‘Fallout’ Ending Explained & Series Summary: Is Moldaver Dead Or Alive?


Those acquainted with Bethesda Softworks’ acclaimed videogame series Fallout would generally expect a few specifics from its games and perhaps any adaptation of them. These include a quest to find a missing close one, the ruthless nature of the radioactive world, all these intertwined with goofy characters and conversations, and a serious choice to be made in the end. Amazon Prime Video’s post-apocalyptic drama series Fallout, adapted from the very video game franchise, delightfully brings out these same specific characteristics, making it a great watch for fans and newcomers alike. Set in a post-apocalyptic world that was ravaged by nuclear bombs, vault-dweller Lucy MacLean has to leave her sheltered life to look for her missing father, Hank, facing devastating revelations along the way. Together with a world built to convince and colorful characters, Fallout makes for an entertaining and fun watch.

Spoiler Alert

What is the series about?

Fallout begins in the year 2077, in a fictional world that is driven by nuclear energy, with a birthday party as the main focus. Hired to entertain the kids at the party is a superstar film actor of the past, Cooper Howard, who has evidently not had the best retirement. Cooper has to play small roles as a cowboy at such insignificant parties for his meager income, and he often attends them with his young daughter. Despite the celebratory mood at the place, there is an impending war that the USA is preparing for, and the threat of atomic bombs being dropped is discussed on news TV. Within minutes, the fear becomes reality as multiple bombs are seen dropped on the nearby city, and people rush to the bomb shelters, known as vaults, they had already paid for. Cooper did not seemingly invest in any such facility, and so now he has to run with his daughter, looking for some respite from the devastating effects of the bomb.

More than two hundred years later, a day of similar celebrations takes place, only this time inside an underground shelter, or vault, inside which natural conditions have been artificially replicated. The occasion on this specific day is the marriage of a young woman named Lucy MacLean, who is a proud resident of Vault 33. As it is believed that the effects of radiation still make the outside world inhospitable to humans, the people in Vaults have gotten used to life under these conditions. Vault 33 is part of a collection, including Vaults 31 and 32, which all co-exist under the same structure, with only heavy metal doors keeping them separate. A groom from Vault 32 is selected for Lucy, and the marriage ceremony takes place amidst great festivities, even though the visitors from 32 look slightly suspicious. However, the whole situation turns extremely bloody when the visitors turn out to be raiders from the outside world who had been posing as vault dwellers, and they launch a full-fledged attack on Vault 33, killing and capturing many. The leader of the raiders, a woman named Lucy Moldaver, reveals that her real target was the Overseer of Vault 33, Hank MacLean, whom she kidnaps and takes away to the outside world.

Around this same time, a young man named Maximus prepares to be chosen as a squire in an organization named the Brotherhood of Steel in the outside world. Sworn to protect the world from any calamity, and especially from the discovery of pre-fallout technology, the Brotherhood of Steel is almost like a private militia, with various ranks for its members. Despite his best efforts, Maximus is overlooked, and his best friend, Dane, is chosen to be the squire to a knight in the power armor suit. However, the tables turn when Dane is suddenly injured by blades in their shoes, and it is Maximus who is chosen to be the squire to knight Titus. Somewhere else in the area known as the Commonwealth, a mutated living human being, with no nose on his face and a grim appearance, is awakened by a few bounty hunters, who are killed by him almost immediately. This mutant is himself a renowned bounty hunter, known as the Ghoul, and has been miraculously alive for more than two hundred years, bearing the effects of nuclear radiation. Having once been the face behind the Vault-Tec (the company that built the Vaults) advertisements, before the apocalypse, it was the actor Cooper Howard himself who has now turned into the deadly Ghoul.

Back at Vault 33, Lucy is determined to find and help her father, despite the warnings of the other members to not leave the safe haven. With the help of her brother Norm and her cousin Chet, Lucy opens the vault doors and ventures out into the open wildlands. The fates of Lucy, Maximus, and the Ghoul soon intertwine when a scientist from the paramilitary organization Enclave goes missing and becomes a fugitive, having stolen an important piece of technology. While Maximus and the Ghoul search for the target for their own respective reasons, Lucy gets caught up in the matter during her desperate search for her father. 

Why was Cooper Howard blacklisted from the industry?

