Fallout Works Because it Avoids the Worst Dystopian Clichés

A spot of color always helps liven things up.

Ella Purnell in 'Fallout' Episode 1
Prime Video

Fallout has no right being as good as it is. Amazon’s TV adaptation of the video game franchise is accessible, entertaining, and incredibly watchable. Rather than being weighed down by the size and scope of its source material, it feels relatively light and moves through its story at a considered pace. It isn't quite as masterful as HBO's The Last of Us, but it’s still one of the best video game adaptations Hollywood has produced to date.

Despite premiering at a time when dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories are everywhere, Fallout doesn't feel nearly as familiar or tired as one would expect. There are, in fact, moments throughout its eight-episode first season where it feels like the most imaginative mainstream Hollywood addition to the dystopian genre since 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road.

Ironically, Fallout’s post-apocalyptic world feels like it’s bursting with life.

Prime Video

Post-apocalyptic shows and movies tend to look drab. That’s usually a product of their stories, which take place in worlds devoid of hope and follow characters on the verge of losing their faith in humanity. Even The Last of Us stuck to the muted color palette viewers expect from dystopias. That’s one reason Mad Max: Fury Road felt like a much-needed shock to the system when it was released in 2015. Despite taking place in a ravaged world, the film is psychedelically colorful.

Fallout doesn't take its color correcting quite as far, but it is bright and vibrant in a way that feels uncommon for speculative sci-fi. That makes watching Fallout a more alluring prospect than it might have otherwise been. Thankfully, the show matches its vibrant aesthetic with a satirical tone and likable, over-the-top characters portrayed by actors hungry to sink their teeth into what they've been given.

While Fallout does explore themes of disillusionment closely associated with dystopian sci-fi, it's not a show that traffics solely in the darkness of humanity. It frequently feels more like a coming-of-age story than a straightforward post-apocalyptic thriller, and that aspect makes following naive characters like Lucy (Ella Purnell) and Maximus (Aaron Moten) less frustrating than it would be in a weaker show. As cynical and violent as it often is, Fallout isn't out to ridicule or torture its characters, which prevents it from falling into the same somber, one-note tone that’s plagued so many dystopian stories.

Fallout is a lighter show than anyone could have expected.

Prime Video

Fallout had a lot working both for and against it before it premiered. As an adaptation of a beloved game series, it had a built-in fanbase that was going to watch it regardless of its quality. At the same time, the popularity of its source material could have easily made it a bland attempt to please as many viewers (and executives) as possible. But while Fallout is many things, it certainly isn’t bland. The series has a lot of heart, a rare trait in a genre full of movies and shows that lack it.

Fallout Season 1 is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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