Fallout Apocrypha: TV Series Review Part 2

Chris Avellone
29 min readMay 23, 2024


This installment of the Fallout series review focuses on the series’ lore. As said previously in Part 1, this breakdown is not a comparison of all the differences between early Fallouts vs. the TV show (there’s tons), but instead, it judges the series on how it portrays and explains its own internal lore.

After that, I’ll go into the some of the other challenges I had with the series — the factions, the antagonists, and of course, the ultimate fate of Shady Sands and the NCR.

Inconsistent Lore: The Vaults!

So originally, vaults were intended as tests for space travel and Vault-Tec had won the bid to construct the vaults because they were the lowest bidder.

In the series, the Vaults become something less in an attempt to introduce more drama — when in fact, each Vault is supposed to have its own built-in drama from whatever experiment is going on at the Vault. That’s what makes them Vaults.

So one of the pillars is “life in the Vault.” This is largely fine in the series, except for a few things:

1. It is very hard to determine what Lucy’s Vault’s experiment was. While it may seem easy to explain this away as “well, it’s one of the good vaults so there was no awful experiment, just the meritocracy” that really doesn’t solve it, because it’s not: it’s a staged breeding program for super managers that is not hinted at throughout much of the series and falls flat when revealed —partly because that breeding program clearly isn’t working based on 99% of the Vault 33 Dwellers you see in the show.

2. It may not have been clear, but at no point do you see the entrance to Vault 31 in the “cornfield” early in the episodes (and posters suggesting the triangle of vaults don’t mysteriously show up till later).

When that entrance is finally shown in a cornfield (was this another one?), it’s not clear where that entrance was — if you notice in episode 1, there’s plenty of signs for 32 and 33 pointing the way, but nothing for 31 until much later. If someone else spotted it, let me know.

3. I was among some who thought that Vault 33 lost the fight with the Raiders in Episode 1, so I was surprised when the Vault apparently won.

Why did I think this? The reason is because almost every single scene up to that point showed the Vault Dwellers getting their asses handed to them (with some exceptions). Nothing that happened during that fight made me think 33 won the day, so I was like, “uh, what?”

Also, the “hostage situation” with Moldaver’s choice at the end of Episode 1 ended up being a letdown — because the choice Moldaver offers is a fake one, so it led to another “huh” and made me lose respect for her as an adversary, because she’s not hardline enough to keep her word when she’s giving a dangerous choice.

This plot decision also undermines a lot of similar hard choices in the future for the writing, which sets a bad precedent especially for an antagonist with any level of conviction to their cause like Moldaver supposedly has — we’ll get to some general problems with the antagonists later on.

3. The “triangle” vault of 31–32–33 is explained (eventually) as a unique set up, which is good, as obviously, most Vaults aren’t ever laid out like this because of the logistic disruptions (for the experiments).

For the TV series, the triangle DOES work for solving a TV-specific problem — the immediacy of three vaults, with one being a threat, provides face-to-face drama to the Vault in several ways. I can’t discount this reason since it makes for better “TV” than monitoring of each Vault experiment from a distance.

Also, arguably, they needed to show how outsiders (even from other Vaults) could infect/trade with another Vault. This would have been difficult if they had adhered to the old structure.

Another problem with this is it also calls attention to how things were managed in other vaults and how experiments were tracked so that Vault-Tec stayed in control and always had “their” Overseer in place. How were the other vault experiments monitored and controlled? If it was decided at some point the experiments in other vaults were done remotely and monitored remotely, that would have solved the immediacy of the need for Vault 31, imo.

Anyway, a larger point is the triangle-of-vaults method couldn’t have been used for the many hundreds of other vaults, so what was Bud’s solution for the other vaults? Was there one? It’s plausible there wasn’t, but who knows.

4. Was interesting to see that Vault-Tec had vaults in Canada and Mexico. My only problem with that is the Canadian vaults were likely too polite to partake in an experiment.

5. No idea why Moldaver doesn’t take the fusion core from Vault 33 if she “needs” power that badly. That at least would have foreshadowed events to come rather than leaving it to the 2nd half of the series, and would have helped on-ramp the power infrastructure theme that falls flat later on. It also would have added more pressure to elect a new Overseer.