Scenes from before the first nuclear fallout make up a significant portion of the series, as the most important matters in its plot are linked to this very time. The character of Cooper Howard, before his transformation into the Ghoul, is central to this time period, for it is explored through his own personal discoveries. Although Cooper is seen as an out-of-work retired film star at the beginning of the series, he used to be a famous and respected artist not very long before that. This fall from grace was not because of any personal mistake or choice he had made, but because of very political reasons, which constitute the show’s main plot. At the peak of his career, Cooper used to mostly play the glorified hero in Western films, and he was also the lead ambassador for Vault-Tec, the company manufacturing the Vaults to be used in case of a nuclear fallout. In fact, the mascot for the company, named Vault Boy, the illustrations of which are still seen in the present world, had been played by Cooper, and it was his personal touch to hold up his thumb as a sign of approval, which became iconic to the mascot later on.

Despite such close ties to the Vault-Tec company, Cooper was also very aware of the narrative against the private corporation, mostly because many of his colleagues in the film industry were secretly protesting against it. A political organization had been created, which existed and operated from the shadows, as the government banned them and termed them to be communists, supporting Russia against their own American nation in the ongoing war. Cooper also found such sentiments to be anti-national, until a close friend of his invited him to a meeting of the political organization, and he met with the woman running the party. Although the actor was disgruntled with her claims about the instability of the American government and its lack of concern for its citizens, he was surprised to know that she knew about his wife, Barb.

At the time, Barb Howard was also working for Vault-Tec in a high position, and it was actually through her that Cooper had been approached for the advertisement campaigns. The woman at the meeting claimed that her organization was not a communist one but had been termed so only because they expressed opinions against the government, and then she suggested that Barb knew a lot more than she had told her husband. She gave Cooper a listening device to hack into Barb’s Pip-boy and overhear her conversations in her professional space, which Cooper eventually did after having objections at first. However, when the actor listened in on an internal meeting between Vault-Tec and the other bomb shelter vault manufacturers, he learned a horrible truth. 

This meeting, overseen by Barb and her boss, Bud Atkins, was an official request by Vault-Tec to the other vault manufacturers in the USA to all come together and decide on the various different configurations to be set in the vaults. While the general public would not know of such a council of the corporations, they would set the rules inside each of the vaults and, in essence, would shape what society would look and be like after a nuclear fallout. But most importantly, Cooper heard his wife, Barb, explain how Vault-Tec was planning to drop the atomic bombs themselves, in cooperation with the American government. The idea was to wipe out the erstwhile world and start afresh, with companies like Vault-Tec ensuring that Americans would already have an upper hand. While Fallout does not directly show so, it can be guessed that Cooper absolutely lashed out against his wife and Vault-Tec after this discovery, and he was soon branded a communist and blacklisted from the film industry. As a result, the superstar actor had to resort to menial jobs at birthday parties.

What is the mystery behind Vault 31?

The investigation into the mysterious nature of Vault 31 is carried out entirely by Norm MacLean, who is confused by the lack of concern shown by the other vault members, particularly the elders, after his father had been kidnapped and his sister had ventured out to find him. On the day of the raider attack, Norm had walked into Vault 32 and noticed how there were no living crops at the place, which was extremely suspicious. Later on, he goes to explore the vault once more, taking Chet along with him, and finds out that the original residents had not been killed by the raiders from the outside but had actually killed themselves in a strange act of mass suicide. Going through the computer terminals, he found out that the doors to Vault 32 had been opened by the raiders with the Pip-boy that belonged to his mother, Rose MacLean, which also dumbfounds Norm. When the young man asks Betty, the new Overseer of Vault 33, about what had happened to his mother’s Pip-boy, she states that it had been buried along with Rose’s body after her untimely death due to ill health.

Around this same time, Norm also makes another strange discovery—that each of the Overseers of Vaults 32 and 33 were all people who were originally born and raised in Vault 31 before being moved to their respective shelters. Together with the horrific messages left by the original dwellers of Vault 32, written with blood on their walls, about some secret happenings in 31, it becomes clear that the whole mystery would be solved only when Norm would venture to Vault 31. At the end of Fallout, he does so to find that there is no society or community at the place, but it only contains numerous cryogenic tubes. This is also linked to a decision that Vault-Tec had taken before the nuclear fallout, and it was part of their grand plan to be the ones in control of the new society. 

Bud Atkins, a senior executive of the corporation, had come up with a program named Bud’s Buds, in which important executives of Vault-Tec would be kept cryogenically frozen for centuries, meaning that they would never die and so would directly be in charge of human society once the radiation had cleared. Vault 31 was actually the storehouse of these cryogenic pods, and the reason why Overseers were chosen only from there is simply because all such leaders are actually living Vault-Tec executives who still faithfully carry out the company’s plans. Therefore, in essence, a false sense of democracy and freely elected leaders had been created, while everything about the Vaults was still controlled by the makers at Vault-Tec, even more than 200 years after the apocalypse.

