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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.

Fallout Episode 4: The Ghouls

Introduction

You know what you’re getting from us. Decent content and inexplicable two week hiatuses from that content. The end of the school year always kicks my ass and this year is no different. But, I’m back with Fallout Episode 4 and a plan to finish the series by the end of June and our celebration of all things Fallout. No sign of Max or Thaddeus in this episode because it concentrates on The Ghoul, Lucy, and Norm.

Plot Summary and Analysis

Click here for the plot summary.

As mentioned above, this Fallout episode 4 concentrates on a smaller list of characters. This allows them to advance two main narratives; what happened in Vault 32 and Lucy’s trek to find her father. Thought, if I’m being honest, this part of that trek feels more like a side quest than a main quest. That’s not bad, mind you. Because, it serves to develop Lucy’s character a little bit. But, more on that in the next section.

Norm and Chet stumble upon the remnants of Vault 32. Surprisingly, this is where most of the plot of the series develops. They learn that the residents of the vault, driven mad by something, most likely either killed themselves or each other. In some cases, maybe both. When Chet theorizes that the madness drove them to let in the raiders, Norm corrects him. They opened the door from the outside.

Then, the biggest bomb of the episode. They used Rose McLean’s (Norm’s and Lucy’s mom) Pip Boy to open the door. Does that mean that she’s still alive? That she’s worked with the raiders? I mean, she could still be dead and they stole her Pip Boy. But, they seem to be setting us up for the fact that she’s still alive.

Character Profiles

The Ghoul: He continues to show himself to be a completely selfish individual who sees everything and everyone around him as tools to be used to advance his own goals. I was wrong. He didn’t want to kill Lucy. Instead, he wanted to use her as a bargaining chip to get more vials. I know I should hate the world for what they made him, but I just find myself hating him. Maybe they can redeem him eventually.

Lucy: She fights against the monster that the Wasteland wants her to become. A couple of times, back against the wall, she succumbs to the darkness. She never intentionally hurts anyone, even purposefully missing when shooting at the Super Duper Mart burn outs. She bites The Ghoul’s finger off, but I feel nothing but contempt for that shit bird. Additionally, she often atones for her acts or the reasons for them are egalitarian. Unlike The Ghoul, who is just a cartoon villain at this point, Lucy’s character has layers.

Norm: Betty says the quiet part out loud. Norm is one bad mamajamma (hush yo mouth) and he proves it by staking out Vault 32 and coming out with the reveal of the episode. He reminds me of myself when I play the games. Always searching. Always questioning. Never satisfied with the surface explanation of everything. I can’t wait to see what else he uncovers in the vaults.

Snip Snip: Voiced by Matthew Berry and with many of the laughs in this episode, Snip Snip nearly meets a tragic end before being resurrected for Lucy’s escape plan and then discarded like so much trash by the end of the episode. I hope to see more of them in the future.

Supporting Characters: The stoner warlords in the Super Duper Mart made me chuckle a couple of times. I laughed out loud at the air conditioner comment. Chet gets a starring role with Norm, but serves mostly as a foil to keep him from learning the truth.

World Building and Setting

We get a Super Duper Mart. When they walked up to it, I thought of the first time I went into the Mart in Fallout 3. I got killed by some raiders because, for some reason my dumb ass never considered that they’d use it as a hideout. The show never fails to impress with their attention to detail when dealing with important places from the games. They also showed some of the horrors that befell some residents of the vaults. We all knew that it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorn farts down there, but it gets real dark real fast as Chet and Norm explore.

They also live up to the title of the episode. Ghouls get some love in the episode. We see several in the moments right before they go feral. The Ghoul tells us that he’s been around “a long time”. 219 years? When Roger mentions that he’s turning after only 27, that makes me respect The Ghoul a bit more. But, just a bit.

Themes and Social Commentary

The main theme of Fallout episode 4 explores the idea introduced in earlier episodes about how quickly things go wrong. Vault 32 fell after over 200 years. We can only guess what happened right now, but it looked quick. The two dudes in the Super Duper Mart get their faces eaten off in less than a minute. The Ghoul drops in a heartbeat and that allows Lucy the upper hand and escape.

They push the narrative of it’s not the action that counts, but your reaction to it. The Ghoul chooses to be completely selfish and survive that way. Lucy, on the other hand, mostly keeps her innocence and kind nature in spite of the horrors that she’s endured. I mean, give her 219 years of wasting away in a debilitating fashion and who knows.

