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Amazon Prime’s Fallout Does More Than Just Fan Service

With love from the Wasteland...

by Sierra Riley'

I’m not very good at shooter games — Nintendo’s more my speed — but I’ve always enjoyed watching other people playing through action RPGs. Two of my favourite franchises in the genre are Capcom’s Resident Evil and Bethesda’s Fallout, and now, I can finally say one of these has been successfully adapted for television.

Leading up to the series’ release, I was enticed by Fallout’s clever below-ground marketing campaign: ads pulled straight from the game can be seen lining the grimy walls of several Toronto subway stations. Still, I wasn’t expecting much of the show—video games aren’t known for their successful live-action recreations—but it won me over with its stellar worldbuilding, pulpy writing, and satisfying reveals.

Both the game and the show are set in a post-apocalyptic world suffused with 1950s aesthetics. After a global nuclear power launched an attack on the U.S., wealthy Americans fled to reserved art-deco suites in one of Vault-Tec Corporation’s first-class vaults. Everyone else either died or fended for themselves in a lawless, radioactive wasteland. The plot begins some 200 years later, running concurrently above and below ground. 

Walton Goggins stars as the Ghoul in Fallout on Amazon Prime.

The show doesn’t squander the gifts of its reference material, and if you’ve played the game, you’ll identify many of the series’ monsters, robots, songs, and weapons. Kilter Films, joined by Bethesda Studios, does plenty of fan service in their interpretation of Fallout—I’m not sure I would have picked up on some of the action if not for my familiarity with the franchise—but beyond that, they have created an epic genre piece packed with twists and surprises. Executive producers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy (the minds behind comp title Westworld) make bold choices that critic-pandering productions might shy away from. There are cartoonishly evil walk-on villains, extravagant fight sequences, and creepy animated outros. The gore is tasteful, the jokes are often not. Plus, there are two very good dogs in the ensemble. It’s just good fun, honestly.

Grounding the silliness is a cast of actors who will have you saying “hey, aren’t they from [insert another favourite show of yours here]?” again and again. Yellowjackets’ Ella Purnell plays a moralist Vault Dweller searching for her father on the surface. In the role of her brother, Disney alum Moisés Arias gives a nuanced performance that impressed this Hannah Montana fan. There’s even an appearance by Lost’s Michael Emerson.

The highlight of the show, though, is Walton Goggins, a modern Western film star (The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained) who fittingly plays a Hollywood cowboy-turned-Ghoul. Basically, he’s a gun-slinging mummy, and the character design here is immaculate. His arc, told through flashbacks and post-apocalyptic shootouts, is tangled up in political corruption. Without hitting viewers over the head with a gavel of morality, Fallout draws unsettling parallels between the Wasteland and the real world—and even still, it’s a blast. Indeed, it started a flame in my heart. 

Aaron Moten (right) stars as Maximus, one of the main characters in the Fallout TV series.