In the past, hearing the words video game adaptation would send chills down my spine in the wrong way every single time. Thankfully things have improved for the most part in recent years with “Detective Pikachu,” the “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie franchise and “The Last of Us” TV series, except for the “Halo” series, which was downright awful.

With the trend in the positive direction, I felt that the adaptation of “Fallout” was poised for success, and I am happy to report that I was right.

For those who don’t know, “Fallout” is a series initially created by Interplay Studios in the 90s before being taken over by Bethesda Game Studios and has spanned four main entries with several spin offs. “Fallout” takes place in a post-apocalyptic America after nuclear warfare destroyed the world in 2077, following years of tension over resources and the conflicts between the U.S. and communist China. To prepare for this, The U.S. hired Vault-Tec to create vaults for residents to enter and wait out the nuclear conflict before reclaiming the surface. Much of the story players have been introduced to so far takes place 200 years after the bombs fell, starting with “Fallout 3,” which takes place in 2277.

While the series takes place in the future, cultural progress screeched to a halt in the 1950s so much of the appliances still look like they were from that time and the music is also heavily inspired by that time. With this framework in mind, I felt that setting would lend to a great film or TV adaptation.

For me, my introduction to the series was “Fallout 3,” which came out in 2008. At that time, I borrowed it from my neighbor and enjoyed what I played, but I credit the spin-off “Fallout: New Vegas” as my true introduction to the series and for my taste in video games and broader media from that point forward. Since then, I’ve played every installment front to back with the exception of the original two.

When it comes to the TV series, I was cautiously optimistic with Bethesda overseeing the development of the series, with one of the faces of the company, Todd Howard, serving as executive producer. Teaming up with director Jonathon Nolan, brother of acclaimed film director Christopher Nolan, I felt like the series was in great hands.

Even with high expectations, I was blown away by the final product. They nailed every single aspect of what makes “Fallout,” “Fallout” and essentially gave us “Fallout 5.”
Unlike other video game adaptations, the story of the “Fallout” TV series takes place within the world of the video games, so events from the series are briefly referenced and familiar locations are showcased. The show does have some breathing room as it takes place in 2296, nine years after the events of “Fallout 4.” The series also serves to answer questions fans have had for years regarding the circumstances of the bombs dropping as well as what life looked like in the lead up to nuclear armageddon, something the games have only briefly touched on.

The series follows Lucy, played by Ella Purnell, who is a happy go-lucky vault dweller, whimsically unaware of the horrors that await her on the surface; Maximus, played by Aaron Moten, a member of the para-military group determined to keep all pre-war technology to itself, the Brotherhood of Steel; and The Ghoul, played by Walton Goggins, a survivor of the bombs falling 200 years prior.

I would say Lucy is the main protagonist and is essentially the player character in this series as the main thread follows her chasing after her father, who was abducted from their vault, Vault 33, by raiders. Along the way her path weaves with Maximus and the Ghoul as each character tracks down Enclave scientist Wilzig, played by Michael Emerson, who is the ticket to finding Lucy’s father and the future of the wasteland. The Enclave is a group of scientists and other thinkers that dates to when the bombs dropped and comprised of high-ranking members of the U.S. government. Wilzig escapes from the Enclave after it is discovered that he raised one of their attack dogs in private as a pet — relatable, I know — and steals highly classified intelligence before making his departure.
From the first scene I was captivated, watching as a nuclear bomb drops as Goggins’ character is at a child’s birthday party with his daughter and seeing the sheer horror as the panic sets in and he rides off to try to get his daughter to safety.

Much like players were when they first stepped out into the wasteland for the first time, Lucy is greeted by a dark world where it is kill or be killed with no room for kindness. Along those same lines however, “Fallout” takes place in a weird world where wacky stuff happens all the time.

For a lot of the violence and darker themes, “Fallout” tends to lend itself to a satirical nature for these moments. For example, in the first episode as a battle unfolds in Vault 33 one of the characters, who is pregnant at the time, is gunning down the raiders with a fork stuck in her eyeball in a pretty hilarious moment. There are other moments of dark humor sprinkled throughout the series.

In terms of the acting, the trio of main characters do an excellent job for the most part. I think Purnell does a great job acting as the naïve vault dweller experiencing the harsh realities of the world for the first time and Goggins steals the screen every time he speaks with a captivating performance. In comparison I think Moten’s performance is a little weaker but not bad by any means.

The music throughout the series is also phenomenal. Those who played the games will recognize many of the songs from the radio as you walked across the wasteland. Many of the fight scenes typically happen with a 1950s or 60s era soundtrack with tunes from Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, The Ink Spots and plenty more. The Ink Spots’ song “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” is one of my favorites and has served as a title track for some of the games so I was very happy to hear that song as episode two ends.

While there are some nods to events and places, the “Fallout” TV series can also stand on its own without playing the video games as the story and characters are completely self-contained to this series. For longtime fans I do recommend watching the show as it will effectively be required reading for the next game because there are some significant additions to the lore of the world.

I was blown away by the way the show was able to build upon the world of the games. We are given a further look at how the Brotherhood is looking to exert its dominance over the wastelands and the culty nature of the group. I also liked how the show displayed the vaults because one of the most important parts of the vaults is that many were designed as large-scale social experiments to see how people adapt to being confined in these spaces for hundreds of years. Both of the show’s vaults, 4 and 33, have interesting and horrifying experiments for viewers to discover as the series goes on.

If gore is not your thing, I would steer clear of “Fallout” as — much like the games — there are a lot of scenes where characters are blown up into a bloody mess or discarded limbs find their way on screen. I would also recommend not watching it with children around because of this and scenes with nudity.

All in all, I think that “Fallout” is not only a great video game adaptation, but a great show that stands on its own from its video game counterpart and has plenty for all viewers to enjoy. The story and characters are gripping enough to bring in anyone that gives it a chance.

If you end up liking the show, I highly recommend picking up one of the games, while “Fallout 3” and “New Vegas” are unavailable on PlayStation 4 or 5, those are great starting points and are available on nearly all Xbox platforms and PC.

All eight episodes of “Fallout” are streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.

dhackett@thereminder.com | + posts