Fallout Provides Shelter From The Storm of Nose-Turners

If you follow the volume of media critics and reviewers that I do, you pick up on a sense of both glee and dread as we sprint toward the end of the Emmy eligibility period.  In their never-ending quest for awards and at least momentary inclusion on the list of must-have subscriptions, many streaming services are rolling out a slew of deep, emotionally charged quality series simultaneously.  This week, among the ones getting the most hype and publicity are the recent launches of HBO and MAX’s THE SYMPATHIZER, a Vietnam war-period piece featuring Robert Downey, Jr. that caught my eye because it was heavily promoted in the final episodes of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM and RIPLEY, the deeper dive into the world most know from the well-remembered Jude Law film of the 90s, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.  They have joined the about-to-conclude FX and Hulu take on SHOGUN that has eclipsed both executionally and, arguably, in global reach even the industry-saving success the 1980 NBC iteration of the classic James Clavell novel as shows you HAVE, HAVE, HAAAAAAVE to watch by those that consider themselves tastemakers of TV.

But since I’m not an Academy member (a little rich for my budget these days, sorry to say), I don’t quite have the urgency to delve into these watch-worthy series just yet.  And I kind of bristle at the sort of judgmental ‘tudes that those that have take when they gush over these series’ addictiveness and how much better than are than almost anything else that had previously existed.  To devote time and effort to investing in complicated, dense plots when I’ve got a lot more pressing things to worry about (ya know, job, transportation, keeping a roof over my head) is just not priority one for me these days.   And based on the degree of hype and discussion surrounding them, I have little doubt they will all dominate the Emmy nominations, which means that’ll be sustaining through the long, hot summer ahead.  I’ll certainly be looking for something to distract me from the conventions by then, so consider those shows bookmarked.

Meanwhile, Prime Video has zigged into a more populist lane with its recent drop of a series based on the hit video game FALLOUT, and I did actually find time to sample the first episode.  I’m not a video game afficionado, but plenty of people are, and since this franchise has been around for 27 years, its fan base is as demographically broad as any in the genre.  And the degree of success that HBO and Sony received from last year’s THE LAST OF US struck a nerve with me.  The challenge of cutting through promotional clutter and the short attention spans of so many of us with something other than a franchise extension or reboot is ginormous, but one way to effectively do so is to use source material.  And as BBC NEWS reported, that’s now apparently a path to success:

Video game adaptations are a hot property in Hollywood.

Fallout, a new Amazon Prime series based on the post-apocalyptic gaming franchise of the same name, has been thrilling reviewers and fans, and has been commissioned for a second season.

Adapting a video-game franchise to the big screen used to be a cursed endeavour – but more recent efforts have hit high scores. Last year’s Super Mario Bros Movie took the second-highest box office receipts of 2023, beaten only by the Barbie Movie.

The appeal of video games to Hollywood studios is obvious. The biggest games have millions of dedicated fans – and a ready-made world for writers and directors to use.

And as was the case with THE LAST OF US, FALLOUT, on top of its built-in recognition factor, just happens to be extremely well-executed in its own right.

For the uninitated, Wikipedia provides a synthesized summary of the plot:

The series depicts the aftermath of the Great War of 2077, an apocalyptic nuclear exchange in an alternate history of Earth where advances in nuclear technology after WWII led to the emergence of a retrofuturistic society and a subsequent resource war. Many survivors took refuge in fallout bunkers known as Vaults, unaware each Vault was designed to perform sociological and psychological experiments on the Vault Dwellers. More than 200 years later in 2296,[2] a young woman named Lucy leaves behind her home in Vault 33 to venture out into the dangerously unforgiving wasteland of a devastated Los Angeles to look for her father, who had been kidnapped. Along the way, she meets a Brotherhood of Steel squire and a ghoul bounty hunter, each with their own mysterious pasts and agendas to settle.

Ella Purnell (Lucy) in “Fallout”

Lucy is played the with required balance of coquettishness and bad-assability by Ella Purnell, who found a following on Showtime’s YELLOWJACKETS.  She is earning rave reviews, as are such familiar faces as Kyle MacLachlan, Sarita Choudhury and, surprisingly, Leslie Uggams.  But at least for me, the hook was and is the chillingly captivating turn that Walton Goggins takes as said ghoul, a one time Hollywood actor who emerges in the post-apocalyptic Los Angeles as a gunslinger and bounty hunter with the same kind of love/hate duality that has been true of his breakout roles as Shane Vendrell in THE SHIELD and Boyd Crowder in JUSTIFIED. 

But if you think I’m latching onto just one tentacle to get hooked, consider the depth of detail and engagement that has been exhibited by those who actually know and love the IP.  IGN’s told the story of one such obsessive:

The Fallout TV show features a Vault-Tec map showing the locations of the various survival shelters, prompting one fan to create an interactive overlay for Google Earth.

Fallout on Prime Video has given fans of the role-playing video game franchise a new glimpse at Bethesda’s universe, including a better look at life in the vaults before and after the apocalypse. The final episode of the season even showed a map of the locked-up homesteads during an important meeting at Vault-Tec HQ.

It didn’t take long for viewers to spot the map and put their cartography skills to good use, with one fan going by the name of @Tunnelsnakefool on X/Twitter plotting out all the U.S. vaults in the image from the show. They later shared a file on their Discord server that will add the Fallout map to Google Earth for others to explore.

Talk about free publicity and giving people a reason to at least watch another episode.  Count me in for at least that much.

And at least according to one of the many third party services tallying viewers, one that at least includes viewership on devices, there’s reason for the Prime Video spendthrifts to be celebratory, as MEDIA PLAY NEWS’ John Latchem shared yesterday:

Prime Video’s “Fallout” series was No. 1 on Samba TV’s list of top streaming programs for the week of April 8 to 14. The live-action adaptation of the apocalyptic video game premiered April 10.

No. 2 was Hulu’s limited series “Shogun,” the new adaptation of James Clavell’s 1975 novel about Japanese Samurai.

No. 3 was Netflix’s true crime documentary What Jennifer Did, another April 10 premiere.

And you can bet that that second season will be a focal point of Prime Video’s upcoming upfront presentations, particularly given the fact that they start out with about a 3-1 advantage over Netflix in ad-recievable subscribers.

Awards are nice.  Eyeballs are nicer.  And ad dollars keep more original content, both populist and elitist, being made, let alone those responsible for them employed.

And that kind of fallout in Los Angeles is, frankly, one I’d like to focus on.

Until next time…

Leave a Comment