. Though her mother passed away in her youth, she’s led a relatively happy life in the vault with her father Hank (Kyle MacLachlan), the vault’s Overseer, and her brother, Norm (Moises Arias). When tragedy strikes, Lucy must leave the Vault for the first time to try to make things right.

Maximus (Aaron Moten) is a member of the Brotherhood of Steel, and he’s constantly underestimated and picked on by his peers—that is, until a random, bloody incident allows him to be promoted to the rank of Squire and accompany a Knight into the Wasteland on an important mission. On this mission, he and the viewer learn just how directionless his moral compass can be.

Then, there’s the Ghoul (Walton Goggins), a snarky, deadly, and cynical bounty hunter who connects us to the time before the bombs fell. It’s through the story of his former life 219 years ago, as a Hollywood actor named Cooper Howard, that we learn about the events leading up to the end of the world, and the beginning of a new one.

Lucy, Maximus, and the Ghoul all end up on the hunt for the same “asset”—a mysterious man named Wilzig (Michael Emerson) who has something very important embedded in his head. Finding Wilzig means something different to each of them. For Lucy, it means finding someone very important. For Maximus, it means the respect of the Brotherhood. And for the Ghoul, it means … well, a big payday and more drugs. Their individual quests direct them all to the same place: a reckoning with a woman named Lee Moldaver (Sarita Choudhury), whose name inspires fear.

It’s not the games, but it is the games

Image of Walton Goggins as The Ghoul in Prime Video's 'Fallout.' He is a man who has been irradiated to the point of his skin being red and wrinkly, having no hair, and no nose. He's wearing a cowboy hat and strapped with weapons as he walks through the Wasteland.
(Prime Video)

Rather than adapting a specific storyline from any one game, Fallout gives us an all-new story set in that world. It feels fresh, yet familiar. While we’re following a story about a ghoul, a vault, and a chapter of the Brotherhood we’ve never seen before, there are so many elements that ring true to the games. For example, what gets Lucy out of Vault 33 will feel familiar to those who’ve played Fallout 3, as the player character shares a similar backstory to Lucy—similar, but not the same.

Led by production designer Howard Cummings, Fallout’s art and set decorators, as well as their costume and hair and make-up departments clearly worked overtime to capture the the world of the games in beautiful detail. The city of Filly (so-named because it was created inside a landfill) will absolutely remind those familiar with Fallout 3 of the city of Megaton. The pre-war posters and decorations from birthday and Halloween parties past feel like they were taken right out of Fallout 4.

Image of Knight Titus and Maximus (played by Aaron Moten) in a scene from Prime Video's 'Fallout.' Knight Titus is in a suit of silver T-60 power armor with a red Brotherhood of Steel insignia on the chest. He's holding an enormous gun. Maximus is a young Black man with close cropped dark hair wearing a Brotherhood uniform under a parachute harness. They are walking through a wooded area.
(JoJo Whilden/Prime Video)

And have you seen that T-60 power armor? That’s actually a functional suit! There’s a guy in there (stunt performer Adam Shippey)! And that ghoul make-up on Goggins? Come on!

Westworld and Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi handles music duties on the show, and while his original scoring is great, the Fallout vibe is captured in the recognizable needle drops throughout each episode. You’ll feel like you’re listening to Diamond City Radio a lot of the time, and there are even Radio Freedom vibes.

Of course, no adaptation of Fallout would be complete without the creatures that prowl the Wasteland. While we don’t get to see every irradiated creature in only 8 episodes, there are several, and they look great! Gulpers, and radroaches, and yao guais, oh my!

And there are even tiny references to actual gameplay that will make you chuckle.

But it’s all about story

Zach Cherry, Leslie Uggams and Rodrigo Luzzi in a scene from Prime Video's 'Fallout.' All three are seated side-by-side at a long conference table looking out at someone in front of them, and all are wearing blue vault suits. Cherry is a Black man with a short afro and a thick beard and black-rimmed glasses. Uggams is a Black woman with a large afro that's reddish in color. Luzzi
(Prime Video)

Fidelity to the franchise means nothing if we don’t care about what’s happening. Luckily, series creators Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Graham Wagner, along with executive producer and director Jonathan Nolan, have given us an intriguing story filled with characters and communities we can care about.

The Fallout games are full of gonzo violence, humor, and a campy mix of atompunk and gritty post-apocalypse. Within that, things can get surprisingly poignant. Fallout’s unique tone would be easy to screw up. Thankfully, this show’s made by people who know and love the games, and they get the tone just right. For those unfamiliar with the Fallout series, get ready to experience something delightfully weird, and unlike anything else.

Robertson-Dworet and Wagner also haven’t lost sight of Fallout having always been a game series with Things to Say About the World. From Vault-Tec and Nuka-Cola commenting on corporate influence on politics to the various factions in the game representing various perspectives in our real world, the Fallout games aren’t short on social commentary. After all, war never changes. Fallout doesn’t shy away from difficult topics as a show, either, even as it addresses them in a bananas way. New characters and story threads allow Fallout to delve into topics and situations that have either never been addressed, or not addressed fully in the games.

Nolan directs the first three episodes. As I said of him in my write-up of his brother Christopher’s films, Nolan excels at telling genre stories without losing the humanity of his characters to spectacle or camp. In Fallout, every character, no matter how big or small, is treated with respect and presented with nuance. Fallout delivers characters and moments viewers will find compelling whether they’ve played the games or not.

It’s all brought together by a wonderful cast. Purnell strikes a perfect balance between Lucy’s naivety and burgeoning jadedness. She’s sweet, and a “Good Person,” but she’s not a pushover. What remains constant is a determination and inner strength that Purnell never lets us forget is there. Moten is compelling as Maximus, simmering with an adult’s quiet rage while holding onto a childlike sense of duty, insecurity, and fear about the world. Goggins is a delight as the Ghoul, giving us a snarky badass to root for while delivering a similar emotional journey to Lucy’s over a longer term. The entire cast brings their “A game,” populating this off-the-wall world with people who feel lived-in and real, even under outlandish circumstances.

Fallout is an entertaining and thoughtful series that’s hopefully the beginning of a much longer story. You can check out its 8-episode first season today on Prime Video!

(featured image: Prime Video)


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Author
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.