SPOILERS: I’m talking about the Fallout TV series

By Paige Francis Posted Monday May 20, 2024

Filed under: Epilogue, Paige Writes 36 comments

I mean it. If you want to experience the Fallout TV series fresh, without any more foreknowledge than you have probably received already, don’t read this. Because I’m going to be talking about several things IN-DEPTH. Also, TRIGGER WARNING: if you are part of the (honestly small) group of people screaming “I can’t believe they disrespected Fallout like this! They got SO MUCH wrong! It’s horrible!” then you probably need to go away and not read this, either. Because, putting it right up front; I think the Fallout TV series is brilliant; and a wonderful addition to Fallout lore. The writers REALLY understood what these games are about. Not that mistakes weren’t made, but NOT in the lore or the tone. Just in general continuity and storytelling. I unabashedly recommend this series to EVERY Fallout fan.

I don’t know how many long-time Twentysided readers are still around. I know a bunch of you, even if we may not have had much interaction a decade or more ago. Shamus famously disliked Fallout 3. I loved Fallout 3. In fact, it is STILL my favorite Fallout game. I don’t have it installed right now, but the last time I did, I had well over 150 mods installed. I never liked New Vegas as much…the layout of the map was less interesting, and less usable in my opinion. While New Vegas engaged you in a more extensive main storyline, this was simultaneously more problematic. Because Bethesda just doesn’t write very good stories. In that regard, the lousy story in the base game of Fallout 3 greatly benefited by the player being able to ignore it easily. And it should be noted both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas had fantastic DLC/Expansions.

The Fallout TV series is set in 2296; the latest date of any Fallout story. The first game occurs in 2161, 84 years after the bombs fell on the United States on October 23, 2077. However, this is not the first Fallout game *chronologically.* Bethesda’s Fallout 76, released in 2018, is set in 2102; although I have seen a couple of claims that the game occurs in an alternate timeline; NOT the main series continuity. As I can find no “official” reference for this, I generally consider it to be unimportant. 76 has little impact on the other Fallout games, with the most important reference being that Vault 76 is trying to initiate their own “Reclamation Day.” This is a concept that formed a pillar of some or even most Vault-Tec vaults. Reclamation Day is allegedly the purpose for maintaining a population in the vaults in the first place, so that at the appropriate, safe, time; the vaults can be opened and the now-recovered nuclear wasteland can be repopulated. The game explores some origin lore of various factions and mutations, but much of this is not 100% compatible with earlier established information. That, coupled with the relative unpopularity of the game, may be why at least some consider the timeline to be unofficial.

So that gets us back to Fallout 1 as the first lore-friendly playable game in the timeline. Most lore is established in this game. Fallout Tactics occurs 36 years later in 2197, and expands on the Brotherhood of Steel, who were introduced in the first game. {NOTE: the original version of this paragraph listed Tactics as introducing the Brotherhood of Steel. I used this wording to fit the structure of the paragraph, even though the BoS actually appeared in the first game, while Tactics enhanced the lore of that faction for all following games. I have changed it because that choice just didn’t work out.} Fallout 2 takes place in 2241, 80 years after the first game. Fallout 2 introduces the New California Republic AND the Enclave, two more factions that will remain integral to future Fallout stories. This game also creates the idea that SOME Vault-Tec vaults were designed to be social experiments, or a home FOR scientific research; including experiments ON the residents. The residents weren’t always made aware of these conditions. Fallout 3 begins 36 years later (weird how that comes up again) in 2277 on the Eastern coast of the United States, specifically around Washington D.C.  Fallout 3 solidifies an idea that is important to the Fallout TV series, which I’ll get back to. Fallout: New Vegas occurs 4 years later in 2281 and primarily revisits the New California Republic, as far as lasting lore goes. I have always felt that ONE major factor contributing to the disregard of Fallout 3 paired with enhanced love of New Vegas is the simple change in background. The Capital Wasteland was a completely different setting, with a Brotherhood of Steel presence that called into question the goals and moral alignment of previous game entries. The return to the California/Nevada/desert setting with a familiar background; one that explicitly continues some of the same stories of the earlier games; seems to have placated many players that felt Fallout 3 was just “too different.” (Something I want to make clear here, if it’s not clear already: New Vegas overall is great game, and there are many things Bethesda did with this entry that genuinely deserve praise. Most notably, the huge variety of followers available with actual, mostly-developed backstories. And I already mentioned the fabulous expansions.)

Fallout 4 is set 6 years after New Vegas in 2287 and revisits the East Coast. The premise of Fallout 4 is basically “so what happened to Massachusetts?” The game revisits a topic first included in Fallout 3: synthetic humans, or “synths.” These are robots created by “The Institute” located in The Commonwealth. I have no doubt they will be part of future Fallout stories, but overall Fallout 4 has little to do with existing lore.

The TV series returns to California…in fact the setting is explicitly set in the area formerly known as Los Angeles. Three main characters are introduced: Lucy MacLean, daughter of the Overseer of Vault 33; Maximus, a Brotherhood of Steel initiate who seems very much to be the least popular and most-abused member of his chapter; and Cooper Howard, who we meet in a flashback to October of 2077. Coop is a movie star of Westerns whose fame is declining due to his rumored association with Communists. We also learn he was a marine during the Chinese invasion of Alaska in 2066-2067, before being honorably discharged and pursuing an acting career. On the morning of October 23rd, 2077, he is performing for a child’s birthday party. Adults at the party whisper that he needs money to pay alimony; so we can presume he is divorced, though his daughter is with him. His introduction ends as he and his daughter witness the first bomb hit downtown L.A.

