Crawl out to the fallout, baby! We’ve known for a while now that Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher) and Lisa Joy are developing a television show based on Bethesda’s beloved Fallout video game series for Amazon Prime Video, but now, at long last, the first images from the show have been released. Vanity Fair has published a lengthy first look for Fallout, replete with beautiful images that perfectly capture the aesthetic of the games and a ton of new information about what we can expect from the series.
Fallout takes place in a gritty post-apocalyptic world hundreds of years into Earth’s future. In the year 2077, humanity was living in an era of retro 1940s nostalgia and high-tech bliss. Then a nuclear war happened, and most of the world turned into a radioactive waste. Some people survived by eking out an existence on the surface; others took shelter in secure underground vaults.
Fast forward 219 years, and a vault dweller named Lucy (Yellowjackets star Ella Purnell) must make her way to the surface on a dangerous rescue mission. Here she is, hanging out in the relative safety of Vault 33 with her vault overseer father Hank (Kyle McLachlan):
As anyone who’s played the games knows, the world of Fallout is a gritty, often funny take on post-apocalyptic society. Those left on the surface have created their own pockets of civilization with their own rules. Some people were exposed to radiation that gave them horrific mutations, others have joined cult-like groups to get by.
“The games are about the culture of division and haves and have-nots that, unfortunately, have only gotten more and more acute in this country and around the world over the last decades,” Nolan told Vanity Fair. “We get to talk about that in a wonderful, speculative-fiction way. I think we’re all looking at the world and going, ‘God, things seem to be heading in a very, very frightening direction.’”
Nolan directed the first three episodes of the series. He shared some thoughts about how the franchise’s overarching themes inform Lucy, who is largely naive about the surface world after living her entire life sheltered below ground:
"So many of us have such naive ideas, even now, about everyone else’s experiences, and it’s one of the things I love about America. It’s this giant, manic collection of different experiences, different points of view. Lucy is charming and plucky and strong…and then you see she’s confronted with the reality of, hey, maybe the supposedly virtuous things you grew up with are not necessarily that virtuous. If they are virtuous, they’re couched in a circumstantial virtuousness. It’s a luxury virtue. You have your point of view because you never ran out of food, right? You guys were able to share everything—because you had enough to share."
Fallout will explore Lucy’s “collision with the hard reality of other people’s experiences and what happened to the people who, frankly, were left behind, left to die.”
Fallout TV show is a brand new “canon” story set in the same world as the games
In a rather interesting creative decision, the Fallout TV show isn’t adapting any of the video games; it’s an entirely new story. Nonetheless, Bethesda Game Studios executive producer Todd Howard, who directed both Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, says the game studio views “what’s happening in the show as canon.”
The fact that Nolan and Joy came up with their own unique spin on the Fallout world is part of what sold Bethesda on the project. “I did not want to do an interpretation of an existing story we did,” Howard explained. “That was the other thing—a lot of pitches were, you know, ‘This is the movie of Fallout 3…’ I was like, ‘Yeah, we told that story.’ I don’t have a lot of interest seeing those translated. I was interested in someone telling a unique Fallout story. Treat it like a game. It gives the creators of the series their own playground to play in.”
The Brotherhood of Steel will feature in a big way in Fallout TV series
There are a lot of details in the Vanity Fair reveal; we won’t hit on every single one of them, but a huge thing we need to discuss is that the Fallout show will give the Brotherhood of Steel ample screentime. This is a militant group that is an iconic part of Fallout lore; they view themselves as the last bastion of order in the wasteland, and go around enforcing that order in an often brutal manner.
“It’s a little bit of the Marine Corps. It’s a little bit of the Knights Templar. It’s this kind of weird fusion,” Nolan said. “In the absence of a federal government, you just had all this military hardware lying around. Who would get it, and how would they maintain control of it?” Nolan calls the Brotherhood “a mutated version of patriotism, religion, loyalty, and fraternity.” Oh, and they have big, epic-looking power armor, the better to help them enforce their rules:
Lucy will cross paths with members of the Brotherhood during her journey, including the squire Maximus (Aaron Moten). Yes, the Brotherhood uses some medieval military terms, so Game of Thrones fans will feel right at home. And just like in Thrones, expect squires to be right at the bottom rung of the pecking order. “This is a drawing on the classic Arthurian Knight legends where life was cheap and you had a squire as long as they were useful. They had to prove their worth, they had to prove their valor and their strength, and if they didn’t, they were kind of cast aside,” Nolan said.
Walton Goggins plays a ghoul bounty hunter in Fallout
Beyond Maximus and the Brotherhood, the other major player that Vanity Fair revealed is a bounty hunter named The Ghoul, played by Walton Goggins. Goggins brings some old west flair to the Waste, which is fitting since his character is hundreds of years old. In Fallout, Ghouls are people who were exposed to so much radiation that they became essentially immortal. It’s not all roses though; most Ghouls are also fairly decrepit, with pieces of their bodies melting off. In worst case scenarios, they go fully “feral,” becoming mindlessly vicious.
Goggins’ character isn’t that far gone, though. I’m calling it now: with this actor’s natural charisma, he’s going to become a fan favorite. “Walton’s equally adept at drama and comedy, which is so difficult,” Nolan said. “There is a chasm in time and distance between who this guy was and who he’s become, which for me creates an enormous dramatic question: What happened to this guy? So we’ll walk backwards into that.”
According to Nolan, The Ghoul “becomes our guide and our protagonist in that [older] world, even as we understand him to be the antagonist at the end of the world.” Color me intrigued.
The show dialed back the Ghoul makeup a bit from the games. Goggins’ still looks identifiably like a Ghoul, but a fair bit less grotesque than some you encounter in Fallout 3 or 4. Nolan said this was an intentional choice to allow the actor more flexibility in his performance. “You have to be extremely careful with it when you’re putting a full appliance on someone’s face, because you hired that actor for a reason,” he explained. “Their face is their instrument. [You want] the tiny little expressions and changes that they make.”
The Ghoul and Lucy represent opposite ends of the Fallout world. While she’s naive to the ways of the waste, The Ghoul is an expert. “He’s got a lot of mileage on him, but he’s still got a swagger and kind of a charm to him,” Nolan said.
That charm is important. Nailing the sense of humor for the series was important. “We had a lot of conversations over the style of humor, the level of violence, the style of violence,” Howard recalled. “Look, Fallout can be very dramatic, and dark, and post-apocalyptic, but you need to weave in a little bit of a wink…. I think they threaded that needle really well on the TV show.”
“It’s a dark world in many ways,” Nolan said. “But the games were fun to play, fun to explore, and I think that was a mandate for us: to make sure that it was enjoyable to spend time in this universe.”
Fallout premieres on Amazon Prime Video on April 12, 2024. If you want a primer on the waste before then, Fallout 3 and 4 are very much worth a playthrough.
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