Warning: some SPOILERS for Netflix’s Resident Evil series are in play. Consider this a warning that separates relative safety from all the gory details.
It feels like Resident Evil’s big debut in the canon of Netflix shows has inspired a bit of a mixed bag of reactions. I’ve seen stories about some critics and fans absolutely trashing the series, while other feedback is either warmly positive or ready to defend the series in “The Discourse.”
As a fan of Capcom’s legendary gaming franchise, as well as some of the media it’s inspired, now felt like the perfect time to weigh in on how I felt about showrunner Andrew Dabb’s new series. Frankly, I’m on the highly enthusiastic side of the table, and I think fellow Resident Evil enthusiasts need to watch this Netflix series.
Before I jump into the finer points of why, I’ll say again that there will be spoilers in this rundown; not enough to completely spoil the show, but enough to explain why I think it’s worth watching. Also, if you want to get a better sense of where I’m coming from as a franchise devotee, you can also read up on why I was annoyed by Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.
Benchmarks such as those are important in fandom discussions like these, and I recommend taking that piece as a companion to what I'm about to discuss. From this point on, it’s time to get our hands dirty and talk out just why Netflix’s Resident Evil should be in the streaming rotation for any fans of the games.
The Easter Eggs From Resident Evil Lore Aren’t Overbearing
Throwing it back to Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, or any other project based on a well-beloved saga in this vein, Easter eggs are a very touchy subject. In the case of that most recent cinematic trip into Raccoon City, they were an overbearing mess. I’m happy to say that in this live-action series, the Easter eggs are way easier to accept. The show is so well put together that when Resident Evil’s Season 1 finale name drops a pretty big character from the games, you want to know where it’s going next.
These references also add texture, as there’s everything from mentions of research papers written by Resident Evil 2 character William Birkin and emails about “Uroboros” that are hidden in plain sight. Even the presence of a Chainsaw Man in the mix isn't clumsily included as "something important," but rather a nice tip of the hat to something fans love.
Trying To Figure Out How The Capcom Games Fit Into The Netflix Series Is Part Of The Fun
Despite the mixed reception to how Resident Evil’s mythos works within the canon of the games, the way this Netflix show handles the balance between what to use and when is part of the fun. There are plenty of references to the original Raccoon City event, and the whole matter of how Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick) is alive in the first place refers to the events of Resident Evil 5.
That said, there’s still a lot of time that hasn’t been accounted for between those games and the shifting timeline of Resident Evil’s events. Trying to figure out how other characters in Capcom’s games could appear in the new chapter of the saga, as well as just how much OG Raccoon City factors into things, is a catalyst that works to the show’s advantage.
Rather than just retell the disastrous events of that first T-Virus outbreak, Andrew Dabb and the writer’s room honor those events without having to rehash them entirely. It makes the end result unpredictable, with a familiar foundation that is still very much important to Resident Evil’s future.
Gigantic T-Virus Mutated Monsters Are Back, Baby!
It may not be as important as getting the lore of the Resident Evil series right, but most of the previous incarnations skimped out on the massively mutated creatures the games featured in earlier entries. While you could always count on a Doberman infected with the T-Virus to be present, gigantic spiders, sharks and more recently alligators had yet to be featured on screen.
Well, at least that was the case until the Netflix series brought back gigantic T-Virus mutated monsters! Caterpillars, spiders and, yes, a very heroic alligator all get to take part in the fun throughout Season 1. The gator is an especially nice touch, as the way the character is used is borderline Godzilla-style territory. Resident Evil has always had an odd menagerie of beasties that pose a threat to humanity, and now they’re finally coming back to the live-action fold!
Resident Evil Organically Brings The Game’s Famous Puzzle Mechanics Into An Episode
One of the biggest problems in adapting a game like Resident Evil is organically integrating the game mechanics into an unfolding narrative. Working with clues steeped in wordplay, traps that can be set off by the slightest disturbance and various brain teasers involving a piano has always been a strength to the Capcom games and their plots.
Yet somehow, no one seemed to crack how to make this element work in an actual filmed narrative, at least not in the way that the Resident Evil series did. In Episode 5, aptly titled “Home Movies,” a good portion of the episode sees Billie (Siena Agudong) and Jade (Tamara Smart) Wesker working through a set of clues their father Albert (Lance Reddick) left them in case of emergencies.
Proving how Resident Evil works really well in the context of a TV series, dedicating an episode to such a nod is a smart move. Instead of shoehorning it into a feature film narrative, the majority of an episode allows the effort put into these puzzles to shine through an impressive slow burn. It's also a competitor for the honors of the best episode of Season 1, but that's something we can talk about another time.
Albert Wesker Is Both A Brand New Character, And The Same Old Maniac
Speaking of Albert Wesker, the legendary maniac of the Umbrella Corporation gets to occupy two different contexts in Resident Evil. Casting Lance Reddick is one of the brilliant moves that allows Wesker to return as his usual, ruthless self, which is something we do get to see in some flashbacks.
However, if you’re a dyed in the wool fan, you’ve probably guessed a crucial truth about the whole Wesker plotline that’s presented in a world that includes the history of Resident Evil 5. Yes, there are Wesker clones running around in the story that New Raccoon City builds its bones on, and Lance Reddick plays all four variants of the same genetic code.
Ranging from total asshole to excitable Olive Garden patron, with a firm father figure right in the middle, Reddick’s performances further nail this exciting spin on the Resident Evil mythos. One can hope that more flashbacks will allow for each incarnation to shine even more, despite the events that closed off Season 1.
This Series Allows Resident Evil To Have A Bigger Heart Than Ever Before
It wouldn’t truly be a Resident Evil project without some ties into the usual battle against the Umbrella Corporation’s greed and hubris. With the ruthless Evelyn Marcus (Paola Núñez) trying to restore her family’s legacy to the company, and a highly dangerous drug known as “Joy” looking to kick off the next big T-Virus outbreak, things are pretty much business as usual in 2022. But in both halves of the time-jumping narrative, one thread is present that allows Resident Evil to have a bigger heart than ever before.
At the crossroads of teen family drama and a deadly case of sibling rivalry as adults, Billie and Jade Wesker’s story takes a lot of things Resident Evil trades in and flips them around. Building an actual, emotional storyline, these genetically altered twins aren’t just creepy thematic wallpaper for the leads of the games to encounter. As there are still quite a few gaps in the story of how these sisters were separated, both physically and morally, the few clues we have to what happened between 2022 and 2036 are deadly and heartbreaking.
Even the mostly vicious Evelyn Marcus has moments that show her as someone who cares for her family, while also wanting the world. There may be plenty of the usual horror, action and dark humor in Resident Evil’s Netflix series; but there’s also a core that allows audiences to care about the figures moving across the board of the apocalypse. You might even find yourself caring about a gigantic T-Virus mutated alligator if you’re not careful.
It’s unavoidable that the reaction to Netflix’s Resident Evil is a mixed bag when it comes to the audience’s reactions. Some want more of a loyal retelling of the plotline from the games, others might want something different, and some just think that no proper adaptation of Capcom’s games exists.
The way I see it, Andrew Dabb and his team have created something that’s the best of both worlds, with a lot of promise in how it can evolve in the future. Should you be interested in taking this journey for yourself (and I highly recommend that you do), Netflix subscribers can currently stream all eight episodes of Season 1.
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Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.