Since the franchise surged onto my dad’s 32-inch (54 inch deep) tv in 1996, I was hooked on it. Yes, it was a bit much for a five-year-old to see but I loved sitting next to my dad watching him play it and as the years went by, I watched my brother play the games too. So, when I heard they were finally making a TV series for Resident Evil, I was excited but sceptical at the same time. After the films starring Milla Jovovich took a nosedive after Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) and the games hit a bump from Resi5 (it was saved by Resident Evil: Biohazard in 2017), I didn’t hold the bar up too high. I am glad I didn’t waste my strength. Please note there is spoilers, not that it matters.
Brief History Behind The Games
Resident Evil was released on Playstation1 in 1996 by Capcom. It was their first title in the Resident Evil franchise and received rave reviews. Produced by Tokuro Fujiwara and developed by Shinji Mikami, it has been cited as a game that defined the survival horror genre and bringing back zombies to popular culture. It was given praise for its graphics, atmosphere, gameplay and sound even though the voice acting left a little bit to be desired. Jill Valentine saying “Barry” always rings in my mind, as well as the infamous “You were almost a Jill Sandwich” line from Barry Burton.
By December 1997 it had sold over 4 million copies and made almost $346,000,000 (in 2021 value). Capcom went on to create more games, books, comics, novels and many other things. Of course, the films have to play a part and they started off really well. Yes, bringing in Alice was a whole new character, but it worked in telling the story. After the third film, it went massively downhill, if not comical. It did throw in characters from the games such as Chris Redfield, Claire Redfield, Leon S Kennedy, Barry Burton and Jill Valentine turned up at some point across the films but never used them to their full potential and in some cases, portrayed them incorrectly. Having said that, people stayed true to the franchise and with it being rejuvenated from Resident Evil 7: Biohazazrd, it gave people new hope. The sequel Resident Evil Village (8) dropped last year to ecstatic reviews by critics, YouTubers and gamers worldwide and by May 2022 had shifted over 6.1 million units.
Resident Evil 2 and 3 games, both received an update and revamp with the new RE engine. Resident Evil 2 (2019) received massive praise in its development, gameplay and storytelling while Resident Evil 3 (2020), even though great with its graphics and storytelling, a lot of fans were disappointed with the new (and somewhat) improved story but lack of gameplay. It was significantly shorter than the original game and left fans wanting more. A new DLC “Shadows of Rose”, a continuation of Resi8, is due for release on 28th October 2022.
Let’s Have a Look at This Series
To start with, this series is tagged as “loosely” based on the gaming franchise. I hate that. Why call it Resident Evil, if you’re not going to stay true to the lore of such an influential franchise? I know why, it’s so people will watch it expecting what they love to have a flesh embodied appearance. But wow! I will not tear it apart completely as it’s not meant to be on the same timeline or within the same universe as the games or film series but at the same time… why use characters who are so intricate to the story of Resident Evil?
It’s a ploy to get people to watch the series. Throughout the series, little Easter eggs from the games are shown to keep fans interested and give a little hope to seeing them later in the series. Some of these can be a little misleading, for example the name “Barry” creeps up in episode two when Jade is trying to find a way to Calais. This name drop made me think of Barry Burton, a beloved character of the franchise, and after the disastrous first episode, I thought “Please don’t do the dirty on Barry”. Thankfully, it wasn’t, the wife in the show is called Melinda not Kathy like in the game series.
Another fleeting reference is made to Dr William Birkin, a key character in the development of the T and G virus in episode five and as all die hard fans know, Birkin (who has a child called Sherry, that’s another story) worked closely with Albert Wesker under Dr James Marcus (one of three founding members of the Umbrella Corporation). If anyone is familiar with the lore of the original series, Birkin and Wesker are actually a part of the Umbrella Secret Service Task Force who assassinate Marcus under the instruction of Dr Oswald E Spencer, whom Birkin and Wesker had been working for. This effectively made them double agents, they took Marcus’s research and used it to create subsequent viruses and bio weapons.
If you would like to find out more of the backstory to Resident Evil and Umbrella, then head over to Resident Evil Wiki. You can also watch a YouTube video by Gaming Bolt which covers the whole history including the games.
There are loads of little Easter eggs throughout the show referencing monsters such as Lickers and Tyrants, and then there is one HUGE egg which can lead into series two, the infamous Ada Wong.
