Courtesy of JoJo Whilden / Prime Video

Minor spoilers ahead

The end of the world, violence, chaos and capitalism. The synopsis of Amazon Prime’s latest hit is downright depressing — three characters from a broken, post-apocalyptic world must find a way to unite in order to accomplish their separate goals, all related to their tragic pasts and presents. A show like “Fallout” initially seems more like a typical horror series, but upon watching just the first episode, it becomes clear that the show has been crafted to balance disaster, comedy, misery and heart all at once, much like many of its fellow video game to TV adaptations. 

The series follows Lucy, a woman who has spent her life living in a radiation proof vault, equipped with all of the technology needed for a comfortable and secure life. On the other hand, the characters of Maximus and The Ghoul have had to fight for their place in the world, with Maximus training to become squire in a futuristic order of knights and clerics and The Ghoul taking the role of a traditional, gun slinging cowboy with a tragic backstory to match. 

The premise of “Fallout” is best defined in a powerful piece of dialogue occurring in the second episode. The character of Dr. Wilzig, a man who, unlike Lucy, has been born into this world and is all too aware of its cruelty, bluntly states to her, “If you insist on staying, then you will have to adapt. The question is, will you still want the same things when you become a different animal altogether?”

What defines Lucy and separates her from the rest of her counterparts is not only her humorous, bubbly personality but her optimistic grit and unwavering determination. Unlike many characters in “Fallout,” Lucy simply refuses to become a different animal. In a show that oftentimes feels bleak and unrelentingly brutal, Lucy’s desire to obtain a happy ending for her and her family somehow makes the audience, despite watching a show about the literal end of the world, believe in that hope too. While much of the media defines a strong female character as a character who is physically strong, “Fallout” makes it clear that while being able to hold her own in a fight, Lucy’s true strength lies in her ability to keep a clear mind and retain emotional strength in the most dire of times. It gives her character an even deeper complexity and her desire to consistently “follow the golden rule” is both admirable and charming. Her character also pairs excellently with that of Maximus — someone whose life has been defined by training for violence and hurting those who have hurt him, despite having a tender heart and a desire to protect the common man. The scenes they share are a highlight of the show.

In addition to the character being well written, Lucy truly comes to life through actress Ella Purnell’s performance. Her ability to showcase expression and skill in playing a role where she must constantly be the odd person out in a room is excellent. There are scenes in the show where all you need to see is the genuine emotion in Purnell’s eyes — whether it be fear, joy, rage or sadness. Her performance serves as both the show’s heart and greatest strength.

Another one of “Fallout’s” main characters, introduced ominously as “The Ghoul,” has a golden rule of his own: “Thou shall be sidetracked by bullshit every goddamn time.” While The Ghoul initially means this humorously, his goal ultimately comes to fruition upon crossing paths with Lucy and Maximus. But unlike The Ghoul would say, the show wastes no time with introductory, sidetracking bullshit. Audiences are immediately thrown into the thick of the plot with only the first episode reserved for real set up, and our characters are properly interacting with each other by the second episode. However, with stakes as high as these, the fast-paced plot feels natural. The Ghoul not only provides a reliving sense of humor and badassery to the show, his relationship with his daughter and wife serve as the emotional heartbeat of the series, alongside Lucy’s desire to find her father. If Dr.Wilzig’s question is the first thing “Fallout” asks, the second is simply how far would you go for your family? Our characters respond as many of us would — by not considering the question a question at all. 

One of “Fallout’s” most interesting aspects is the way the series chooses to tackle themes of wealth and class. Not only is the series’ harshly realistic in its ways of showcasing violence and vulgarity, it chooses to directly confront the fact that when it comes to disasters, the rich are the most likely to survive. We see both the characters left above ground and those below it grapple with this fact and see those who did survive the nuclear attacks form not only resentment but unity against a world and capitalistic system that left them behind. It’s heart wrenchingly close to reality for many of us, and through this, the television series reflects the grim reality of one of the video game franchise’s most famous lines: “War never changes.” Despite its trailer initially seeming like any other run-of-the-mill dystopian action flick, “Fallout” has a lot to say and, for the most part, does it pretty well, as some storylines and commentary are more interesting than others. Although scenes that return to the underground world of the vaults are necessary to reveal crucial information and keep the show’s pace moving, the vaults simply aren’t as interesting as the world that has been crafted above ground.

The show is still a delight for long-time fans of the game franchise or even just casual players. The show does an excellent job of throwing new audience members into a mess of a world with equally complex characters, while also providing references for fans of the game to spot. The show prominently features a German Shepherd by the name of CX404 (similar to the original game series’ beloved companion ironically named Dogmeat) and an almost overwhelming amount of appearances of Vault Boy, the franchise’s blond, grinning mascot (with a twist).

Initially “Fallout” seems to be a story that seems familiar to us, likely due to either familiarity with the games or the series’ use of the apocalyptic, dystopian and western genres. However, this television adaptation feels fresh, and the conclusion of its first season offers a whole new world of exploration and chaos. 

Rating: 9/10