Resident Evil has been around almost as long as I have been alive. The first game debuted in 1996 and spawned a franchise across video games, film, comic books, and even audio dramas. So it was only a matter of time until a show set in that world came to be. Premiering this Friday, Netflix’s Resident Evil becomes the newest entry in this near three-decade-long franchise.
Following the poor performance of Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City, the show has incredible pressure to do well. So did Resident Evil impress me, or did it have me wishing for Paul W. S. Anderson’s film series to return to theaters? Let’s see how well Netflix did with this new take on a beloved horror game series.
[Warning: Mild Spoilers from Netflix’s Resident Evil are below!]
Resident Evil breaks out from past iterations
The best thing this series could have done for itself was to reset the continuity and separate itself from past Resident Evil iterations. Gone are the successes and failures from the past, allowing for the show to explore The Umbrella Corporation and its actions across the globe in a new and exciting way. I, a fan of the original film series, was immediately enthralled by the story they were telling and the way they developed it over the eight-episode first season.
The story mainly follows Jade Wesker during two integral points in her life, points in time that also shape the world. When we first meet Jade (Ella Balinska), she’s 28 years old and the year is 2036. The world has gone through a terrible plague, creating a dystopia. Those who are still living are scattered and trying to survive with blood-thirsty infected zombies (called Zeroes) roaming the world in search of people and animals to eat.
Jade starts off by herself, out in the open searching for answers. Her job is to collect as much data as possible in hopes of stopping the zombie apocalypse, however, her heart is back in the sanctuary with her daughter and husband. This story plays out like a typical zombie survival story, as Jade attempts to make it home, without getting bitten or found by The Umbrella Corporation.
Welcome to New Racoon City
Interwoven into the future storyline is the story of a fourteen-year-old Jade (Tamara Smart) in 2022 who moves into New Racoon City with her sister Billie (Siena Agudong) and father Albert (Lance Reddick). New Racoon City seems to be idyllic with uniform houses, food for everyone, and everything you could ever need. It is reminiscent of the town of Stepford or Pleasantville, created by the Umbrella Corporation for those who work for the pharmaceutical company. It may be pretty, but it harbors a gigantic secret.
Jade and Billie are incredibly close, a bond they share from being “twins”. Though the term twins may be a bit liberal here. While the two may be the same age, they have different mothers. Their bond is the heart and driving force of the show. It is also what is tested the most in this first season. Together, the sisters begin to clue in that something is off about New Racoon City, along with the corporation that built it. With the help of their friend Simon (Connor Gosatti), the team intends to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Impressive parts of Netflix’s Resident Evil
While both stories are important for the overall narrative, the story of younger Jade and Billie was much more interesting to me. This part played out like a Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes type of story in that there is a mystery and it needs to be solved. It was also the more suspenseful of the two storylines, as the one following grown Jade was more horror than a thriller. I constantly found myself waiting in anticipation for the return to New Racoon city and the fourteen-year-old detectives.
Siena Agudong and Tamara Smart were exceptional as Billie and younger Jade. Their relationship and the changes that occur within it were some of the best parts. This may have been a Resident Evil show, but the best part is the relationship between the two sisters before the Zeroes arrive. Agudong especially stood out, as she portrayed a lot of emotional range, killing it one scene after another. I can’t wait to see her career in Hollywood, because she will be going far.
Questioning one of Resident Evil’s choices
For a show titled Resident Evil, there weren’t many connections to the game series that spawned it. Obviously, the Umbrella Corporation is still involved, because it wouldn’t be a Resident Evil show without them. Fans of the series will also recognize the name Wesker and the implications it has for the overall story. As well as Racoon City, which it feels like every iteration of the franchise ends up visiting or talking about.
However, most of the connections end there, which I fear may upset some of the fans who have been with Resident Evil for the long haul. I personally think this was a great choice for the story Netflix is telling, but it does feel like they named the show Resident Evil for the name recognition and very little else. However, don’t let the lack of connections to a larger Resident Evil universe stop you from watching this fantastic show.
Resident Evil easily became one of my favorite shows of 2022. It has fantastic action and great mystery, with top-notch acting. It also brought a bit of the horror element that was present in the original film series as well as the video game franchise.
I think it has great potential to spawn an entire Resident Evil universe on Netflix, with the possibility for those characters we love from the video games to appear in their own shows or cross over with others. However, I would also watch many more seasons with the cast we have and the story being developed and still be incredibly happy.
I tore through episodes like they were candy, forgetting to sleep because I wanted to know more about what was happening in New Racoon City. For those who were fans of the series, this show takes the essence of the games and films and pushes that in a new and exciting direction. It may not be the exact story you would want or expect from the newest entry in Resident Evil, but it is still enjoyable nonetheless.