Fallout’s finale may have just answered the centuries-old mystery behind who started the nuclear apocalypse

(Image credit: Prime Video)

There is perhaps no greater mystery in the fictional Fallout universe than the question of who, exactly, dropped the nuclear bombs that kicked off the nuclear apocalypse in seriousness. There have been certain implications, depending on the game, but nothing definitive. The new Fallout show from Amazon's Prime Video, however, introduces a particularly sinister possibility that just might answer that age-old question.

Major spoilers for the Fallout season 1 ending follow.

More specifically, the question as to who dropped the bomb first often comes down to China or the United States. Original Fallout co-creator Tim Cain has previously said it was China that kicked things off, but Cain is certainly no longer the arbiter of all things Fallout at this point, and there are any number of reasons lore scholars might nitpick an offhand answer offered up by him in an interview nearly 30 years after the first game.

The Fallout TV show season 1 finale actually posits a third option: Vault-Tec itself. Roughly a third of the way through the finale, Cooper Howard (Walton Goggins) is using a listening device to eavesdrop on his wife, Barb Howard (Frances Turner), while she participates in a secretive business meeting with representatives of major Fallout businesses like Rob-Co, REPCONN, and more. And while it doesn't definitively say that Vault-Tec did it, it does everything but that.

Essentially, the other executives question how Vault-Tec can ensure that its Vaults remain viable in the first place for potential investors. There are ongoing peace talks, despite the looming threat of nuclear war. The Rob-Co representative asks it outright: "But we're talking about making a significant investment based on a hypothetical. How can you guarantee results?"

"By dropping the bomb ourselves," says Barb Howard. The show doesn't elaborate on this much as Cooper Howard is interrupted with a different reveal. "A nuclear event would be a tragedy, but also an opportunity," continues Barb Howard. "Perhaps the greatest opportunity in history, because when we are the only ones left, there will be no one to fight; a true monopoly."

Did Vault-Tec drop the bomb? We don't see that explicitly. But the show absolutely makes the case that Vault-Tec was fully prepared and willing to do it.

The first season of Fallout is now streaming on Prime Video. For more, check out the rest of our coverage:

Rollin Bishop
US Managing Editor

Rollin is the US Managing Editor at GamesRadar+. With over 16 years of online journalism experience, Rollin has helped provide coverage of gaming and entertainment for brands like IGN, Inverse, ComicBook.com, and more. While he has approximate knowledge of many things, his work often has a focus on RPGs and animation in addition to franchises like Pokemon and Dragon Age. In his spare time, Rollin likes to import Valkyria Chronicles merch and watch anime.