Cooper’s story is a background story for the entire Fallout series. Through his flashbacks we learn about Vault-Tec, other companies, and the general state of the U.S. government, American culture, and the world in the days leading up to The Great War (the bombs.) But…flashback? Yes. 200 years after the bombs fall, Cooper Howard is still alive. Sort of. He is a ghoul, a necrotic former human, as some say. Most humans who become ghoulified do so through exposure to radiation; some hand-waved trick of dosage amount, healing characteristics, genetics, and any number of other factors resulting in these post-humans rather than death. While ghouls typically have incredible healing abilities and long life touching on immortality; the trade-off is that their mind is usually destroyed after only a few years, and they become “feral.” Imagine zombies. BUT, as far back as Fallout 1 the idea that ghouls could be created chemically was introduced. In fact, some people were experimenting with doing it intentionally. In some cases, a ghoul could even use certain chemicals or other treatments to maintain control of their mind. How Cooper became one of these kinds of ghouls is not explained in the first season of the TV series, but the idea that ghoulification is a somewhat uncertain and unpredictable process is introduced.

Cooper has an attached personal story that doesn’t really get explained until the last episode, although everything that came before sets it up. Lucy’s adventure is the punctuation on Cooper’s: we are introduced to Lucy as a vault dweller in Vault 33. Vault 33 in 2296 is presented as the absolute epitome of what Vaults are constantly advertised to be throughout the lore of the series: dripping with 1950’s Americana, perfectly-functioning, and home to a cross-section of American society who all like the same things and are polite to a fault. Lucy herself is unbelievably positive, unlike her thoroughly disinterested younger brother. Lucy opens her segment making a case for her history of abilities and accomplishments, and incidentally the vault’s lack of a suitable marriage partner with whom she is technically unrelated, as reasons for her to be chosen for an “intervault exchange.” This is a rare, but NOT completely unheard-of, idea in the Fallout universe. The various vaults were aware of the location of all nearby vaults in case of emergencies; and some even communicated. Vault 33’s case is a new one, as far as I can remember: Vault 33 is directly connected to Vault 32 via a locked vault door. Apparently exchanging residents between these two vaults is a regular occurrence. It turns out that reproducing is apparently the primary reason for the exchange, as Vault 33 will hand over a supply of spare parts and in return will receive a new resident…a husband for Lucy.

I’m not going to get into Maximus’ story, as his is really about concepts related to the Brotherhood of Steel. He is important to the story, and the elements he represents are definitely adjunct to the main story…but understanding why this series embodies the concepts of Fallout doesn’t really require Maximus at the moment. Also, I’m gonna skip around the story a bit. So there will definitely be spoiler for later elements of the show.

TL:DR, the intervault exchange doesn’t work out. After having sex with her new husband (never getting out of her wedding dress…dude was ready to go), Lucy puts on her Pip-Boy, which is when she is notified her new husband is mildly radioactive. Of course, any good vault dweller knows that a life-long vault resident would NEVER be radioactive, so this guy must be a…RAIDER. It is broadly passed over in the background that the residents of Vault 33 are aware of various things that have happened on the surface. That this information is not necessarily accurate nor complete is an important plot point. Around the same time, the visiting residents of Vault 32 assault Vault 33. Through this fight, Lucy starts with a dagger (a combat knife, really) and ends with a tranquilizer gun. The confrontation ends with the leader of the raiders threatening Lucy’s father to either come with them back into Vault 32, or they will kill the rest of the vault and take Lucy. Lucy’s father, Hank, locks Lucy in a closet and is subsequently tranq’ed and taken. Oh, and the leader of the raiders knows who she is, and says she looks like her mother. Who died when Lucy was very young.

This begins Lucy’s quest to leave the vault, which includes the iconic moment of being exposed to the blinding light of the sun as the big external door is opened, and find her dad. Straight out of the Big Book of Fallout Protagonists. She starts off in her blue and yellow Vault-Tec jumpsuit, and lightly-armed. In the town of Filly, she encounters Cooper and Maximus, who have both been tasked via separate means with capturing an escaped Enclave scientist who possesses world-changing lost technology and is meant to be delivering it to a woman known as Moldaver. Lucy learns Moldaver is the woman who invaded her vault and kidnapped her father. And knew her mother, somehow. While Maximus, and in fact the Brotherhood of Steel as a whole, is only interested in securing the lost technology…I mean, that’s kind of their whole thing; they pursue it LITERALLY with religious fanaticism…Cooper is largely uninterested until he learns this escaped scientist is going to Moldaver. Cooper knows Moldaver. In fact, he’s known her for a LONG TIME. She was alive, just as he was, when the bombs fell. What she is at this point is not explored, and I feel that was probably a choice that was a mistake. If Fallout had NOT been a success, and we never got another season, it would have been a pretty big thing to leave unexplained.

While Cooper fights other bounty hunters and Maximus, Lucy is chosen by the escaped scientist (after having his foot blown off by Cooper to keep him from running) to escort him to Moldaver. Despite the doubts of, well, EVERYONE ELSE that a fresh-faced, recently-emerged vault dweller can accomplish anything in a world they don’t even understand, the scientist (and his genetically-modified, hyper-capable dog) insist on Lucy. They manage to escape from Filly before Cooper manages to kill or neutralize all opposition. The two of them don’t make it far before the scientist announces he won’t live much longer due to blood loss, and his inability to travel quickly will only slow Lucy down. He tells her to cut off his head and deliver it to Moldaver (his head containing the techno-thingy, we were shown  him “injecting it” earlier.) And this is the key moment that really drove home that the writers understood the series, and knew what they were doing. Despite Lucy’s objections, and her insistence that she can find a way to heal him and get him where he is going, he persists in handing the quest off to her. He knows she can do it. He knows she WILL do it. “Because she’s a Vault Dweller.” She will always do what’s right. And she will get the job done. This works so well for reasons that some may call “meta,” but that the setting actually gives a home to IN THE SERIES/GAMES.

The TV series takes place in 2296. We know all the various characters are aware of the events of the games. While some haven’t been mentioned at this point in the story, some have. The legend of the Vault Dweller, first and foremost, is very likely an established part of history, especially on the West Coast. As is The Chosen One, the hero of Fallout 2 and descendant of the The Vault Dweller. The Chosen One is doubly-important for this story, as the history of the New California Republic turns out to be integral. The scientist is from the Commonwealth. He is undoubtedly aware of The Sole Survivor, the protagonist of Fallout 4. The Sole Survivor’s actions probably directly affected him. He would also likely know of The Lone Wanderer from Vault 101, the Vault Dweller who brought clean water to the Capital Wasteland and destroyed an entire branch of the Enclave…his own employers. The scientist, when he first comes in contact with Lucy, advises her to return to the vault. She tells him matter-of-factually that she won’t go back without her dad. I can imagine this exchange echoed in his head the entire time until he meets her again when he is desperate, and decides that the legend of the Vault Dweller is what he needs to bank on.

