Fallout TV Series Analysis and Review

by bunnhop

The entire first season of the highly-anticipated Fallout TV show on Amazon Prime Video is now out and we binged all 8 episodes on April 10th! Before the show came out, we were pretty neutral about it.

On the one hand, we’re big fans of the Fallout franchise, so we had certain expectations as to lore accuracy and appropriate tone, as well as story direction, so we were a little skeptical at first. On the other, we also know that there has been at least one video game-to-TV adaptation–“The Last of Us”–which has almost perfectly captured the tone and the story of the game, with great cast and music, which gave us hope that this particular adaptation would also be–at the very least–decent, considering prominent members of Bethesda Game Studios were involved in the creation of the show.

But it turned out to be an excellent adaptation! We have many great things to say about the series’ first season, but there are also a few things that made us feel a little bit disappointed. Today, we’ll share all our thoughts on the TV show, so obviously, this article will be filled with spoilers. We recommend watching the show first so you can develop your own thoughts and share them with the community, since we’re also curious about what you think of it.

We’ll begin with the spoiler-free part of the video right after this intro, followed shortly after by a minimal spoiler part, where we will share our opinions about the TV show as vaguely as possible, if you just need to hear whether it’s going to be worth your time. This will be followed by in-depth analysis of some of the more contentious parts of the show. Finally, we’ll list down some burning questions we’re hoping Season 2 will address. So, make sure you have enough Stimpaks, Rad-X, and Radaway with you, because it’s time to leave the comfort of our little Vault and venture out into the Wasteland!

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A couple of disclaimers before we begin:

First, I am not at all a lore expert. While I have been a fan of the franchise for over a decade and have a working understanding of the lore from classic Fallout to modern Bethesda games, if you’d like more accurate information about the lore, then we highly suggest watching the videos of Fallout lore masters like Oxhorn, who has dedicated a big part of his YouTube career on tackling lore from all the Fallout games.

This is just a simple video made by a Fallout fan, and I don’t claim to know every single detail in the games, so please be mindful of that in the comments. In line with this, please feel free to correct me if I misspeak or say something inaccurate.

Second, my experience of the Fallout universe came from playing all modern games: Fallout 3, New Vegas, 4, and 76, and watching full playthroughs of Fallout 1, 2, and Tactics. I also used to work for a Japanese startup writing game articles, and some of my most popular posts were about Fallout 4. Regardless, I don’t have a favorite Fallout game, and equally respect all of the titles in the franchise.

Third, I sadly can’t show footage from the TV show in the video due to copyright, so I hope you’re okay with in-game footage instead.

With all that sorted out, let’s move onto the spoiler-free Likes and minimal-spoiler Dislikes segment of this video.

Spoiler-Free Likes

The first thing we love about the show is that it’s not too sexual nor silly. But it’s not too tame nor a snoozefest either. Like the Bloody Mess Perk, the show has a lot of blood splatters, some gore, and some scenes of nudity, so it’s definitely not for kids, but it’s not like watching softcore, a Saw movie, or those 18+ comedy movies that are parodies of serious movies. The showrunners got the dark humor, tone, and feel of the Fallout universe right, much like the critically-acclaimed fan-made Fallout movie, Nuka Break, by Wayside Productions.

Second, the three primary characters, Lucy the Vault Dweller, Maximus from the Brotherhood of Steel, and The Ghoul from the Wasteland a.k.a. Cooper Howard, effectively represent their own factions. Lucy is the perfect portrayal of the naivete and (sometimes) toxic positivity of Vault Dwellers who have been kept safe from the harsh quote-unquote “real world,” while Maximus encapsulates the pursuit of power and strength, as well as the mission-first mindset, of members of the BoS, that, at times, makes them capable of doing questionable things. Finally, The Ghoul conveys the spirit of the hardened denizens of the Wasteland–frank, survival-oriented and, in some cases, extreme in their methods, and yet he still has his dignity intact and, in some scenes, even shows kindness.

All three main characters are neither good nor evil. They’re all flawed, but still very lovable and relatable.

Third, the side characters themselves are fascinating. Lucy’s brother, Norm, and his interactions with Betty, a member of the Vault’s council, in particular, show the depth and range of these characters. Other notable characters include Cooper’s wife, Barb, and Vault-Tec Executive Bud Askins.