6. I couldn’t wait for the embarrassment of Vault 4 to end. It was just too goofy and aside from the “We need Power” theme (which was done badly), the “plot payoffs” in this episode were painful. The idea that Chris Parnell descended from Gulpers is just… huh? Did he come out of one of their eggs? Was he cloned from one of their mouth-fingers? Sure!

7. I was a little surprised that so much was left to loot in V32 after the raiders supposedly went through it. I figured they would have taken everything, especially all the Pip Boys, and they would have needed the uniforms.

8. I mentioned earlier that the fact the Vaults are so exposed and easy to find also didn’t feel appropriate for the series, and felt like a conflict with the earlier Fallouts. The reason for this is plausibility — I can’t imagine that the wastelanders wouldn’t find a way to blast into these if they can find them, and hiding them would have been better (like Vault 13 in Fallout 1).

9. The Water Chip — anyone else go “huh?” over this when it was brought up in the series?

I don’t even have an explanation for why it was raised, why it was important, etc. As far as I can tell, it was a nod to Fallout 1, but it’s confusing because they don’t do anything with it.

It’s possible it was part of the “tragedy pressure” that allowed Betty to rise to power, but it’s not called out as such, it doesn’t feel like a stunt, and worse, it’s never really followed up on — plus, wouldn’t they have gone to V32 to see if they could use their water chip? That’s the whole premise that starts F1.

This may seem minor, but the point is, they didn’t need to put the water chip in — but they did, and it doesn’t go anywhere. More precious time wasted that could have been spent fixing other stuff.

Okay, but what did you *like* about the Vaults?

Loved the 3D projector and the pan showing the Vault layout and the levels — I liked the cornfield, too.

I also loved when the projector began to melt down, showcasing a nuclear-colored orange sky when the fight breaks out in Episode 1. It was a beautiful visual for the chaos taking place, and emphasized the show’s theme, too. Thumbs up.

I thought the slow build up to the ambush in Vault 33 was good in episode 1. I do feel like anyone, especially those from 31, would have sensed something was up. But that’s a minor point.

I liked the fact I found Stephanie increasingly dangerous vs. Betty’s level of quiet menace, so looking forward to her as an Overseer in Season 2. Poor Bert… er, Chet. I meant Chet.

Minor Points: I didn’t notice the Vault’s “chaplain” outfit until the second viewing, but I thought that was cool. It’s interesting they would allow religion in the vaults.

The library in V33 feels like it gets changed into a prison with antechamber and gates pretty fast (some of it feels like embedded construction, especially at the guard post).

Inconsistent Lore: Ghoul Pharma!

Can anyone tell me anything concrete about ghoul physiology? Anyone?

The whole serum that causes and prevents feral ghoul behavior was a mess. This is something that’s only cropped up in recent Fallouts but seriously, WTF.

For the record, the fact there’s a drug that when you drink it it heals all your wounds (except your nose) and restores broken bones back into their original shape within minutes is something that I probably wouldn’t drop into any game setting because its very nature causes problems.

It’s the ultimate military drug, frankly — why even have Jet? (Don’t get me started on Jet.)

But let’s look at why the serum’s presence and ghoul biology are especially shaky in this series, and why it’s made even messier through a number of poor decisions:

1. The Ghoul/Cooper says to Lucy. “I’m you, just give it time.” He doesn’t say, “I’m you, once you drink this magical serum that’s been going around.” If your response is, “well, that’s too obvious for him to say,” sorry, the whole series is obvious — and even if you don’t know the truth, this is one of those times in the lore where it’s better a character says nothing vs. giving a false impression on the origins of ghoul nature.

In short, if you’re going to indulge in scenes that are intended to spotlight bad lore, be clear about the bad lore — because when he says the actual line, the implication is that long exposure to radiation/wasteland causes the changes, which you then need to refute later on, wasting more time.

Edit: Please note that Lucy doesn’t ask The Ghoul who he is, she asks what he is. I also don’t believe she’s seen a ghoul or mutant up to this point, so her question seems more based on his physiology than his attitude. Besides, no person who watched The Ghoul shoot people would really question, “why are you acting like this? What drove you to this? Tell me your psychology.” No one cares. He’s shooting people. Lucy later denies she’ll ever be like him, even if she ends up looking like him.

