I know the universe of Fallout better than most people. I’ve played most of the games including Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, Fallout 76, and even the mobile game, Fallout Shelter. Current discourse claims that given how popular the series has been, the Fallout show should have had an episodic release schedule to keep the show in the hearts and minds of the pop culture zeitgeist. In my opinion and only in this case compared to their other shows, I do agree with Prime’s strategy. Because I think the reason Amazon likely dropped the entire season of Fallout at once is…

Lucy and her father sit side-by-side on their couch in Vault 33.

The first few episodes of Fallout weren’t that great

They were simply, okay. Nothing too forward-thinking in its depiction of the post-apocalypse genre in what would have been seen as a controversial premiere. Especially with its use of graphic violence and sensationalism in the early episodes to attract viewers. 

Technically speaking, Lucy’s marriage and having sex under false alias pretenses to a husband that wasn’t really her husband was rape. While this scene was sort of brushed away rather immediately in the show, that opening made me stop laughing and wonder – what was the point of this scene? And did it accomplish anything at all for either the story or character progression? 

It was a feeling that didn’t get better when you saw all the evisceration happening between raider and vault dweller, or when a pregnant woman, gets stabbed in the eye shortly afterward after watching her own husband die. While all of this was meant to highlight some in-game aesthetics (like the one-eye trait) and part of the tone of Fallout (it does get ultra-violent and ridiculous at times), it does feel slightly sensationalist to me. Especially as some generic interpretations of raiders which felt lacking in context, given who we learn who they actually are by the end of the series.

What I liked about the original Fallout franchise was the slow build before getting to explore the world. The show was always meant to explore these harsh realities of survival, and later, the uncomfortable realization that the Vaults were horrible places too. There’s a complexity here about the deterioration of the human condition that feels lost in those first few episodes: the realization that nothing is safe and humanity is kind of terrible, which is the heart of Fallout that I think the show lacks until it picks up in the later half of the season. 

If Prime were to release this weekly, I highly suspect people would have also wanted to drop off on watching the show. Especially, as the writing felt very formulaic in its early episodes, which focused on the quest going from points A to B and was littered with some rather bombastic moments. I thought that the show focused a bit too much on its extremes at first, like the need to depict a battle with a big bullet gun or the quest to take a severed head forward for the sake of… the shock of traveling with a severed head. 

Now in its defense, the Prime adaptation of Fallout does great things from the beginning. The worldbuilding featured in the series is accessible to anyone who’s never played the games. The look and feel of the shanties and impoverished towns are pretty great in their depiction, as do the worship of power armor amongst the brotherhood. Likewise, the soundtrack taken directly from Fallout fits the mood and for a masterclass in world-building, Fallout does its job well.

The issue I have then is with the characters, which is something that Fallout was never great at to begin with. I genuinely think Prime also saw this problem as well, because most of the lead characters start off as kind of unlikable with less-than-tasteful origins except for Walton Goggins’ character, The Ghoul. 

Lucy’s story starts so utterly bombastic that her desire to find her father lacks a sort of sentimentality, as the issue only feels like it impacts Lucy. And no one else in the Vault seems to care her Overseer father is gone (mostly due to wanting power themselves). Then of course you have Maximus’ desire for power armor, in a storyline where it’s left ambiguous as to whether or not he even is a good person, or is just a cowardly opportunist. 

Part of this strange setup problem is that the games almost always start the same: a hero has a basic request to fix something and so has to leave their respective vault and venture out into the wasteland. It’s never been a great game in finding good character motivation, though it does shine when exploring the nature of their universe: how these characters act when conflicted with messed-up realities.

Much like an entertaining Mad Max film (which was a heavy inspiration for the series), Fallout is all about the character journeying off in any direction to explore the twisted wastelands, and more importantly, seeing all the many ways humanity fucked up society. For that reason, Fallout is best experienced as a video game. One that feels like a modern commentary on the stupidity of our times. It is something the Fallout TV series does a great job of depicting episodes 4 onward. It just takes a while to get there.

But I wonder if audiences would have felt differently had it taken weeks to get there. Because I was genuinely about to stop watching by episode 3. 


  1. they were released all at once because it was an amazon show. amazon releases all of their first seasons at once, and then subsequent seasons are weekly (usually after a three episode premier).

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