Does the FALLOUT TV Series Offer Hope for a Ghoul Cure?

Season one of Prime Video’s Fallout introduced an important new medicine to the franchise. There’s now a drug that helps keep ghouls from going feral in Fallout‘s world. But how does this ghoul medicine work, and where does it come from? Those are important questions. But they aren’t the most important ones raised by this medicine’s existence. There’s never been a cure for ghouls in the Fallout games. But the presence of this ghoul medication makes us wonder whether or not it means something even better will come along for ghouls. Could the Fallout series be teasing a world where ghouls can actually be cured?

Here’s everything you need to know about ghouls to understand how Fallout could be setting up a cure for ghoulification and hinting at a future where The Ghoul is human once again.

Spoiler Alert

Jump to: What Are Ghouls in Fallout and Why Do They Need a Cure? // What Happens When a Ghoul Goes Feral? // What Does Ghoul Medicine Do on the Fallout Series? // Is There a Cure for Ghouls in the Fallout Video Games? // Could the Fallout TV Show Introduce a Ghoul Cure? // Does Lucy’s New Finger Hint at a New Nose for The Ghoul?

What Are Ghouls in Fallout, and Why Do They Need a Cure?

Walton Goggins The Ghoul without his hat sitting on Fallout
Prime Video

One of the Fallout franchise’s most iconic groups are mutated humans (and animals) known as ghouls. In one region of the country these figures are called necrotic post-humans. With the exception of two “pre-war ghouls” who tried to attain immortality via radiation exposure before The Great War even began, ghouls owe their creation to radiation exposure caused by nuclear bombs. Some transformed slowly, while those close to ground zero locations mutated faster and more violently. Other humans in the centuries since The Great War also became ghouls.

Fallout‘s ghouls look a lot like zombies, a term bigots use as an insult, but they are not. Intellectually, they are still people, as they retain their normal brain functions for a long time. It’s how some remain parts of human societies. Ghouls do not have decomposing or rotting flesh like zombies, either. Intense and prolonged radiation exposure gives them raw, flaking, burnt-like red skin. “Ghoulification” also results in damaged connective tissue, which is why ghouls lose their ears and noses. Most ghouls also lose all of their body hair and are completely sterile. Some lose so much skin and muscle their bones become visible. Given these aspects of ghoulification, we can see why Fallout‘s ghouls might want a cure for their condition.

Two ghouls locked up in cases on Fallout
Prime Video

However, the same radiation that transformed them also saved them from death. It also gave ghouls expanded lifespans and super-healing properties. Ghouls aren’t immortal and still have to eat and drink (which is easier in a wasteland because they lose their sense of taste and smell). But thanks to radioactive regeneration, they can withstand many diseases, ailments, and injuries as they live for a very long time. Of course, taking into account these truths about being a ghoul in Fallout, perhaps they don’t require a cure after all. But before we get into whether a cure is even possible in Fallout‘s world, here’s a bit more about the types of ghouls that exist.

How Many Types of Ghouls Are There in Fallout?

There are three types of Fallout ghouls. In addition to normal/intelligent ghouls like Walton Goggins’ The Ghoul, Fallout video games also feature “glowing ones.” Those ghouls are notable for their bioluminescence skin caused by prolonged radiation. The result is a haunting, eerie green appearance. The very same prolonged isolation required for that much radiation exposure often drives glowing ghouls to madness or worse. That “worse” is the third variation of ghoul, feral ghouls. And it is this variation that probably most inspires Fallout fans to wonder whether ghouls can be cured.

What Happens When a Ghoul Goes Feral in Fallout?

Three mean looking feral ghouls on Fallout
Prime Video

When a ghoul “goes feral” in the Fallout franchise, they lose all of their cognitive abilities and humanity. They instead become violent, vicious, animalistic creatures who attack other living things. They’re essentially monsters of the wasteland, with some versions being more ferocious, dangerous, and harder to stop than others. Fallout‘s first season showed ghouls on the verge of finally turning completely, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

According to Walton Goggins, the threat of becoming feral weighs incredibly heavy on The Ghoul’s mind. Goggins notes, “I think it’s an existential crisis every single day… People will rob, and they will kill, and steal and lie to get access to this medicine to stay on this earth in a form of consciousness that is normal for as long as they possibly can.”

There was no known way to prevent a ghoul from becoming feral before the Fallout TV series.

What Does Ghoul Medicine Do on Prime Video’s Fallout Series, and Is It a Cure?

The Ghoul lying on the ground next to vials of medicine on Fallout
Prime Video

Fallout‘s first season introduced an all-new element to the franchise that has huge ramifications for ghouls. There is a highly valuable, hard-to-get medicine ghouls can take to stop them from going feral. If taken regularly, this chemical mixture can help a ghoul, even as old as Cooper Howard, remain a fully functional, rational being rather than a mindless monster. At the moment, this anti-feral ghoul medication does not appear to be able to cure a ghoul who is already feral, nor does it seem to have any impact on any other aspect of ghoulification. This Fallout series medicine is not a ghoul cure, but it certainly does raise many questions.

For instance, we have to wonder, who invented this medicine and when? And what do they know about how ghoulification works? Do they know enough to create a cure? The show has not answered those questions just yet, but the video games might offer some clues.

Is Ghoul Medicine Based on the Fallout Video Games’ Rad-X?

