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Fallout vs The Last of Us: A Post-Apocalyptic TV Skirmish!

Fallout has been renewed for a second season after two weeks. All this a year after the release of The Last of Us series, another post-apocalyptic video game adaptation. What are the major contrasts? Allow me to explain.

Lucy and Maximus in Fallout
Youtube/Prime Video

This month Amazon Prime’s adaptation of the hit Bethesda video game series Fallout is now streaming. The show is helmed by Jonathan Nolan, co-creator of HBO’s Westworld, and co-writer of several of his brother’s films (Memento, The Dark Knight). This season has received critical praise from both fans of the games and non-initiates alike. Fallout has been renewed for a second season after two weeks. All this a year after the release of The Last of Us series, another post-apocalyptic video game adaptation. What are the major contrasts? Allow me to explain.

Ella Punrnell in Fallout and Pedro Pascal in The Last of Us. Credit: YouTube/Prime Video & Max

The Problems of “Adaptation”

Fallout:

The thing that gave me the most fear about the Fallout series, was how they chose to handle the story. There have been six Fallout games and various spin offs, so there were a lot of possible stories to choose from. Mr. Nolan took the wise choice of not only creating original characters to follow, but also to set the series in a location the games have yet to explore: Sunny California! 

Not only do we get to see a new state ravaged by the bomb drops, we also follow three completely new characters. This is a wise change of pace, as the games constrict the player to playing as one character. In the TV show, we travel with a Naive Vault Dweller, a Desensitized Knight, and an absolute Anti-Hero of a Ghoul. (All being played terrifically by Ella Purnell, Aaron Clifton Moten, and Walton Goggins respectively). With this, the TV show is able to relish in its unpredictability. Much like the games themselves, you are at the whim of the Wasteland.

The Last of Us:

Before I begin crapping on The Last of Us, it should be noted that I have only seen the TV series, and haven’t played the game. That being said, the TV show has given me no desire at all to purchase a Playstation. The main problem with the show is that it is a direct adaptation of the video game’s plot, leaving no unpredictability for fans of the game. As someone who has never played the game, I found the TV series extremely predictable and quite boring. Much like a haunted house theme park ride: you strap in and are led down a direct track, possibly getting spooked a few times along the way. This is how the series felt.


With the exception of the third episode: Long, Long Time, most of the story felt rote and one note. What’s funny is that episode three is the only episode not based on the game! It’s a one-off that does not follow the main characters, Joel and Ellie, which made me care less about them. This is not entirely the game nor series creators fault: it’s Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy is an author who wrote a beautifully bleak post-apocalyptic novel: The Road. The book follows a father keeping his son alive in a world that has gone to hell. This story has been told over and over, making The Last of Us much less exciting, plot-wise.

Style and Substance

Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout
The Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout. Credit: Youtube/Prime Video

Fallout:

The styles of these two series, despite both being post-apocalyptic, could not be more different. Both have their share of very, very dark moments, but Fallout is able to maintain a level of Zany Wackiness, a huge charm of the game series. The characters are goofy, whether intentionally or not, with even the most serious or villainous of figures having moments of sly levity. The series takes full advantage of the ironic juxtaposition of a hopeful American ideology that is undercut by brutal and unforgiving violence. The action can be searing, gross, or fun, with varying degrees of intensity being utilized for different characters and tones. The biggest difference however, is visually: the worlds of these games. 

Fallout is set in an alternate version of America, one where the style of the 50s lived on even as technology advanced. As such, there is an onslaught of Eye-Popping color across the wasteland. The billboards, posters, and buildings all have a delightful Art-Deco style, and a hopeful optimism for the future. With that 50s style comes a variety of costuming and props that add a visually pleasing aesthetic to the already beautifully composed/built sets. There are also various creatures: giant cockroaches, killer robots, ghouls, and mutated bears. The tone can be very jarring, but in this series, there is hope! There is optimism! Something that is sorely lacking in our competing series.

Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us
Joel (Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). Credit: Youtube/Max

The Last of Us:

I do feel bad critiquing this show, honest! A lot of work was done to make it a reality, and I know many fans of the series and game that love what has been created. However, I am not them, so allow me to indulge. This series is incredibly bland, both visually and thematically. Not only are most of the scenes very dark as far as lighting is concerned, the story is overbearingly dark as well. There are few traces of humor, though these mostly stem from the odd-couple pairing of the old, grizzled Joel, and the young, snarky Ellie. Once again, this is a classic combination we see time and time again, especially in the post-apocalyptic genre. (Children of Men, anyone?).

There is also only one type of creature in this TV show, and they are zombies. I know they have a different name (the “infected”, how original), but they are just zombies with mushrooms growing out of their faces. Joel and Ellie kill the zombies. Or, it turns out the humans are the real monsters the whole time. Joel and Ellie kill the humans. The action is brutal, murky, and repetitive. It’s set in cities from the East Coast to the Midwest, and all in modern day. So, if you’ve seen The Walking Dead, you’ve seen The Last of Us. The former having better and more fun characters. 

The “Choices” We Make

The Ghoul in Fallout
Walton Goggins plays “The Ghoul”. Credit: Youtube/Prime Video

Fallout: 

The root of the problem with The Last of Us is the thing that makes Fallout so grand: the freedom of choice. A staple of the game series is having to make morally ambiguous decisions; from pointless side quests, to the fate of the new world. In the games, you have the choice to be either the villain or the hero of the story. The show approaches this concept cleverly, pitting the characters against one another, or having them face decisions where things are not always what they seem. This adds to the fun and unpredictability of the show, leaving you waiting in suspense for what these poor souls are forced to do.

The Last of Us:

There aren’t many interesting choices to be made in The Last of Us. There is one choice Joel and Ellie make time and time again: kill, or be killed. In each episode they find a new settlement, everyone there wants to kill them, and they must survive. Joel must get Ellie to the hospital, or whatever, so she can save the world. That’s it. There are side quests that all end the same way, and the new characters introduced always end up dying. Death Death Death! Murder Murder Murder! Without a real sense of humor, these things are no fun at all. There’s also not much moral ambiguity to deal with either when the only thing you have to worry about is keeping a kid alive. Next!

So, What did We Learn?

Lucy in Fallout
Lucy stares out at the Wasteland. Credit: Youtube/Prime Video


I never realized how much I disliked The Last of Us series, I guess it just took Fallout to do them one better for that to sink in. At the end of the day I’ll always side with the hopeful, funny, and romantic stories, as opposed to the bleak, ugly, and tragic ones. Both shows are good, and I’m not going to let my opinion skew the quality of The Last of Us series. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are terrific actors, the production design is swell, and the story is well told. Fallout just takes the post-apocalyptic story and completely turns it on its head, making for a much more fun ride. I suppose whether you like one or the other more is a matter of your perspective on the world. This begs the question, are you a Joel? Or are you a Lucy?

Written By

Senior studying Cinema Studies and English at Rutgers University. Writer and Director of several short films. Screenwriter, Journalist, Film Nerd.

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