I like it when a piece of media has supporting roles that are just as interesting as the protagonists and antagonists, instead of having forgettable side characters, or sidekicks that are just there for the lolz and for the sake of elevating the protagonist. I’m very happy that the Fallout TV show has these memorable scenes with the supporting cast interacting with each other or with the world, and some of them even kept me on the edge of my seat!

Fourth, I love that they explored the flaws of each of the factions, instead of showing one good or ideal faction and a couple of bad ones.

Fifth, the music is amazing! They used some of the popular hits from the ‘40s and ‘50s straight out of Galaxy News Radio, Radio New Vegas, Diamond City Radio, and even Appalachia Radio, while also adding in some new Fallout-appropriate songs from the same era.

Sixth, set design is great, in and outside the Vaults. Rose even said that it felt like we were playing next-gen Fallout 5.

And lastly, I love that the main themes of the show are morality and power, summarized by Maximus’ line from the trailer: “Everyone wants to save the world, they just disagree on how.”

The story focuses on how, often, those who think that they’ve got the right idea on how to make the world a better place don’t realize that they’re actually hurting others in the process. Many, if not all, of the characters explore this theme, but so have the games, which is why I think that the Fallout TV show is such an amazing adaptation of the franchise.

Minimal-Spoiler Dislikes

And yet, nothing is perfect, so here are the things we’re kind of iffy about the show:

First, most, if not every person, seem to be portrayed as bad, self-serving, or plain old crazy in the Wasteland, which is not at all true. In the games, we meet some really cool, kind-hearted, compassionate people in the Wasteland. Yes, none of them is perfect–just like in real life, they’re all flawed–but they’re not dangerous to befriend either. People like Nick Valentine and Piper Wright from Fallout 4, Sarah Lyons from Fallout 3, Ian from Fallout 1–basically most of the companions you can meet in the games are trustworthy and reliable. However, in the show, it felt like everyone was out to get you, which made it feel a little bit extreme.

Another thing I didn’t like is that the Brotherhood of Steel was portrayed in a religious cult-like fashion. We all know that the Brotherhood is a technology cult, but not in the way that religious cults operate. I’m not going to get into detail about it to remain spoiler-free, but it just felt like an inaccurate, extreme representation of the fan-favorite BoS. If you’re fine with spoilers, I’m going to talk more about it later in this article.

Third, there were certain things that they changed or reimagined from the games. I can’t go into detail without spoiling it. All I can say is that the very nature of ghouls is kinda… different in the show. If you’re curious and are fine with spoilers, I’ll be discussing it in detail later in the spoiler-filled part of the article.

Fourth, and this is quite important: they have confirmed certain things about the games that take away the fun in fan theories.

Fifth, there were revelations in the show that might not be enjoyed by fans of a certain faction. I myself feel very disappointed about it, even though I’m not a die-hard fan of said faction, but I also understand why the showrunners might have chosen to take that direction.

Sixth, there was a line in the show that hints at the possible canonical ending of Fallout 4. The showrunners mentioned in previous interviews that they will respect player decisions and won’t touch on which choices are canon or not, so I’m not particularly pleased with that line. Still, it could be interpreted in a different way, so it’s not a deal-breaker for me.

And finally, there were big, important moments in the show, particularly in the last two episodes, that, at first glance, make it feel like the canonicity of Fallout: New Vegas is being questioned. Emil Pagliarulo from Bethesda who is also a co-producer of the show has confirmed otherwise, but some scenes just felt a little… unclear. And I hope that they will be explained in the second season.

That’s it for the spoiler-free and minimal-spoiler parts of this article, so if you haven’t seen the show and would like to experience it for yourself, feel free to leave. I hope that our thoughts on the show have helped you decide whether or not it’s worth a watch. Personally, though, we loved the show and we can’t wait for Season 2!

Intermission: Favorite Moments (Spoilers!)

Hello, hello! This is your resident Wasteland curator, CkC, inviting you to have a little Nuka break here before we move onto the heavy spoiler-filled stuff. I wanted to talk about my favorite moments in the show. Note that this will have major spoilers for Episode 6: The Trap and Episode 7: The Radio, as well as a very significant revelation, so feel free to hit the X button now if you don’t want anything spoiled.

3, 2, 1, here we go!

My favorite part was when Lucy thought she was going to be executed by the Overseer of Vault 4 for attacking one of their scientists when she found out about the inhumane experiments in the vault that gave rise to the Gulpers. But instead, the Overseer just banished her out into the Wasteland and even offered her a one-week supply of necessities. Out of nowhere, Maximus bursts onto the scene to save Lucy and sent the Vault Dwellers flying across the hall.

