Fallout Episode 1: The End

Introduction

I considered doing a week of Fallout to celebrate the release of the new television show. Instead, I came up with a better idea. I can still celebrate Fallout for a week with one episode per day. Furthermore, look forward to an entire month of Fallout content in June. I’m still trying to figure out names for the month, but I intend to play through each of the games and take a closer look at the tabletop RPG I ordered a few years ago. For now, let’s talk about Fallout Episode 1.

Plot Summary and Analysis

Click here for the plot summary.

If you ever played any of the Fallout games, little about the plot surprises you. If you never played any of the Fallout games, now you know what to expect when you sit down to play them. The United States and, presumably, the world fell in a massive nuclear conflict. Some residents took up, well, residence in vaults designed to shield them from the dangers of radiation and anything that radiation might have unleashed on the surface.

Inevitably, something happens in the vault that propels one of the dwellers out into that harsh over world environment. They learn that not much changed in the intervening years and people are still people, for better and worse. Mostly worse. Faced with limited resources made even more so by the bombs, it quickly became a race to hoard all of the resources you can.

One faction, in particular, got very good at hoarding those resources. The Brotherhood of Steel, self proclaimed sheriffs and technology gurus of the Wasteland, harness that power into making themselves stronger, faster, and meaner than almost anything in that Wasteland. “Flesh is weak. But steel endures.” If you don’t find yourself having a little nerdgasm the first time you see the armor, this series isn’t for you.

The radiation also created a new species of human through prolonged exposure and mutation. If you’re like me and have too much exposure to zombie fiction, you might mistake these creatures for zombies. But, their appearance is due to the effects of the radiation and not death and decay. The first time I encountered one without the benefit of a wiki, I said, “a talking zombie!”

To be fair, I can be forgiven for the mistake, right?

Character Profiles

Lucy: Lucy lived her entire life in Vault 33. Life appears to be idyllic in the vault. Sure, the gene pool is a bit shallow and, as a result, they must submit applications for marriage to someone from another vault. This happens every 3 years. This time, Lucy gets chosen for the honor. That union goes horribly wrong, many people die, and Lucy’s father is abducted. Remember when I said “inevitably, something propels one of the dwellers” out of the vault? Well, here’s your inevitable something. Lucy’s story in this episode ends just as she sets out into the Wasteland after her father. Based on how she handled herself during the attack, I think she’ll do okay out there.

Maximus: I mention the Brotherhood of Steel above because we get immediate introduction to the group. An orphaned young man taken in by the knights grows up in their care. He feels slighted when a fellow soldier is chosen over him to be a squire and that drives much of his story. While they steer you to believe that Max then sabotaged his peer as a result, I don’t buy it. Sure, the act leads to Maximus taking Dane’s place, but it’s too obvious. Maybe that’s what they want us to think. Stay tuned to see if I’m right.

The Ghoul: Our last main character gets the least amount of screen time. Arguably, though, he gets the best introduction. A familiar face, twisted and deformed by time and radiation, absolutely annihilates a trio of wannabe buckaroos in record time. He then sets out on his own, presumably to get revenge on his tormentor. Maybe he will follow up on the bounty mentioned by his liberators. There’s also the question of his family. Were they ghoulified, too? I mean, cowpokes, right? They take them as they come.

World Building and Setting

Vault 33 from Fallout Episode 1

In the games, the Wasteland is almost a character in and of itself. As you traverse the land, the games drop subtle little bread crumbs that identify it as post nuclear war America. In this first episode, you get almost none of that. With much of Fallout Episode 1 taking place in Vault 33, there’s not much of a chance to show off the Wasteland.

I respect that decision. It follows the vibe of the games. You spend a good part of the games in your vault. Ostensibly, this takes the place of the tutorial that modern games offer. In any case, they did a good job of replicating the look and feel of being in a vault. Then, they captured the feeling of exiting that vault, complete with the blinding white light to add to the feeling of suspense.

The Wasteland looked familiar in that it appears to be a wasteland. Skeletons and bodies frozen by the nuclear blasts dot the landscape of bombed out buildings. One thing that I may have missed is that the games often show the old style cars among the wreckage. Maybe they saved that for the next episode.

Themes and Social Commentary

Liam and I talked the other day about Portal 2. It happens more often than you think. I said to him, inspired by the show, “You know what? You might like the Fallout series. They have a lot of the same humor as Portal. But, the games are ridiculously long, especially the new ones.” That humor only shows up a couple of times in this episode. But, because of that, it hits a little harder.

They do touch on some of the overarching themes of the series. The first theme comes up during the party. Mom tries to push aside all mention of any potential conflict. As she does, the bombs drop. I can’t say what the appropriate reaction is in such a situation. However, ever since dropping social media, I can confidently say that ignorance is absolutely bliss. If the bombs drop over the next few years, then I will die a happy man.

Then, the theme that things aren’t always what they seem. When Norm wanders into Vault 32 to see that the crops died a while ago and also notices a mummified corpse, you realize that there’s been some bad mojo going on there for a while. The lesson here, as always. Trust no one.

I know that’s X-Files. But, it applies here, too.

Narrative Structure, Pacing, and Soundtrack

Fallout Episode 1 moves briskly. As I mentioned, the episode clocks in at over 70 minutes. But, I never felt bored at any time. Sometimes, with longer shows, I find myself counting down the time to the end. That never happened here. By switching between the three stories, they switch up the pacing and that keeps things moving.

Throughout the episode, they reveal things that bring up questions that I hope they will answer later in the season. So far, none of them feel big enough as a hold over to a season 2 (which I know has been greenlit), so they definitely need to wrap them up by the end of this season. Furthermore, I need to keep watching because each one of those questions feels important and necessary to me.

The thing that struck me most about the episode is that music. They chose the old timey music that the series is famous for. Moreover, every song matched the scene exactly. The music director for this series is an absolute genius and deserves and Emmy for their work in this episode alone. If they keep it up, then just hand them the statue.

The Verdict

An impressive first episode of a show that easily could have been very bad. I’ve seen some reviews where people shit on the show. Ignore them. Also, the inevitable bros with their cries of “WOKE!” popped up in response. Ignore them. Fallout episode 1 made me feel like I was playing the games and, for that, I salute them.

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