Written by: April Prince
Since the release of the first game in 1996, Resident Evil as a series has captured the attention of gamers all over the globe. It’s even spawned other forms of media such as comics, animated films, audio dramas, live-action films — and TV shows. That’s what we’ll be taking a look at today. Thanks to the people at Netflix, we were granted early access to the new live-action Resident Evil show from showrunner Andrew Dabb and Constantin Films. Let’s see if this new angle on an old favorite holds up or if it’s meant to be put down.
Resident Evil follows Jade and Billie Wesker, the half twin daughters of everyone’s favorite mad scientist Albert Wesker. Yes, that’s right. Wesker is allowed to parent in this iteration and surprisingly? He seems like a genuine, loving father.
The series takes place during two periods in time. The first takes place in our current time during 2022, where Jade and Billie are teens who just moved to New Racoon City with Albert and are adjusting to their new life. The other half of the show takes place in 2036, 14 years in the future. In the future, most of civilization has been wiped out by a virus. Jade is a researcher seeking to understand said virus on how the “Zeroes” work. Zeroes are the name given to the infected.
In this new live-action story, we are getting themes of family, survival, and forgiveness. The survival is obvious; this is a Resident Evil show after all. But those themes of family and forgiveness are ones that are handled with a lot of heart and honesty. RE is not new to tackling these things, but the way it’s handled in the show makes you care about the characters and how they relate to each other.
As stated before, Albert Wesker is a surprisingly caring father, and it puts the viewer on edge mainly if you’re familiar with his depiction in the games. It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop. There’s a tinge of the usual threatening nature we’re used to with him but not to the degree or in the way you’d expect.
There’s the very easy-to-spot fact that Albert is being portrayed by a Black man. Yes, there was some controversy about this casting choice. However, Lance Reddick brings his masterful skills to the role, marrying the fresh depiction of Wesker as a father with the usual haunting and off-putting figure fans recognize from the games. It’d be easy to write this off as a racebending casting for brownie points, but Reddick does a great job with the material. Don’t write him off.
As for the show’s other characters, Jade and Billie hold their own quite well. Jade is a strong-willed woman who puts her goals above all. This is something that realistically serves as both a positive and a negative. Thankfully the show doesn’t pull punches when it comes to her flaws. Having a one-track mind can lead to catastrophe when you don’t know when to pull back.
Billie, on the other hand, is someone who goes along to get along, for better or worse. She’s passive by nature, and that means she’s more likely to turn the other cheek for the most part. In the beginning, she alludes to her explosive temper and how she doesn’t want to relive those moments of anger and lashing out. It makes for an interesting character arc of her either choosing to continue to be passive or letting her anger out and being known as the wild, irrational girl all over again.
The setting of New Raccoon City is portrayed as an idyllic suburb on the surface while below that there’s something more sinister going on. There’s an undercurrent of militarized threat that permeates almost every interaction, and the presence of surveillance doesn’t assuage those feelings. Each time teenage Jade or Billie seeks to better understand their surroundings there’s someone there to shut that down as soon as possible. It gives the viewer an incentive to keep watching as we know only as much as the characters we’re following do. If they don’t know something, we don’t know either. It’s what makes certain reveals later in the season hit hard and land effectively.
The big question to ask is, who is this show for? Well, longtime fans of the series may find it hard to reconcile what you already know and expect from a Resident Evil story with how Constantin chose to go about their version. But, once you give it a chance, it’s entertaining and does a good job of telling an engaging story while leaving things open for a second season. For newcomers who aren’t as familiar with Resident Evil, the show is a good mixture of action, sci-fi, and family dynamic. The characters are well defined and their motivations are paired well with their personalities.
All in all, it’s a good show that deserves a fair shot with the potential to offer something new to an already packed franchise.
The series premieres on July 14, 2022, on Netflix.
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Gamer, anime fan, and lover of TV and movies. I've been a writer since 2017.