Lost in Translation 465: Fallout (2024)

Post-apocalyptic fiction has been around for at least two centuries. One of the earliest post-apocalyptic works is Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, published in 1826. The apocalypse can come in any form – warfare, natural disasters, wrath of god or gods – but with the invention of the atomic bomb during World War II, humanity gained the means to more thoroughly destroy all life on Earth. The first atomic bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man, fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, devastating their targets. Yet, there were survivors of both blasts. Of note is Yamaguchi Tsutomu, the only man two have survived both bombs. Most survivors developed cancers later in life.

With post-apocalyptic works, the end of the world is just the beginning. Such is the case for the Fallout video game series. The original Fallout came out in 1997 and the most recent of the main series, Fallout 4, having been released in 2015. There are a number of spinoffs, the most recent being Fallout 76 in 2018. Over the run of the series, the date the bombs fell is revealed as October 23, 2077. The player takes on the role of a Vault Dweller, someone who grew up in a bomb shelter set up by Vault-Tec. Over the course of the games, the player can discover the fates of various vaults, those who survived the nuclear destruction, and give civilization a boost.

Standing in the way of the player are various threats of the wastes. Mutated animals called abominations, mutant humans, the walking undead known as ghouls, and various factions vying to be the top dog calling the shots in the wastes all stand in the way. The world of Fallout is an open sandbox. The player can rebuild civilization, helping different enclaves get back on their feet or can be another warlord fighting for scraps.

The pre-war 2077 is heavily based on Fifties-era Americana with retrotech added. Superficially, the era represents a height in American history as the economy boomed and breakthroughs in technology came in leaps and bounds. Scratch the surface, though, and the gilt easily flakes off. Segregation was the rule. Racial discrimination ran rampant. Senator Joseph McCarthy turned the House Un-American Activities Committee, already a kangaroo court, into an anti-Hollywood witch hunt searching for Communists. The USSR had beaten the US in the space race, getting a Russian woman in orbit before an American man. The Cold War was in full steam and the military-industrial complex was there to exploit fears.

The Vault-tec vaults are snapshots of the era. The company provided not just food, water, and shelter, but the means to sustain the vault and its inhabitants indefinitely. The inhabitants spend their time working at a suitable job and training. From each according to the inhabitant’s ability, to each according to the inhabitant’s need. Perfectly safe from the Commies and the other threats waiting on the surface. However, Vault-tec used the vaults for social experiments, some more harrowing than others.

Video game adaptations out of Hollywood have a bad reputation. The early adaptations were bad, and things didn’t improve until the past decade. There were exceptions, such as Mortal Kombat, but it took until the turn of the millennium for studios to realize that fans of video games have expectations on film adaptations. With that in mind, let’s look at the Fallout TV series, streaming on Amazon Prime.as of April 2024.

The Fallout series stars Ella Purnell as Vault 33 dweller Lucy MacLean, Kyle MacLachlan as Lucy’s father Hank, Moises Arias as Lucy’s brother Norm, Aaron Moten as Brotherhood of Steel squire Maximus, and Walton Goggins as The Ghoul. The supporting cast includes Annabel O’Hagan as Lucy’s best friend Stephanie, Dave Register as Lucy’s cousin Chet, and Leslie Uggams as Betty Pearson, one of Vault 33’s governing council.

The series begins with the end, at a child’s birthday party, no less. Everywhere the atom bombs are dropping. It’s the end of all humanity. People fight to get into a Vault to escape the the coming devastation.

Two hundred and nineteen years later, in Vault 33, Lucy provides her reasons why she should be allowed to marry a member of Vault 32. Betty and the governing council agree with the reasons and give their permission. The day of the arranged wedding, things take a dark turn. Vault 32 had been invaded from surface dwellers, who then take advantage of the open door to Vault 33. Lucy’s father Hank is taken by the raiders. In the aftermath, Lucy makes up her mind to go rescue her father. She recruits Norm and Chet to help her get out of the Vault to the surface.

Elsewhere, Maximus is dealing with his own problems. Adopted as a child by the Brotherhood of Steel, Maximus grew up in an environment as restrictive as a Vault. He is well aware of what surface life is like, though. His goal in life is to become a knight, piloting one of the Brotherhood’s suits of powered armour. When his friend, Dane (Xelia Mendes-Jones) is injured prior to becoming a squire, Maximum takes the position, becoming ea squire to Knight Titus (Michael Rapaport). Titus and Maximus are given a mission – find Dr. Siggi Wilzig (Michael Emerson) and return him to the Brotherhood. Witzig has an artifact that could change life on the surface and throw the balance of power among the various surface factions into the Brotherhood’s favour. During the search for the artifact, Titus decides it would be a good time to hunt an abomination. The abomination disagreed, fatally wounding the knight. With a perfectly good suit of power armour with just a few scratches, Maximus continues the mission alone.

Elsewhere in the wastes, three bounty hunters, also searching for the artifact, revive The Ghoul. Not one to share, The Ghoul kills the three hunters to seek out the artifact alone. Having far more experience tracking than Maximus, he gets to the Enclave where Witzig is. Witzig gets unexpected help from Lucy, whose upbringing in Vault 33 requires her to be helpful. However, her tranq gun isn’t so useful on the walking dead. Maximus arrives and sees Lucy in trouble and throws in with her.

Back at Vault 33, Norm starts digging into what happened in Vault 32. His investigation finds that everyone in Vault 32 died prior to the raiders’ appearance, with the inhabitants of Vault 31 being suspect. However, he also discovers that the past overseers of Vault 33 came from 31, including his father.

The paths of the characters intertwine as the lessons of the past need to be relearned. War never changes, but the fallout does. Secrets abound, and the revelation of them changes the characters. Even the nature of the Vaults and Vault-tec come into play, turning Lucy’s world upside down.

The series makes the effort to resemble the setting in Fallout. The Vaults and their layout match what is in the game. The retrotech, from the Pip-Boys to the weapons to the Mr. Handy robots, also match with no embellishment. The Vault-tec jumpsuits the Vault Dwellers wear are also spot on. Helping here is Bethesda Game Studios’ involvement. Todd Howard, director and executive producer at Bethesda, headed up development on the Fallout game series.

The plot, which follows the MacGuffin, is one that has an impact on the setting. Thus, the setting itself becomes critical. The surface, like the Vaults, needs to reflect the reality of the video game. Again, the series came through. The Enclave and other locations on the surface match their video game counterparts.

Casting is solid. The actors aren’t household names yet, but are able to bring the range of emotions that a post-apocalyptic world needs, from apprehensive to awe. The Fallout series doesn’t involve superhuman stunt work. Even the power armour is clunky compared to anime-style suits.

Overall, Fallout the series is successful in bringing the post-apocalyptic world to life, keeping the threats recognizable while still bringing new plotlines. The characters have motives that fit the setting, making the series feel alive.

This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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