Why had Moldaver kidnapped Hank MacLean?

In the latter episodes of Fallout, it is revealed that the leader of the raiders, Moldaver, was the very same woman leading the anti-government organization before the nuclear fallout. Moldaver had somehow preserved herself for these two hundred years and more, and she was still trying to change the tides of society and provide for the people, according to her claim. Vault-Tec had created a technological device named Cold Fusion, which is basically limitless energy that could be used to power any civilization without an end. While this technology could very easily be used to help human settlements in the nuclear wastelands survive and prosper, by eliminating shortages and threats, Vault-Tec still kept it a secret from the world under its new form, the paramilitary organization, Enclave. The Cold Fusion had been embedded onto a small electronic chip, and a scientist at the organization, named Wilzig, had stolen the chip and inserted it into his own head, hoping to hand it over to Moldaver so that humans in need would be able to use it.

This was why Wilzig was being chased by the Brotherhood of Steel after he became fugitive, while he was trying to reach Moldaver’s camp in time. When Lucy finally takes Wilzig’s severed head to the bandit camp, Moldaver reveals the true power of the Cold Fusion and then also explains why she had kidnapped Hank MacLean. In reality, Hank was also one of the highest-level executives at Vault-Tec, and he had even made acquaintance with Cooper Howard back in the pre-war world. Hank had frozen himself in one of the cryogenic beds in Vault 31 and had moved to Vault 33 when the time came, later becoming the Overseer as well. 

However, his wife, Rose, had started to wonder whether life in the outside world had returned to normal, as radiation levels might have dropped, and Hank was furious with her having such thoughts. As a result, Rose fled the vault with her two children and started living in a town called Shady Sands, where she became friends with Moldaver. As his reaction to this betrayal, Hank took his children from the place and then dropped bombs on Shady Sands, destroying it completely, in a horribly insensitive decision. He then raised Lucy and Norm by telling them their mother was dead, while Rose is actually still alive, in an almost skeleton-like form, with all her skin having burned away because of the explosion. This explains how Moldaver and the raiders used Lucy’s Pip-boy to enter the vaults. Moldaver survived this incident as well and then waited for many years to get hold of the Cold Fusion chip, which could only be operated by a Vault-Tec executive. Since Hank was one, he had the necessary code, and therefore Moldaver had kidnapped him in order to operate the chip.

What happens to Lucy and the others?

Lucy MacLean is stunned to know of these secrets that had been hidden from her for so long, and she has to make a difficult choice between believing her father or Moldavar. Seeing the suffering body in front of her wearing the same necklace that her mother wore in her lifetime, Lucy is confident that the rebel leader has told her the truth, and she refuses to help Hank, who keeps claiming that he did everything out of love for his children. At this very time, the Brotherhood of Steel invades the place after Maximus has to reveal the location of the real head in order to save himself from execution. Maximus still looks for Lucy, with whom he wants to spend the rest of his life, and opens up Hank’s cage after hearing that he is the father that his beloved had been searching for. As a result, Hank gears up in Maximus’ power armor and then punches the young man senseless. By now, the Ghoul had also reached the area after having interrogated people about Moldavar’s hideout, and he had been on his own search for truth. The Ghoul, or Cooper Howard, still wanted to know what had happened to his beloved family members after the nuclear apocalypse, for he had been separated from them since then.

During Fallout‘s ending, Hank manages to escape the area, wearing the power armor, while Lucy MacLean decides to team up with the Ghoul to search for more truth about this world. Back in Vault 31, Norm MacLean is forced to enter cryogenic sleep on his father’s bed, as he now knows too much about the evil nature of Vault-Tec. By the time Maximus wakes up from his injury-induced slumber, Moldavar is heavily wounded from the battle with the Brotherhood of Steel. The woman manages to rush back to her room and switch on the Cold Fusion, which immediately lights up the entire area using the unlimited power it holds, but Moldavar dies soon after. As a result, the Brotherhood of Steel members find Maximus in the room and hail him as the killer of the enemy, as well as the one who had found and activated the Cold Fusion. It becomes evident that the Brotherhood of Steel will now make use of the unlimited source of power, while Maximus will be promoted to a very high and important rank out of sheer luck. Fallout‘s last scene shows Hank MacLean arriving at the post-apocalyptic city of New Vegas, where a possible sequel of the show might be based.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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