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Emily Tsiao

TV Series Review

Lucy MacLean has a lot of attributes. She’s athletic, smart and beautiful. But because she lives in a nuclear fallout shelter, Vault 33, she’s struggled to find a suitable spouse who isn’t related to her.

When nuclear war broke out between the United States and foreign nations, many folks (mostly rich folks) filed into vaults around the country for safety. And for the past 219 years, they’ve been sheltered both from the radiation on the planet’s surface and the realities of living in a post-apocalyptic world.

Lucy believes it’s part of her duty—that it’s the right thing—to carry on the population. Because the next generation of vault-dwellers—her children in fact—will finally be able to leave the vaults and recolonize America. They’ll establish order and save the country, she’s told.

So she volunteers to be part of a trade with the neighboring Vault 32. In exchange for wheat seed and machine parts, Vault 33 will receive a “breeder,” who will marry Lucy, reproduce and thus continue the population of Vault 33 by diversifying the breeding pool.

It seems so simple. So neat. So … totally going to go wrong.

Surface, Never. Vault, Forever!

Shortly after consummating her marriage, Lucy hears screams outside her window. She realizes Vault 33 is under attack by the denizens of Vault 32.

And her new hubby? He sets off her Geiger counter like a metal detector.

Turns out he and the other 32ers aren’t 32ers at all. They’re from the surface, and they’d taken over Vault 32. Why exactly? Well, Lucy will undoubtedly figure that out. It’s possible it has something to do with the rumor that the vaults were created as social experiments during the war. But for now, she’s just focused on one thing: getting her dad back from Moldaver, the leader of the fake 32ers who somehow seems to know who Lucy is.

To do that, Lucy will have to leave her home in Vault 33 for the first time in her life. It will be dangerous. It will be frightening. And something tells me that she won’t have clean hair, nice teeth and all 10 fingers (all markers of vault-dwellers to surface-dwellers) for long.

She’ll have some help, but she’ll also face some resistance.

Don’t Lose Your Head

Lucy soon learns that her best hope of getting her dad back from Moldaver is by offering up a trade. So when she crosses paths with a scientist wanted by both Moldaver and the Enclave (remnants of the former U.S. government who control a good portion of what civilization is left, known as the Commonwealth), she agrees to deliver him to Moldaver in exchange for her pops.

But Maximus, a member of the Brotherhood of Steel (a pseudo-religious faction that believes it’s their sacred duty to recover pre-war technology and prevent it from falling into the “wrong” hands) is also after the scientist. He just allowed one of their Knights (super soldiers who wear high-tech, nuclear-powered armor) to die, which is in direct violation of the oaths he swore to the Brotherhood. But he’s pretty sure that if he brings them the scientist, they’ll forgive him and let him keep his stolen armor as a new Knight.

And then there’s the Ghoul. More than two centuries ago, he was caught outside when nuclear explosions decimated America. But after going through many experiments, he was mutated into a basically immortal, homicidal maniac. He’s after the bounty put on the scientist’s head—and frankly, he just enjoys the hunt.

Lucy isn’t even sure if Moldaver will agree to a trade. And the longer she’s on the surface, the more she realizes that Vault-Tec (the company that created the Vaults to begin with) just might be corrupt. And that’s nothing to say for the troubles with the Enclave and Brotherhood.

The Outside World Can Hurt You

Fallout is just the latest of video games to be adapted for television. And it’s just as foul as the original game’s Mature 17+ rating.

Blood spurts from severed limbs and forked eyeballs. Exploding bullets tear through one body just to splatter the guts of the next. Many surface dwellers have almost cannibalistic tendencies. The Ghoul, besides sporting radiation burns, has a hole where his nose used to be. And, of course, nuclear bombs destroyed the world.

Early on, Lucy and her new hubby have sex (there’s male nudity but crucial male anatomy is blocked by camera angles). One of Maximus’s friends is trans. And it appears that two women from the surface live together.

Just about every profanity you can think of, including the f-word, make an appearance. There are also some crass sexual jokes. And even in this retro-futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, drugs and alcohol are still prevalent.

Then there’s the weird religious leanings of the Brotherhood of Steel. Suffice it to say that their beliefs have absolutely nothing to do with God. Though there is reference to creating an Eden, which fans of the game series will remember as GECK (Garden of Eden Creation Kit), a piece of technology designed by Vault-Tec before the war to aid in creating livable landscapes in the radioactive wasteland.

