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Fallout: The Target

"I know that it can't have been easy up here for you, what with all the murder and the dirt."

You all heard right. Michael Emerson is in Fallout.

Sadly, not for very long. But we'll get to that.

Whereas last episode was mainly focused on establishing characters, 'The Target' dives headfirst into the plot, setting and mood of the series.

Enclave Days

Emerson's character is at the center of this plot. Or, at least, the contents of his head are. He plays Dr. Siggi Wilzig, a scientist associated with the Enclave: the extra-fascist remnants of the United States Government.

These guys are a big deal in the lore of Fallout, but the only thing we really see them do here is breed attack dogs, incinerating the ones born below a certain weight threshold. One such dog is kept and raised in secret by Wilzig. Wilzig also takes a mysterious shiny blue material he'd been working on and injects it into his head. He's forced to go on the run when his dog (named CX404) kills another Enclave worker who threatens to expose Wilzig.

That shiny blue stuff is apparently a game-changer for the Wasteland, since this is why the Brotherhood, the Ghoul and Lee Moldaver all want to get their hands on Wilzig.

Knights of the Wasteland

This episode serves to illustrate the savage, dog-eat-dog nature of the Wasteland. While Lucy MacLean inclines towards politeness and civility, the rest of the characters do not. Some try to survive by avoiding danger, like the sand-filter guy. Others try to fit into ramshackle communities that break out in chaos on a regular basis. And then you have murder hobos like the Ghoul, who tend to wander and bring chaos wherever they go.

Even those who appear to follow a code are not immune to this. We see this in Maximus's arc. Getting promoted to squire puts him under the wing of Knight Titus and pits him against the Wasteland, but it also exposes him to more of the Brotherhood's hypocrisy. Titus disregards their mission because he's bored and ends up getting them attacked by a Yao Guai (irradiated bear), whereupon the knight reveals himself to be a total coward. Then he berates Maximus to the point that he decides to just let Titus die and take the power armor (as well as the dead man's name) for himself.

Maximus clearly aspires to be some kind of hero, driven by his memory of a Brotherhood knight rescuing him as a child. However, he's willing to do some questionable things in the name of fulfilling his dream. He lets an ally (unlikable or not) die in order to benefit himself. And he still has trouble successfully doing the right thing even when he's got wonderful toys at his disposal. He breaks up a violent altercation for his first heroic act, but then realizes he actually assaulted the victimized party. Then his attempt to defend Lucy and Wilzig from the Ghoul goes sideways, losing in comical fashion.

In fairness to Maximus, the Ghoul seems to outclass everybody.

Streets of Filly

Our three main characters end up colliding in a town called Filly. Where my excitement for Michael Emerson as a main character was quickly dashed after the Ghoul blasted Wilzig's foot off. The Ghoul proceeds to slaughter every gunfighter in town, stabs Wilzig's dog and would have killed Lucy too had Maximus not shown up. Dude's hostile as can be, but when the dust settles he does choose to heal the dog he stabbed. So evidently there's still a soft spot buried somewhere beneath that rotten flesh.

Meanwhile, Lucy's softness is getting marred. She sees a lot in a short time: the barter society of the Wasteland, her first ghoul, her first Brotherhood "Knight," a bloody settlement battle, and her first bizarre side-quest. She came to Filly searching for information about her father, only to wind up escorting the wounded Dr. Wilzig to Moldaver, the woman who abducted her father. The escort mission gets a lot easier (and messier) once Wilzig loses the will to go on and takes his own life so that Lucy can bring Moldaver his head... which contains the prized MacGuffin. At the start of the episode, this guy was urging her away from the Wasteland because of her sheltered background as a vault-dweller, while at the end he chooses to die by forcing her to take the first step in adapting to her new environment. By getting her hands truly dirty for the first time.

I think Lucy is the character I'm enjoying the most; Ella Purnell's charismatic performance is just the tip of the iceberg. I think when it comes to a lot of protagonists or "heroes" nowadays, it's typical to expect the morally grey like Maximus or the really edgy badass types like the Ghoul. So I appreciate having a lead character who is distinctly neither of those things... so far, at least. Lucy's endlessly spirited character works so well because of the way it's contrasted with the setting, her very bright and principled nature set against the nightmarish Wasteland. In many ways, it's what this series is all about. That almost senseless optimism humanity can latch onto even in the hardest and craziest of times.

Caps and rads:

* The cloned puppies being thrown in an incinerator due to minor flaws reminded me of a scene in HBO's Watchmen.

* The robot Lucy sees buried in the sand is called an Assaultron.

* Love how they made Knight Titus appear so intimidating before revealing that it's just a slimy Michael Rappaport inside the armor. Nice way of demystifying the Brotherhood of Steel, both for Maximus and the audience.

* The sequence where a giddy Maximus is messing around in the T-60 power armor for the first time, with "It's a Man" by Betty Hutton in the background, was lovely. They did an amazing job of bringing that iconic Brotherhood armor to life with what appears to be a mix of practical and computer generated effects.

* When Maximus is in the T-60, the camera frequently cuts to his reactions inside the armor. This brought to mind Robert Downey, Jr. in the Iron-Man/Avengers movies.

* The chicken raping snake oil salesman Maximus saved can be seen dusting feathers off of his pants before he wanders off. Scientific curiosity isn't what it used to be.

* Wilzig seems to know everything about Vault 33. He also lets on that he knows who Lucy is, before dying. Maybe the Enclave has knowledge of all the Vaults and their inhabitants.

* Disappointed we didn't get more of Emerson, as well as Dale Dickey's Ma June. They're both standout actors.

* Playing "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" by the Inkspots at the end, as Lucy prepares to cut off Wilzig's head, was a very nice touch. I originally heard that song when I played Fallout 3 for the first time back in the day, so I always associate it with this franchise.


Dr. Siggi Wilzig: "If you insist on staying, then you will have to adapt. Question is... will you still want the same things... after you have become a different animal altogether?"

Knight Titus: "You earn the suit through acts of bravery. This is an act of bravery."

Titus (one minute later): "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!"

Titus: "This Wasteland fucking sucks!"
The name does kinda give it away.

Maximus: "It's a knight's duty to better this fallen world. You don't deserve that armor."

Lucy: "No one understands my situation."
Dr. Wilzig: "You come from Vault 33. Your primary crop is corn. You have a Telesonic projector on your farm. It loops images of the Nebraskan countryside. You've been brought up in a meritocracy, where people pride themselves on doing the right thing. I know enough to know you need to go home."

The Ghoul: "Damn, y'all done got me working up an appetite!"

Maximus: "Stand down or be cut down."

Ma June: "We're gonna need a new foot, Barv!"
Barv: "Trying to eat my beans, but okay."

Dr. Wilzig: "I'm not going to make it."
Lucy: "Listen, I don't know who you are or how you know the things that you do, but you are going to get across that Wasteland. And we're gonna do it together. Okay? That's a promise."
Dr. Wilzig: "No, you see, I've just taken a cyanide pill."
Lucy: "What?"

Four out of five lab-grown canines.

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