Kyle MacLachlan as Hank in the Fallout TV show.

You’ve Seen the End of ‘Fallout’ Season One … but What Does It All Mean?

So, you’ve made it to the Fallout TV show’s ending—the finale of its 8-episode first season on Prime Video, and that final episode packed quite a punch, huh? Gather ’round, and let’s talk about the stuff that made us gasp, made us squee, and maybe left us a little confused.

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SPOILERS ABOUND, friends. You’ve been warned.

Let’s break down what happened

Close-up of Ella Purnell as Lucy in Prime Video's 'Fallout.' She is a white woman with long dark hair. Her face is turned to the side to look at the camera, and she is angry and disillusioned with tears in her eyes.
(screencap/Prime Video)

Having allowed Lucy to escape with Wilzig’s head, Maximus (Aaron Moten) goes back to the Brotherhood of Steel with another severed head to buy her time. When they learn the head’s a fake, Elder Cleric Quintus (Michael Cristofer) sentences Max to death for this and previous suspected crimes, but Dane (Xelia Mendes-Jones) confesses that Max had nothing to do with their injury. Dane hurt their own foot so they wouldn’t have to go out into the wilds. Elder Quintus spares Max’s life, then praises him for knowing that “power is taken, not given.” He says the BOS has lost its way, but that he wants to start “a new Brotherhood” with himself as its head and Maximus as its sword.

Lucy (Ella Purnell) arrives at L.A’s Griffith Observatory, where the coordinates led her to Moldaver (Sarita Choudhury). She finds Hank (Kyle MacLachlan) in a cage, and coldly trades Wilzig’s head for her father’s freedom. Moldaver agrees, but not before telling Lucy who Hank really is.

Through a flashback to Cooper Howard’s pre-war life, we learn that Vault-Tec wasn’t just profiting from the end of the world, but orchestrating it. Cooper (Walton Goggins) listens in on a meeting his wife Barb (Frances Turner) attends between Vault-Tec and four other large corporations—Rob-Co, Big MT, RepComm, and West-Tek—as they try to figure out how to “win the great game of capitalism.” In addition to the vaults, Vault-Tec manager Bud Askins (Michael Esper) proposes his “Bud’s Buds” program, a training program for Vault-Tec executives to survive in the vaults for centuries, out-living the competition (a.k.a. “anyone who isn’t us”) and managing the rebuilding of civilization in their image.

When the executive from Rob-Co asks how Vault-Tec can guarantee results on their end-of-the-world profits to justify their big investment, it’s Barb who suggest that they should drop the bomb themselves to guarantee the end of the world.

Close-up of Walton Goggins as Cooper Howard in Prime Video's 'Fallout.' He is a white man with short, dark hair. He is listening to an earpiece and crying, looking horrified.
(screencap/Prime Video)

Cooper is devastated to learn what kind of person his wife is. As he struggles with this, we learn that the young, Black assistant he’s been interacting with is Betty (the Overseer played by Leslie Uggams), and she introduces him to an exec named … Hank. Lucy’s father, and everyone from Vault 31, is one of “Bud’s Buds.”

Norm learns about this as he sneaks into Vault 31 and finds Bud, albeit in a different form. Bud has preserved his brain and attached it to a Roomba to care for Vault 31’s residents throughout the centuries. These “residents” are in cryostasis pods to be thawed out when needed. Vault 31 was management, while Vaults 32 and 33 were to serve as breeding pools, creating “super managers to inherit the Earth” after Vault-Tech “wipes the surface clean.” Now that Norm has learned the truth, Bud locks the vault door and refuses to let him go home. He suggests Norm await the rebuilding of civilization in his father’s now-empty pod. Norm has no choice but to do it.

Before the bombs were dropped, Moldaver had developed a technology for sustainable cold fusion, which would’ve made unlimited energy accessible to everyone. She sold it to Vault-Tec, making it proprietary, and they promptly shelved her work, uninterested in building anything that’d prevent the higher profits that war and a nuclear apocalypse would bring. Vault-Tec executives, like Hank, were given a code to release the tech and make it usable, and Moldaver wants Hank to give her the code so that she can deliver cold fusion to the world.

She then drops one more (metaphorical) bomb on Lucy. Lucy’s mother, Rose, discovered that her husband had been lying to everyone about there being no life on the surface, so she left Vault 33, taking young Norm and Lucy with her. They went to Shady Sands, where they apparently knew Moldaver. The hazy memories Lucy had of her mother that she thought were happening in Vault 33 under a projected outdoors actually took place in the real outdoors!

A scene from Prime Video's 'Fallout.' Lucy's mom, Rose, as a very old, decrepit ghoul seated in a chair.
(screencap/Prime Video)

When Hank pursued them, and couldn’t convince Rose to return to the vault with the children, he used Vault-Tec’s resources to destroy Shady Sands. What’s more, Rose survived, and Lucy turns in horror as she realizes that the ghoul that had been seated at Moldaver’s table during their entire exchange was her mother. Lucy demands that Hank give Moldaver the code (101097, the release date of the first Fallout game), which he does, allowing her to put her cold fusion tech to use.

