Whimsical Wasteland: Why Amazon Prime’s Fallout Series Is a Hit


Adaptations of computer games have a patchy success rate at best. So when a TV show based on the long-running computer game series Fallout was announced there was a great deal of tentative interest. However, the show has been a surprise hit.

Fallout - Amazon
The three central characters // Credit: Amazon Studios

Whilst the game is very popular the success of the TV show means that it has reached beyond just existing fans. The world of the Fallout games is a desolate wasteland, a civilisation destroyed by nuclear war, some carried on in massive underground vaults whilst those on the surface either died or endured the harsh, radioactive conditions. There are mutants, ghouls, killer robots and helpful robots, and all manner of post-apocalyptic problems. Many of the games revolve around vault-dwellers having to go to the surface and this is the same in the TV show, in this instance, Lucy heading out to rescue her father, taken by surface-dwelling raiders. These themes of post-apocalyptic survival are hardly unique to Fallout and are a familiar premise to anyone who has watched TV and movies.

Fallout - Amazon
Lucy bringing you some information // Credit: Fallout, Amazon Studios

There are comparisons to be made with The Last Of Us – another post-apocalyptic video game turned into a critically acclaimed and successful TV series. But where The Last Of Us takes a decidedly serious and dour tone, Fallout is more whimsical and weird with its apocalyptic horror. Fallout has an extremely strong aesthetic that has been built up over years – the 1950s futurism/atompunk of the vaultdwellers, their cheery polite optimism, the ever-present mascot of Vault Boy, fictional brands like nuka-cola and even the blue and yellow jumpsuits they wear. Outside of the vaults, there are the Mister Handy robots, the grim and oddly dressed wastelanders, and the power-armour-wearing knights. This gave the showmakers a lot to work with and they made great use of it. Fallout is also a lot of fun. It is over-the-top post-apocalyptic madness with no attempt to provide any veneer of what might actually happen.

First time out of the vault //credit: Fallout, Amazon Studios

Lucy (Ella Purnell) is a great character and watching her deal with the constant battle of her lifelong belief in goodness and the golden rule and presented with a world where assuming the absolute worst in people is probably the wisest course of action. Her values and beliefs do take some knocks but her goodness does remain intact.

A knight and Maximus before he gets armour - Fallout - Amazon Studios
A knight and Maximus before he gets armour // Credit: Fallout, Amazon Studios

Maximus (Aaron Moten) sets off on a different story, not a vaultdweller but a member of the Brotherhood of Steel, a society working toward the protection of humanity and stopping another apocalypse. This is mainly achieved through their “knights” and the power armour they wear and fighting people. The Brotherhood of Steel are a fanatical, quasi-religious order of extremists who seem to have a vague belief in doing the right thing.

Cooper Howard - Fallout - Amazon
Cooper Howard is perhaps the inspiration for Vault Boy // Credit: Fallout, Amazon Studios

Finally of the main three cast members, we have Cooper Howard/The Ghoul (Walter Goggins). The show actually starts with a scene before the nuclear war with Cooper being a cowboy at a kid’s birthday party, quickly revealing he was a famous western actor but bad things happened. Cooper refuses to do his trademark “thumbs-up” at the party, something Fallout fans will immediately recognise as the standard gesture of Vault Boy, with the suggestion being he no longer wants to be associated with it. We see Cooper desperately trying to escape nuclear war with his young daughter. We next see The Ghoul in the present day of the show, a radioactively poisoned undead creature, barely resembling a human, a bounty hunter par excellence and as bitter and cynical as anyone else in the wasteland and we learn that this is the very same Cooper Howard. Remarkably Cooper Howard seemed like a good guy, arguing with his director about whether his cowboy character should actually kill the villain and seemingly very concerned with being honest and doing good things.

Cooper Howard - Fallout
Cooper Howard in less happy times // Credit: Fallout, Amazon Studios

I was shocked at how much I enjoyed Fallout and became engaged with the characters and the world and with my abiding love of all things post-apocalyptic it was a fantastic surprise.

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Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.