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A Fallout Theory On Reddit Explains Why The Bombs Dropped - But It Gets Weird

The "Fallout" video games and Prime Video series are all about life in a post-apocalyptic setting. The vast majority of the franchise takes place long after the bombs fall, even though the actual reason for the nuclear apocalypse is rarely discussed at length. As "Fallout" lore dictates, the official reason for the global destruction was the Great War, a one-day thermonuclear exchange between China and the U.S. that takes place on October 23, 2077. The franchise presents this as the logical endpoint of a decades-long, costly conflict between the two superpowers, but for redditor u/Few-Challenge-6904, the answer is much stranger: it's actually all about aliens. 

The gist of this fan theory is that the war was largely a front, meant to mask the governments' true mission to stockpile weapons and fight the invading Zetan civilization. The Great War was humanity's last-ditch effort to stop a full-on Zetan attack, and the surviving authorities of the Wasteland and other ravaged corners of the world remain locked in hidden combat with the aliens long after the bombs fall.

The Zetans are a consistent, if sporadic presence in the "Fallout" games from "Fallout 3" onwards, appearing most prominently in that game's "Mothership Zeta" add-on. Their appearances tend to make clear that they're up to something shady ... but can this Reddit fan theory really back up its thesis of the nuclear war, arguably the most central piece of "Fallout" lore, actually being a response to an alien attack? Let's look at the available evidence.

The Wasteland is a carefully-constructed alien trap

One thing backing up the alien attack angle is that the bombs never hit some extremely clear targets — namely, the vast Mariposa base from the first "Fallout" game and the Pacific Ocean oil rig from "Fallout 2" that's one of the last known oil sources in the world, if not the last. This would make more sense if all the nuclear missiles were aimed at alien spaceships instead of enemy countries. The authorities' desperation to fight the aliens with any means necessary could also explain supernatural discoveries like the eerie Dunwich building in "Fallout 3." After all, wouldn't the government exhaust every available way to fight off the invaders before taking the nuclear option, up to and including dark magic?

The 2077 apocalypse kicks off a period known as the Great Game — a time when various powerful individuals form factions and create strange survival plans while undermining each other. According to the alien theory, this, too, is part of humanity's struggle for survival against the Zetans, as factions from the Enclave to the military-oriented Caesar's Legion and Brotherhood of Steel conspire to create a series of different obstacles for the aliens. 

As such, many if not all, of the franchise's most iconic enemies, like supermutants, are actually just attempts to hold the Zetans at bay. The novel strategy of turning the world into a high-stakes "Home Alone" house ends up working, and the aliens cease their invasion around 2161 — the year the first "Fallout" game begins.

The theory attempts to explain many specific events

Beyond the grand scheme of things, the Reddit alien theory also goes into how specific events fit into both the games and the show. Wonder how Cooper Howard (Walton Goggins) and — almost certainly — his daughter Janey (Teagan Meredith) survive the nuking of Los Angeles? The bombs aren't nukes — it's aliens attacking human population centers with their superweapons. This would also explain why the Wasteland avoids large settlements, incidentally: the aliens love to attack them, so the various faction leaders conspire to keep things small. 

The same goes for certain specific game events. How does young Arthur Maxson ascend from a lowly squire to a supreme commander of the Brotherhood of Steel in the 10 years between "Fallout 3" and "Fallout 4?" Former Elder Sarah Lyons survives the events of "Fallout 3" and is keen to stay in the shadows, instead choosing Arthur as a figurehead due to the Maxson family's reputation. Why would she pull the wool over everyone's eyes like that? Because she values her life: other Great Game players are now after the Brotherhood since it has alien technology from the spaceship crash depicted in "Mothership Zeta," using it to construct things like the armored dirigible from "Fallout 4," the Prydwen.

Granted, the details can get pretty confusing at times. Still, the general idea of virtually every major event in the franchise being part of humanity's carefully coordinated attempts to keep aliens from taking over is intriguing, to say the least ... especially when said aliens are already lurking all over the games. 

The TV show reveals an even creepier explanation

Unlike the games, the show steers clear of aliens. Given that the ending of "Fallout" Season 1 hints at supermutants and "Fallout: New Vegas" as the finale's huge Season 2 tease, it seems unlikely that the Prime Video series intends to introduce an alien invasion arc any time soon. As such, it's probably best to take the alien theory with a pinch of salt when it comes to the live-action version of "Fallout" — and since the show is part of the official canon, this may be bad news for the invasion theory altogether. 

However, the show has already introduced an even creepier one. The "Fallout" show and games have their differences despite existing in the same universe, and the show uses this to give fans a truly horrifying explanation for the Great War. In the Season 1 finale, Cooper hears Barb Howard (Frances Turner) telling a gathering of Vault-Tec executives and assorted global higher-ups that the company is fully prepared to kick off a nuclear apocalypse simply to acquire an advantage over its business competition. 

This means that instead of an increasingly exhausting and desperate military conflict causing the worldwide destruction, the "Fallout" apocalypse is deliberately engineered by a group of profit-driven capitalists who then proceed to torment the survivors with the various dark secrets behind the Vaults. Compared to that level of cynical, petty evil, a cookie-cutter alien invasion seems almost tame.