Narrative Pacing, Structure, and Soundtrack

Music serves a slightly different purpose in this episode. Instead of matching the music with the scene (it happens once or twice), the music works to enhance the mood of the scene. Because they still use period pieces for the music, it fits in just as well. To prove my point, at least one person put together a YouTube playlist of the music. While I could just use that for my videos in the plot summaries, I like the thrill of the hunt.

I wrote in the last article that I liked when they switch rapidly between the different stories. That happens in this episode as well. and it keeps everything moving. It also allows them to put breadcrumbs into the story and make us think that maybe the stories ultimately connect somehow.

The Verdict

Fallout episode 4 advances the story, develops the characters, and gives us some great music along the way. Even without Max this time around, I still enjoyed the episode. Halfway through the season and things are still looking good for the show. I can’t wait to see how they wrap things up.

Fallout Episode 3: The Head

Introduction

Welcome to the third installment in my weekly review of the Fallout television show. As you will see, this episode is a bit of a filler episode. I saw another review talk about it as “moving the chess pieces on a chessboard” and I agree. Fallout Episode 3 shifts from one character or party to another in rapid succession. We get all of the mains; Max, The Ghoul, Vault 33, and Lucy. Plus, Thaddeus makes another appearance and there’s little concentration on the NPCs from episode 2.

Plot Summary and Analysis

Click here for the plot summary.

I said that the last episode hit the ground running. Fallout episode 3 crawls a bit before running. We get more background on Cooper and his family. Then, some short scenes catching us up with The Ghoul and Lucy and their quest for the head. I appreciate keeping these parts short because, as I said, not much happens.

It still looks like this might be a complete filler episode (surprising with only eight in the season) when Max works on the armor. We finally get some action with a pretty cool fight scene. I compared it to Jackie Chan, which isn’t accurate, but it’s definitely not as long or detailed as one of Chan’s. Plus, we get to see a guy’s head squish. Always welcome.

Those waiting for a Deathclaw must continue to wait. But, they give us a gulper. I never knew about gulpers because I only played a bit of Fallout 4 and never played Fallout 76. Come back in June for the “Fallout from the End of School!” The thing looks right at home in a roster of mutated creatures from the Wasteland.

Meanwhile, we get a visit back to the vault. Surprisingly, the scenes hold up against the rest of the episode mainly because Norm shows himself to be one bad mamajama. Also, I expected the entire Max and Thaddeus story to be Max simply torturing Thaddeus to get him back for all of the pain caused. Teach me to underestimate them again.

The rest of the story serves the purpose of moving those chess pieces. The ghoul keeps Lucy, presumably simply to torture her before killing her as payback for losing the head. Max and Thaddeus seem on the way to reconciliation eventually. And Cooper and his family exist happily in the past with no inclination of what horrors await them.

Character Profiles

Cooper and Family – We get more background about Cooper. He’s a softy who doesn’t even want to kill in the movie. Then, we finally meet Barb, his wife. Their daughter completes their loving family trio. What could have happened to break these two up?

Lucy – She continues her relentless optimism in the face of the horrors of the Wasteland. Her conversation with the head, often used in television shows to show that a character is breaking, actually endears her more because it’s just her thinking aloud and trying to figure out why this man asked, no begged, her to cut off his head. And, why does everyone want the grisly trophy so bad?

The Ghoul: They do an excellent job of contrasting the good nature and loving personality of Cooper with the absolute abomination that The Ghoul has become. He’s not even an anti-hero. He’s just a straight up villain. Initially, I grasped at straws to make him one of my troubled, but ultimately understandable at least, flawed heroes. Like Walter White. But, like Walter White, The Ghoul is just a monster. Leaving CXr0r like that? Screw off.

Max and Thaddeus: This development surprised me the most. I’m not sure why. I like games that are less game and more story. When discussing with a student, who I discovered watched and enjoyed the show, she mentioned that she never played the game. Just watched people play. I replied, “I’ve played the games, but I’m mostly interested in the lore and world they built. I find myself getting lost in Fallout wiki rabbit holes often.”

CX404 – Just a good girl who finds love where she can. Her loyal streak shows up again when she attacks the gulper to save Lucy and The Ghoul. Then, The Ghoul repays her by abandoning her.

