Fallout’s final scene hints at a more complicated universe

[Ed. note: The following contains spoilers for Fallout season 1.]

When the credits roll on Fallout season 1’s finale, bad dad Hank MacLean (Kyle MacLachlan) is trudging toward a city on the Wasteland horizon. It’s not just any city, either. It’s New Vegas — an iconic locale from the Prime Video show’s video game source material (primarily the aptly named Fallout: New Vegas). So it looks like post-apocalyptic casinos and Hoover Dam firefights are coming our way in Fallout season 2.

Both are worth getting hyped over — as are the many other superficial delights of the New Vegas setting. Yet there’s another, deeper reason to get excited about Fallout hitting the Strip for its next batch of episodes. If the games are any guide, shifting the show’s focus to New Vegas should also open up its underlying moral framework. Indeed, New Vegas’ bright neon lights could supply the shades of gray the live-action Fallout is currently missing.

Don’t get me wrong: Fallout season 1 has plenty of moral ambiguity — just on an individual level. Lucy MacLean (Ella Purnell), Maximus (Aaron Moten), and even The Ghoul (Walton Goggins) are regularly forced to choose between what’s right, what’s easy, and what feels good in an uncaring world that seemingly has no preference. The same doesn’t really apply to how season 1 treats Fallout’s various factions, though.

Sure, the Brotherhood of Steel is a bit of a mixed bag, and Moldaver (Sarita Choudhury) and her New California Republic remnant’s methods early on are… extreme. But, generally speaking, Fallout season 1 is fairly clear on who its goodies and baddies are. Vault-Tec? Bad. The NCR? Good. And if we could get rid of the former and get behind the latter, the Wasteland could be a Shady Sands-esque utopia, complete with cold-fusion-powered street lamps and trams.

A shot of a man with a gun in front of the “Welcome to the Strip” sign in Fallout New Vegas
New Vegas looks like a great place to be, no?
Image: Obsidian Entertainment/Bethesda Softworks

For Fallout season 1’s purposes, this binary worldview works. It’s not even that much of a departure from some of the faction-centric storytelling in the likes of Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. But it’s not exactly nuanced, either — even in a world with 200-year-old mutant gunslingers. Choosing a side is black and white; unless you’re breaking out on your own, it’s NCR or bust.

But the New Vegas milieu calls bullshit on that. True, the NCR is a better outfit than most, but its record isn’t exactly spotless. It’s a bit land-grabby and has at least one Mojave Wasteland massacre in its closet. Meanwhile, New Vegas’ other big faction, ruthless Roman Empire cosplayers Caesar’s Legion — who must surely show up in Fallout season 2 — engages in slavery. At the same time, it also has a surprisingly well-articulated ethos rooted in serving the greater good, and takes some well-aimed jabs at the NCR’s shortcomings.

And in the middle, there’s Mr. House: the guy who runs New Vegas itself, and who (as you might expect from a lord of Vegas) keeps his cards close to his chest. He’s a self-described autocrat but also has a bold, progressive vision for New Vegas’ future. As such, knowing who to side with in Fallout: New Vegas is tough (except for the slavers; you never side with slavers). Fallout season 2 will hopefully follow suit.

Regardless of what New Vegas’ status quo is in the show’s 2296 setting — the games don’t offer a canonical answer on whether the NCR, the Legion, or House is currently calling the shots — our protagonists are about to enter a world where picking teams has very real trade-offs. It’s not as simple as taking down Vault-Tec and waving the NCR flag once you set foot in New Vegas. There are drawbacks to Lucy and company aligning with any faction. Maybe there are no good factions, period.

It’s a sobering scenario — but also one that could take Fallout’s storytelling to a whole new level in season 2. So what else is there to say, except “Viva New Vegas”?

Fallout season 1 is now streaming on Prime Video.