It was a hilarious scene, but also, the entire Vault 4, uhm… side quest? effectively illustrates the theme of morality in the TV series and the games, and it’s so relatable in real life as well. 

Lucy and Maximus tend to gravitate toward wanting to do the right thing, especially Lucy, but in this case, they jumped to conclusions just because something felt odd about the Vault and its residents, when the truth is: Yes, bad things did occur in that vault, but they don’t happen anymore, and the residents themselves are actually some of the nicest people they meet in the show.

Vault 4 portrays the successful integration of hardened, traumatized Wastelanders into a controlled, peaceful community who also had their own share of problems in the past. The residents look happy, not because they’re brainwashed cult members, but it’s because they are genuinely happy. They welcome outsiders, because half of them were outsiders themselves.

Lucy and Maximus’ decisions in the vault reveal their flaws: even if they want to help and do the right thing, they still sometimes unknowingly do the opposite.

The scene just outside the Vault with them arguing as to whether or not Maximus should return the fusion core also embodies the complicated nature of decision-making. Yes, the fusion core would help both Maximus and Lucy and could help others in the Wasteland too, but not returning it would doom an entire vault filled with peaceful people.

How about you? What was your favorite moment in the show? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Spoiler-Filled Contentious Topics Analysis

Now, let’s move onto the detailed discussion of some of the issues we have about the show.

The Portrayal of the Brotherhood of Steel

Maximus is in his 20s, but isn’t even a Squire in the beginning of the show. Squires from Fallout 3 and 4 are usually young children of about 11 or 12, like Arthur Maxson in Fallout 3 and those cute little kids aboard the Prydwen in 4. So the fact that Maximus was an Aspirant and just became a Squire in the first episode as a 20+-year-old felt a little off at first.

And yet, it can be explained that maybe in this particular chapter of the Brotherhood–someone on Reddit says that it could be the Utah chapter based on the location of their training camp–has its own hierarchy, different from the ones in 3 and 4. This might actually be the case, since a simple Google search would tell you that the hierarchy in the BoS varies across the games.

Second, characters in the show use the word “Clerics” a few times to refer to members of the Brotherhood wearing purple robes. Elder Quintus himself who we see interact with Maximus on a few occasions is called an “Elder Cleric”. And yet, we’ve never encountered this title in any of the games. But we can surmise that this rank is exclusive to this particular chapter of the Brotherhood.

These two things aren’t too important, but I wasn’t pleased by how religious-cult-like BoS is portrayed in the show. The Squirehood ceremony itself was odd and is something you don’t expect from a modern, militaristic organization. Not to mention the branding aspect. I’ve never once seen or heard about Squires being branded in the Brotherhood, which makes it even more of a religious cult than a militaristic unit. Additionally, the Squires also call their Knights “My lord” which is just… wow. Although it’s bad, I am completely fine with them showing the hazing aspect, since it probably happens in the Brotherhood, especially if your Knight or Paladin is a jerk, but the branding and “milord” just don’t seem characteristic of this faction.

We can say, again, that this is exclusive to the (probably) Utah chapter, but for those who haven’t played the games, they might think that the entire Brotherhood is like this: a religious cult with strange rituals where Squires are literally owned by their Knights, and it’s just not how it is in the games.

Lastly, one line spoken by Elder Cleric Quintus in Episode 1 seems to suggest that the canonical ending for Fallout 4 is siding with the Brotherhood. The mission to capture the runaway Enclave scientist came from the “highest clerics in the Commonwealth,” where Fallout 4 is set, which must mean that in 2296, when the TV show is set, the Brotherhood is still alive and powerful enough to send resources and manpower through an airship.

While you can essentially have what people consider the best ending to FO4, which is to make all three factions–the Minutemen, the Brotherhood, and the Railroad–join forces against the Institute, which will make the Brotherhood’s existence in the Commonwealth possible in 2296, this would then invalidate the choices of those who sided with the Railroad or the Institute.

I don’t really know what to think of this, so let us hear your opinions in the comments.

The Nature of Ghouls

We know that, in the games, ghouls are either those that are sentient with normal brain functions or feral, human-eating ones. We know that they’re immune to radiation. We know that they don’t really age and can’t die of natural causes like diseases or old age. But I don’t remember any mention of ghouls having the ability to regrow their limbs.

