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The Fallout TV series is V.A.T.S. (a very awesome TV show)


Fallout’s transition to TV starts with a bang (or three depending on how you’re counting). But even after the show emerges from the vault, the hits keep coming. That’s because unlike a lot of other video game adaptations that receive a thin veneer designed to appeal to fans of the source material, the essence of Fallout runs so deep throughout this series it could weather an atomic blast. Its characters are magnetic and its visuals are downright impressive. But most importantly, just like HBO’s The Last of Us, Fallout is more than just a video game adaptation. It’s a really good show in its own right – an apocalyptically good one at that.

The first thing that stands out about the show is just how good it looks. Every set and costume is packed with detail. The clean blues and yellow of vaultsuits are the perfect counterpoint to the dilapidated buildings and shaggy clothes of surface dwellers, which look so grimy you can almost feel the rads coming out of your screen. Meanwhile, Fallout’s Power Armor might be some of the best-looking live-action mech-suits this side of Pacific Rim. Locations are also incredibly diverse and fleshed out while still paying homage to the franchise that inspired them. The settlement of Filly looks almost exactly how I imagine Megaton might appear in real life, you know, aside from having a massive bomb in the middle of town. The show’s audio is also a treat, right down to the crunchy sounds of analog electronics and all the rockin’ oldies that wafting in the background (including an obligatory playing of the Inkspots’s “I don’t want to set the world on fire”).

The Power Armor in the Fallout TV series looks incredibly good. The Power Armor in the Fallout TV series looks incredibly good.

Courtesy of Prime Video

I really liked how all the show’s easter eggs and references to the video game never felt forced. Iconic gadgets like the Pipboy help build the world while simultaneously pushing the plot forward. Even its cinematography makes callbacks to the game with slow-mo that evokes the V.A.T.S. mechanic during firefights. And all the little critters Fallout fans love and hate like rad roaches, irradiated bears and a very good canine companion make appearances that feel right at home.

Of course, all this would simply be window dressing without characters that bring the world to life. And once again the show doesn’t disappoint. As a vault dweller, Lucy MacLean (played Ella Purnelle) is the perfect foil to ease us into the world of Fallout. As she explores and adapts to the surface, we get to meet an incredible cast of characters who highlight the struggles and revel in the weirdness of a post-doomsday world. I also need to call out the casting of Walton Goggins as the Ghoul, which feels like an especially enlightened choice. This man was made for this role, and even considering some of his previous appearances in Justified and The Hateful Eight, this might be his most engaging performance yet.

Walton Goggins as the Ghoul in the Fallout TV seriesWalton Goggins as the Ghoul in the Fallout TV series

Courtesy of Prime Video

The most impressive thing about the Fallout show is how it balances several different stories with grace and intrigue. So often when you have branching plotlines, one arc drags while the others shine. But in Fallout, they are woven together so well that even if one scene goes long, the show on the whole never bores. Now I will admit that those new to the franchise may need to be a bit more patient, as Maximus’ arc and the story surrounding the Brotherhood of Steel takes some time to get rolling.

Perhaps the biggest issue with Fallout is its brutality. This is not a series for the faint of heart. Warning: There is some animal cruelty and there’s so much gore that a regular bullet wound seems tame in comparison. It’s also important to mention that the jump from pixels to live action adds even more impact to this. But coming from a franchise that’s reveled in crass and crudeness since the beginning, it would feel weird any other way.

The Brotherhood of Steel from the Fallout TV seriesThe Brotherhood of Steel from the Fallout TV series

Courtesy of Prime Video

As a fan of the franchise, there’s always a little trepidation when a game tests the waters of a new medium. But Fallout has absolutely nailed it. And looking back, it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise, because unlike Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat whose stories always felt like afterthoughts, it was the world and the characters of Fallout that kept people coming back to the wasteland. While the game may have provided the blueprint to make the show a success, this adaptation can stand on its own.

The Fallout series is available to stream today starting at 9PM ET on Amazon Prime Video.

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