References are made to the original Raccoon City, which was blown up in 1998, so why make a flashback to Wesker in the Arklay Mountains in 2005, doesn’t make sense to me. Then there is the clones storyline, the fact that Wesker has children Jade and Billie (who are the main story tellers of the series) when in Resident Evil 6, Wesker has a son called Jake Muller who came out of nowhere (that’s another story in itself), and helped Sherry Birkin.
The series is poorly written and the two running time lines, if you put them together do not make sense. One time line is in the past with younger versions of Jade Wesker and her “twin” sister Billie who turns up later in the series. The sulky attitude of Jade does my head in, any teenager acting like that needs a kick up the arse. Also, not many teenagers actually act like that, then the bullying of Billie at school, what is that kid’s problem? Another issue I had was that the bully’s father was Issacs, Dr Issacs who is in the film franchise is an important and deadly researcher/scientist. Yet again a name is dropped to prick fan’s ears but doesn’t have any reference to the actual Dr Alexander Issacs. This guy is a blabbering idiot, after Wesker makes threats to his position within Umbrella. Just a bit sad to be honest.
The main timeline is set in 2036 after the end of the world. Jade is clearly trying to do her own experiments but is really hapless in combat. If you have been surviving with Zeros and huge monsters since 2022, why have you not picked up Survival 101? She is rather selfish in her research and actions which she constantly refers to as “making a future for Bea” her child. Billie is ridiculous when she turns up, being a part of Umbrella controlling Evelyn Marcus (the main bad guy if you want) but still holding childish grudges.
The constant running away from something is actually annoying. What made the games great was the tension it created and the thought of not knowing what was coming next. All action in this series is predictable and resolved via coincidence and convenience. Jade has to fight everything which just wouldn’t happen, too many times she gets grabbed and wrestled to not get bitten. In the games you have limited resources to fight anything, you have to pick your battles which is a form of gaming stress, this doesn’t appear anywhere. She comes close to dying constantly, and sometimes it’s through her own stupidity but barely has an injury. Jade is meant to be a child of Wesker, an incredibly intelligent and dangerous fighting machine, so why is she so shit at everything?
Billie isn’t a lot better. They never explain when she’s younger why in the last school she was seen as a monster and then her attitude after getting bitten by the Cerberus (a zombified Doberman), just becomes both pathetic and irritating. When you jump to the future, she’s just a comical bad guy which doesn’t sit well with me. Her escaping from the hoard of Zeros using drones and machine gun fire just looks ridiculous and is a lazy cop out.
One saving grace of this whole disaster of a series was the stories featuring Albert Wesker (played Lance Reddick). He takes control of every scene he’s in no matter how bad his fellow actors are. His scenes with Evelyn (played Paola Nunez) are tense and well written. When Wesker comes down the stairs in the flashback he gives Wesley Snipes a good run for Blade. He looks completely badass and displays the mutations of his experiments on himself like in the games and films. His own back story could be a series itself and that I would whole heartedly watch.
I could go a lot deeper into what is right and wrong with this series. It has a lot to be desired. It was ok in bits, slow in others, unnecessary in other bits and not a lot given to some scenes. I understand they want it to be a stand-alone series, but it has to be written correctly and if you are going to crossover with popular characters, make the best use of them. If they could tidy up some story lines that don’t need to be there, the silly childishness of the main players which make it cheesy, sort out the action and give the whole thing more suspense and atmosphere. The ending of the past timeline, the girls going to find Ada Wong could work out brilliantly. I am disappointed that the series creator and show runner Andrew Dabb is meant to be a fan of the games but has made a mess of it. It’s sticky and loose in some parts with some pointless side plots and with only a brief mention of Tyrant and a glimpse of the Lickers (which were not used to their terrifying potential), I wasn’t overwhelmed.
It was commissioned for three seasons, since the first season has aired and received such terrible ratings (3.8/10 on IMDB with over 27 thousand reviews), the third season reportedly has been shelved and season two will finish filming. It’s cheaper for them to finish filming and creating the season than it is to cancel. Hopefully they can salvage this next season. Tidy it up, make it slicker, less action, more tension. If you want to check it out for yourself and give me your opinion, then head over to Netflix to catch the series.
For me, I want a lot less of Jade’s silly stupidity, less childishness from Billie and more story from Wesker and (hopefully) Ada in the next season.