Fallout review | Episodes 1-4

fallout review the ghoul
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Based on the video game franchise of the same name, Fallout follows a trio of characters in a world devastated by a nuclear event.  Here’s our review of the first four episodes.

How do you adapt a videogame that’s light on story but heavy on style and setting? Well, just ask Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. 

The Westworld showrunners have taken the Fallout franchise and turned it into a riveting, condensed eight-part series for Prime Video. Fallout comes just over a year after The Last Of Us, but this is a completely different beast. The Fallout games, of which there are five (plus several spin-offs), rely more on a vast open-world than something like The Last Of Us, making the whole idea of turning them into a coherent TV show pretty bamboozling. 

The show, like the games, are set in a futuristic setting where the world has been devastated by a nuclear apocalypse, referred to as The Great War. Many have sought safety in the underground Vaults as the surface remains dangerously radioactive, but several people also live in makeshift villages – despite the radiation.

The show follows three characters. The first one of these is Lucy, a vault dweller who is forced to leave her Vault after her father is taken by the villainous Moldaver, for reasons unknown (for now). Then we have Maximus, an idealistic young soldier with the Brotherhood of Steel with a strong sense of justice who wants nothing more than to wear one of the insanely cool, lethal power armors. 

Finally, we have The Ghoul. In fact, the first episode of Fallout begins with him. “THE END” the screen announces before we find Cooper Howard (Walton Goggins) taking pictures with kids at a birthday party with vague notions about Cooper having to pay child support to his ex-wife. There’s also talk of bombs going off and worrying news reports on TV. 

Suddenly, the bombs do go off. It’s all played out in silence as we see several nuclear bombs destroy a city and the impact throws Cooper backwards through glass doors. It’s one hell of an opening and one that immediately hooks us. 

While Fallout keeps flashing back to Cooper’s backstory before he turned into a noseless, ghastly-looking Ghoul, most of the action unfolds 219 years after The Great War. We find Cooper again and while we’re not quite privy yet as to how he is still alive, we do know that something has definitely gone terribly wrong with his appearance. Just look at the featured image on this review. 

Read more: Westworld | Jonathan Nolan would “like to finish the story we started”

Visually, Fallout is excellent. The games have a very distinct look and style of retrofuturism and Fallout may prove to be confusing with its timelines. The opening sequence could very well be set in the 50s or 60s, but as fans of the games will know, it’s actually set well past our own present. But in terms of pure style, Nolan and Joy absolutely nail it. 

fallout episode 2
Credit: Prime Video

Throughout the first four episodes Nolan and Joy build the world more and more. The Ghoul is awarded the most time and care as his backstory is fleshed out the most. If there’s a problem in Fallout, it’s that there are too many interesting subplots going on and the first four episodes are stuffed with interesting details and characters that you want more of.

Maximus is by far the least developed character even though actor Aaron Moten pours his all into the performance. The fourth episode doesn’t feature him at all, but features plenty of fun tidbits for gamers. Overall, the series mixes a lot of different elements from all of the Fallout games. 

That being said, the series will probably prove to be controversial among hardcore Fallout fans. As a TV show, it’s compelling and stylishly made, but there are also some notable differences, especially to the power armor. The trailers also showcased the knights being able to fly around, much like Iron Man, using wrist jets rather than a full on jetpack as introduced in Fallout 4

It’s not fair to compare Fallout to last year’s The Last Of Us, because the games themselves are so different. But I found myself wanting Fallout to have a similar kind of emotional impact. The very first sequence in episode one feels as bold as episode three or episode nine of The Last Of Us, but overall, the first four episodes occasionally struggle to pull all the narrative threads together. They are still thoroughly gripping and there’s plenty of mysteries here to solve in the final four episodes. 

Fallout is on Prime Video in the UK from 11 April. Look out for our review of the remaining episodes later this week!

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