World Building and Setting

We get mostly just get filling in the blanks and gaps in this episode. Some familiar sights and call backs to help heighten the realism and make us feel at “home”. But, nothing along the lines of a Filly or even the abandoned house with the cyanide family. They concentrated much more on character development and moving the plot forward. That’s not a bad thing. Just means this section is much shorter this time.

Themes and Social Commentary

Okay, but only because I’m a card carrying (do they actually have cards?) communist, this section may get heavy. I will try to keep it to a minimum, though, in case the fascists win and end up finding this page. The old ‘Merica vs. Communism (fuck yeah!) gets introduced in this episode. They make no argument one way or another. I interpreted the scene as the excesses of the American way that push people to desperate measures and they are then punished for those actions. Someone else easily could come away with “Fuck the Commie. Kill him.”

We also see a morality play in the vaults as they consider what to do with the raiders. I spoke in one of my YouTube videos about being understanding and kind (maybe to the point of naivete) so I understand the point of view of those who want to rehabilitate. With that being said, I think I vote for killing them, especially when news of the Water Chip comes to light. It’s “Us vs. Them” and I don’t owe “Them” shit.

Along similar lines, Max seeks revenge against Thaddeus for all the shit he had to endure in the Brotherhood. Then, he gets more on the story about Thaddeus and learns that the man actually respected him and felt bad for everything. Am eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind. And, that, folks, is why I usually err on the side of peace. But, I will cut a bitch for trying to take my water.

Narrative Structure, Pacing, and Soundtrack

I plan to talk more about the soundtrack in a summary episode at the end of the season. Because, at this point, all I ever say is that the music fits each scene perfectly. Nothing changes in Fallout episode 3. Especially the closing song with Cooper mugging it up for the Vault Tec commercial. For someone who got suspended on Twitter for calling Jack a silicon valley whore, that makes me smile.

Because they wanted to move those chess pieces, they shift quickly between each scene and character. I should probably give whoever said that credit. Actually, you know what? I think that might just be a tagline or AI created content. If it’s you and you find this page, let me know. I will give credit. There is precedent for this happening.

Getting back to the quick shifts, I welcome them for this episode. It kept things moving and didn’t bog us down for very long on any one story. I know it probably seems like I’m shocked at this development, but I grew up with a lifetime of shitting video game and super hero movies. I often need to pinch myself that I now live in a time where these subjects get respect and proper treatment.

The Verdict

Fallout episode 3 easily could have fallen into the trap of being “just filler”. Again, an odd choice with 8 episodes in the season, but it could have happened. I compared the show earlier to “Breaking Bad”. This episode reminds me of the fly episode from that show. What easily could have been stupid and boring may be remembered as one of the most pivotal episodes in the show.

Fallout Episode 2: The Target

Introduction

As mentioned previously, the new show inspired me to plan a week of Fallout as a celebration. However, as it often does, my ambition grew. I now plan to celebrate Fallout for an entire month in June. It fits nicely between Mario in May and Deadpool Kills 2 Generations Gaming in July. As an indirect result, I plan to cover one episode a week in depth. This time, Fallout episode 2.

Plot Summary and Analysis

Click here for the plot summary.

With some of the background and introduction of new characters behind us, this episode hits the ground running. One of the things I love most about modern Fallout games is the NPCs. You meet such a wide variety of kooks and weirdos on your journey across the Wasteland. Some of them, somehow, retain their humanity (and I’m not just talking about the ghouls).

This episode gives you that feel of the games. When Lucy goes into the house through the window and find the family around the table with the cyanide and tea, I saw myself in the game, frantically searching the cabinets and drawers for any supplies that somehow escaped the post war looting. Then, she stumbles upon the water farmer and one of the lessons of the Wasteland is revealed. Always approach strangers with your gun pulled. Don’t necessarily shoot first, but definitely draw first.

Likewise, Maximus stumbles upon a “not what it seems” scenario and, like many of us, has no idea how to process what he just heard. Where the episode really makes strides, though, is in Filly. All of the principals are there. The sequence where the ghoul lays waste to the entire town in record time reminded me more of Red Dead Redemption than Fallout, but it was still a heck of a sequence. Also, the shootings remind me very much of VATS from the games.

They make good use of several plot devices in this one. They introduce us to a new plot surrounding Lucy, Moldaver, her dad, and whatever is in Wilzig’s head. Wilzig drops another bomb and gives us a cliffhanger to get us to the next few episodes when he says Lucy’s name. I like their choice to follow up the first expository episode with one more action oriented.