When we first meet The Ghoul, we learn that he is kept by, presumably a raider or mob boss called Dom Pedro, who harvests his body parts every few years. He is kept alive through an IV of irradiated water, and he’s just… left there inside the casket with no regard for his mental health.

The very mention of “harvesting his parts” just seemed really weird, since I don’t think ghouls can do that, in the games, at least. When we are engaged in battle with feral ghouls, for example, they lose their limbs and they don’t just grow back. That would be ridiculous! How would we defeat them then?

Even if, for instance, you try to “un-alive” a non-feral ghoul, say for example, one of Hancock’s men in Goodneighbor, they wouldn’t be able to regrow their limbs and they could die of gunshots and other means.

I guess they could explain it off by saying that a small number of ghouls have this ability, but it’s just odd that we’ve never encountered anything like that in the games. Even the feral ghouls inside the Super Duper Mart whom Lucy mistakenly freed died quite easily. So what makes The Ghoul special?

Second, in Episode 8, Thaddeus, Maximus’ replacement squire and former bully, gains this Wolverine-like regenerative ability when that weird guy with the briefcase–a traveling, uh… doctor? who loves animals the wrong way–administers some sort of medicine onto his severely mangled foot. He basically can’t die anymore even though an arrow went through his neck, and is also resistant to radiation. So, does that mean that he is also a ghoul… even without the iconic burnt skin?

We know that some Chems can ghoul-ify people, like what happened to Hancock in Fallout 4. But Mayor Hancock himself has burnt skin. So what kind of mutant is Thaddeus, exactly? And what was the medicine administered to his foot? What exactly does this medicine do to the body? Will his skin eventually burn and decay like most ghouls? I really hope we get answers to these questions in Season 2.

Lastly, the show introduces us to a drug that seems to help stop or, at least, delay “feralization.” We see The Ghoul himself starting to cough and feel weak without this brownish-clear liquid that was, surprisingly, available in all hospitals, clinics, and even supermarkets before the Great War. What is this medicine, and is it the same medicine that turned Thaddeus into a mutant?

Could it just be some sort of anti-dementia medicine that helps maintain your brain functions, since “feralization” occurs naturally over time, with older, pre-War ghouls being most susceptible to it, as well as those that are isolated and thus aren’t capable of socializing and having a regular life? Because feralization happens in the brain through neural tissue degeneration, maybe anti-dementia drugs could help delay it?

“Fall of Shady Sands – 2277” Chalkboard Scene

A lot of fans, including us, reacted negatively to this scene where it appears that Shady Sands was bombed in 2277, which could suggest that the events of Fallout: New Vegas are not canon, since the New California Republic was capable enough to defeat Caesar’s Legion in the First Battle of Hoover Dam in the same year, not to mention, they are gearing up for the Second Battle of Hoover Dam during F:NV.

Some fans believe that because there is an arrow between “Fall of Shady Sands – 2277” and the drawing of a mushroom cloud, it means that some time had passed between the “fall” and the bombing. The word “fall” itself can mean many things. It can mean a political or economic decline due to in-fighting, protests, assassination of the mayor, raider attack, and so on. But, at the same time, Lucy’s memories indicate that Shady Sands was still a prosperous city when she and her brother were taken there by their mother. So, how exactly did Shady Sands fall? When was Lucy there with her mom and brother? And why was there no clear date for the bombing of this historical city on the chalkboard?

Two other questions remain, regardless of when the bombing occurred: Why did NCR not go back to rebuild their founding city? And what happened to the rest of the NCR? We can say that, yes, according to the billboard that Lucy and Maximus saw, Shady Sands was the first capital of the NCR, which means that they had moved the capital to another city–probably somewhere in North California–before the bombing.

Maximus’ line about the NCR not being successful in their aim to rebuild America is also something that makes fans think that the entire NCR has fallen. But it might just be due to the fact that he was very young, probably between 7 to 10, when Shady Sands was wiped off the map. He might not have had the chance to visit or hear about the other cities. Also, it’s worth noting that Maximus is, sadly, not the brightest bulb. He doesn’t do well in his classes and doesn’t even know how his, uhm… male parts work. So I’d say that he isn’t really a reliable source as to the fate of the NCR.

