Fallout Season 1 review: Everyone liked that

The Fallout TV show expertly balances action and political intrigue as it delivers the latest great video game adaptation.

Prime Video

Bethesda’s Fallout franchise is the latest video game IP to receive the television treatment, this time from the team at Kilter Films by way of Amazon Prime Video. Though it features plenty of nods to the games, the show is actually telling a completely original story in this universe, rather than adapting the narrative of an existing Fallout game. Prime Video’s Fallout show is a gripping drama with some thrilling action and a mystery that kept me guessing until the final episode.

Welcome to the Wasteland

The Ghoul walking through a desert region.

Source: Prime Video

Fallout is set roughly two centuries after the bombs fell, wiping out the vast majority of life on earth and sending many survivors into underground vaults. In the region of the United States that was once known as Los Angeles, California lies Vault 33, home to Lucy. Played by Ella Purnell, Lucy is a wide-eyed and hopeful young woman who, like her fellow vault-dwellers, is completely oblivious to the atrocities that take place on the surface, as well as the dark secrets behind her own carefully constructed underground safe haven.

Circumstances eventually force Lucy out of Vault 33 and into the Wasteland, where she crosses paths with mutated creatures and conniving humans. Fallout’s script asks its actors to do a lot, and Ella Purnell is up to every challenge that’s thrown at her. I love how she portrays Lucy’s abject naivety and the evolution of her performance as she learns more about the outside world. It’s one of my favorite performances from her career thus far.

Maximus standing in a helicopter next to his Power Armor.

Source: Prime Video

She’s not alone in that regard, either. Her co-star, Aaron Moten, is great as Maximus, a member of the Brotherhood of Steel who finds himself a bit in over his head. He also has an obliviousness to him, though due to different circumstances than Lucy. The pair have great on-screen chemistry, and I only wish that we’d gotten to see more of it during the season.

Arguably the most memorable performance in Fallout is Walton Goggins as The Ghoul. As a villain, he’s absolutely terrifying. He has an effect similar to The Boys’ Homelander, where you feel like the characters unfortunate enough to cross paths with him are surely doomed. What really took me by surprise was how much depth was given to the character. Goggins essentially turns in two performances as we follow him before and after he becomes one of the most deadly beings in the wasteland. The Ghoul is instantly iconic and stacks up well against most modern TV villains.

War never changes

The Ghoul leaning against the inside of a door frame.

Source: Prime Video

Fallout spends a considerable amount of time on what life was like before the bombs fell. Much of this is told through flashbacks that depict the lives of various survivors as they navigate the increasingly tense state of global affairs. There’s something so chilling about a society that’s completely resigned itself to the fact that a nuclear apocalypse is not only inevitable, but imminent. The characters are all so matter-of-fact in which they address the potential deaths of billions of people. I found it to be quite effective in establishing a mood and tone for the show.

It’s something that the show knocks out of the park through its eight episode run — mood and tone. Bethesda’s Fallout games have their own signature style, and while I expected the television adaptation to imitate it, the show is far more concerned with establishing its own unique style. It finds humor in its various fish-out-of-water scenarios. It’s hyper-violent in its action sequences, emphasizing just how dangerous this world is and giving me a genuine surprise on more than one occasion.

Fallout’s themes of conspiracy and political intrigue are what reminded me most of playing through the games. There’s a mystery that unravels over the course of the season, and piecing the puzzle together felt like the equivalent of reading logs and collecting pieces of lore while I explored the ruins of the DMV in Fallout 3.

Vault-Tec’s finest

Four soldiers wearing Power Armor.

Source: Prime Video

From a production standpoint, Fallout is a gorgeous show to look at. Not only because of its excellent cinematography, but because of the emphasis on practical sets and locations. There’s plenty of digital effects, and they look just fine, but the show’s practical locations, costumes, and gear give it an authentic feel. Every time the Power Armor is on screen, there’s real weight to it. Seeing the Pip Boy in live-action was awesome. Almost every episode has a memorable practical effect or set piece.

The same goes for the prosthetics on the show’s human characters. Most notably, the makeup and prosthetics used to turn Walton Goggins into the Ghoul are absolutely superb and only help to fuel an incredibly strong performance. There are however some digital effects used on a few of the small characters that looked silly in comparison.

Please stand by

Two vault-dwellers look on at someone standing in the entryway to the Vault.

Source: Prime Video

If there was one thing about the debut season of Fallout that consistently nagged at me, it was how laden the show felt with common tropes. I say this as someone who believes tropes are a necessary part of storytelling, but there are elements of the overarching narrative that feel extremely conventional. The hammering of its fish-out-of-water elements, the slow unraveling of the main mystery, and a couple of reveals that I won’t get into here. There's a lot of time spent establishing the rules of the world, and it feels like things don't really kick into high gear until the last few episodes of the show.

Season 1 of Fallout is an absolute treat of a video game adaptation. It’s got standout performances, impressive effects, and a compelling mystery throughout. It takes everything wacky and weird about the Fallout games and manages to crank them up a few notches. The show does a fantastic job at making this world feel fleshed out, and I can’t wait to see how it’s further explored in a potential second season.

This review is based on early screeners of Fallout provided by Amazon. Fallout Season 1 debuts on Prime Video on April 10, 2024, at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Review for
Fallout TV Show
  • Brilliant realization of the Fallout universe
  • Solid character building
  • Standout performances from Ella Purnell and Walton Goggins
  • Unique take on series mythos
  • Gorgeous set design
  • Reliance on common tropes
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