Also, either way you fall, it’s bad scriptwriting or bad lore reinforcement, so in the end, neither option is well-executed. And yes, I’m aware of what’s said outside the show, but show-only viewers won’t know what to make of ghouls beyond what’s presented in the show.

2. The ghoul’s body is like a “bucket of drugs” so much so that Lucy’s tranq dart doesn’t work.

So… why does the anti-feral serum work? Why do any drugs work on him? Are the fact he takes all these drugs keep him from becoming feral? Who knows?!

I bring this up because in the responses on social media to why The Ghoul may not have gone feral, one explanation is, “he’s taking tons of drugs and they could be preventing him from going feral.” This isn’t a bad hypothetical, but the fact you can hypothesize about the wrong lore point and it makes sense, that’s bad. (See my point about “Vagueness Leads to the Dark Side,” later on.)

3. The serum has no name. This really helps! (Sarcasm)

The fact there’s a ghoul image on the serum vials (Ep 4) also made me roll my eyes — whether the label is pre-war or post-war, both cause problems.

4. The serum has multiple delivery mechanisms that work. While this isn’t implausible, in a fiction series, I wouldn’t confuse the issue more by varying the delivery of the drug — especially when one of the delivery mechanisms looks like he’s taking another drug (Jet).

So when Roger (the ghoul who goes feral in Ep 4) says, “I just need one little puff” I don’t immediately connect that to drinking the serum, but the inhaler method instead? More confusion.

5. The Ghoul ingests every drug and indulges in cannibalism. This is a problem because without a clear explanation for his Ghoul nature and the feral cause, a number of people online thought it was eating other ghoul flesh and ingesting tons of drugs was how he wasn’t going feral, which isn’t necessarily true.

Also, even more fun, you don’t even know that what’s really going on here — part of the reason behind his behavior is the Ghoul has “Chem Fiend” Perk and that’s why he’s doing it — but you wouldn’t know that unless you read his character sheet, so it’s just “huh”?

Overall, I wouldn’t care about this aspect and chalk it up to bad design, but it’s one of the Ghoul’s important pillars regarding his character. Fighting one’s feral nature is a very important theme of the series — but the lore and presentation supporting it is so bad, it’s difficult to puzzle out how the process works.

Minor Note: At the start of this section, I describe my reaction to the ghoul serum as “WTF.” If the explanation ends up being a different 3-letter acronym, however, then a lot of this stuff takes on a different light — but the lore construction for it and the roadmap that’s been used to get there is painful. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a clue: the 3-letter acronym I’m thinking of rhymes with “we’ll see.”

Inconsistent Lore: The Importance of POWER

Does this show drive home the lack of power and the importance of a faction’s control of it, making the cold fusion reveal incredibly dramatic in the final episode?


Aside from the cartoon Benny Hill-music-themed-visit to Vault 4, there’s no indication that a lack of power in the wastes matters. There’s no indication that cold fusion is somehow better than fusion cores, but let’s say it is, and that restoring this power will be what ‘saves’ the wasteland… but how well was this framework constructed? How well was it foreshadowed?

I did think Moldaver and the shots of the Enclave should have done more to make this point about power and infrastructure more grounded and more important — I mean, was there the implication that the Enclave already had this limitless power if Wilzig stole it?

I did like Moldaver invented it (she never felt like she had enough screen time to matter, which is a shame), but the power sources in Fallout have always been a source of confusion.

At the end of the series, it doesn’t matter that the “NCR” gained it either, since the Brotherhood took it over after wiping them out as what feels like an afterthought.

So after all this effort, I’m not sure if Moldaver really wins anything in the end. That sucks. Sorry you showed up, Moldaver, better luck next time as a positive antagonist… and oh look, you’re bleeding out, silencing your character forever. Classy.

So basically, the asshole Brotherhood (more on this later) now owns a powered-up California and has apparently wiped out the NCR HQ in about, what, 30 minutes? Okay.

Minor Note: I was really surprised at the end when all those light bulbs still worked when the city lit up, but that’s a real-world critique.

Inconsistent Lore: The Evils of Capitalism

Was Fallout, as envisioned in Fallout 1, intended to be a powerful political statement about the evils of capitalism?


