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Pip-Boys, Ghouls, and Power Armor: Everything We Know About Prime Video's Fallout

Amazon will officially be in the Nuka-Cola business when its video game adaptation drops in Spring 2024.
  • (Screencap: Fallout 3)
    (Screencap: Fallout 3)

    When Fallout debuted on PC in 1997, the media scene was much different than it is today. Despite their rampant popularity, computer games were considered more esoteric forms of entertainment than film or television. Its interactivity required arcane tools like the keyboard and mouse — far more complex than the remote control, which called for naught but a functioning thumb.

    The sci-fi entertainment in Interplay Entertainment's role-playing game was of the point-and-click variety and worked its post-apocalyptic mojo through a top-down trimetric perspective, squishily animated cut scenes, and holodisks brimming with lore to be read. It was an immersive experience, with players leaning so close to their screens that Visine should have been bundled with the game.

    Compare this to the more frantic first-person roamings of Bethesda Softworks's Fallout games that followed: Fallout 3, Fallout 3, or — oh, no! — Fallout ’76. Bethesda acquired the franchise from Interplay in 2007 and rejiggered its indelible formula to accommodate mainstream tastes and modern consoles. Fallout had already enjoyed unqualified success; in Bethesda's hands, its popularity transcended the seemingly impenetrable confines of Nineties gaming and became a pop culture juggernaut. More than a gaming series, Fallout is now a brand. Its retro Vault Boy aesthetics are just as recognizable as the buzzsaw profile of Sonic the Hedgehog or Snake's bandanna from Metal Gear Solid.

    It's really no surprise that Amazon Studios should want to tap into this stratospheric brand awareness and adapt Fallout for television, and on July 2, 2020, the streaming monolith announced plans to do just that. While Prime Video's production has been long in the prepping, time has been kind to the studio; in the three years since its announcement, video game adaptations have become safer bets than they've ever been before. The eye-watering box office success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie has seemingly launched a Nintendo cinematic universe (a Legend of Zelda movie is next), while television's takes on popular game franchises have recently met unprecedented critical praise. The gulf between quality gaming and quality TV gets shorter by the day.

    The release of Prime Video's Fallout is still half a year away. And despite the many successes of adaptations like HBO's The Last of Us, plenty of Twisted Metals have littered the television landscape that it’s wise to approach Bethesda's big streaming project with caution. Yet, hope persists. Fallout's premise feels tailor-made for our turbulent times — a post-apocalyptic America where people scavenge through the remnants of retro memorabilia in a world ravaged by violence, a nation clinging to nostalgia amidst disaster. This has the juice to become the newest and truest streaming hit. Here's everything we know about Prime Video's upcoming adaptation of Fallout.

    When Will Fallout Premiere?

    April 12, 2024, exclusively on Prime Video. So far, Amazon is set on doing right by purists; its release announcement landed on October 23. For those who have yet to crack a playthrough of any of the games, October 23, 2077, is "Fallout Day," the canonical date when the series’ globe-spanning Great War both began and ended, resulting in the bombed-out carnage carnival that is the Fallout series.

    Before We Get Too Deep Here… What Is Fallout About?

    Originally created by Tim Cain for Interplay in 1994, Fallout tells various stories set in the radioactive wastelands of the former United States. It follows the exploits of the Vault Dweller, a typically blank-slate character who ventures forth from the relative safety of underground shelters built by Vault-Tec — the franchise's exceedingly shady science corporation that has ulterior motives for stashing the proletariat in their fancy space-age tunnels — to explore the irradiated wilds beyond. (The reasons why these characters leave their shelters vary from game to game.)

    Along the Vault Dweller's journey comes a wide swath of dangers, including nuked-out beasts and bugs, ruthless wasteland raiders, and hulking mutants operating at various intelligence levels and fairly consistent muscle mass. Getting around can be a real trial, too, thanks in no small part to the decimated urban and rural level design, not to mention the constant barrage of radiation. Savvy Dwellers will score a set of Power Armor to ease their navigation. (Naturally, this iconic mechanized war machine will appear in the show.)

    Allegiances can be made among rag-tag outfits like The Minutemen and the overzealous cadre of meched-up military types called The Brotherhood of Steel. Various companions join the Dweller in their journey; their fates are often intertwined with decisions made throughout the game. Interrogating the Dweller's huge bounty of weapons, junk, and knowledge is made simple thanks to the Pip-Boy, a big, honkin' steampunk Apple Watch type of gizmo that serves as the game's menu hub.

    Through this violent Space-Age Road Warrior situation, Fallout explores the lasting effects of propaganda vis-a-vis the utopic atomic age that followed World War II. As the Dweller combs through the Big Band, soda-fizz detritus of a consumerist paradise turned nightmare and stumbles across warring factions who employ the same dirty agitprop tactics of old to woo new survivors to their cause, a bleak picture of modern America begins to take shape. Nuka-Cola isn't just a brand; it's the status quo resurrected, snapping its bottle caps at the people who desperately need its carbonated pep to survive. Fallout is a great gaming series. Hopefully, all this translates into a great show.

    When Does Fallout Take Place?

    Fallout can take place at different points in time. Interplay's Fallout is set in 2161, while Fallout 2 lands in 2241. Bethesda's Fallout 3 and 4 occur in 2277 and 2287, respectively. The Prime Video series is set in the far-flung year of 2296, 219 years after the bombastic aftermath of The Great War of 2077.