Everything comes to a head when the BOS arrive to retrieve the cold fusion tech, and The Ghoul arrives to find Hank and demand answers. After much violence, Maximus finds Lucy and releases Hank from his cage only to learn that Hank was responsible for the destruction of Shady Sands. When Maximus tries to confront Hank, Hank has already gotten into his power armor and knocks him unconscious.

Hank unsuccessfully tries to convince Lucy to return to the vault with him, but she’s having none of it. The Ghoul arrives, shoots Hank in the face, and demands to know where his family is, but before he can find out, Hank runs and flies out of the building in the armor. Lucy tries to revive Max, but can’t. The Ghoul says he knows where Hank is going and invites Lucy to come along. Lucy puts her mother out of her ghoulish misery by shooting her before going with The Ghoul.

When Maximus regains consciousness, he’s alone until Moldaver returns, mortally wounded, but dragging herself to her workstation to check on the cold fusion progress. She flips a switch and drags herself to her dining table to hold Rose’s hand and look out at the Los Angeles wastes. Lights start going on everywhere. As she dies, Moldaver challenges Max, asking what he thinks the BOS would do with infinite power. She says, “Maybe you can stop them. Maybe you can’t. Maybe all you need to do is try.”

When Dane rushes in and finds Max alongside a dead Moldaver, they assume Max killed her and don’t listen to Max’s protests. As the other BOS soliders rush in, Dane raises Max’s hand in triumph and says, “All hail Maximus, that shall be Knight hereafter!” As the soldiers chant “All hail Knight Maximus!” Max looks devastated.

As The Ghoul and Lucy pursue Hank, we see Hank walking through the desert in his stolen power armor, making his way toward a city in the distance: New Vegas.

References to Fallout fandom’s favorite game

The final shot of the season one finale of Prime Video's 'Fallout.' A shot of the New Vegas skyline across a desert in golden light.
(screencap/Prime Video)

For many Fallout fans, the final shot of the episode (above) was the thing that truly got them excited. Fallout: New Vegas is widely considered the best game in the series. In it, you play as a courier tasked with delivering a package to New Vegas, only to be ambushed and have the package stolen from you. You interact with four main factions: The New California Republic (NCR – the government w/pre-war values and expansionist tendencies), Caesar’s Legion (a vicious Roman army-themed faction), and Robert House (a.k.a. “Mr. House,” the mysterious businessman who runs New Vegas through the use of an army of robot “Securitrons”).

Composite image. Left: Ravi Silver as Mr. House in a scene from Prime Video's 'Fallout.' He is a white man with a thick, black mustache and short, dark hair waring a black suit, white shirt, and tie. He's seated at a table holding a cigarette. Right: the face of Mr. House from 'Fallout: New Vegas.'
left: Ravi Silver as Mr. House repping Rob-Co in Fallout (screencap/Prime Video); right: Mr. House in Fallout: New Vegas (Bethesda Game Studios)

This brief shot of the New Vegas skyline wasn’t the only indication that Fallout: New Vegas will matter to the show. In fact, two major season one elements make a move to New Vegas seemingly inevitable.

The Vault-Tec meeting in episode 8 of Fallout featured a familiar-looking, mustachioed gentleman representing Rob-Co, the robotics company responsible for things like the Pip-Boy and Mr. Handy robots. This was Robert House (Ravi Silver), the future president and CEO of New Vegas who, in his twenties, founded Rob-Co Industries.

Image of the silhouettes of Lucy and Maximus overlooking the ruins of Shady Sands in a scene from Prime Video's 'Fallout."
(screencap/Prime Video)

Meanwhile, there’s been much hullabaloo about another game reference: the NCR capital of Shady Sands. Not only was Maximus and his family from Shady Sands, but Lucy’s mother had brought her and Norm there to live for a time when they were young children.

Shady Sands is still standing in Fallout: New Vegas, which takes place in 2281. The Fallout TV series takes place in 2296, and in a brief scene featuring a chalkboard with some NCR history written on it, the “Fall of Shady Sands” happened in 2277. Fans caught this, and became concerned that the show would contradict Fallout canon and disregard the events of New Vegas.

However, in a recent, post-premiere interview with IGN, Bethesda Game Studios director Todd Howard clarified that Fallout the TV show is, indeed, canon. Not only that, but that they were very careful to line up the timeline of the show to the games. So, it’s tight, but Hank MacLean dropping a bomb on Shady Sands happens just after the events of New Vegas.

As for the “Fall of Shady Sands” in 2277? Well, “fall” can mean a lot of things. The NCR is a bloated organization that was already suffering from being spread too thin. A billboard Lucy passes in a scene from the show calls Shady Sands “the first capital of the New California Republic,” which tells us that there was eventually a new capital. So, the “fall” of Shady Sands, which was likely an economic or political fall, is entirely separate from the bombing, which was the product of one man’s unhinged devotion to a vault company.

(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.