Ella Purnell as Lucy in a scene from Amazon's 'Fallout' series. She is a young white woman with long dark hair and long bangs parted down the middle. She's wearing a blue 'Fallout' vault suit and sitting in a room with computer consoles behind her. She has a confused expression on her face.
(Prime Video)

Thank Atom the ‘Fallout’ TV Series Has a Female Protagonist

When information started trickling out about the Fallout TV series, much was made of Walton Goggins “starring” in it, which made me think we’d get a male protagonist. Thanks to the recent Fallout trailer, we see Goggins in a new light, and we know the protagonist is a young woman.

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Now, Goggins is a great actor, and a male protagonist would’ve been fine, I guess, but I’ve only ever played the Fallout games I’ve played (3 & 4, in case you’re curious) as a woman. So, for me, Fallout is a woman’s story—at least, it is in my headcanon. Is this how cis dude gamers felt when they learned the player character in Portal is a woman? Whoa.

Anyway, this series coming to us from Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy should’ve made me think twice. Except for Nolan’s first series, 2011’s Person of Interest, all of the duo’s subsequent series (Westworld, The Peripheral) have had female protagonists.

A woman’s POV makes sense in Fallout. (Did she have to be white, though?)

Screencap of Teresa Jusino's player character in 'Fallout 4.' The character is a brown woman with a pink bob haircut with bangs. She's wearing a Minutemen uniform and a pip boy while standing in front of a Red Rocket settlement. Behind her at the door is a Vault Girl statue.
My Fallout 4 PC at one of her many ‘Vault Girl’-branded settlements. (Teresa Jusino)

The material to which Nolan and Joy seem to be drawn, usually involving post-apocalyptic explorations of technology, seems to lend itself well to female protagonists, as many of the themes that’d come up in stories like those would have a disproportionate impact on women. Having female protagonists allows these shows to explore class, oppression, and discrimination in a more layered way.

However, we’re still waiting for a woman of color to head up one of their cerebral post-apocalyptic dramas. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Ella Purnell (Yellowjackets, Star Trek: Prodigy), and think she’ll do a great job on Fallout. I was also firmly #TeamMaeve when watching Westworld. But ultimately, despite Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) being such prominent characters, Westworld was Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) show. The Peripheral was Flynne’s (Chloë Grace Moretz) show.

The fact that Nolan and Joy, when entering “character creation” in Fallout, didn’t take the opportunity to create a character of color is a bit disappointing. Especially since Joy is a WOC herself. Next time, I guess?

The women I play in the Fallout games will always be brown, so I guess there’s that.

Glimmers of the Fallout games

Screencap of someone in Brotherhood of Steel armor in the 'Fallout' show. They are sitting in a Vertibird.
(screencap/Amazon Studios)

As TMS’ D.R. Medlen enumerated in her piece about Goggins’ ghoul character, there are a bunch of fun nods to the Fallout games throughout the trailer that fans will enjoy picking up on. One thing I noticed is that Lucy, Fallout’s protagonist, seems to have a similar journey to that of the Lone Wanderer in Fallout 3.

In Fallout 3, you play as the child of Vault 101’s doctor who, after learning about some shady vault shenanigans, leaves the vault to find him after a seeming lifetime of being protected underground. I say “seeming” for … reasons.

It makes sense that the show would borrow and tweak interesting storylines from all the games, but it appears that the idea of a young woman leaving a populated vault for the first time resonated more with the show’s creators than, say, a 200+-year-old unfrozen vault dweller leaving an empty vault to find their child, or the grandchild of an original vault dweller leaving the vault to find an important piece of tech.

Whether Lucy will be searching for a parent, or something else, is unclear. Since the show is set on the West Coast, we likely won’t be seeing East Coast Fallout 3 locations like “Megaton” or “Arefu” (unless they decide to move them for dramatic purposes), but there’s no reason why locations very similar to those shouldn’t make an appearance on the show.

It’s not a “risk” to appeal to women gamers

Every year, the Entertainment Software Association, the U.S.’ leading video game industry advocacy group, conducts a survey of gamers to find out how many Americans are playing video games, who’s playing, and why.

Turns out that folks who identify as female are nearly half of all gamers. Surprise, surprise. According to the survey, 62% of adults and 72% of children under 18 play video games. Meanwhile 46% of all gamers identify as female, while 53% identify as male (1% chose “Other” or declined to answer. Do better with non-binary gender options, ESA!).

Considering that most content based on video games has, up until pretty recently, catered to male audiences and consumers, it’s awesome that shows like Arcane, The Last of Us, and now Fallout center female characters and acknowledge that, while women might not feel entirely comfortable being out and about in male-dominated gamer spaces, they’re sure as hell playing at home!

What’s more, it’s 2023, and I know plenty of cis men who, get ready for a shock, actually enjoy women-led stories. Believe it or not, there are plenty of men who don’t need to watch stories about people exactly like them!

Many people of all genders are choosing to create femme player characters when playing Fallout games, and we’re all very excited for Fallout’s Lucy to arrive on Amazon on April 12, 2024.

(featured image: Amazon Prime Video)

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Image of Teresa Jusino
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.