How do I know?

Becase I went to the source and asked.

I thought there was a chance I was wrong, so rather than commit to an assumption, I decided to do some basic, easy research. Like asking a question vs. making a statement. It helps.

While there might be stories told by individuals and quests in Fallout that are anti-capitalism, to say its roots are anti-capitalist and Fallout was originally envisioned as anti-capitalist or an anti-capitalist statement is 100% wrong.

Now it’s fine if modern Fallout (3, 4, 76, the TV series) wants to embrace that theme as one of its pillars, but my point is that was not the original intention behind Fallout.

I don’t care if the modern games pick up that football and run with it, that’s fine.

Other Random Lore Bits

Some quick other notes on the lore, but not enough to merit sections of their own:

The Beginning

The birthday party scene gave me high hopes this level of craft would be the quality bar the show measured itself by. It was very well done, and it captured Goggins/Howard’s struggles in the past without expressly mentioning them (which is a nice subtle way of engaging the audience).

Beginnings and Endings

I liked the series began and ended in the same place/vista — from Cooper riding in the direction of Griffith Observatory in the first episode, to the final battle at the observatory at the end of the series.


The “commie pinko” mentions throughout felt very 1950s and appropriate for Fallout. The references to McCarthyism I thought were good for historical context, too.

Hey, where’s China, I thought-

<<Redacted for business reasons, move along>>


I loved seeing snapshots of pre-war life with Cooper Howard, and I think it helped the plot. I also loved seeing the Galaxy News Logo (but not enough to raise my final score).

What’s in a Biome? Desert to Jungle to Desert Again

One developer did point out to me that he was confused about the pacing of the biomes — and when he pointed it out, I agreed.

Lucy goes from desert to thick forest to desert again, and it was confusing where these forests came from unless someone dropped a G.E.C.K. there (but that’s never mentioned in the series).

The fact the 1st sudden biome shift came almost right after Lucy left the “water purifier” was even more confusing because the thick forest seemed to imply there was water around. (Still, the NPC fixing the water purifier had already made it clear why he wouldn’t go into the forest or town of Filly.)


A senior Fallout developer pointed out to me that the cars in the flashbacks looked wrong — they looked nothing like the Corvega in F1 and F2, and he was struck by how different they looked. I’m not a car guy, so I completely missed this.

Caesar’s Legion

I did like seeing the Roman costumes in the flashback sequences on the movie lot and that visual storytelling made me smile. If those help foreshadow Caesar’s Legion, this is a clever way to do it. If they do, it’s one good example of using foreshadowing well in the series (but again, only if they use it).

“Following someone’s radiation trail…”

So at one point, Thaddeus seems to imply they can track The Ghoul by his radiation trail.

Huh? In the irradiated wasteland? This felt like a stretch/deus ex machina explanation.

If actual scientists out there can contradict me, though, I’ll defer to them, but this felt weird.

The Architecture of Filly

So this might be my Architecture Minor background, but when Lucy gets to Filly, I did wonder how certain huge vehicles were somehow stacked on top of each other after… you know, after the apocalypse. Why would someone bother? It didn’t feel plausible, but it didn’t in the video games, either.

Why would any human being stack vehicles this way without heavy machinery?

I did like the Filly feel in terms of how it related to Junktown’s architecture in Fallout 1. The end result of Filly, though, just felt like a sloppy clone of Megaton, not any West Coast location.

The Chalkboard of History!

The chalkboard showing Shady Sands was one of the worst pieces of visual narrative they could have designed… because not only does it not work, it gives bad info as well.

If your argument is, “well, the chalkboard is unreliable narrator,” that is a bad directing choice — unreliable narrators need to be positioned as such. Props and environmental storytelling rarely are good for this purpose.

I found the chalkboard also surprising because Bethesda is usually pretty good about environmental storytelling but the fact the chalkboard was one of the elements that got people in an uproar is… telling.

I mean, why doesn’t the bomb explosion have a date on the chalkboard? That could have solved a lot of questions.

And if the “Fall” of Shady Sands is a range of years like the fall of the Roman Empire (give me a break), then a range of years would have made more sense.

