Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Fallout review: An apocalyptic thriller that never quite explodes

Published Apr 10th, 2024 9:00AM EDT
Ella Purnell in Fallout on Prime Video
Image: Prime Video

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

We’re in the midst of a golden age of video game adaptations. HBO just turned The Last of Us into a thrilling, emotional drama, Nintendo finally bit the bullet and made Mario a movie star, and Sonic the Hedgehog is at the center of a growing cinematic universe. Now, Amazon is getting in on the fun with a new live-action series based on the Fallout franchise, and while it never quite comes together, there’s a lot to like about this weird, gritty show.

Fallout is the latest project from Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, and it shows. Much like the canceled HBO drama series, Fallout explores a world steeped in mystery, with its cast of characters all gradually discovering that things are not what they seem.

Character-driven, driven characters

The series follows three characters: Vault-dweller Lucy MacLean (Ella Purnell), Brotherhood of Steel soldier Maximus (Aaron Moten), and a mysterious bounty hunter (Walton Goggins). Each sets out on a deeply personal journey, but they all wind up tangled in a web of conspiracies and schemes that could alter the fate of humanity… or end it once and for all.

All three leads deliver, especially Aaron Moten, who has never had such a large role in such a high-profile release. Maximus had the thinnest backstory of the three protagonists, but over the course of the season, he was the one I found myself most desperate to learn more about. As a member of a semi-religious, technocratic military order, his dreams and aspirations look more like my nightmares, but his journey of self-discovery is the most compelling.

Meanwhile, Walton Goggins draws upon his experience as Boyd Crowder in Justified to play yet another dastardly foil to our heroes. Without giving too much away, he’s seen more of this world than just about anyone else we’ll meet, and his cynicism and anger are a stark contrast to the hopeless optimism of Lucy and the misguided ambitions of Maximus.

Speaking of Lucy, she is one character who did not win me over. Purnell, as noted above, does everything she can to make the headstrong and capable but naive and innocent Lucy MacLean the focal point around which the rest of the show gravitates, but she’s too often a punching bag for the barbaric world around her without any agency to define her own story. Watching Lucy repeatedly learn the same lesson loses its impact after a while.

Kyle MacLachlan (Overseer Hank) in Fallout.
Kyle MacLachlan (Overseer Hank) in Fallout. Image source: Prime Video

All of that said, the show wouldn’t work without its leads, even if their development didn’t totally blow me away. The same is true of the funny, quirky, and often deformed supporting characters (and creatures) we meet along the way. The Fallout series fully nails that element of the games — around every corner is another deeply weird, entirely unique encounter with a survivor who may need your help or may want to blow your brains out.

A fully realized wasteland

I simply cannot praise the set design of this show enough. While there is some CGI sprinkled throughout, anyone who was freaking out over the stunning sets and practical effects of Dune: Part Two earlier this year will be over the moon for Fallout.

As with all of Bethesda’s games, the Fallout games feature an enormous, varied, lived-in world to explore. If the show couldn’t do the same, there would be no point in making it, but fans of the game will immediately see how much thought and effort has been put into bringing these vaults, cities, and outposts scattered around bombed-out America to life.

Vault 33, where Lucy lives along with her father, her brother, and a few dozen other survivors, is especially detailed and considered, loaded with familiar sights and sounds from the games. The show even finds a way to keep the vault relevant after Lucy leaves by sending her brother Norm (Moisés Arias) on a quest for answers about the origins of their home.

Cold war

Walton Goggins in Fallout.
Walton Goggins (The Ghoul) in Fallout. Image source: Prime Video

For all the praise that I could heap on the casting, the set design, and even the props, I walked away from Fallout season 1 feeling a bit cold.

Similar to Westworld, Lost, and Stranger Things, Fallout is a mystery box show, and throughout the season, a multitude of mysteries about this world and the characters slowly unravel through a series of flashbacks, discoveries, and shocking deaths.

Those mysteries, especially in the case of Lucy, often take priority over character development. As a result, the answers to those questions fail to carry as much weight as they might have if I was deeply invested in the futures of Lucy, Maximus, and the Ghoul.

That said, after watching the finale, I’m fascinated enough by this world and the next adventure to tune in whenever Amazon gets around to making a second season.

Fallout season 1 hits Prime Video on April 10th at 6:00 p.m. PT / 9:00 p.m. ET.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.