Fallout Season 1 Episode 2 Review: “The Target”

Fallout The Target

With a solid introduction of its protagonists under its belt, Fallout openly embraces the opportunity for worldbuilding in its second episode. We get a Yao Gaui fighting a Knight in full power armor, brief moments of strange humanity found amongst the ruins of the wasteland – and of course, we got a proper dash of dark humor and violence, delivered with the aplomb of a series finding its voice. Though a bit rough around the edges, “The Target” shows off the full potential of the Fallout series and its irreverent, brutal brand of storytelling – at least, with for the majority of its running time.

If “The End” was Fallout the science fiction series, “The Target” is Fallout as a western; and not just because it builds to a violent faceoff where the individual paths of its main characters suddenly collide. The episode opens with a reveal of Vault-Tec’s dog breeding program, where Wilzig (the man having a bounty put on his head in the previous episode) is seen taking a slightly underdeveloped puppy under his wing, raising it as he seemingly pushed the limits of science on himself (in a way his fellow community members were clearly not a fan of). As Four and Wilzig set on their path, “The Target” opens itself to the flat vistas of post-apocalypse California, trading in the tight shots inside the vault of the pilot episode with long shots on the sandy plains and pans across the faces of characters (one can feel co-creator and episode director Jonathan Nolan yearning to return to the visuals of Westworld‘s first season, if for but a moment).

Fallout The Target

Also walking into the wild unknown is Lucy, whose naivete as a Vault Dweller rises to the surface in “The Target”, beginning with her lack of knowledge of rad roaches (“They didn’t just survive; they improved”, Wilzig reverently notes) and proclivity for drawing attention to herself, either with her very obvious clothing or lighting fires in the middle of the night. Her fire on this night attracts a despondent Wilzig, who taps into some of that ol’ Ben Linus energy as he warns her that vault dwellers, with their long lineage of safety and privilege, have evolved in a way unfavorable to the demands of the apocalyptic wilderness.

A western framing is perfect for “The Target”, which follows Lucy into Filly (a shantytown built on the side of a landfill) on her quest to find Moldovar and her estranged father. I’ll give it to Fallout; even though it was clear this scene was leading to the Lucy/Wilzig/The Ghoul faceoff, I didn’t expect what surrounded that scene to be so narratively rich, introducing store proprietor Ma June and Barv, Fallout‘s equivalent of the odd couple and giving voice to the core conflict making Lucy’s presence so dangerous; surface dwellers have spent 200 years feeling abandoned by the affluential people who left them behind, and “The Target” makes it clear Wilzig’s not the only embodiment of the episode’s title.

It all is in service of building to the episode’s shootout, where The Ghoul shoots off Wilzig’s foot and throws the entire third act into chaos. In the short term, it works gangbusters – the episode’s climactic shootout is fantastic and ridiculous, from The Ghoul’s enormous bullets (mini-mini-nukes?) to Lucy’s well-intentioned (but misinformed) attempts to diffuse the situation, and the graphic contraption used to give Wilzig an impromptu foot replacement.

Fallout The Target

There are moments where “The Target” does lay it on a little thick (“She steals dads!”), but for most characters outside of Maximus, it works in continuing to establish Fallout‘s unconventional storytelling voice. However, Maximus does feel like Fallout‘s emerging weak point in these first two hours, a character whose demeanor is a few shades to cold and detached to fit into the colorful, brutalist personalities making up most of the cast. Maximus feels dark for the sake of darkness, of manufactured ambiguity rather than someone whose motivations are convincingly defined by his surroundings, thoughts, or desires – watching him let Titus bleed out is an incredibly dark moment, and one I’m not so confident on Fallout sticking the landing with as the season continues.

With a splash of ultra-violence and a willingness to take brief, engaging detours, “The Target” is a solid, if slightly stodgy, second Fallout episode. Though it is easy to see where the Westworld template was applied (there’s a lot of Dolores Abernathy in Lucy MacLean, I’m just saying), Fallout is doing a solid job meshing its various tones together in ways that allow for the show to drop in bits of homage to the fans (anyone else notice the laser gun on the wall at the pawn shop?)while building out its much, much larger world through small, satisfying story arcs. Strange to think that as Lucy prepares to remove Wilzig’s head with a ripper, there’s only six episodes left.

The Target” feels like an episode for a show to build a foundation with, one with a few months of tweaking could really hit its groove – unfortunately, Fallout doesn’t have that kind of time, and will hopefully be able to iron out its kinks on the fly as the season continues.

Grade: B

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Maximus’s first attempt at being a knight is a great bit of irony; he breaks up a fight between two men, only to realize he’s actually let a man who is molesting his neighbor’s chickens get away.
  • “Will you still want the same things, when you’ve become a different animal altogether?”
  • Lucy comes across a family who committed suicide (including their children in the experience), a reminder that her worst problem in the vault was wondering how many viable sperm her future partner had.
  • Titus is played by none other than Michael Rapaport, which is such on-the-nose casting, I think it kind of work.
  • “Someone gives you a clean bottle of water, you drink it. Even if you’re not thirsty, you drink it” is a wonderful way to describe how the Brotherhood of Steel approach their self-imposed duties of preserving the world that was, for the world that is to come.
  • “I’d offer you one of these cherry tomatoes, but you got a hole in yo’ neck.” Walton Goggins is having fun.
  • Clean hair, nice teeth and all ten fingers? Lucy better be careful out there.
  • Love there is a place called The Shithole.
  • Wilzig notes the cyanide pill he took: “Vault-Tec Plan D; the most humane product they ever made.”
  • “Had an aunt… she got killed there, once.”
  • After patching her up, Four is suddenly The Ghoul’s companion. Ok?
  • Wilzig’s new foot comes from Jim’s Limbs – the Veteran’s Choice!

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