I don’t really buy any of the post-game explanations (I couldn’t really hear them over the backpedaling) and think the show just messed up.

The Gulper

While I know they are East Coast in Fallout 4, seeing these creatures when they’ve never shown up in an earlier game on the West Coast was weird. I kinda wished they’d just gone for something that was clearly in the West Coast Fallouts, or just spent that budget on a deathclaw.

In general, the mutants in the show don’t get good representation or just look dumb (oh look, he’s got an eye in the middle of his head, how weird!).

Please keep in mind, however, we introduced a lot of goofy creatures in F1 and F2 that were clearly ripoffs — Wannamingos were Giger Alien clones, the Deathclaw was a D&D tarasque, we had talking animals, etc, etc. (Talking animals is something Tim Cain did not want in F1 and F2, which some of us respected, other designers… didn’t.)

Minor Point: When the woman is giving birth in Vault 4, I did wonder how the “gulpers” devoured her when they don’t have teeth — they seem to ingest things whole and slowly digest them, and we don’t see any teeth from the many close-ups to the creature’s mouth.

The Destruction of Shady Sands

This was out of left field, and it felt even weirder when you see the crater and all the other buildings standing in the background. Okay.

It didn’t do much for me dramatically, it just fell flat, and the fact it only comes up as “significant” halfway through the series also undermines the drama here — it never graduates into more than a footnote, imo.

Overall, this felt very dismissive — BUT if I were planning on West Coast titles and hadn’t worked on F1 and F2, there’s a lot to be said about bombing it so you didn’t have to deal with any lore conflicts since, well, it can be a lot of work to research that stuff. Why bother?

I know there was a lot said about me “nuking the West” as one of the endings for Fallout (one of many, including the Legion invading the West), but it was never any intention to wipe out NCR, it was only to introduce more conflict. In the series, the entire Mojave feels like it’s taken a big step back from where it was anyway. It certainly made the NCR-Legion conflict obselete in one single stroke, which kind of makes anything you did in New Vegas pointless, I suppose.

Minor Point: The idea of Shady Sands having trolleys — uh, okay. Nothing in F1 or F2 supports this to my recollection. One positive of this, however, was it was a clear visual signature tied to Shady Sands… but it didn’t have to be trolleys.

Concluding Notes About Lore

Vagueness Leads to the Dark Side

Being vague with certain lore is bad.

As an example, when people couldn’t explain the ghoul physiology elements, they started making stuff up.

This can be fine, and other times it can be bad, because once a fan has a decent theory they’re using to explain something you decided not to explain, it’s going to be super hard to get their teeth off that lore bone. But that’s on you.

Hey, but wasn’t it cool seeing New Vegas, sugarbombs, Big MT, Repconn, and all of that stuff in a show?

Yep, which is why I give the series a fan service bonus if you know anything about Fallout.

For example, if you aren’t familiar with Fallout, the appearance of a stimpak in Episode 1 means nothing to you — but for a fan, it’s cool to see it for the first time.

Elements like this make the series more entertaining, but it doesn’t make the series better.

I’d argue the problem with these franchise nods and signposts is that narratively, they aren’t leading anywhere that makes the plot better — they’re just there. But it IS very cool to see them, and it is nice the New Vegas and earlier Fallout mentions are permitted to be part of the “real” franchise.

But Season 2 will answer every question!

I hear this quite a bit to explain away some plot elements. For me, I’m usually happy with this answer as long as I can see the foreshadowing building blocks in place that shows they’ve thought about the issues and care about the craft.

Often, I couldn’t, or the blocks didn’t look like they were going to be very stable based on Season 1.


I don’t go into the factions in the series too deeply, and it’s because they aren’t really developed — they’re just a jumble of names with little context, which makes the stakes more confusing. Some people I spoke to forgot the Enclave was even in the series.

I will say pop-up titles for each location would have helped with the faction divisions (similar to the character title cards that are shown in the series).

Also, they use pop-ups during the Vault voting episode for each person’s vote, so I don’t think additional title cards for faction clarity would have hurt.

The Enclave

I’m no fan of the Enclave (we ruined Tim’s original good idea with our take in F2) but if doing the Enclave, you should construct a better foundation and something that actually foreshadows it, not make a vague mess of “huh?”. The Enclave shouldn’t be a footnote when introduced and their presence and portrayal should not be confusing.

