Fallout video-game adaptation is a ‘brutal romp’

Across the show’s eight episodes, we follow Lucy, Maximus and The Ghoul as their paths cross and uncross. We also learn something of the events before the war, and about how the vaults came into being and acquired their distinctive iconography – which includes Vault Boy, the cheery, thumbs-up cartoon motif who is Vault-Tec’s mascot (fun fact: the mother and stepfather of British actor Purnell run a gym in London called The Vault).

The meandering plot doesn’t really bear close scrutiny but plot’s not the most important thing here. There are a number of factors that make Fallout stand out. 

Firstly, it looks terrific. Clearly little expense has been spared on sets and design and special effects. The dusty Wasteland is expansive and nightmarish. The vaults look both properly lived-in and as if they could withstand nuclear attack. The power armour suits used by the Brotherhood of Steel are convincingly solid. Goggins is virtually unrecognisable as the noseless, decaying Ghoul. Appalling injuries and wounds are revoltingly realistic. (There’s a lot of violence).

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Another plus is its wholehearted embrace of the game’s dark, surreal humour, much of which arises from the bizarre situations that the characters find themselves in. There are demented, homicidal robots, perverted peripatetic pharmacists, amiable cycloptic vault overseers. The soundtrack ironically juxtaposes soulful, croony period music from the likes of the Ink Spots and Nat King Cole with the horrors of post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. The show also satirises capitalism and Big Tech (another irony, given that it’s on Amazon’s Prime Video).

Purnell is excellent as Lucy, a trusting, optimistic kind of gal, described by the showrunners as part Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, part The Simpsons’ Ned Flanders. At the beginning of the series, she’s a wide-eyed naif who believes everything she is told about the world. Her experiences in the Wasteland, a school of very hard knocks indeed, open her eyes to a few unsavoury truths as the rads (units of radiation) tick up on her Pip-Boy (wearable computer). Goggins as The Ghoul has the swagger of a spaghetti western anti-hero and manages to convey subtle emotion despite looking like something that’s spent years buried alive – which he has. Moten keeps us guessing as to whether Maximus is a good guy or not

The large cast also includes Kyle MacLachlan, Zach Cherry and Michael Emerson and there are several entertaining cameos, those of Dale Dickey and Matt Berry being especially enjoyable.

Viewers who love the games will relish the chance to discover new aspects of the Fallout universe. Those who’ve never played them will enjoy a vivid, brutal romp with flashes of absurdist comedy and set in an engrossing, richly detailed world.

The finale makes plain the showrunners’ desire to continue. Joy and Nolan’s last big sci-fi show, The Peripheral, was canned after one season, reportedly as a result of industry strikes. Westworld was cancelled four seasons into a planned six-season run. I think it’ll be third time lucky. Fallout is both totally rad and an absolute blast.

★★★★☆

Fallout premieres on Amazon Prime Video on 10 April at 18:00 PT and 21:00 ET in the US, and 11 April at 02.00 BST in the UK.

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