A star rating of 4 out of 5.

This review is based on episodes 1-4 of Fallout.


Compared to Fallout, The Last of Us, the (deserved) winner of RadioTimes.com's best series of 2023 award, had it pretty easy.

After all, the latter was built from perhaps the single greatest narrative in gaming history. The former, however, had to be crafted from a series of open-world titles where players could become pretty much anyone, from a friendly neighbourhood bug-killer to a cold-blooded bounty hunter, and take on pretty much anything, from bandits to bloatflies.

Thankfully, by following not one narrative strand, but three – representing, in the words of star Ella Purnell, "three different levels of play" – the show's team leaned into the freakiness of the Fallout franchise to create a truly enjoyable romp through the post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Those three narrative strands follow Purnell's Lucy MacLean, a 'vault dweller' who has lived a life of post-nuclear-warfare luxury in the safety of a secure bunker; Aaron Moten's Maximus, a squire in the Brotherhood of Steel who has dreams of bringing order to the chaos of the former United States of America; and Walton Goggins's The Ghoul, an actor and spokesperson for the Vault-Tec company in a past life, whose exposure to radiation leaves him... slightly worse for wear (and on a blood-thirsty quest for caps and scalps).

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As Purnell mentioned, each of these three characters represent different levels of skill and experience, akin to different levels of player in the Fallout games – MacLean the 'noob' who is threatened by level three radroaches; The Ghoul a seasoned veteran who could speed-run the main campaign with ease.

And it's an approach that largely works, helping to bring variance to the viewing, all while building the storytelling around a singular (if slightly uninteresting) objective.

Through each of these characters, the audience gets to see a range of experiences within this mad post-apocalyptic setting, witnessing how a physically untrained, mentally sheltered aristocrat might try to talk their way out of trouble, and how a trained killer with nothing to lose might simply blast their way out of trouble.

Without a doubt, though, it's the former strand that is most enjoyable to dive into. Purnell's MacLean is instantly likeable, bringing a charming naiveté but underpinning it with a surprising steel that becomes increasingly prominent the more she has to face up to the challenges of the outside world.

Whether she's chatting to her fellow vault dwellers with unbridled optimism or taking on the deranged creatures of the wasteland, Purnell is a joy to spend time with – one interaction with a moody shopkeeper proves particularly memorable.

Walton Goggins as The Ghoul in Fallout. His face is scarred with a gap where his nose should be, and is wearing a cowboy hat.
Walton Goggins as The Ghoul in Fallout. Amazon Studios

As the episodes progress, however, she develops from a form of comic relief to a pretty formidable protagonist, following the 'ordinary person on an extraordinary adventure' arc but adding a freshness to ensure it avoids feeling tired.

There is a lot to enjoy about Moten's Maximus, too, a frustrated soldier who feels he's being wasted within the confines of the hierarchical Brotherhood of Steel – not least because he gets to dig into a number of sequences centred around the franchise's trademark power armour, which is sure to delight fans.

However, at least within the first half of the season, the show's weakest plotline undoubtedly comes from Goggins's The Ghoul.

While there are attempts to dive into the backstory of this fallen character early on, there isn't anything here that we haven't seen before, and– much like in Ant-Man and the Wasp – Goggins is saddled (to borrow a cowboy term) with a largely monotonous antagonist, who feels distinctly like the evil, faceless brother of The Mandalorian's Cobb Vanth, or any of the other 'Man with No Name' archetypes we've seen before.

Whether this improves in the second half of the season, we'll have to wait and see.

All of these storylines play out in an intricately crafted, delightfully weird post-apocalyptic world. Director and executive producer Jonathan Nolan and creators Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Graham Wagner have talked about how they themselves are fans of the game, and that certainly comes through.

The set design is gorgeous - whether it be in the iconic vaults adorned in the trademark blue and yellow of the franchise's Vault Boy mascot, the desolate expanse of the irradiated deserts, or the run-down towns built from scraps of metal, it's clear that every inch has been meticulously planned to remain authentic to the games.

Some shoddy green screen work aside, it's the type of visual feast you'd expect from a storyteller with the surname "Nolan".

Ella Purnell as Lucy MacLean in Fallout wearing a blue and yellow jumpsuit, holding a hand aloft
Ella Purnell as Lucy MacLean in Fallout. Prime Video

The same, too, goes for the soundtrack, which is filled with the types of jaunty '50s and early '60s tunes you'd expect to hear, enhancing the visuals playing out on screen.

And the bizarre characters, threatening monsters and strange scenarios you're witnessing on said screen are distinctly Fallout, blending menace and threat with the leftfield humour and eccentricity that has made the Bethesda series so adored over the years.

By leaning into its R rating, the writing team is able to properly lean into the absurdity you'd hope for.

Unfortunately, though, that writing does sometimes fall short, particularly in the more emotional moments. As is the case in a number of Jonathan Nolan's big-screen productions, certain lines come off as unnatural, lacking humanity, which threatens to derail the stakes at times.

That said, this isn't necessarily here to bring the most emotionally gut-wrenching series of the year. It's here to have fun, and in that regard, it's a resounding success. We're glad this one made it out of the vault - it's been well worth the wait.

Fallout is available to stream on Prime Video from Thursday 11th April 2024. Sign up for a 30-day free trial of Prime Video and pay £8.99 a month after that.


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