The Enclave is a head-scratcher in this whether you know Fallout or not. If you don’t know Fallout, I would expect any mention of the Enclave to be “who were they again?”

I wouldn’t even care about this except for the fact they purposely put it in the show, but as a method of foreshadowing, it didn’t feel like it was well thought-out.

The Brotherhood of Assholes

The fact that the Brotherhood seems to be a big bag of assholes is an interesting take.

The series generally paints these guys as jerks/sinister, which we did not try for in Fallout 1 and 2 and made an exception for a few in New Vegas. Why? Mostly because the Brotherhood feels like one of those organizations that players want to aspire to, like templars or Paladins.

I’m fine with the decision in the show, but it doesn’t feel like the Brotherhood I remember.

(Edit: To be fair, when meeting the Brotherhood in Fallout 1, they don’t really want you to come in and say hello, so they send you a difficult quest to the Glow, most likely in the hopes you won’t come back. That is arguably jerky. But when you do what they ask, they do let you in and honor their word.)

Also, this is minor, but we never really considered any member of the Brotherhood wouldn’t be taught sex ed. It felt implausible that Maximus didn’t know the fundamentals. Building the numbers of the Brotherhood was something very important to the characters in New Vegas, and sometimes caused characters to turn on each other and even try to kill each other due to conflicts in these approaches.

Aside from that, just the basics of sex ed and pregnancy is really important to be aware of in the wasteland and for faction population, especially with the knowledge the Brotherhood has, but what do I know — I guess it’s something that makes you question the plausibility of a cartoon take for the sake of a sex joke (“Wanna make my cock explode?”), which when you think about it, is pretty useless to debate about since they aren’t trying for plausibility, they just want a laugh.¹

Edit: A lot of the points above come from conflicts over West BoS presentaton and the more fascist presentation in F4. If all the BoS are from the East/Commonwealth, then not sure where all the West Coast BoS went. I doubt the series cares.

Minor Point: West Coast Fallout never used the term “cleric.” This would have been an easy fix. But there is some sign that these are East Coast BOS’s, so who knows (I wasn’t sure if they used the term there).

[1] I’ve made a lot of bad lore decisions myself, notably Marcus the super-mutant from Fallout 2 countering the claim that super-mutants were sterile (they are, but this is an example of a joke that does serious damage to the lore and undermines Fallout 1’s premise).


I only mention this because we saw two suits of armor “lead farming” in the desert.

And after I went “cool!” I started to ask why the hell they would be wearing Ranger Armor while lead farming in the brutal heat. It could be for protection, but they aren’t carrying any weapons I could see. When that whole sequence was done (mostly another scene where The Ghoul is in a room and kills someone), it just felt like a shallow nod to Vegas and the NCR.

And yes, it may have value in S2, but it felt like driveby fan service with no point. Now, I do think if Erik Estrada had helped explain in a sentence or two more context for NCR, that would have been great.

As for the NCR…

The New California Republic (NCR)

I couldn’t even tell you who or what NCR was or is after this series. I also don’t care, since if I got an answer I’d probably just shake my head.

Moldaver’s connection to NCR — and her apparent role as HEAD of the NCR — isn’t made clear for 7 and a half episodes other than some “wacky cult leader in the hills” mentions. This feels like a huge mistake in continuity and craftsmanship.

As far as I can tell, Moldaver was new head of NCR, Shady Sands got bombed, the remnants took refuge in the “new HQ” of Griffith Observatory, Moldaver gave the local area power with cold fusion, then the Brotherhood killed all the NCR and took control of the power supply. Moldaver’s dead. So no more NCR, I guess?

Nice banner! You know, in case you thought it was a crazy cult in the hills.

They’re a pretty wide organization, but the fact the banner above their (now-eradicated) base reads, “NCR Headquarters” implied this was the nail in the coffin.

If the creators meant something different, they should have shown it? And yes, I’m aware of the statements they’ve made outside the show — but it’s what’s inside the show that matters, and it should have been clear there.