Hey, would you look at that. I didn’t cover NEAR the number of things I wanted to in this post. I didn’t go looking for all the various complaints to address. The show honestly seems to be quite well-received, actually. Even on Reddit people are mostly trying to connect vaguely-referenced bits to previous lore and speculating over what the next season may feature. The two most-valid complaints I’ve seen is the huge, glaring inconsistency about what Cooper knows about power armor; and the overall narrative structure. Completely agree with the first, although the structure doesn’t bother me. In fact, I think it was probably the best choice to tell this particular story in the format they had available. Quite well done in those regards.

Soooo…maybe we’ll revisit this topic in future, or maybe not. I love Fallout, and I’m more than happy to talk about it anytime.


From The Archives:

36 thoughts on “SPOILERS: I’m talking about the Fallout TV series

  1. Amstrad says:

    You seem to be a bit misinformed about New Vegas. That game wasn’t developed in any way by Bethesda, it was Obsidian Entertainment (who were full of former Black Isle employees) who developed the game. Notably Josh Sawyer and Chris Avellone who both worked on the cancelled Van Buren project. Pointing at New Vegas‘s focus on story as problematic due to Bethesda’s poor storytelling just doesn’t make sense in that context.

    Also minor nitpick: The Brotherhood of Steel is established during the events of the first Fallout game, rather than in Tactics. Though Tactics does have a primary focus on that particular faction. Note also that Tactics was the third Fallout game, despite taking place between one and two.

    1. Fair criticism that I didn’t point out Obsidian developed New Vegas for Bethesda. To me, it has always been a distinction without any meaningful difference. The Fallout 3 and New Vegas stories function in similar ways. Despite the NV story being longer and more involved through a bigger chunk of the game, it suffers from many of the same problems as Fallout 3. But in the end, as both games DO set out in fundamental design to be a setting for a story you create yourself with minimal rails, BOTH succeed in that goal. In fact, as I pointed out, the lesser impact of the Fallout 3 story actually HELPS to reach that goal.

      I wasn’t comfortable using “introduced” to describe the Brotherhood in Tactics, but convinced myself it fit the goal of the paragraph. That being, important elements that would impact the target; the TV series. I’m thinking of making a note in the text for clarity, then change “introduced” to something like “expanded on.” Also, I was listing the games in chronological order, which is why I started out with Fallout 76.

      1. Jason S. says:

        It’s a big distinction because Fallout is not originally a Bethesda game – it was made by Black Isle. And as stated above, Obsidian was made up of former Black Isle employees. So New Vegas is what you get when you take the original Fallout team and let them make a game using Bethesda’s FO3 engine.

        1. I think a basic difference in viewpoints here is the idea that New Vegas *must* be written better because people who worked on the original games wrote it, as opposed to Bethesda writers. I simply disagree. New Vegas has a different story that fits some things in its game better compared to Fallout 3, but it’s not inherently *better*. Likewise, New Vegas is a great game that does some things really well and others not as well. In some ways it is inferior to Fallout 3. But it DEFINITELY ties more directly to the first few games than Fallout 3 does. I think that’s important to some people. I personally couldn’t care less.

          The bottom line is, it means NOTHING to me that people who worked on the first few games and the first development version of Fallout 3 were in charge of New Vegas. The game can stand on its own merits, or not.

          1. Makot says:

            the idea that New Vegas *must* be written better because people who worked on the original games wrote it, as opposed to Bethesda writers

            Except we have three games (3, NV and 4) clearly proving that, unfortunately, is exactly the case, at least to an extent.

            Unlike 3 and 4, NV, with all it’s drawbacks, doesn’t suffer from horrible plot pointlesness (Shamus did list them so much better than I could, but let’s just point to the “everyone fights for the right to comit suicide by pressing a button to turn on a machine that does absolutely nothing anyone needs” for starters), and it’s storyline actually leads somewhere.

            Thus we see that while the involvement of former Black Isle people wasn’t a “be all, save all”, it has, at least, given us an actually coherent story in NV – something both 3 and 4 lack.

      2. Syal says:

        Also, I was listing the games in chronological order, which is why I started out with Fallout 76.

        Had a bit of a double-take on that. Oh, prequels, where chronology is no longer chronological.

        “Introduces important elements of”, perhaps.

        1. I kind of like the idea that Fallout 76 is alternate history to the established Fallout timeline. I honestly hadn’t heard this idea presented until I was working on double-checking sources for this post on the TV series. The claim appears in a couple of places, but I never found it sourced back to Bethesda either officially or unofficially. If it occurs in the main timeline, then technically it is indeed a prequel, occuring in 2102 to Fallout 1’s 2161. As the years go on, I have become less and less of a fan of the “prequel” concept, or at least how they’re always executed. Primarily in the use of inductive reasoning to create the prior state of the world, which involves blowing up the specific data points taken from the existing and then supposing they define the larger universe. Secondarily, they are inherently bound to the technology and ethos used to create them, which will have evolved from that which created the original.

          To drag out one of the most obvious, the Star Wars prequels would still be completely different from the original movies EVEN IF George Lucas populated the prior galaxy with the same “live-in” design of the original trilogy.

  2. BlueHorus says:

    I thought Coop’s understanding of Power Armor and its flaws was explained pretty well. In the past we see this [paraphrased] exchange:

    Vault-Tec Executive, in terms of satisfaction: I headed the team that designed the Mk-4 Power Armor. Saved a lot of money by cutting corners, the government bought them anyway!
    Coop: “I was in Alaska wearing that Power Armor. I saw men die to those cut corners you’re so proud of.”

    And in the future, we see him using those flaws to fight people in Power Armor. What’s missing here?

