Fallout Episode 1 Review

The Fallout series has the world on its shoulders. Fan expectations couldn’t be higher after a mess of titles with wildly varying success and failure. The first episode unleashes everything a relatively reasonably-minded fan could expect. The characters sparkle with enough wit to stay lovable. The jokes land or flop with roughly the same ratio as the gags in the games. The action set pieces work without blowing too many minds. It’s a fun ride, but it hasn’t reached its apex yet.

Jonathan Nolan directed the debut episode of Fallout, as well as the next two. His deft hand behind the scenes gave fans confidence in the series’ premise. Nolan’s best-known works are co-productions with his brother, but his partnership with Lisa Joy brought the world Westworld and this new Western-inspired series. A trained eye can spot lessons Nolan learned on Westworld emerging in the wasteland, despite its very different tone.


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Fallout starts with “The End,” a playful episode title that foreshadows the classic post-apocalyptic narrative trick. Walton Goggins’ ex-star Cooper Howard performs a charming cowboy stunt show for a kid’s birthday party before the bombs fall. His character is affable and identifiable, setting up a downfall that mirrors the unfortunate state of the new world. The party also lets fans check out the stellar production design. The 50s-inspired home feels ripped out of a museum, but the floating robot servant adds a refreshing sci-fi flare. When the nukes fall, Fallout sneaks in some quick social commentary as families rush for their bunkers. Civil society falls apart at a commensurate rate with the doomed metropolis in the background. Fans know what comes next for the character, but the immediate horror of the end of all things is a strong tone-setter for the series.

Fallout TV show Trailer Vault Dweller

Over 200 years pass in a single title card as the show prepares to introduce its proper protagonist. Ella Purnell appears as Lucy MacLean, a Vault Dweller with modest dreams. She introduces herself through her many hobbies, some more practical than others, and her tight bond with her dad, Kyle MacLachlan. Lucy has the bright-eyed optimism of Kimmy Schmidt as she arranges a marriage ceremony with a boy from the next bunker over. Her social ineptitude leads her to question the boy’s sperm count during the feast, highlighting her immaturity and oddly goal-oriented personality. After a quick sojourn to their chambers so she can perform more intimate tests, Lucy discovers that her new husband and his entire marital party are raiders from the wasteland. This kicks off a rush of violence, eventually culminating in a mysterious woman seizing Kyle MacLachlan. Lucy ignores her society’s rules to pursue him, stepping out of the vault to begin her adventure in earnest.

The third story follows Aaron Moten as Maximus, an unfulfilled soldier in the Brotherhood of Steel. Max spends his days cleaning latrines, endlessly frustrated by his commanding officers’ unwillingness to launch him into the field. The Brotherhood remains a techno-fascist war cult, but the show deserves credit for somehow capturing its Top Gun by way of Warhammer 40,000 atmosphere. Max’s best friend, Dane, earns a coveted squire position under a power-armored knight. A sadistic prank involving a concealed razor in a combat boot lands Max in a tense interrogation scene with an Elder Cleric. Though he struggles to stammer through his rebuttal, the higher-ups buy his genuine shock. After declaring him innocent, they also give him Dane’s position. Maximus prepares to take on the wasteland with comedian Michael Rapaport as his powerful knight.

Fallout establishes its characters and sends them into the wasteland in its opening episode. The show gives fans a convenient tour of several states of life through its three characters. As they come together, the series’ pacing and focus will tighten. One of Fallout‘s biggest strengths is its casting. Every incidental character feels pulled, fully formed from the writers’ imagination with the help of excellent performances. Zach Cherry brings charm to his short role as one of the vault’s overseers. Superstore star Johnny Pemberton seems like an instant fan favorite. With small roles promised to performers like Matt Berry, Erik Estrada, and Jon Daly, Fallout may find more fun in its bit players than its stars.

fallout-maximus-knight Cropped

Fallout started with a simple mandate, but its true glory will only be found in wandering the wasteland. “The End” is efficient, but a bit unfocused. Fallout delivers where it needs to in its debut episode, leaving plenty of room for future installments to surprise and delight old fans and newcomers. The little things make Fallout work. The production design, minor characters, and sense of adventure keep it engaging. The three lead characters are wandering the wasteland in search of unique goals, and pushing them toward each other will allow the narrative to focus. “The End” is a solid beginning, but it clearly presages something much more enjoyable for Fallout‘s future.


Episode 1: “The End”: Lucy gets married. Maximus fights for a promotion. The Ghoul wakes up.


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