Character Profiles

Wilzig and CX404: I’m bummed that they killed Wilzig so early in the season. I like his character a lot. His quiet demeanor with an edge of harsh truth reminds me very much of me. But, with the liberal use of flashbacks and other recall narratives, I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of him. CX404’s fierce loyalty to anyone willing to show him some love warms me. You just can’t beat unconditional love like that.

Lucy: Lucy grows up a little bit in the Wasteland. She recognizes that nearly everything can pose a threat by the time she gets to the farmers house. She still falls into old habits, though, when confronting the ghoul and gives him a speech that, under many circumstances, probably never would have ended because he’d put a bullet between her eyes. But, she’s a main character, so I know she can’t die.

Maximus: Max, too, still believes in right and wrong. He judges Titus through that lens and finds him lacking. Then, when he ends up in Filly, he finds out that the armor doesn’t mean shit if you don’t know how to use it and the other person doesn’t just cower before you. He holds his own against The Ghoul, but then his opponent eventually finds a weakness and exploits it mercilessly.

The Ghoul: The Ghoul, likewise, gets some more dimension. He spares Lucy (possibly underestimating her a bit) and heals the dog after it is left for dead by the other party. They get the antihero right where a lot of other writers don’t. Yes, he’s possibly an immoral killer. But, you can argue that’s a byproduct of his ghoulification and surroundings. Underneath that is a good man screwed over by life and the world. And, they are the most dangerous of all.

World Building and Setting

When they set the first episode mainly in a vault, they made the vault look very much like one from the game. Now that they moved out into the Wasteland, it would be easy to get away from that and make it a little more generic dystopian hellscape. Not so. As I already said, the house that Lucy finds looks very much like a house from the game. And the placement of the family that took their cyanide pills is a nice touch that immerses you even more in the horrors of the bomb.

Being less of a Fallout fan than some of you, Filly reminded me of Megaton. I’ve only played Fallout 3 with any sort of regularity. So, that’s the only reference I have. But, the haphazardly thrown together bits from a post apocalyptic world to protect your town from the horrors outside looked like anything I’ve seen in game, too. When they set out to make this show, they did their work.

In the last article, I wondered about the blown up cars that you often see when you’re making your way through the Wasteland. Well, they didn’t disappoint in this episode and gave me an entire graveyard outside of Filly. I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s those little touches that make the show enjoyable to watch.

Themes and Social Commentary

Less of this in Fallout Episode 2. But, they give us a chance to think about morality in several of the situations. Most notably, Maximus’s decision to let Titus die because he feels that the knight doesn’t adhere properly to the Brotherhood’s code. Titus, for what it’s worth, also has a point that the Brotherhood sends them out, possibly to die. And for what? A damn toaster oven? All of that crap about making the Wasteland a better place for all and they’re basically post apocalyptic pirates plundering the left over technology from already desperate people.

Also, WIlzig’s speech to Lucy resonated with me. He builds on what started as a joke. By telling her that she needs to adapt to her surroundings like the roaches did, he also warns her against letting the Wasteland change her too much. Like I wrote up above, she grows some, but holds true to herself and her principles when dealing with the ghoul.

Contrast that with The Ghoul. As I already wrote, he allowed what happened to him to change him on a fundamental level. He still retains some of his humanity, but it is buried much deeper and only surfaces momentarily when he helps the dog. I think that is important. Change is difficult and scary. It is also sometimes necessary. But, you have to be sure not to let the change affect who you are fundamentally as a person.

Narrative Structure, Pacing, and Soundtrack

Fallout Episode 2 lays off of the old timey music some. It’s still there and it still fits each scene very well. I think they took a look at the first episode’s music budget and said, “We need to cut some of this if we hope to get it to eight episodes.” Even so, they used stock “atmospheric” music in ways to drive the narrative forward.

I wrote in my previous article that I never felt bored at any time. While true, that episode focused mostly on character development. This episode moved much faster than that one. Because they focused on action and driving the plot forward, I liked this episode even more. It makes me want to watch even more. That’s just good storytelling and they accomplished their goal.

The Verdict

Last episode they set the characters and gave some background on them. In Fallout Episode 2, they brought them all together in explosive fashion. Like I just wrote, I want to watch even more now. I can’t wait until later on this week or early next week to sit down and watch the next one. Join me in the Wasteland.

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.