In short, if you wouldn’t let your kids play the game (again, which was rated Mature 17+, the highest ESRB rating available), then you definitely shouldn’t let them watch this show. And frankly, it might be better for adults to give this one a pass, too.

Episode Reviews

Apr. 10, 2024 – S1, E1: “The End”

In 2077, a war between the United States and China culminates in nuclear fallout worldwide. More than two centuries later, Lucy MacLean leaves an underground shelter to rescue her father from a pack of surface-dwellers who broke in and kidnapped him.

We see nuclear bombs dropping in California in 2077. A shockwave knocks people down and shatters windows. Parents attending a child’s birthday party rush to protect their terrified children and get them to safety. One family seeks refuge in the bomb shelter behind their home, but they refuse access to any of their friends. And the husband punches another man to prevent the guy and his daughter from entering the shelter.

Folks from Vault 32 attack those in Vault 33. The battle is graphic, filled with blood and gore. Some people are stabbed (one woman continues to fight after receiving a fork to the eye), and others are shot (at least one attacker fires an automatic weapon through a victim’s head to kill folks standing behind him). One guy is sliced in half when a vault door slams shut on him.

Later, it’s discovered these aren’t the original inhabitants of Vault 32. Rather, they’re radioactive surface-dwellers who overtook Vault 32 and killed the residents. They kill a vast number of Vault 33 citizens before kidnapping Lucy’s dad and setting off a bomb (that remarkably harms no one) to make their escape.

During the fight, Lucy’s new husband attacks her, repeatedly slamming her head against different surfaces. He eventually stabs her with a knife (she survives by taking a stimpak, emergency medicine that vastly increases the healing speed). She escapes by breaking a glass pitcher over his head and then slicing his face and neck with the shards. However, he also somehow survives and tries to choke her when he catches up. She’s rescued by her father, who beats the man with a club before drowning him in a bucket.

Skeletons and corpses of people who were fossilized in place by nuclear blasts are scattered outside Vault 33. We learn a young boy survived the bombs by hiding in a refrigerator. A man is impaled by bits of junk, including a doll arm, from a weapon that fires the stuff. A mutant (a man who survived the bombs in 2077 and was transformed into a near-immortal creature through experimentation) called the Ghoul kills several bounty hunters. This same man has a hole where his nose should be.

Soldiers on the surface gang up on a guy they dislike, punching and kicking him. (Later, they give a kid a wedgie.) A man with a broken nose is smacked on the injured orifice with a ruler for answering a superior officer’s question incorrectly. A razor is hidden in someone’s boot, tearing up the wearer’s leg. Vault 33ers dispose of several corpses in their industrial waste disposal. There’s a joke about cannibalism. Many surface dwellers sport nasty scars from their violent encounters. We see a woman in a sports bra briefly as she staples shut a wound on her stomach.

Maximus says he joined the Brotherhood of Steel to hurt the people who hurt him. He also says that while he didn’t hurt a friend who got promoted (and who he’s been accused of attacking), he did want that friend to get hurt. And he pledges his life to the Brotherhood, saying that if he dies in service to them, he’ll be grateful they gave his life meaning.

Members of the Brotherhood of Steel perform a ritualistic ceremony to induct Maximus as a squire of one of their knights. He’s told it’s his most sacred duty to protect the Brotherhood, then the Brotherhood’s mission (given to them by the “highest clerics” in the Commonwealth) and finally, Knight Titus, Maximus’ new liege lord. He’s then branded with Titus’ sigil.

Lucy and a man kiss at their wedding ceremony. Later that evening, the man removes his clothes (we see his bare rear), and the couple has sex (female nudity is avoided and camera angles block male anatomy). After they finish, the man uses a curtain to clean himself off.

A soldier pleasures himself beneath his bed covers in a barracks. There’s an implication of incest between cousins. There are a few sexual jokes. Lucy and some other women ogle her new husband. Lucy asks her new husband what his sperm count is because the purpose of their marriage is to procreate.

A friend of Maximus is trans. It appears that two women live together, though it’s unclear what their relationship is.

Folks drink alcoholic beverages. Children training to be soldiers smoke cigarettes.

A man is mocked by his peers for working as the entertainment for a child’s birthday party. They try to take his picture to further his humiliation and scoff that he’s stooped so low because he’s paying alimony to his ex-wife.

A man works latrine duty at a military base, digging new holes for the waste and moving the makeshift toilets around.

Just before the bombs go off in the past, a woman tries to keep her friends focused on her son’s birthday party rather than the news reports about the ongoing war. A weatherman refuses to do a weather report on TV because he’s anxious about whether there will even be a next week.