    Where Is Fallout Set?

    In an official press release that dropped with the release date announcement, Amazon confirmed Fallout will take place in Los Angeles, and its in-story lore will be a canonical expansion of the games. Given that and its Californian locale, it's likely the game's western quasi-government body, The New California Republic, will factor into the story in some capacity.

    Who Is in the Cast of Fallout?

    Like any new franchise hopeful in the streaming sphere, Fallout is beset by ringers and rookies alike. Ella Purnell (Yellowjackets) stars as Lucy, a “nice, but naive” Vault Dweller (per Vanity Fair), and Walton Goggins has confirmed he will play the "gunslinging ghoul in a cowboy hat" spotted in the still-unreleased Fallout first-look teaser at this year's Gamescom. Moisés Arias (City of Ghosts) co-stars as Lucy’s brother, and Sarita Choudhury (And Just Like That…) plays an as-yet-unnamed leader-type character. The rest of the cast includes Xelia Mendes-Jones (The Wheel of Time), Cherien Dabis (Only Murders in the Building), and Dale Dickey (My Name Is Earl, True Blood).

    Michael Emerson (Person of Interest) will appear as a peculiar researcher named Wilzig, Mike Doyle (Oz) plays a character named Mr. Spencer, and Johnny Pemberton (Superstore) is a new character who goes by the name Thaddeus. There doesn't appear to be any connection between these characters and previously established Fallout games, but if there is one clue to the direction this adaptation might take, Aaron Moten (Next) will play Maximus, who shares a name with a character from the first game who led a faction of The Brotherhood of Steel. Moten will play a squire for a Brotherhood power suit knight and is described as “a wannabe soldier.” 

    Most intriguingly, Fallout will feature Kyle MacLachlan as Lucy’s father, who serves as the “overseer” of Vault 33 and, as such, may not be entirely trustworthy. Of course, that’s pure speculation based on what Fallout lore has already established, but for what it’s worth, Nolan has told Vanity Fair that most of the colorful characters in Lucy’s journey are actively seeking out “an artifact that has the potential to radically change the power dynamic in this world.” Count on MacLachlan being a big player in this radioactive rat race.

    This is pure speculation, but it would be lovely if big names previously associated with the Fallout franchise made an appearance, like Keith David, Danny Trejo, CCH Pounder, Clancy Brown, or Ron Perlman, the latter of whom has narrated the intros for almost every Fallout game since 1997. (It's virtually impossible to think of a Fallout anything without Perlman's gravelly reading of "War. War never changes." We'll see!)

    What's a "Vault Boy?"

    Vault Boy is the cheery mascot of the Vault-Tec corporation, a cartoon sprite who sports the same blue and yellow jumpsuits worn by all Vault Dwellers. The icon was originally conceived for the first Fallout game by designer Leonard Boyarsky, who used “Rich Uncle Pennybags” from Monopoly as a visual template and utilized Vault Boy in the same gamified manner as Pennybags in the famed board game: When evaluating all the available stats and abilities in your wrist-mounted Pip-Boy screen, Vault Boy is seen acting out the sordid survival techniques the Dweller will need to master in order to survive the wastelands (à la Monopoly’s “Get Out of Jail Free,” and the like). 

    According to Todd Howard, the executive producer at Bethesda, Vault Boy will receive its own origin story innovated exclusively for the series. Was there once a blond Vault-Tec company man so plucky that he inspired this devious megacorp mascot? That could very well be.

    Walton Goggins Is Playing a What Now?

    A ghoul. Or rather The Ghoul. Ghouls are humans (well, humanoids) who survived the nuclear devastation of The Great War. Thanks to an apparent genetic twist of the knife that allowed these people eons to soak up atomic radiation, they've lived ridiculously long lives — though some have had their minds fried by the experience, becoming wraith-like zombies. A character actor of Goggins's ability suggests his character will be quite lucid.

    We know Fallout will feature flashbacks to The Ghoul’s days when he was but a regular human being named Cooper Howard. Goggins will reportedly appear as both the noseless sharpshootin’ wastelander and the schnoz-having father and husband he was in the Before Times. Oh, the tales he'll tell — and with that accent, yet!

    Who Is Masterminding Fallout Behind the Scenes?

    Given its pedigree, Fallout has a real shot at genre-prestige greatness. Prime Video has teamed with Kilter Films' Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan, and Athena Wickham, who will serve as executive producers for the series. Getting in on all this exec-pro action is Bethesda's Todd Howard — also the director of Fallout 4. While Nolan has directed the first three episodes of the series, don't expect his brand of cerebral trickery to dictate the trajectory of the show; Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Tomb Raider, Captain Marvel) and Graham Wagner (Portlandia, Silicon Valley) will operate as Fallout's co-writers and co-showrunners.

    Real Talk: Should I Play the Games?

    Unequivocally, yes. Seek out the first installment to get the purest Fallout experience. If you have the appropriate consoles, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas are must-plays. Fallout 4 is available for modern consoles and is a whole lot of fun. Just stay away from Fallout ’76; the less said about that, the better.

    Jarrod Jones is a freelance writer currently settled in Chicago. He reads lots (and lots) of comics and, as a result, is kind of a dunderhead.

    TOPICS: Fallout, Amazon Prime Video, Ella Purnell, Kyle MacLachlan, Walton Goggins, Video Game Adaptations