And yet, Shady Sands was this faction’s founding city and is historically significant to all their citizens. Why did they not go back to pick up the pieces or check for survivors? Is it because it’s a huge crater and rebuilding would be pointless? Why isn’t anyone court-martialing Lee Moldaver for using raiders to fulfill her mission of kidnapping Lucy’s father, Hank? Why is the real NCR not doing anything about the fake “Gover-mint” that’s run like the mob?

Maybe it’s the… lack of resources? Has the NCR’s power also declined in North California? Did the bombing of Shady Sands throw NCR into complete chaos, with its residents fearing that an attack on their city could be imminent? Are there widespread protests and lawlessness in the rest of the NCR? Did New Vegas turning into a warzone, as we can see from the credits of this season’s final episode, have anything to do with their lack of resources and manpower to rebuild Shady Sands?

Also, we briefly see President Aaron Kimball’s photo during the ritual scene in Vault 4. Was he there during the bombing as one of its many victims? Or is his photo there just one way for the survivors to honor their president who might still be alive and well in the new capital? And who is this… mutant-looking guy next to his photo? Was he the mayor of Shady Sands?

One last thought I have about Shady Sands is… Lee Moldaver herself. If she was really Miss Williams from the Hollywood Forever Pre-War meeting, does that mean that she had been cryogenically frozen? If so, perhaps she awoke only a few years before the end of Shady Sands. If she had been a new citizen of the NCR, how did she rise through the ranks and became their leader–or at least, the leader of the surviving NCR citizens from Shady Sands–that quickly? Could this tie into the “Fall of Shady Sands – 2077” thing? Was there a big decline in the city that catapulted Moldaver into a leadership position? Perhaps the mayor was assassinated, or there was a catastrophic raider attack, and because most of NCR’s forces were deployed to New Vegas, they weren’t able to repel them without suffering a great loss? And then, Moldaver stepped in? Or am I reading too much into things?

“Vault-Tec Fired First” Confirmation

Personally, I think that this is in line with the most popular fan theory about the Great War anyway, so it’s not at all shocking. It also makes perfect sense since one of the greatest mysteries of the Fallout franchise is “Who’s going to benefit from the vault experiments?” If everyone in Vault-Tec is dead, why even conduct inhumane experiments in the vaults? Now we know that Vault-Tec management is still alive, with their members cryogenically frozen in Vault 31, with one of their top executives, Bud Askins, as its Overseer who has kept himself alive for the past 200 years as a Robobrain.

Now, it makes sense. Bud and his team, whom he likes to call “Bud’s Buds,” will be the one tallying all the results of vault experiments when the “right time” comes. The question is… what is Bud waiting for? And how does he plan to communicate with the rest of the vaults?

bStill, I’m sure some of the fans aren’t very happy with this confirmation. One of the things we love about games is the freedom to make your own theories and share them with the community, and it just takes away the fun if one of the biggest mysteries gets an answer. Imagine if, in the next Elder Scrolls game, they revealed what exactly happened to the Dwemer? Wouldn’t that be disappointing? What do you think?

Burning Questions for Season 2

Anyway, let’s go to the final segment of this article. Here are some of the questions we’re hoping the second season would answer:

Where is the Enclave base? The surrounding area is mountainous and the base itself is quite snowy, so it must be somewhere up north. Oregon, maybe? And who is its leader? Can we expect the Enclave to play a big role in the coming seasons? Will they remain an antagonistic faction, like in the games?

Where did we first meet The Ghoul and who is this Dom Pedro? How did he manage to defeat and capture a dangerous, experienced bounty hunter like The Ghoul? Why was he harvesting the Ghoul’s parts and what for?

In the final episode, The Ghoul asks Hank: “Where is my family?” In the first episode, we see him help his daughter up the horse. Did he manage to take her to, perhaps, a vault where her mother is assigned to? Are they both alive?

Who is Moldaver and how is she related to Miss Williams in the pre-War scenes?

What is the current state of the NCR and what happened to New Vegas? Who was the NCR fighting in New Vegas? Was it Caesar’s Legion? Mr. House? The fact that Hank is walking to New Vegas suggests he wants to go there to visit Mr. House, who we see in the roundtable discussion with Vault-Tec and other big players in Pre-War America. Does that mean that the canonical ending for F:NV is siding with Mr. House? I sincerely hope they don’t touch on player decisions.

How about you? Did you like the Fallout TV show? What are some of your worries about the second season? What are some of the questions you desperately want answered? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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