Okay, enough about factions, and let’s get to the final point. I started with the protagonists in the series in Part 1, now I’m going to end on an evaluation of the antagonists in the Fallout series. It starts with a simple premise…

…A Hero is Only As Good As Their Antagonist

More simply put, it’s a big deal when Spider-Man defeats Dr. Doom. It’s not a big deal when he defeats Leapfrog. It does a “hero” no favors to defeat someone weaker and stupider than themselves.

And in the Fallout series, the antagonists fall in this category. In short, they don’t have any teeth.

Moldaver’s very dramatic violent intro is ruined when she doesn’t follow through with her “either-or” choice in Episode 1. It weakens her character. You could argue it’s because of her real motivation, but since that’s 5–6 episodes away, likely all you’ll remember is she made a threat and didn’t follow through. It was like “counter-Game of Thrones” where serious shit could happen to any character at any moment — except in the Fallout series, it doesn’t, and just pulls the rug and the seriousness of the threat along with it.

Hank MacLean has moments where he’s scary, but eventually learning he’s Bud’s junior employee actually made him weaker. The management hierarchy after the apocalypse isn’t any better, as Hank now reports to a goofy brain in a roomba. (Note that they actually call it a roomba in the series in the subtitles.)

The same is true for even the Brotherhood — as a quick example, the fact Quintus didn’t kill Maximus for bringing them a fake head is ridiculous and inconsistent.

But let’s get on to who the real antagonists are — and this is what made Episode 8 painful to watch.

Minor Points: If you watch Episode 1 again, you’ll notice that Hank’s “33” pin on his collar keeps appearing and vanishing, sometimes right after it was present in the scene. Still, this isn’t as bad as leaving a Starbuck’s coffee cup on the table during a Game of Thrones scene.

The Clown Room of Evil

The Legion of Doom scene was a bit forced, and I didn’t like this scene (oh no, shadowy figure! Who could it be?).

Still, to give a positive nod, it was good to see the different corporations visually laid out (West-Tek is this, Rob-Co is this, etc.). There’s a lot of Pre-War corporations tossed around in Fallout lore, and I will say the Clown Room of Evil laid them out clearly, which was helpful.

However, it didn’t take long for the cracks to appear, even for more recent characters in the Fallout franchise — Frederick Sinclair (from Dead Money) representing Big MT was… uh, weird. This was also a weird take on his look as well, which didn’t really mesh with his appearance in the Sierra Madre.

Also, despite his depiction at the Clown Council, I never saw Sinclair as an asshole who would purposely murder or harm people in experiments — the reason all the suffering occurred at the Sierra Madre wasn’t due to him, so to see him advocating for cruel experiments on others came completely out of nowhere.

There are numerous terminal entries in Dead Money that make Sinclair’s position clear… he put the health and well-being of his workers ahead of construction time tables, and he even couldn’t bring himself to hurt those who betrayed him the most.

But I guess you would have had to have played it and understood it, which would have taken a little research.

Oh, well. Moving on.

Annnnnnd here’s Robert House. It’s weird for him to be involved in “let’s potentially nuke the world to maintain share prices” negotiations given his presence and stance in New Vegas:

“By 2065 I deemed it a mathematical certainty that an atomic war would devastate the Earth within 15 years. Every projection I ran confirmed it. I knew I couldn’t “save the world,” nor did I care to. But I could save Vegas, and in the process, perhaps, save mankind. I set to work immediately. I thought I had plenty of time to prepare. As it turned out, I was 20 hours short.” — Robert House

But it’s nothing compared to what that scene was going to end with.


OMFG Vault-Tec were the ones who dropped the bomb?!!! Wowzers, what a TWIST! They’re so EVIL!

When this reveal happened, I groaned, I laughed, I wept. It didn’t feel like a fully-cooked plot point vs. a dramatic shock value moment. I mean, ya just gotta have that plot twist, amirite… even if it means twisting a knife into plausibility and the lore.

The best thing I can say is it’s better than the aliens from Mothership Zeta. If you’ve forgotten that choice bit of lore, don’t look it up.

But all of this is nothing compared to who the “real” bad guys are and their master plan. Talk about epic:

The real Bad Guy is… Management!

I can’t even

I mean


So… the Vault 31 reveal was pretty bad.