After the Vault 32 attackers leave, Vault 33 residents clean their home up, painting over blood stains and replacing ripped posters. When it’s discussed what should happen next, Lucy recommends sending a search party for her dad, but her request is denied since the leaders are cowards. So, Lucy defies their orders and sneaks out of Vault 33 with the help of her brother and cousin (whom she has to tranquilize when he attempts to follow her).

There are two uses of the f-word and six uses of the s-word. God’s name is abused twice, once paired with “d–n.” And we also hear a few uses of “a–” and “h—.”

Apr. 10, 2024 – S1, E2: “The Target”

Lucy learns the best way to get her dad back from Moldaver is to exchange him for a scientist who fled the Enclave. But lots of other people want the scientist, too. And they don’t care whether he lives or dies.

Dogs are bred in a lab, with the weaker pups getting tossed into an incinerator and the stronger ones getting trained as attack dogs. A scientist saves one puppy who would’ve been killed, raising and training her in secret. Later, this dog protects her owner, mauling folks who attack him. The Ghoul, a man hired to kill the scientist, seemingly kills the dog with a knife when she attacks him. However, he later fixes her up with a stimpak. It’s unclear if he did this because he felt bad for wounding her (we see the stab wound) or because he hopes she’ll sniff out her escaped owner.

Lucy comes across several skeletons—including those of a small child and infant—that seem to be those of a family killed during the war. Upon further investigation, she finds a bottle of poison, indicating that they took their own lives. Later, a man takes a cyanide pill and tells Lucy to cut off his head to give to Moldaver (which Lucy does offscreen).

A man’s foot is obliterated by an exploding bullet. These bullets are used to great destruction by the firer, who kills dozens of others in gory fashion. Later, the man who lost his foot is given a crude prosthetic. A saw-like device liquifies even more of his leg to prepare the limb for attachment.

A man takes a swig of alcohol before injecting himself with a chip and cauterizing the wound. A security drone fires at a man trying to escape the Enclave but misses. A dog kills a giant cockroach (which we learn not only survived the nuclear apocalypse but grew larger and stronger as a result of the radiation). Later, the dog brings his owner a severed hand it found in a cave. A man says he has many family members who were killed in a nearby town. Two men get into a fistfight, with one attempting to choke the other.

The Knight that Maximus serves, trying to humiliate him, forces Maximus to clean the piece of armor that covers the Knight’s groin area and reattach it to the metal suit. Later, the Knight forces Maximus to enter a suspicious cave, telling him that he must demonstrate bravery to become a Knight. Then, the Knight is attacked by a radioactive, mutated bear. Maximus hesitates to kill the beast—whether out of fear or hatred for the Knight is uncertain—so the Knight threatens to have Maximus killed when they return from their mission. As a result, Maximus allows the Knight to die from the wounds he sustained during the fight, telling the Knight he doesn’t deserve the honor of wearing a Knight’s armor. He later dons the Knight’s suit, determined to complete the Knight’s mission himself and earn the Brotherhood of Steel’s favor.

Max struggles to get used to the Knight armor, inadvertently destroying a few buildings. But he also manages to save a few people who are being attacked.

Lucy comes across a man in a makeshift loincloth and unbuttoned shirt. He asks her to stay with him to start a family, stating that she won’t have to put up with him long since he’s ill. But she politely declines. We hear two men were fighting because one was having sex with the other man’s chickens. It appears that two women live together, though it’s unclear what their relationship is.

There is a two-headed cow mutated by radiation. Lucy tells a woman she won’t judge her for doing business with known criminals. Vault dwellers are looked upon with disdain since most of them are descendants of people who were rich enough to buy themselves shelter during the war, and Lucy struggles to find people who will help her because of this prejudice. We see someone urinating from behind.

Lucy tries to stop the Ghoul with a tranquilizer dart. However, he plucks it out and is unaffected. (He’s also impervious to bullets that strike him.)

Lucy is told by many surface-dwellers that she won’t survive outside the vaults because she’s not tough enough—because she expects people to follow rules like she does. And while they’re often correct about the surface’s lawlessness, Lucy proves her mettle, gritting her teeth and strengthening her resolve to save her father.

There are about 50 uses of the f-word and another 10 of the s-word. We also hear uses of “a–,” “b–ch” and “d–n,” including a use from Lucy, who normally doesn’t swear. Someone flips their middle finger.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

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