    To me Coop was the best part of the show. The juxtaposition of him then & him now, the satire / critique of unfettered capitalism, seeing first-hand how the apocalyse was completely avoidable – but it suited some people to ignore the danger…

    Worst part was Lucy’s hair and makeup. Just a pet peeve, but it didn’t matter wheter she was being dunked in rivers, attacked by ghouls, pulled around on a leash for days, hiking through a desert – she always looked immaculate. Yes, I know this is how TV shows work, but it still irks me.

    1. On Coop’s understanding of power armor, I am specifically referencing his fight with Maximus in Filly; where he doesn’t use the “one-shot-kill” welding weakness he uses at the end. You can handwave the reasons, and it doesn’t do anything like making the series worse or “ruining it,” as I’ve heard some people say. I actually found it just as unbelievable that from the introduction of the hastily (and poorly) built T-45, which had a perfectly understandable welding weakness; all the way to the T-60, nobody fixed it. Not unbelievable in a game-changing way; of course, you can handwave that just as easily as Coop not using his knowlege of the weakness in the earlier fight.

      Lucy’s makeup doesn’t bother. After all, my protagonist in the game ALWAYS has great hair and makeup, if that’s how I created them. Maybe covered in dirt and irradiated, but they still look great.

    2. TheNick says:

      Worst part was Lucy’s hair and makeup. Just a pet peeve, but it didn’t matter wheter she was being dunked in rivers, attacked by ghouls, pulled around on a leash for days, hiking through a desert – she always looked immaculate. Yes, I know this is how TV shows work, but it still irks me.

      I don’t think this is a “hollywood” choice, like you’d see in, say, The Walking Dead, where it seems like our leads lack food and water but somehow keep a supply of shampoos and conditioners so they always have nicely groomed facial hair and long flowing locks.

      Rather, I think Lucy always looking immaculate is an intentional presentation choice relating to her being a Vault Dweller. After all, plenty of other characters are absolutely messy and constantly look run down and worn out.

  3. pseudonym says:

    The first paragraph on the front page is all I needed to know. Apparently I need to watch this. I skipped right to the comments, I will read it when I have seen it.

    1. Thank you! Hope you enjoy it!

  4. Daimbert says:

    I had just re-read Shamus’ comments on Fallout 3 before this post, and he’s clear there that he doesn’t dislike Fallout 3, as he played it for over 1000 hours. He does famously dislike the story, but then from his analysis of it that seems to be a pretty reasonable position. On Bethesda’s handling of Fallout specifically, his biggest problem was that it started from the idea that the Fallout world was the 50s and locked into that by the bombs, when originally it was a world that was the way the 50s would have imagined that future. So instead of there being letterman jackets there would have been what they would have imagined that would have been in the future. So the original world was more creative and did more new things than the Bethesda series was. Then there was the issue that it was a stagnant world, where people were seemingly still living off of the remains of the pre-bomb world despite it being over a 100 years later. The original series had people forming new societies and new cultures, and Fallout 3 had people who hadn’t removed the skeleton from the booth of their diner. So it was the culture of the 50s locked in place, seemingly permanently. Add to that that despite moving to the East Coast you had the same factions and monsters for the most part, and what would have characterized it most was a complete lack of creativity.

    I haven’t played any of these games for longer than a couple of hours, and so I can’t say myself, but it seems to me that a lot of the complaints about Fallout 3 were not that it was too different, but that ultimately it wasn’t different enough, and that where it was different it was inferior to the original world.

    1. On your conclusion, I thank that’s a valid point-of-view. Although I WILL point out that the idea of “it was done this way in the first few games, but then Bethesda did this completely unreasonable thing and left the wasteland as if nobody had done a single thing” requires being VERY nitpicky about what examples one uses to illustrate that. There were tons of places in the first Fallout games that look and feel exactly the same as Fallout 3 and New Vegas; like nobody has ever even visited that location in 150 years. Likewise, settlements and towns are mostly cleaned up and have some level of rebuilding and organization, in the first games and Bethesda’s games.

      The argument over “Real 1950’s futurism” vs “stuck in the 50’s,” I’ll be honest; has always sounded like a “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” discussion. You COULD find meaningful answers, but; especially looking at the results of futurist predictions from the past century, you’re either going to miss the point entirely or be *technically* right in that the reality is a difference without meaning. Beyond that, I never got that impression from Bethesda’s games ANYWAY.

      I will say that anyone who finds the “it shouldn’t look like the world stopped in the 1950’s, it should look like what the world expected the future to look like” will probably ignore the robo-butlers, electronic cabinets, automated everything, and only notice that they used actual 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s junked cars to fill in the scenery instead of doing digital matte paintings of retro-futurist atomic cars with a single over-used prop in the foreground.

      1. Daimbert says:

        I think this comes back to how Shamus approached his criticisms of these things: going through and finding a host of examples for that SEEMS like nitpicking, but it’s more pointing out instances that show the bigger issue that a couple of examples can’t overturn. Finding “futuristic” technology doesn’t outweigh that in terms of the world itself the world still seems to be living off of the pre-bomb world with a far stronger 50s aesthetic and culture in the newer works than it did in the older works. The originals seemed to do more world-building and so invent similar feeling and yet new cultures than the new ones did. While it may seem like nitpicking, the fact that the original game showed farms and so more often gave reasons for why an area existed and what it provided to build a world while one of Shamus’ big issues was always that it was never clear what the area was providing or needed and how fixing things would make things better for them. The world building seems to be more lacking in Fallout 3 than it was in the original games. And given the difference in creators, you can’t really use New Vegas to refute that because Obsidian had more of the original creators and so would stick to that idea more than Bethesda would.

        As I said, I haven’t played the games for any real length of time and so can’t say myself, but Shamus’ argument was more detailed (as one might expect) and more about overall worldbuilding.

