Fallout Ending Explained: How That Episode 8 Cliffhanger Sets Up Season 2

The Fallout TV series finale delivers several twists and teases that leave the door open for a second season.

Walton Goggins as Cooper Howard in Fallout
Photo: Prime Video

This Fallout article contains spoilers.

No, it’s not a TV version of Fallout 5 or an adaptation of any one game in the franchise, but the Amazon series is set in the same timeline as the games, so its big twists and reveals pack an absolute punch for fans up to speed with Fallout lore. Through eight episodes, we follow Lucy (Ella Purnell), Maximus (Aaron Moten), and The Ghoul/Cooper Howard (Walton Goggins) as they uncover the mysteries of Vault-Tec and the Wastelanders who attacked Vault 33 at the start of the season. While they initially set out on their own quests, their paths all converge by the end, as a MacGuffin hunt turns into something much bigger that will affect the future of the Fallout series for years to come.

Whether we see that future play out in a season 2 of the series or a future video game, there’s no question that there are some big cliffhangers at the end of the journey that will require a bit of follow up down the line. Here’s what happened at the end of Amazon’s Fallout, how it sets up season 2, and what it might all mean for the future of the franchise as a whole…

What Is Moldaver After, What Happened to New California, and How Vault-Tec Is Involved

In the end, it always comes down to resources in the Fallout universe and the many factions fighting over what’s left. In this case, Vault-Tec, the Brotherhood of Steel, and the New California Republic raiders led by the mysterious Moldaver (Sarita Choudhury) are after something with the power to completely change the way of life in the Los Angeles wasteland: a cold fusion reactor that can provide unlimited energy to the area. In fact, we see this little blue pill at work in the final scenes of the seasons, with the ruined buildings of the LA wasteland coming back to life with electricity. It’s quite the sight and quite the wrench in Vault-Tec’s plans.

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You see, the reason Moldaver hates Vault-Tec so much is because she originally designed the cold fusion reactor in 2077, before the war that ended the world. Back then, the tech was acquired by Vault-Tec and quickly hidden, as it threatened the war the company so desperately needed to happen to ensure maximum profits for their vault products. Over 200 years later, Moldaver wants her tech back so she can finally share its gift of limitless energy with the rest of the world.

But Moldaver has an even bigger motivation for attacking Vault 33 and kidnapping Hank than stolen tech: revenge. We learn that Shady Sands, the capital of the New California Republic (a staple faction from the early games), was completely destroyed before the start of the show. In the finale, Moldaver reveals to Lucy that it was Hank and his Vault-Tec goons who nuked the city to stop the NCR from advancing further on the surface, not only killing thousands of people but also leaving his own wife and Lucy’s mother a mindless ghoul skeleton.

Why did Hank blow up Shady Sands? Because the NCR was gaining too much power, threatening Vault-Tec’s plan for world domination once it was time to reclaim the surface. Vault-Tec didn’t count on anyone outside the vaults surviving the nuclear war, so when Wastelanders in the region organized into a major faction that could one day rival Vault-Tec, the company had to put a stop to it.

But how did Vault-Tec originally plan to ensure those loyal to the company would be the ones to re-settle the earth centuries after the nuclear war in the first place? Vault 31 has the answers.

What’s Actually Going on in Vault 31, 32, and 33?

It’s revealed at the end of the season that Kyle MacLachlan’s Hank MacLean, the Overseer of Vault 33, is one of the many Vault-Tec thugs who were cryogenically frozen in 2077 until which time they were needed to further the company’s plans inside the vaults and on the surface. Lucy learns the truth about her father from Moldaver in the final episode, but her brother Norm (Moisés Arias) has to do a bit of digging in Vault 31 to get to the bottom of Vault-Tec’s true plans.

Throughout the season, Norm works to uncover the real purpose of Vault 33’s neighboring vaults. There’s Vault 32, which we initially see as a graveyard full of dead Vault-Dwellers who killed themselves after learning “the truth.” Then there’s Vault 31, which Norm learns, is where every single Overseer of Vault 33 originaly hails from, including the vault’s newly elected Overseer, Betty Pearson (Leslie Uggams).

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When Norm finally gets inside Vault 31 after contacting the vault via Betty’s personal terminal, he discovers the cryo-chamber where Vault-Tec members are waiting to be thawed out and integrated into 32 and 33. It’s a form of social engineering that’s allowed Vault-Tec’s employees to keep a tight grip over the rest of the Vault-Dwellers until it’s time to eventually lead them to reclaim the surface.

Unfortunately for Norm, he’s locked inside Vault 31 before he can reveal the truth to the citizens of 32 and 33. Time will tell whether he’ll be able to escape. We at least know it won’t be Lucy showing up to free him…

What’s Next for Lucy, the Ghoul, and Maximus?

After all, Lucy and the Ghoul are on Hank’s tail at the end of the season. The Brotherhood of Steel’s assault on Moldaver’s stronghold ends with the death of most of the raiders, including their leader, Hank’s escape in a Power Suit. The Ghoul, who we learn was once an actor named Cooper Howard, is after Hank because he was his wife Barbara’s assistant back in 2077. Tracking down Hank to wherever Vault-Tec’s big base of operations is could lead the Ghoul to wherever Barbara and their daughter are, assuming they were cryogenically frozen like the rest of Vault-Tec’s most valuable assets.

For Lucy, tracking down her father is also a chance to get justice for her mother, who Hank nuked along with the rest of Shady Sands after she left to join the New California Republic. There’s a lot about her past Lucy still doesn’t understand, including the time she spent in Shady Sands with her mother and Moldaver, and Hank has the answers.

Meanwhile, Maximus has rejoined the Brotherhood of Steel after his adventures impersonating Knight Titus. The Brotherhood stands victorious over the raiders and in possession of the cold fusion reactor that now powers the Wasteland. How will they wield such a powerful resource and what will Maximus’ role be in that plan? Another question season 2 will have to answer.

Yes, That’s New Vegas and a Deathclaw!!

While the season’s main quest is completed in the finale, the last scene leaves us on a cliffhanger that sets up a new location for a potential second season and perhaps even an appearance by one of the franchise’s most recognizable monsters. In the final moments of the season, we follow Hank as he walks past a Deathclaw skull — these genetically engineered creatures sadly never appear in the flesh, and neither do Super Mutants — and toward a big city in the desert. His destination is none other than New Vegas, a fan-favorite location best known as the setting of the 2010 game of the same name.

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Of course, once we do step foot back on the New Vegas strip, it likely won’t be exactly as we remember it. Remember, the TV series is set in the year 2296, 15 years after the events of Fallout: New Vegas. Just as we found the New California Republic destroyed, it’s likely a lot has changed in New Vegas, especially if Vault-Tec minions are in charge. Whatever Hank’s up to in the Mojave Desert, it can’t be good. Let’s hope Lucy and the Ghoul catch up with him before Vault-Tec can execute the next phase of their plan.

Fallout is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.