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Saturday, December 2, 2023

5 reasons my hopes are high for Amazon’s Fallout TV series

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We haven’t seen much of Amazon’s Fallout TV series yet, apart from a single, lonely screenshot and a glimpse of some power armor, which don’t really give us much to go on. But even though I try to avoid letting my expectations too high too quickly, it’s hard not to be pretty pumped that Fallout is coming to our televisions sometime this year. 

Games adapted into shows are kinda all over the map when it comes to quality. Arcane, Castlevania: good. Halo, Resident Evil, bad. The Last of Us, after one episode… good? The Witcher, good, but considering Cavill decided to exit after the upcoming season, potentially taking a U-turn into bad.

Given this uneven history, when a new series based on a game is on the way—and that currently includes God of War, Mass Effect, Horizon, Alan Wake, and Ark: Survival Evolved, just to name a handful—it’s natural to be excited but smart to be skeptical.

But I can’t help it: the more I learn about the Fallout series, the more optimistic I am that it’ll be legitimately good. Here’s why.

Jonathan Nolan is a big Fallout fan

It helps when someone adapting a game into a show is a genuine fan of that game. According to Todd Howard, when he approached executive producer and director Jonathan Nolan about the show, Nolan was immediately on board. “It turned out he was a big fan of it,” said Howard.

In fact, Nolan was such a big fan of what he calls the “humorous, dark, bleak, brilliantly written, annoyingly playable videogame franchise” that it got in the way of some of his other aspirations. “Several years ago I decided I was going to write the next great American novel. And then a friend gave me a copy of Fallout 3,” Nolan said. And who among us hasn’t let creative endeavors slide because we couldn’t stop playing games? The only difference is, Nolan is now getting a chance to combine the two.

It’s not a guarantee that Fallout will be good (I’m sure J.J. Abrams was a Star Wars fan, and look how that mess turned out) but it definitely increases the odds when a show’s creator is invested in the source material. We’ve seen Hollywood strip away what made a game great in numerous movie adaptations, but if the executive producer is a true fan then hopefully it means they’ll protect the source material while adapting it.

The cast is promising

I admit it, I’m not a huge fan of Walton Goggins. His style is a little too theatrical for me—I tend to enjoy more realistic and subdued acting performances. But even though I’m not a Goggins champion in particular, it’s hard not to trust his judgment when it comes to the projects he works on. The Shield, Justified, Invincible, The Hateful Eight, The Righteous Gemstones, heck even his one episode of Community—he’s been a part of some excellent movies and shows. I think he’s done an amazing job at picking the films and movies he’s acted in (and no doubt has turned down big paychecks because he didn’t believe in a project) and something tells me if the Fallout series script was a stinker, he’d have passed.

And as more casting information trickles down to us, there are more reasons to be excited. I haven’t seen Ella Purnell in much but I thought she was great in the rather goofy Army of the Dead and I understand she was excellent in Arcane. Kyle MacLachlan is always wonderful, and over the years has become one of those actors that simply makes you happy the moment he appears on screen. And while there aren’t many other big, recognizable names attached to the Fallout show—that’s a good thing. Newcomers and relative unknowns are a sign the producers want to take some risks rather than padding out the cast with tried and true (and somewhat boring) casting choices.

Amazon, if nothing else, has bank

I didn’t really think much of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. In fact, even though I consider myself a Lord of the Rings fan (the original novels and the first Peter Jackson trilogy, at least) I didn’t even finish watching the whole series, bailing after about five episodes. My problem, mostly, was that it felt like the characters never really talked to each other, they just gave speeches to one another. I just couldn’t connect with anyone. They felt like character types, not characters.

But I will say this: Wow, it was beautiful. Everything from the world to the sets to the costumes was utterly gorgeous. There was no expense spared, and it showed. Amazon Studios is not afraid to pour money into its television budget, and while I found The Rings of Power pretty dull, at least it wasn’t dull and ugly. Looks aren’t everything, but with Nolan’s love of Fallout and a good cast, plus the attention to detail that a big budget can bring, I’m hopeful it’ll not just be visually exciting as well as engaging.

People still love the post-apocalypse

To really succeed the Fallout show will need to do more than just please Fallout fans: It’ll need to attract viewers who have never played or even heard of the games. The good news is, that won’t be a problem. The post-apocalypse is still popular.

I figured at some point we’d get post-apocalypse burnout, but that hasn’t seemed to happen. The Walking Dead just wrapped after an enormous 11-season run (and there’s been several spinoffs), so lots of people out there must still be watching and enjoying it. There’s still plenty of interest for the post-apocalypse on TV in recent years: Snowpiercer, Station Eleven, The Last Ship, Z Nation, Y: The Last Man, and others I’m probably forgetting. Even considering we just spent years struggling through a pandemic, people never get tired of a good end-of-the-world story.

A ruined country, ravenous ghouls, fascist militias, and ordinary people struggling to survive will seemingly never go out of style. That’s a little weird, but it’s good for Fallout because even viewers who never played the games will still want to watch.

It’s an original story

And unlike some of those franchises, Fallout has been around for 25 years and spans a half-dozen games (excluding stuff like Fallout Shelter and Fallout Pinball), meaning there’s no shortage of storylines, settings, and main quests that could be adapted into a TV series. But the story for the series is an original one, and that’s a relief.

For a more linear game like The Last of Us, it makes perfect sense to follow the story beats and characters of the game, but Fallout is an open world RPG. When we play Fallout, we all play someone different, someone original, someone unique to us who chose their own path and made their own decisions. Seeing the story from Fallout 3 or 4 or New Vegas on screen would be kind of jarring, in conflict with our own memories of the characters we inhabited and the choices we made. The setting will be familiar, but the story will be completely new, and I think that’s what most Fallout fans really want.

Bonus 6th reason: That one screenshot does look good

Like I said, it’s not much to go on. But, hey! It looks a heck of a lot like Fallout. I know we’re all dying to see more, lots more, and I’m sure we will soon. For now, that one screenshot is at least a good way to start.

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