The plan of Bud’s Buds is they can unfreeze managers to keep their goals into the future and use the people in other Vaults (or at least 33) to breed with to create “super managers.”

This feels like one of those moments in a writer’s room where everyone gets excited about an idea, but they don’t think it through. It’s a curious idea — but not a good one.

Even worse, there’s zero evidence Bud’s plan is even working, based on almost every Vault 33 citizen that we see in the Vault. Granted, not all of them would be these supposed super-managers, but it’s interesting that 99.9% aren’t.

Of them all, Norman is the only potential one that seems to be what Bud is looking for. But this is undermined by the fact Norman has no enthusiasm for any task which seems to contradict this— still, Norman DOES have more agency and free thinking skills than the others. (Maybe his lack of enthusiasm only occurs when he’s not in charge?)

Let me give you a comparison using a previous Fallout antagonist and the huge discrepancy in their design vs. Bud Askins, and maybe you’ll see what I mean.

In Fallout 1, you fight the Master and his army of super mutants who believe they are the only ones who can legitimately survive in the wasteland. There is tremendous evidence to back their claims. And as an adversary, the Master rocks. He’s smart, he’s got a plan that makes sense, he’s visually interesting, his multi-voice acting is fascinating, and even better, he listens to you when you make sense. And you can even join him!

Now THAT is an interesting adversary, and as such, it feels SO MUCH BETTER when you beat him, because it’s pretty clear he was powerful and a threat to the wasteland.

In the Fallout TV series, the threat is that the future belongs to… Producers. Having been on projects with way too many producers and not enough “doers”, I do agree this can be an issue, but it feels… underwhelming?

I’m going to try and explain my disappointment with this decision with three examples, the first two of which would have clearly worked for the series, and a final one that sadly echoes the choice the series made:

· They could have made Bud… better. There’s a difference between a corporate stooge that has little depth or nuance like Bud Askins vs. Burke, Paul Reiser’s corporate man from Aliens. Reiser plays a great corporate man, his threat is smartly foreshadowed in his very first introduction, and even at his weakest moments, he still poses a big threat to the marines — Bud just comes across as weak and shallow.

· They could have made the “management” angle… better. The TV series Firefly, and especially its endcap movie Serenity, do a much better representation on the dangers of mandated societal control — and that theme permeates the unfairly short series and the movie. The quality of that theme in Firefly is so far beyond Fallout’s presentation, Fallout can’t even see it where it’s standing, but it should really, really try. Even better, there’s not a single mention of production, management in Serenity… just the far scarier shadow of control, the semantics of which makes the theme more powerful, not weaker.

The Old Guard — where immortals confront the true enemy: Big Pharma.

· Last but most appropriate example: If you ever watched Charlize Theron² in The Old Guard, maybe you already know that the premise of battle-hardened immortals fighting through the millennia somehow loses its sense of majesty and epic nature when your big enemy is a weaselly Big Pharma CEO who wants to make drugs from your blood. It’s underwhelming and boring.

Same thing is true in Fallout — Bud and his plan just aren’t interesting or compelling. His plan for creating super managers doesn’t even seem to be working. Worse, his presence, both pre-war and post-war, even undermines the strength of Kyle McLachlan’s character, imo (oh, this idiot Bud is his boss? Ugh). The future is run by middle managers. Wheeeee.

And why the future? I mean… aren’t we already there?

[2] I usually call her “Furiosa” out of respect.

Final Reckoning

So my final score is this — the Fallout series is an entertaining, badly-crafted show. There were a lot of problems, but also things I liked.

It is, however, an achievement that should be recognized for what it is, and bringing it to the screen was a huge accomplishment.

If you love Fallout it’s a 6 out of 10 if you include the fan service moments, which are genuinely entertaining — but only for a select audience. I did find the Fallout fan service moments entertaining, I can’t deny it, but it wasn’t entertaining enough where I would have voluntarily watched it a second time.

If you are not part of that audience, however, the craftsmanship has to carry it, and the craftsmanship is weak. That’s a 4 out of 10.

Thanks for reading this far — and remember, this is my opinion. If you like something, you like it, and I’m not disputing that — but I do think the craft of Fallout lore needs more attention and focus in future installments. The series could have been so much more.

Now, let’s see what happens in Season 2 and how things unfold.