        1. That’s where my only reply is that I don’t see the differences Shamus perceived as being problematic, to the level they are anything other than (as I say once again) distinctions without difference. And I know Shamus wasn’t the only person who saw it this way. I just don’t see a particular trend or style of worldbuilding in Fallout 3 that differs significantly from what came before. We’re king of getting into the weeds here, but to an extent this is a way that New Vegas, IN MY OPINION, proves my point: there is no significant difference in assets or style of worldbuilding in New Vegas from Fallout 3. The story in the QUESTLINES may be more detailed, more tied to existing lore, and more spread through the entire game; but the background setting looks (other than being very brown, as opposed to the Capital Wasteland’s green), sounds, and feels…well, almost identical, to me.

  5. DrBones says:

    I’m very conflicted about Fallout 2024 for a variety of reasons, some big and some small. On the one hand, it is a fabulously designed and directed show; the sets are beautiful and distinctive, the actors are fantastic in their roles, and aside from some things that look awkward in motion (like the weirdly-weightless T-60 Power Armor with Iron Man hand-thrusters, the doofy long-barreled handguns most Knights have, and the absurd Mad Max Fury Road cosplays a ton of regular wastelanders are going around in) the props and costumes are all artwork in themselves. The writers clearly love the Fallout games and crammed their sets to the gunwales with fun references, which is a very welcome change from a lot of more modern adaptations with writing teams that show this weird sort of naked contempt for the works they’re adapting. The humor is on-point and the writing manages to land its emotional moments with solid impact.
    There is simply no argument that this isn’t a great show on a technical and performative level.

    My little problem with the show is this loose pile of weird plot contrivances and small plot holes that you very probably won’t notice on a first watch-through but will start hitting you on a careful rewatch or a late-night trip to the fridge. Things like why our lady raider boss , Moldaver, took over 15 years to get her revenge despite knowing where Vault 33 is and having the key to get in, and why she decided a key component of her revenge was the rape-by-deception of the daughter of the love of her life, and especially why everyone in the wasteland variously treats her like a dangerous mob boss, a wanted criminal, an insane cult leader, and a living goddess of fire and vengeance despite the show giving us basically nothing to show her deserving that reputation. Every character just sort of teleports around the LA Wasteland with no particular sense of scale, distance, or time just so that they can run into eachother and Have Character Interactions when the plot needs them to. There’s only really two times this feels justified, both in the same episode (where The Ghoul easily tracks Lucy’s path through the desert sand, and later Maximus uses a “radiation tracker” device to zero in on The Ghoul and, somehow, also our non-radioactive macguffin).

    I won’t go into my Big Problem with the series, because it all boils down to thematic preferences (what the Fallout series “should be about”, which is an exhausting and useless conversation no matter how it unfolds) and continuity errors that can’t really be resolved without either mountains of sloppy handwaves or giving up the discussion entirely with “well, does it REALLY matter now?”.

    This series is really hard to criticize, not just because all the lovely things in my first paragraph make this the best live-action adaptation of a video game series ever (Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter movie fans, please forgive me), but because everyone likes to heavily invest in their own “half” of the Fallout series. Being into Fallout now must be what it felt like to be into Starship Troopers in 1997. Can the grognards still arguing about the political-logistical benefits of picking House versus the NCR fully accept someone saying that, despite Bethesda’s mitts getting all over the half of the setting blessed with Important Themes and Coherent Worldbuilding, the show is still top-notch? Can the more recent fans gushing about how awesome The Ghoul is and how cool it is to have a fresh view of a much nastier Brotherhood of Steel take “wow, this show really fucks things up for the setting, past present and future” on the chin? I don’t know, and I feel a lot better staying out of most discussion on this show because right now the answer is a very definite no.

    1. I completely agree that not explaining Moldaver was a BIG mistake. I suspect this is going to be one of those “answered in the future, and you won’t believe the truth” things. Maybe she’s synth, one of many identical synths she had made of herself. Essentially, clones. From that, everything probably flows from “everybody wants to save the world, they just don’t agree on how.”

      The “what Fallout should BE LIKE” is definitely an argument not worth having. To me, the show nailed it…and stayed close enough to the existing lore to not cause problems. Obviously some other people disagree with both premises. As you pointed out, I would hope those who disagree can at least enjoy the show for what it IS without reserve: a FALLOUT story. Conceptually, and in my opinion mostly in practice, this is something I would expect to enjoy IN a Fallout game.

      1. TheNick says:

        The “what Fallout should BE LIKE” is definitely an argument not worth having.

        That’s a weird thing to say, especially in context of this post, because it’s sort of the very heart of the whole talk and what makes the Fallout television series so good and you have a lot of the answers right up above.

        It would be accurate to say that some of the lore of background details are prejudiced by the weird direction Bethesda took the story and how they missed some of the underlying core themes of Interplay’s Fallout series. Looking at some of the pre-production writing and snippets really leaned into some some things that made me fear it was going to be the shallowest, worst interpretation of the Fallout background, firmly keeping it in the realm of every other video game adaptation ever made.

        Specifically, some of the early pre-release drafts seemed to interpret the Brother of Steel as “the future police” rather than a pseudo-religious technology cult, missing the fact that original Fallout was always about people’s reactions to conflict. It had seemed like it forgot the whole, “War. War never changes,” and was instead leaning into, “OMG, War is awesome! Look at these guns! This power armor flies!”

        In contrast, while modern Bethesda seems to forget this (Fallout 76 was a game that forgot it was from a series that had always been about complex interfaction relations in a world with themes of responding to war and instead tried to be a lonely looter-shooter without a single other NPC around), the show absolutely does not. It focuses on the good elements – it specifically has both the antagonists and antagonists in conflict not because they just want to go to perpetual war with each other, but instead are responding to a modern day ‘war’ in ways to fix it. As you said, they want to fix the world but don’t quite agree on how to do that.

        They might draw on some specific bits of background that change in modern Fallouts, but they pivot it to addressing the core themes and never just fall back on drivel or pointless action, always being careful to center everything that is happening on a character’s motivation.

