Get Ready for an Absolute Blast: 'Fallout' Is the Latest Superb Small-Screen Adaptation of a Hit Video Game

Whether you’re an avid fan or a newcomer, this is a trip to the wasteland worth taking — and boasts an exceptional cast.
Sarah Ward
Published on April 11, 2024

A young woman sheltered in the most literal sense there is, living her entire life in Vault 33, one of the subterranean facilities where humanity endeavours to start anew. A TV and movie star famed for his roles in westerns, then entertaining kids at birthday parties, then still alive but irradiated 219 years after the nuclear destruction of Los Angeles. An aspiring soldier who has never known anything but a devastated world, clinging to hopes of progression through the military. All three walk into the wasteland in Fallout, the long-awaited live-action adaptation of the gaming series that first arrived in 1997, as hits streaming queues on Thursday, April 11 Down Under. All three cross paths in an attempt to do all that anyone can in a post-apocalyptic hellscape: survive.

So goes Prime Video's leap into a world that's had millions mashing buttons through not only the OG game, but also three released sequels — a fourth is on the way — plus seven spinoffs. Even with Westworld' Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy as executive producers, working with Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Captain Marvel) and Graham Wagner (The Office, Silicon Valley) as showrunners and the series' creators, giving Fallout the live-action treatment is a massive and ambitious task. But where 2023 had The Last of Us, 2024 now has this; both are big-name dystopian titles that earned legions of devotees through gaming, and both are excellent in gripping and immersive fashion (and while building worlds meticulously) at making the big-budget, high-profile, star-led move to television.

Fallout's vision of one of the bleakest potential futures splits its focus between Lucy MacLean (Ella PurnellYellowjackets), who has no concept of how humanity can exist on the surface when the show kicks off; Cooper Howard aka bounty hunter The Ghoul (Walton Goggins, I'm a Virgo), the screen gunslinger who saw the bombs fall and now wields weapons IRL; and Maximus (Aaron Moten, Emancipation), a trainee for the Brotherhood of Steel, which is committed to restoring order by throwing around its might (and using robotic armour). The show's lead casting is gleaming, to the point that imagining anyone but this trio of actors as Lucy, Howard-slash-The Ghoul and Maximus is impossible. Where else has Walton's resume, with its jumps between law-and-order efforts, westerns traditional and neo, and comedy — see: The Shield, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, The Hateful Eight, Vice Principals and The Righteous Gemstones, as a mere few examples — been leading than here? (And, next, also season three of The White Lotus.)

Fallout's core threesome make each other's acquaintance — some with relief, some begrudgingly — but each character has their own agenda. Lucy, the dutiful daughter of Vault 33's Overseer Hank (Kyle MacLachlan, Lucky Hank), is on a mission to restore the status quo to the only home that she's ever known. When she finds herself chasing the same object as The Ghoul and Maximus, she begins to learn the vast array of differences between being sealed off and weathering the aftermath above, though. The Ghoul's portion of the tale hops between now and then, examining the man that Howard was and who he's since become, the latter through sheer necessity. For Maximus, overcoming trauma and carving out a way forward is also his narrative.

"The wasteland's got its own golden rule: thou shalt get sidetracked by bullshit every time," offers The Ghoul. Among those setbacks lurks a pervasive kill-or-be-killed mindset among everyone who hasn't enjoyed an underground existence wearing blue jumpsuits, frolicking in inside fields surrounded by projections of the sky and sun, and deeming marriage and procreation as the most important function there is in response to nuclear holocaust. Throw in decaying mutated people, who'll rot further into zombie territory without the right medicine staving off the effects of residing in a former blast zone, plus every manifestation of human behaviour as its worst as well. And that's before a giant radioactive salamander with a taste for flesh gets munching, adding another layer of monsters to the end of the world.

Fallout's production team haven't skimped on vivid detail, bringing the series' scenario to life with lived-in production design that makes its bunkers and barren terrain alike look as if viewers could walk right into them. Nolan, crafting an alternative-history sequel to his brother Christopher Nolan's Oscar-winning Oppenheimer in a way, helped guide a similar visual experience with Westworld alongside his partner Joy. The four-season show also reached TV as an adaptation (in that case, of the 1973 film of the same name that was written and directed by Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton). Also for Prime Video — but sadly renewed for a second season, then cancelled during the 2023 Hollywood strikes — The Peripheral, based on sci-fi author William Gibson's novel, achieved the same enthralling feat.

The Ghoul's basic principle for persisting — as uttered in retort to the biblical golden rule about treating others as you'd like to be treated — also describes much of Fallout's narrative journey. Lucy, The Ghoul and Maximus' goals are clear; the route there, however, is anything but. Beneath the orange haze, the series brings in a stacked supporting cast spanning Moises Arias (Samaritan), Sarita Choudhury (And Just Like That...), Michael Emerson (Evil), Dale Dickey (Lawman: Bass Reeves) and Matt Berry (What We Do in the Shadows), too, each adding to the 23rd century's reality. Some of their characters grasp to what they can. Some give striving for a different future their all. Some are robots. Some — from a roster of talent that also spans Leslie Uggams (Extrapolations), Frances Turner (The Boys), Dave Register (Heightened), Zach Cherry (Severance) and Johnny Pemberton (Weird: The Al Yankovic Story), plus Rodrigo Luzzi (Dead Ringers), Annabel O'Hagan (Dear Edward) and Xelia Mendes-Jones (The Wheel of Time) — try to get to the bottom of secrets, mysteries and why this life is the way it is.

Fallout revels in exploring amid the ruins, and also in the vaults, which were conceived in the before times by a company called Vault-Tec. The ripples created by protecting the rich in corporate-made compounds but leaving everyone else to a dusty desert melee is one of the show's trains of thought. Pondering the choices that we're all faced with in such circumstances, the type of person that you truly want to be chief among them, is another. There's gleeful gore and a comedic tone as well, with the soundtrack's mix of 50s-era tunes with a tense score by Ramin Djawadi (3 Body Problem) capturing the vibe perfectly. A thumbs up is a loaded gesture in Fallout — but the series itself earns one.

Check out the trailer for Fallout below:

Fallout streams via Prime Video from Thursday, April 11, 2024. Read our interview with Walton Goggins, Ella Purnell and Aaron Moten.

Images: courtesy of Prime Video.

Published on April 11, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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