‘Fallout’: Who wasted the Wasteland?
Amazon Prime

Welcome to the Wasteland as presented in Amazon Prime’s excellent new post-apocalyptic, anti-corporate, live-streaming television series. The great nuclear cataclysm of 2077 has rendered the Earth’s surface broken and desolate, albeit quite colorful. It has all the charm of an explosion at a Goodwill thrift store. The landscape is littered with antique furniture, pieces of machinery, dilapidated buildings and yesterday’s junk. It’s a world peopled by dangerous, vicious wandering gangs preying on whatever unfortunate humans have survived.

Below the surface lie a series of secure vaults housing the organized, uniformed other inhabitants committed to preserving the preexisting ideals and culture. Someday, if they are ever able to conquer the gangs and reclaim the Wasteland, they will reinstall it.

Vault 32 member Lucy McClean appears a fine example of this hope. She is to be married to a randomly selected member of neighboring vault 33. Her widowed father, the venerated Overseer of their vault, enthusiastically supports Lucy in this endeavor. Her curious younger brother, not so much.

Fallout is the story of what happens when Lucy is thrust out into the Wasteland to search for her scattered family to rebuild her dream and this attempt at regeneration goes horribly wrong.

It’s also the story of Maximus (Aaron Moten) and Cooper Howard (Walton Goggins). Maximus, a random scorched earth inhabitant, is a squire in the Brotherhood of Steel gang which terrorizes the Wasteland. He unites with Lucy to try to assist her family restoration. Cooper Howard was a well known actor who survived over two hundred years as a ghoul roaming the Wasteland in search of revenge against those who wronged him.

Sci-fi is a genre not usually graced with great performances. But Purnell, Moten and especially Goggins go a long way toward persuading us that the audaciously bleak landscape of 2296 is still populated by characters we can identify with. Fallout does well in mining Goggins’s comic chops, as well as his broad dramatic range which hasn’t been adequately tested since his great work in Justified. The principals are robustly supported by a veteran cast including Kyle MacLachlan, Moises Arias, Leslie Uggams, Michael Emerson, Michael Rapaport, Xelia Mendes-Jones, and even Erik Estrada.

But what distinguishes Fallout from most of the inert space debris cluttering the sci-fi universe is its unflinching look at what brought about the end of the world as we now know it. The show’s creators Graham Wagner and Geneva Robertson-Dworet base their work on the Bethesda Softworks popular eponymously named game. The popularity of the series has already assured at least a second season.

Unlike other disaster-based games that have fallen by the wayside, this show makes real the pernicious threat of late capitalism. Relatable characters are stuck in an all too familiar context of the bad choices of their economic and political circumstances. Will Lucy and Maximus be able to create a humane environment in what’s left of the Wasteland? Will Cooper Howard’s past life hold the key to understanding and surmounting the manmade self-destructive death spiral? Or are we condemned inevitably to this “fallout” from the world we have created?

Fallout live streams on Amazon Prime platform.

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Michael Berkowitz
Michael Berkowitz

Michael Berkowitz, a veteran of the civil rights and anti-war movements, has been Land Use Planning Consultant to the government of China for many years. He taught Chinese and American History at the college level, worked with Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Org. with miners, and was an officer of SEIU.