        And it’s clear that whoever did the writing definitely saw the change in Fallout games over time. Fallout 3 had the nonsense, “Do you help people or do you become comic book super villain evil and nuke a town for a couple caps and a weapon upgrade?” quest, and your father reacts to you Hiroshima’ing a town with a dressing down appropriate for chastising your daughter for eating cookies before dinner. In contrast, the same fatherly ‘good vs evil’ conflict is expressed in the series with actual nuance and weight, as if consequences mattered.

        While I have a lot of reservations with Bethesda and their overall writing (their character writing is sometimes really good, though), the Fallout TV series takes all the good elements and pushes them together so well! I love it! If anything, it’s a great answer to what Fallout should be like. It pulls on all the good stuff and nails the setting. It also manages to go from comedy to grimdark in a way that a lesser show would present as jarring or distracting, which has always been one of the hallmarks of good Fallout writing.

        If the debate is what makes a good Fallout, you’ve pointed out all of the things that make the show good and all of those are a good Fallout. You’ve answered the question.

        (I’m actually surprised the show was so good. It definitely does have some fridge logic moments, but I’m willing to give it a pass and look forward to season 2.)

        1. I appreciate the comments. I have a lot of trauma regarding debating “what Fallout is supposed to be,” some from this site many years ago. I mainly wanted (want?) to avoid the “if it’s not like THIS, then it’s not really Fallout and YOU don’t understand Fallout and shouldn’t be talking about it” type of thing. As you rightly point out, we have actually ended up talking about the various elements that make Fallout what it is.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      You might be able to have that conversation here. It always used to be true that people were mature enough to Agree to Disagree.

      To try and start it, while I can appreciate things that the show does well, the things it gets wrong are exactly the things that matter most to me: the writing, the worldbuilding, the priorites of the writers. Examlpe: there’s a bit where the two main characters end up in a vault, and – through a wacky series of misunderstandings and not asking basic questions, end up maiming and/or killing several innocent people. And it’s played for laughs.

      It was (to me) clearly contrived to deceive the audience, and any thought of character motivations or verisimilitude were secondary. Characters went out of their way to say misleading things or just not ask simple questions just to get to the ending, and the ending was…unnecessary violence.
      If you like that, fine. Not me.

      (Incidentally, I want to know where Moldaver got the men for her revenge mission. Seriously, did she go looking for the most brutal and uncontrolled people she could find, so she could maximise collateral damage in her (otherwise quite relateable) plan to provide power to the Wasteland?)

      1. Let me think on this a bit. The Vault 4 section, I think, serves as an excellent example what the series writers did WELL by using this segment to build the world for people less familiar with Fallout while, at least ostensibly, referencing ideas long-time fans would appreciate. BUT ALSO this section of the series illustrates the two most glaring problems: who and what Moldaver is; and what she has to do with the NCR (because she is certainly depicted as being connected AFTER the destruction of SS, at least. Her perceived 200-year existence implies a prior involvement that would inherently be a ret-con, but I’m not sure that’s the route they’re going with her.)

        On that subject, that Vault-Tec destroyed Shady Sands in an attempt to hamstring the NCR doesn’t bother me, as it apparently does some. There was a time when Vault-Tec DIDN’T start The Great War intentionally, but the lore has kind of been leading into that for a long time and I’m fine with the current status-quo. So the fact that a “preserved” pre-war Vault-Tec manager in an ark-super-vault arranged the destruction of SS when he became aware of it because it threatened Vault-Tec’s plans for Ruling The World Eventually sounds like a very Fallout kind of thing.

        Vault 4 really comes off to me as telling two largely incompatible stories. I suspect in the rough drafts these were two different scenarios: the absurdist Vault 4 six generations (or whatever it was) into a scientist-led vault allowed to do whatever they wanted to the “citizens” of the vault, including the “capturing wastelanders for the experiments” part, and the “you must be punished! leave our vault with 2 weeks of supplies, you horrible person!” And then the Moldaver/Flame Mother cult that seems completely out-of-place and almost entirely unrelated…even contradictory. I can easily accept BOTH scenarios as things Lucy could run into in this story…but I definitely have a hard time seeing those events COINCIDING in this one remnant vault. Like I said…I think this is a result of editing to time and budget. Vault 4 was deemed necessary to present some of the absurd situations you find in the game…like the guy who has never crossed over a hill into the next town, or the snide jab at sidequests by Coop. The Flame Mother cult is unfortunately part of that big chunk of the series that just didn’t get explained fully. I never like it when a show leaves something important to the current story to be explored in a later series that may never happen. Pretty sure THIS MUCH was included because it fleshes out/foreshadows the mentality of Vault-Tec, which is of course part of Cooper’s story as well. I think they just cut too much, maybe.

        1. DrBones says:

          I know a lot of people credit Fallout 2024’s writing and direction to Jonathan Nolan, but I’m not sure if the credits agree with that. Going by each episode’s credits, Nolan directed the first three episodes, but the other five are split between four different directors with less immediately-recognizable pedigrees and styles. If this series was hot-swapping writers and directors every episode, it may explain some of my issues with the story meandering and the big plot moments getting inconsistent setups.

          We do have a few people with important positions on all eight episodes, though! We have “Creator” credit for Geneva Robertson-Dworet, and “Executive Story Editor” credits for Chaz Hawkins. As far as IMDB can tell me, Geneva’s most notable works are Captain Marvel (the Marvel one with Brie Larson, not the DC one with Zachary Levi) and the 2018 Tomb Raider movie, and Chaz Hawkins’ writing credits begin and end with a few short films.

          Since the Vault 4 arc was split between two directors (starting with Clare Kilner in episode 5, handing it off to Frederick Toye for episode 6, and then sharing the credits for episode 7), I feel that arc’s jumbled tone and writing might be partly to blame because of this? It’d help explain why Vault security protocols go from “intruder alert, break out the harpoon gun and football tackles” to “politely but firmly ask the condemned to leave” between episodes, at least!

          1. Syal says:

            I thought Vault 4 fit together fine. The harpoon gun is for escaped experiments, once the guy sees who it is he just stands there in confusion*; and the weird ritual is an import from Shady Sands.

            *(the football tackles are after she burns Harpoon Guy with… acid? Boiling water? Dry ice? Not sure why there’s just a jug of dry ice sitting there in the first place.)