The Ghoul uses an inhaler of medicine on Fallout
Prime Video

Prime Video’s Fallout saw Lucy combat radiation poisoning with RadAway, but the video games also introduced another medicine known as Rad-X. It’s a powerful “chem” that greatly enhances a person’s natural resistance to radiation. Unlike RadAway, it’s also meant to be taken before exposure because it can help fight irradiation.

Whether Rad-X has any connections to the franchise’s new anti-feral ghoul medicine is still unknown. But the show’s other ghoul-related chemical has a clear video game counterpart.

What Was the Potion That Turned Thaddeus Into a Ghoul on Fallout, and How Does It Hint at a Cure?

Thaddeus reaches for medicine on Fallout
Prime Video

The squire Thaddeus would have died from his mangled foot had he not come across the wasteland’s weirdest doctor/snake oil salesman. In Fallout‘s seventh episode, John Daly’s chicken fan gave Thaddeus a powerful medicine that instantly healed his previously destroyed foot. That’s also why the squire later survived an arrow in the neck. That medicine that cured him actually instantly turned Thaddeus into a ghoul with powerful regenerative healing abilities, like Coop.

In Fallout 4, a major figure known as John Hancock (one of the video game characters we’d most like to see appear on Prime Video’s show) also became a ghoul after taking an experimental radioactive drug he found a single dose of. His ghoulification didn’t involve exposure to radiation, but it led him to become like every other ghoul all the same. It turned John Hancock’s skin raw and exposed his muscles, took away his nose and ears, stripped him of hair, and slowed his age process while giving him powerful ghoul abilities.

The ghoul John Hancock dressed like an American revolutionary in Fallout 4
Bethesda Game Studios

The concoction Thaddeus took might be the exact same drug John Hancock found. Even if it’s not, they are similar enough that they did the exact same thing: made them ghouls forever. And this medication, introduced in the games and reestablished in the series, carries its own set of important implications. If the science to turn humans into ghouls with a pill exists in Fallout‘s world, could the science also exist to create a cure that turns people from ghouls back into humans?

Is There a Cure for Ghouls in the Fallout Video Games?

Waton Goggins red-scarred no-nosed cowboy hat wearing Ghoul from Fallout
Prime Video

Despite all of the above, there is currently no known cure for ghouls in the Fallout universe. Once a human or animal begins the process of becoming a ghoul, it is irreversible. And until Prime Video’s show, eventually, every ghoul, even those who had survived with their mind intact for centuries, was expected to go feral.

That’s why this new anti-feral ghoul medicine is far more important than just for what we know it can do so far. It’s exciting because of what it implies about whether ghouls can be cured in the Fallout universe.

Could the Fallout TV Show Introduce a Ghoul Cure?

The Ghoul happily drinks medicine on Fallout
Prime Video

In addition to its instant-ghoulification drug, Fallout now has a medicine that prevents ghouls from going feral. It’s the franchise’s biggest development in ghoul healthcare ever. Clearly, someone out there is working on helping this race of people suffering from a radiation-related disease. And if someone is trying to help ghouls not go feral in Fallout, that means someone might be trying to come up with a ghoul cure, too.

Fallout has a drug that turns a human into a ghoul within seconds. It has drugs that fight off radiation poisoning in humans. It also now has a drug that keeps ghouls from losing their humanity. So why couldn’t someone create something that reverses ghoulification entirely? A cure is the next developmental step after treatment. And it feels like a ghoul cure is exactly where the Fallout series is heading.

One scene during Fallout‘s first season certainly sets up that kind of revelation, but it’s not one that involves a ghoul.

Did Lucy’s New Finger Reveal a Big Future Fallout Moment for The Ghoul?

A machine attaches a finger onto a hand on Fallout
Prime Video

The treatment of Lucy’s severed finger was a great sequence that provided meaningful characterization and world-building. It didn’t serve any obvious narrative purpose, though. The specifics around her replacement finger didn’t actually make sense. She got her new digit from a machine that planned to kill her moments later. Why have a robot performer a finger transplant on someone under those circumstances? It’s a funny moment but an illogical one.

That is unless that transplant wasn’t about Lucy at all but instead about the person who cut off her finger.

Cooper Howard doing the Vault Boy wink in the Fallout Tv series
Prime Video

Lucy bit off The Ghoul’s finger before he removed hers. He didn’t need a transplant to get his finger back, though. His body can heal itself. With some stitches, his lost digit mended itself. But The Ghoul can’t simply sew his nose and ears back on like he did his finger. Nor would a surgery like Lucy’s be an option for his missing nose or ears at this point in time. They’re made of cartilage, and ghoulification destroys connective tissue. Even if he had his nose surgically replaced, it would fall back off.

If someone comes up with a cure that turns them back into normal humans, former ghouls would still have to live without a nose or ears. They’d forever wear the evidence of who and what they once were. That is unless they get the exact same procedure Lucy did with her finger once the ghoulification cure restores them from ghoul to human. It’s a procedure that the robot had no reason to actually perform, yet it was important enough that the show included it. Why?

Fallout season one clearly suggests a ghoul cure might be possible. But with just one little finger, it also sets up the potential for a powerful future moment that one day might smell extra sweet to the former Cooper Howard.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist who would live in a Fallout Vault right now if he could. You can follow him on Twitter and  Bluesky at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.

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