Fallout Episode 5: The Past

Introduction

This hiatus is not inexplicable. In fact, I easily explained our absence last weekend in the plot summary. For those who TLDR that, let me repeat myself here. Christine and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary in Boston. We went to see Come From Away and watched the Free Jacks beat Dallas in a Major League Rugby match. But, this weekend, I return with a discussion of Fallout episode 5.

Plot Summary and Analysis

Click here for the plot summary.

Fallout episode 5 continues one great story and gives a heck of an introduction to another. The ghoul takes this episode off. Instead, they concentrate on Max and Lucy meeting one another and attempting to track down the head and Norm and Chet’s big adventures through Vault 32 and, nearly, Vault 31.

Alas, they made us wait for the reveal of what secrets Vault 31 contain. But, they reveal one massive bread crumb along that trail. Every overseer from both Vault 32 and Vault 33 came from Vault 31. Not content with the surface explanations, Norm looks to uncover another secret that he’s convinced exists. Hey, it’s not paranoia if they really are lying to you.

Meanwhile, Max and Lucy form an alliance through her skills of negotiation. Those later fail when faced with a couple of cannibals, but Max negotiates much more successfully with her pistol. During their trek, they stumble on Shady Sands and we get more of Max’s backstory. All that time, Thaddeus has the head and makes his way back to the Brotherhood to deliver the goods.

Character Profiles

Max: Max again tries to do good and gets screwed for it. Thaddeus immediately turns on him when he discovers that he took the armor from a dead Titus. When faced with the option to tell the truth to Lucy, he lies to her about his name. But, he works together with her and protects her from herself a couple of times.

Lucy: As a result, Lucy grows to trust him more and more as they travel together. She even lets her guard down again when faced with the fiends on the bridge. This comes back to bite her, almost literally, but Max’s experience makes up for her naivete. It looks like she gets to repay the favors in the next episode as they find themselves in her domain at the end of this one.

Norm: While he lays off of the badassery in this episode, Norm still pushes to find the truth behind the 3 vaults. He makes a huge discovery about each of the overseers in the vaults but he gets stonewalled again and must wait to learn more.

Betty: Works as Norm’s main foil. Always seems to pop up when he’s just about to find something big or put some clues together. Then, she becomes a huge stick in his craw by cleaning Vault 32 and burying much of the evidence.

Supporting Characters: Chet again accompanies Norm on his adventures, but mostly tries to tell him that there’s ultimately no reason for his suspicion. Stephanie, also from Vault 31, only has a couple of lines, but they give Norm an idea. Thaddeus, too, only has a couple minutes of screen time, but opens a major plot by taking the head.

World Building and Setting

Fallout episode 5 went a long way to building the world for us. We see the fate of Shady Sands (controversial for some fans). They show us the inside of another inhabited vault and, we have to assume, will learn more about it.

On the way to that Vault, we see the Vault Tec insignia outside of the medical center as foreshadowing. Lucy learns that the stories of Vault 33 returning civilization to the surface are a lie. This lends credence to Norm’s suspicion and the possibility that Vault Tec is completely corrupt.

Themes and Social Commentary

They play all the hits in this one. Max’s comment about everyone wanting to save the world but disagreeing on how cuts right through the bullshit and lays it all out for us. Granted, it assumes good intentions for people that, perhaps, I assume are inherently evil. That, most likely, is my issue that I need to work out. And, there you have it. Is there such a thing as “good” and “evil” or do we simply disagree on how? Pretty deep for a game that sometimes seems to pride itself in its ability to shock its players. Certainly too deep for me to discuss right here, right now. But, maybe with the extra time I have over the summer, I can release a companion YouTube or podcast series exploring these issues. Stay tuned for that.

The Norm, and to some extent Lucy and even Max, story lines cause us (well, me at least) to question the wisdom and trustworthiness of those in charge. Even if they have difference of opinion from us, often their opinions involve who, exactly, is worthy of being called human and who, in a term I actually heard used out loud, is human capital. I’m sorry, you have a tough time convincing me that someone who views people only in terms of their monetary value is not evil. Save it for the show, Lucas.

Lucy’s, and Max’s, main contribution is the question of how to stay “good” (if you believe that sort of thing) in the face of overwhelming “evil” (if you believe that sort of thing). She won’t initially let her guard down around Max, but then does on the bridge and pays for it. Likewise, Max gets punished for telling Thaddeus the truth but finds a companion in Lucy after lying to her about his name. I’ve been rewatching “My Name is Earl” and I got to the season where he starts to question Karma and her influence on events. That feels very in line with this sort of thing.

Narrative Pacing, Structure, and Soundtrack

I still like the alternating between story lines. It moves the episodes along and I never feel bored while watching. I also appreciate that they take a break from some characters to focus on others. Absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder. I recently saw a rumor that they might run the show for 5 seasons. If so, that gives them plenty of time to explore these characters and more.

One of the highlights of the soundtrack this time is the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It plays a few times, different versions, to a different effect each time. Once, it marches Max and Lucy into the Wasteland. Another time, it bolsters Betty’s message. The final time, it highlights the sometimes crooked democratic process. A good way to change the mood with music.

Another good example of that is the “What A Difference A Day Makes” when they show the scenes from the old and new Vault 32. When the line “and that difference is you” plays, Betty arrives to either goal or put Norm’s mind at ease. Perhaps both. Either way, the song emphasizes the importance of the scene perfectly.

The Verdict

I’ve seen (and heard) some reviews that claim that the only good character in the show is The Ghoul. Fallout episode 5 disproves that. With no screen time for either The Ghoul or Cooper, I still enjoyed this episode immensely. Lucy and Max work well together. And, Norm is a chip off the old block in his search for the truth.

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