            1. BlueHorus says:

              Obvious questions that neither Maximus nor Lucy bothered to ask:
              “Hey, [Vault Overseer] Chris Parnell, why do you have only one cyclops eye?”
              “Hey, [random other person] do you know why some of the people here have weird mutations?”
              Why don’t you want us to go to level 12?”
              “Several door signs imply that there are fucked up experiments going on here and the people are mutated and weird! What’s going on?!”

              Simple things that Vault 4’s inhabitants could have said:
              “So, you’ve probably noticed that some of us in the vault have unsightly mutations. This is because of the vault’s messed up past…”
              “Oh, don’t go to level 12, there was an accident there and there’s nothing but rubble.”
              “Level 12 was flooded with radiation and has been sealed off to protect the Vault’s inhabitants. Don’t go there.”
              Or maybe they could have just locked the door to level 12 so it wasn’t so easy to get into. Lucy just takes the elevator there and walks inside.

              Instead, everyone avoids asking or saying anything that might diffuse or deflate suspicion. Chris Parnell simply says “Don’t go to level 12”, which is possibly the best way to ensure that someone’s going to got there.
              There’s apparently no security on a) the floor no-one’s meant to go, and b) the one fusion core they have that powers the entire vault (that Maximus has already shown interest in), so relative strangers can just wander around.
              And then, instead of just kicking Lucy out, they have an elaborate ceremony where Chris Parnell stands over her with a sword in a misleading fashion, just so Maximus can get the wrong idea and start attacking people.

              Sure you probably can explain all these things. Our protagonists aren’t very thoughtful; they evaded Vault 4’s security offscreen; Vault 4’s inhabitants are exceptionally naive and didn’t think about how suspicious their behavior was; and so forth.
              But to me it just seems really obvious that someone had a situation they wanted to get to and made sure it happened – logic or character consistency be damned.

              1. All valid points. Everything, IMO, can be explained to an adequate level WITHIN CONTEXT, except for the part where the Shady Sands survivors led by Birdie don’t ever occupy the middle ground. Those are the people that, if Lucy is too polite to actually ask about the mutations, THEY should probably mention them. Or explain ANYTHING, really. Maximus not responding to mutations is implied to be because he is from the Wasteland…he’s SEEN mutations and doesn’t realize Lucy’s vault didn’t have physical mutation like this. Except the audience is never shown mutated humans similar to those in Vault 4. The final bit, as you say, COULD be explained, but does seem to be played up specifically for the scene. Overall it doesn’t bother me because they were trying to make some points that illustrated the story, AND I’m one of the Fallout players who has always enjoyed the highly absurd scenarios that get presented occassionally. I don’t expect a 100% realistic wasteland.

                But at the same time I do think the Vault 4 segment steps over the line a bit too far. The part that creates the most dissonance for me is the Shady Sands survivors role in the fault. That’s why I personally feel that the Vault 4 encounter and the Flame Mother Cult/Shady Sands Survivors encounter were meant to be in two different locations instead of intermixed into one story.

              2. Syal says:

                Vault 4’s inhabitants are exceptionally naive

                That one, definitely. It’s a running theme how naive Vault dwellers are; it’s practically all Scientist Guy talks about, it’s why Tall Mustache Guy won’t stop telling people who he voted for, it’s every interaction basically. So Lucy is embarrassed to ask about the mutations, but she does ask about Level 12, and the Overseer throws her out immediately without answering, and it doesn’t seem any dumber than that time Lucy tried to talk The Ghoul into leaving in the middle of a firefight where he’d just killed ten people.

  6. PPX14 says:

    People seem to be all over this series. Multiple people have mentioned it at work – now, it does seem like everyone at work is actually secretly a massive gamer and we just don’t talk about it much, favouring conversations about DIY and parenting as such, so maybe it’s a poor cross section, but I get the feeling that it’s really popular outside Fallout fans.

    I for one started Fallout 3 about a decade ago and didn’t really get into it – I’ve never been a fan of a post apocalyptic setting (the world once almost everything interesting has been destroyed, including non-sandy colours) and I also have issues with choices in games – I love them, but I want to make the choice with the best outcome, and when the consequences for outcomes are interspersed with cutscenes, or other choices, it all ends up complicated and someone dies or hates me and I want to go back and play again and make the “right” choice. Fallout 3 felt like it front loaded some big choices, perhaps that’s why I ended up dropping it, I never actually left the bunker thing. I should of course go back to it at some point.

    As for the series – I don’t much like the look of it, nor dislike the look of it… except Kyle McLachlan. It seems worthwhile watching just for him, there’s something about him that’s compelling in the few things I’ve seen him in (Dune and Twin Peaks I suppose, surely something else too?)

    1. McLachlan has made a career recently of playing the ‘secret asshole,’ so that’s always fun. To me the series would be MORE enjoyable to a Fallout fan, as it’s loaded with references that they DON’T point to constantly with waggling eyebrows. The references are just there to notice.

      A lot of the criticisms of Fallout 3 are completely valid, which is why my advice for someone playing it for the first time (or essentially the first time) is that one time won’t be enough. To me the perfect playthrough of Fallout 3 avoids the story as often as possible and uses an incredible number of mods. Although of course, to appreciate what the mods add it helps to know the game in it’s default state, and the modern iteration of the Game of the Year version is about as stable and playable as it can get.

  7. Syal says:

    Well, you convinced me to watch the show, and apart from my normal “Amazon show” complaints which will be saved for more political venues, I liked it a good bit. But I’ve also never really been a fan of the setting*; I liked Fallout 2 more than 1, never got past Primm in New Vegas, and don’t think I ever left the vault in Fallout 3. So I know enough to catch some references but not enough for lore breaks to bother me.

    Maybe next season we’ll meet Gordon Gecko from Fallout 2, you know, that iconic setting character.

    *(post-apocalypses are almost always giant deserts, and I’m coming to realize deserts are the sewer levels of the outdoors.)

