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Fallout Season 2 presents a major dilemma for New Vegas

The Fallout TV show ends on a massive cliffhanger reveal that could spell misfortune for New Vegas, but only time and Season 2 will tell.

The Fallout TV show once again proves that with the right creative team, videogames can be adapted to almost anything. It’s not about breaking some huge, mythical, videogame movie curse. More simply, shows like The Last of Us, and, in fact, the Sonic films, prove that all you need is a good understanding of the source material and the ability to process that into a watchable story. Amazon’s Fallout show does this. It has strong characters and uses them to flesh out the retro-futurist post-apocalypse in surprising ways. That said, the final shot of the show’s first season raises one big question, and I’m apprehensively waiting to see how it’s handled.

On the whole, the Fallout show is a total marvel. The dark humor and nuclear 1950s aesthetic survive the jump from one screen to another, and in such a way that the source material of all the RPG games is enhanced, not hindered. It’s not perfect, but there’s more than enough for old and new fans. That final shot, however, won’t mean anything to those of you who haven’t played a single one of the games, and leave those of us that have concerned.

Before we get into it, this is your only spoiler warning for the Fallout TV show and Fallout New Vegas. I’ll be exploring the endings of both to unpack just how the show potentially creates a colossal dilemma for Season 2, so if you haven’t got to the end of either, you might want to turn back now.

The final shot of the Fallout show’s first season sees Vault 33 Overseer Hank MacLean donning power armor and looking over the New Vegas skyline, suggesting he traveled from Los Angeles to the Mojave in an effort to meet someone. We don’t know who that person is yet, but simply showing the New Vegas skyline at this point in the Fallout canon presents a unique, major dilemma for the second season of the Amazon show.

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It’s an issue with timelines. The Fallout show takes place in 2296 while New Vegas takes place in 2281, marking a fifteen-year gap between the two. Bethesda’s Todd Howard told Vanity Fair last year that the show’s creators “view what’s happening in the show as canon,” so there’s no escaping the possibility of the show making some firm choices regarding New Vegas. Anything could have happened in those 15 years and I’ll be glad to see the show flesh this out. But New Vegas is in a unique position: the game has multiple endings, and in several of those, the city – contrary to the ruins that we see in show – remains completely untouched, its future seemingly secured by the actions of The Courier.

Whether you side with the NCR, Caesar’s Legion, Yes Man, Mr House, or go out for yourself, The Strip and all its inhabitants will be irrevocably changed forever once New Vegas is over. There are myriad variations to the New Vegas ending slideshow, but the handful of major choices have a colossal impact on Hoover Dam and The Strip, and the Fallout show’s final shot implies that only one of them is canonically ‘correct.’

Perhaps Hank’s time in New Vegas will be left vague, and there won’t be a concrete answer as to who won the 2281 battle of Hoover Dam. Or maybe executive producer Jonathan Nolan and his team will use the 15-year time gap to explain and expand on a new, separate conflict that ruined New Vegas. Either way, one of the most beloved locations in the series has been written into an unknown corner, and we won’t know any more now until Season 2.

I worry that the show will choose one of New Vegas’ major endings and make it ‘the truth,’ undermining the player choice that made the game so powerful, and leaving us stuck in a ‘Schrödinger’s canon’ of sorts, where every ending may or may not be part of the overall puzzle.

New Vegas is about doing what you think is best for the Mojave. There are no right or wrong answers. That’s the point, and why telling the story in the medium of videogames works so well.

If the show decides one ending is canon (potentially the Mr. House one considering he makes a cameo appearance during the last episode’s Vault-Tec boardroom scene), it cheapens the choices of the game. I suppose that’s the difficulty of adapting a decades-old RPG series for television with the dictum that it’s part of the canon. Certain decisions need to be made that provide a definitive, unifying resolution to the collective choices we made as players.

While I’m concerned about how the Fallout show uses the reveal of the New Vegas skyline as a cliffhanger, while simultaneously implying it’ll step on the game’s various possible finales, I don’t think there’s a conspiracy here. Given how faithful the show has been to the source material so far, I have some faith at least that the next season will find a way of reconciling with player agency, and the range of possible endings in New Vegas. Absolutely anything could happen in Season 2, and it might not even be planned out yet.

Will one New Vegas ending be made canon, or will Amazon’s Fallout attempt to deftly move around the question, as a way of leaving all players’ choices intact? Only time will tell I’m afraid.