Netflix released the much anticipated Resident Evil series in eight hour-long episodes on July 14th. Fans online – on sites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes are giving it possibly the worst reviews of any Resident Evil offering to date, and yet I liked the series and hope there is another season.
Maybe this is because I haven’t played the games (I am not and have never been a gamer), or maybe this is because I haven’t kept up with the movie franchise past the first two or three, or maybe I’m just easier to please (although if you follow my blog, I’m not actually that easy to please), or maybe it’s because I do enjoy the YA genre, which this version definitely lives in at least half the time. Whatever the reason, I found myself drawn in by the episode-ending cliffhangers and staying up later than I should for just one more episode.
One of the major complaints about the Resident Evil series, besides that it looks like a “CW show on a budget,” (fun fact: I have been a fan of the CW since its inception) or that it doesn’t follow the games – creating it’s own sequel, picking and choosing its cannon – is that it jumps between two timelines: the “current” 2032 timeline and the past 2022 timeline when the world “ended”. The complaints are that it is impossible to get invested in either timeline because they switch back and forth multiple times per episode. I disagree. I am actually a fan of this plot device, and I was more invested in BOTH timelines because they were both present.
The first episode opens with Jade (Ella Balinska) on a 6-months-and-going field mission into the world inhabited by the “zeroes” for scientific research. This statement, which is true throughout the series, best sums up Jade: She makes really REALLY stupid decisions. Other than that, she is a badass and a genius – although considering she was thoroughly traumatized at age 14 and has lived in survival mode every since – I can almost forgive her for her idiotic choices. Her very first mistake leads her through a series of bad-to-worse situations that are very linear plot-wise to the final moment in episode eight. I wanted to strangle young Jade (Tamara Smart) and current Jade equally, even while rooting for them to survive.
The sister dynamics in the Resident Evil series are strained from the beginning
In the first flashback to 2022, when Jade and Billie (Siena Agudong) move to New Racoon City in South Africa, there is tension and sibling rivalry between them. While there are moments of solidarity, they are always jealous, in competition, or just pushing each other to commit to helping the other execute a new bad idea. This is another through plot-line as they consistently run hot and cold through all eight episodes. Truthfully, I want to strangle Billie almost as much as Jade – but 14-year-old narcissism and hubris is well-documented; kids do stupid things.
The curveball here is that Albert Wesker, played brilliantly by Lance Reddick (The Wire, Fringe, American Horror Story) is alive after he clearly died in 2009 from falling into a volcano and being hit by an explosion. Did they just ignore that bit of cannon for the Resident Evil series, or is something else going on here? Fans who don’t stick it out to the second half of the eight episodes take issue with this, but all is revealed in time.
I would be remiss in leaving out the main villain here – a single-minded, damn the consequences, will destroy anyone and anything that gets in her way Evelyn Marcus, a scarily intense Paola Nuñez (The Purge TV series), daughter of the late Umbrella founder James Marcus. As head of the Umbrella corporation, which is always covering up some mistake or outbreak that took thousands of lives, she is singularly focused on the new product in development, Joy. Joy is a cure for depression, anxiety, and all that ails – but it is dangerous and flawed and not ready for the unrealistic roll-out date Evelyn insists be met at all costs, understanding those costs will probably be thousands of lives. She is deliciously ruthless, lying with a smile, and ordering total destruction with a head flip. She is the embodiment of capitalism masquerading as care for the people even while she destroys them, ignoring science for high profit margins.
The Resident Evil series may be a little weak on character development – but people complain when there’s not enough action. Some episodes may have less action to focus on story, and people complain that those episodes are boring. What Resident Evil DOES have is plenty of monsters – mostly fast-moving “zeroes” swarming like ants over any living souls in their path, but we do get glimpses of those special Umbrella monsters we love so much. The show is a combination of family dynamics, apocalypse-level death and destruction, corporate greed, and gruesome special effects. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope all those negative nellies don’t keep me from getting my season 2. Since Resident Evil dethroned Stranger Things from its #1 spot, I think based solely on the numbers game, that sequel is likely.
What did you think of Resident Evil on Netflix? Love it or hate it, sound off in the comments!