    1. Syal says:

      …somehow forgot that none of the conflicts in Vault 33 make any sense. Like, I have no idea what anybody’s plan is in Vault 33; not Maldover, not the surrounding vaults, not Vault-Tec, just, none of those events connect to make a coherent story. Even the number of people in the vault seems inconsistent. That whole… 25%? of the show is largely filler.

      1. Honestly, except for Moldaver, Vault 33 makes sense to me by the end. There is still the potential for it to fall apart, depending on if they address Vault 32 in the future and what they say then. What we learn by the end of the series that Vaults 31, 32, 33 were the “management” vaults; the vaults designed specifically to preserve Vault-Tec leadership until reclamation day AND store a breeding population that used eugenic ideas and training to create EVEN BETTER managers. Vault 31 is solely dedicated to stasis tubes with the former (current?) Vault-Tec leadership. It is NOT made clear whether Vault 32 and 33 had the same purpose, but it is implied that the two likely were designed to keep inter-breeding to a minimum by carefully mixing the populations on regular intervals. We see in the last episode that, what, something between 7 and 10 stasis tubes have been opened so far? BUT, the room is big and we can’t really see to deep, so I don’t think we can rely on that number.

        We know from Coop’s flashbacks that Hank was Coop’s wife’s “assistant” and Betty was her secretary. Considering Coop’s wife was VERY high up in the company, I suppose we could assume Hank and Betty are in the very bottom layer of Vault-Tec employees who were preserved. I mean, neither was technically a manager, they only worked for a manager. BUT they (supposedly) had been vetted for loyalty to Vault-Tec, and thus were part of the group that always performed as Overseers. But not ONLY overseers. We know there are several citizens of Vault 33 from Vault 31…Betty was formerly an Overseer of Vault 32, presumably before Hank was Overseer of Vault 33. Steph is from Vault 31 and is chosen as Overseer of the re-populated Vault 32. I need to go back and re-watch; I wouldn’t be surprised if Steph is in one of the scenes that takes place at or related to Vault-Tec. Assistant at the commercial production with Coop, or something like that.

        We aren’t ever given what the conditions for Vault 31-33’s “Reclamation Day” is. We know they monitor the outside world and respond to perceived threats. We know there have been multiple tragedies in Vault 33 that always result in a new Overseer (from Vault 31, as we learn later). And Moldaver is the big wrench in everything.

        Although, for better or worse, I do think some of the questions can be answered. A lot of people bring up “why did she wait until now to raid the vault for Hank?” Simple: because NOW is when she needs something he has. Hank has the access code to activate the Cold Fusion core. It is NOT explained why he knows it and how Moldaver knows he knows it, but for RIGHT NOW I’m not worried about that. While the Flame Mother cult seems to be focused on retribution for the destruction of Shady Sands, Moldaver herself only gives that lip service, IMO. She seems to be only focused on activating the Cold Fusion reactor in the Griffiths Observatory.

        1. Syal says:

          Betty was formerly an Overseer of Vault 32, presumably before Hank was Overseer of Vault 33.

          Well that would at least clear up the Betty question, because the record scene seems to be implying that every Vault 31 member becomes an Overseer but Betty’s very old and Hank’s still in fine shape until The Incident. It doesn’t really cover the overall why, though, like, who wants to revive and die inside the vaults instead of outside in New Vaultland. The eugenics program doesn’t make much sense because those kids don’t become the Overseers, it’s still the folks they started with in 31.

          There’s also more specific questions; why did they leave two-year dead bodies around and then clean them up exactly one day after someone saw them? Why did they agree to a trade with Vault 32 if it destroyed itself years ago, how did nobody notice? What does populating 32 with residents of 33 accomplish, they’re all still related to each other. Why are so many people still alive when the raiders clearly killed the entire Vault in the first episode.

          Might need to rewatch the first episode, see if there’s anything special about the six hostages.

          1. EDITED TO ADD: Refreshed my memory on a couple of things. The key point I think is that Vault 33, which already contained Hank and Betty (and Steph and presumably others) didn’t know what had happened in Vault 32. That’s plausible, given what we are shown. A bit silly IMO that the various overseers don’t stay in constant contact, but that is certainly what is depicted. Sometime in the last 2 – 3 years, Vault 32 fell in rebellion when the citizens discovered they were part of Bud’s eugenics plan…probably reasoning pretty quickly that the “democracy” that the vault enjoyed was carefully orchestrated and didn’t actually affect anything of importance. Most of the vault died in the resultant fighting, but clearly some chose suicide. There is some highlighting of the idea that that vault basically went critical and collapsed (the mice in an enclose maze on the tv), which is a bit hand-wavey in my opinion, but can be argued. From Hank and the “council’s” perspective, the request for an intervault exchange is completely normal…they don’t know there isn’t anyone alive to do so. And then we’re back to “who is Moldaver, what does she know, when did she know it, how does she know it, etc.”

            I’m gonna have to re-watch because you came away with different impressions about the timeline and events than I did. And I’m certainly not gonna claim I *must* be right. If I remember correctly Betty was Overseer of Vault 32 before coming to Vault 33 as a regular citizen…presumably as part of her “retirement,” but it’s not stated. Some of the Overseers were listed as going from 31 to 32, not just 31 to 33. I hope I’m remembering that right. My understanding of the “why” it’s done that way is to create a ready-to-go population that fits Bud Atkins view of “perfect managers.” None of these kids are likely planned to ever be a Vault Overseer, but they would be, theoretically, the ultimate “accomplishers” when Reclamation Day comes. Bud’s idea was that “management” was THE prime skill…mangement and time.

            On timing, I’ll wait until I rewatch. I’ve made three attempts at listing the timeline out, and every time I remember something else mentioned that re-arranges things. I’ve gone back and forth between “yeah, it works” and “no, it doesn’t work at all,” and come up with another explanation for something every time.

            1. Zekiel says:

              Thanks for this summary. I just finished watching the series and was confused by what was going on with the 3 vaults (particularly 32) and that’s cleared most of it up!

              1. Glad it helped! I’m looking forward to the second season. As I detailed, there are some problems, but the series is DEFINITELY “Fallout.”

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