‘Fallout’ series review: A roaring rampage of post-apocalyptic carnage

Blood, guts and gore pepper this tale of a girl in search of her father, a squire seeking knighthood, and a ghoul looking for answers, in Jonathan Nolan’s rollicking adaptation of the popular video game

April 12, 2024 05:28 pm | Updated 06:05 pm IST

Ella Purnell as Lucy in a still from ‘Fallout’

Ella Purnell as Lucy in a still from ‘Fallout’ | Photo Credit: JOJO WHILDEN

Here is another wonderful videogame adaptation that rocks from the word go. Like 2023’s The Last of Us, Fallout (based on Bethesda Softworks’ role-playing video game franchise) too is set in a post-apocalyptic world. Here too a young woman has to make her way through dangerous places helped by friends and hindered by foes.

Like the feature-film length first episode of The Last of Us, the Jonathan Nolan-directed first episode of Fallout, titled ‘The End’, clocks at 74 minutes and introduces the main players in this world of stark, dust-streaked vistas reminiscent of Nolan’s science fiction western series, Westworld.

Power Suit in a still from ‘Fallout’

Power Suit in a still from ‘Fallout’ | Photo Credit: Prime Video

We open in Los Angeles in 2077, where famous Hollywood cowboy star Cooper Howard (Walton Goggins) is performing, with his daughter at a child’s birthday party (a man must do what he can to pay the alimony). The world seems stuck in a time warp, with boxy televisions, women in flared skirts straight out of Mad Men, and the paranoia of a nuclear attack and “Reds under the bed” — thanks to the Modern Prometheus.

As the violently coloured cake is being cut and passed around, there is a nuclear attack and the world goes to hell. The scene moves 219 years ahead where people live in underground bunkers called Vaults. Lucy (Ella Purnell) from Vault 33 is cleared to marry a man from Vault 32. The wedding day goes horribly wrong with many dead, dismembered people, a result of raiders from the surface led by Lee Moldaver (Sarita Choudhury).

‘Fallout’ Season 1 (English)
Creators: Graham Wagner, Geneva Robertson-Dworet
Cast: Ella Purnell, Aaron Moten, Kyle MacLachlan, Moises Arias, Xelia Mendes-Jones
Episodes: 8
Runtime: 45–74 minutes
Storyline: In an alternate history, post-apocalyptic world, a girl sets off on a quest to free her father

Lucy’s father, Hank (Kyle MacLachlan) is captured and Lucy decides to go up top to get her father back. On the surface, the Brotherhood of Steel uses “pre-war technology to find prewar tech, to convince people not to use prewar tech.” Maximus (Aaron Moten), a squire, gets a chance to serve the irascible Knight Titus (Michael Rapaport) on an important mission — to find Dr. Siggi Wilzig (Michael Emerson) who is travelling with a dog.

Cooper, after the nuclear holocaust, has become a gunslinger and a ghoul. It turns out that everyone is interested in Wilzig — Maximus, the Ghoul and Lucy who hopes to trade the doctor for her father.

Alliances are formed and broken, and truths and lies uncovered, as Lucy, Maximus and the Ghoul journey into the heart of darkness. Lucy’s brother, Norm (Moisés Arias), and her cousin, Chet (Dave Register) find that all is not roses, champagne, sweetness and light in the vaults, as there are some pretty dark secrets in there too.

As our three travellers make their way through the Wasteland as uneasy allies, tentative friends or outright enemies, we are shown the past, and the insidious rise of Vault-Tec and Bud Askins (Michael Esper) with his concept of Time being “the apex predator” and Management, the all-powerful overseer. Cooper’s wife, Barb (Frances Turner), seems to have drunk the Kool-Aid, much to Cooper’s dismay.

While the opinions of fans of the game are sharply divided (Nolan himself is an avid player), Fallout offers enough adrenalin-charged thrills for newbies as well as Easter eggs and callbacks for the gaming faithful. The eight episodes zip by on neat parallel tracks of humour and horror. There is the gun spewing massive killing rounds with a digital display that urges the people to “please remain calm,” while the dining table of suicides looks like a sepia-tinted vision of a demented master and the petrified bodies remind one of Pompeii.

Ella Purnell as Lucy and Kyle MacLachlan as Hank in a still from ‘Fallout”

Ella Purnell as Lucy and Kyle MacLachlan as Hank in a still from ‘Fallout” | Photo Credit: Prime Video

The two stoners at the Super Duper Mart are reminiscent of Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World, while the irony of the election in the Vaults makes you laugh so hard till you weep. Game of Thrones and more recently 3 Body Problemcomposer, Ramin Djawadi, does a great job with the score, while sweet, sunny pop standards by music legends including Perry Como, The Ink Spots, Bing Crosby and Johnny Cash soar in time to bones, digits and skulls being remorselessly crushed.

The vast cast from the principles to the minor characters — including Leslie Uggams as former overseer of Vault 33, Betty Pearson; Annabel O’Hagan as the heavily pregnant and vaguely deranged Stephanie Harper, Lucy’s best friend; Matt Berry as the voice of cheerily violent robot, Snip Snip; Jon Daly as the shady Snake Oil Salesman; Chris Parnell as Ben, the cyclopean Overseer of Vault 4; and Dale Dickey as the rough and ready shopkeeper in Filly, Ma June — give heft to their roles.

Fallout with its excellent production values, writing, acting and soundscape is a thrill-charged ride one would love to be on. As the stage is set for season 2, one of the questions buzzing in my over-stimulated brain was whatever happened to the dog, Roosevelt.

Fallout is currently streaming on Prime Video

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