By the fourth episode of the new 2022 “Resident Evil” Netflix series, I was bored out of my skull. Like the movies before them, a zombie apocalypse story has been written and gilded with Resident Evil edges as an attempt to draw in fans of the video games. References and nostalgia are the bait for this series, and even that fails miserably in the face of a convoluted story that takes far too much time to get anywhere. At least the movies are so bad they’re funny. This is just…bad.
Against a post-apocalyptic backdrop in 2036, the story follows Jade Wesker (Ella Balinska) as she navigates her way through the zombie-riddled wasteland that apparently only took fourteen years to turn into “Mad Max” meets “The Walking Dead.” No one is helpful, humans have split into factions, and Jade has been studying zombies to try and find a cure for the current outbreak. Naturally, this entire six month project of hers goes pear-shaped within the first episode.
But herein lies the problem: Because this show came with the “Resident Evil” stamp, the fact that not a single character from the game- save one- is actually involved gave me very little reason to care. It feels like this series was actually written as a stand-alone, but couldn’t survive without some sort of franchise tie-in. The only thing “Resident Evil” about the series are a name drop and a few throw-away enemies from the games.
You Need A Map to Find the Plot
In a nutshell, here’s the plot: Albert Wesker, (Lance Reddick), or rather one of three clones of him (clones? Really??) and his daughters Billie (Sienna Agudong) and Jade (Tamara Smart) move toNew Raccoon City, a factory-produced suburb created by Umbrella after the first city was wiped from the map by a nuclear strike to cover up the first outbreak. There the story of how this new outbreak occurred unfolds, in frustratingly slow detail as it transitions constantly from 2022 to 2036 in order to understand a plot that probably would have taken about two episodes to explain if it was written better.
Our new antagonist in the past is Evelyn Marcus (Paola Nunez), grandaughter of James Marcus. She feels like a combination of Anna Wintour and Richard Sackler; obsessed with making a wonder drug called “Joy” that can apparently rid a person of depression, anxiety, and even their free will. She has no regard for human life and wants to use this drug to create a mind-controlled society under the banner of “changing the world”. No pain, no fear, no depression. You know. Super villain stuff.
She spends so much of the series threatening and intimidating people that you question why people even trust her as a competent businesswoman in the first place. If she’s the new face of Umbrella, they could have tried a lot harder to make her at least appear trustworthy on the surface. But she’s just Cruella De Ville from the get go. Yawn.
In 2022, before the outbreak, Billy and Jade break into the new Umbrella facility, with the presumption they’re doing animal testing and must rescue the subjects, and release a dog infected by the T-Virus. An infected Doberman from the game, specifically. Billie gets bitten in the process of their escape. Somehow this new, completely automated facility has not a single guard around in case something goes wrong.
Billie’s bite isn’t what causes a new infection, though. It’s apparently the survival of a Tyrant after the new Umbrella facility is blown up in a series of convoluted events that lead to Billie and Jade’s clone father giving his life for them, while another clone survives to protect them. Even on paper this sounds silly.
How Much Head Trauma Can This Woman Take?
In the present time, Jade does nothing but run for her life from bad situation to worse situation, making foolish decisions the whole of the way. Which has me wondering how she managed to survive six months in an zombified London. And there are only so many times a story can knock a person out before you realize that the writers had no idea how to transition their characters from one place to another.
What does any of this have to do with “Resident Evil?” Quite literally nothing. Billie (Adeline Rudolph), for reasons unknown even at the end of this first season, is now the bad guy. Treating Jade like garbage, she’s paranoid, unhinged, and spewing the same Saturday morning cartoon villain rhetoric as Evelyn. That she’s the future and will change the world into something better because her life sucked as a teenager.
About three episodes in this series is a slog and really not worth your time. The only way plot events progress is by Jade making perpetually worse decisions and proceeds not to learn from those mistakes, or getting knocked out. She even influences her daughter Bea (Ella Zieglmeier) to make a decision that any parent would never. Jade is written too impulsive too many times for me to feel sympathy for things going wrong.
This series is a sandwich of poor writing and bad pacing, overloaded with lengthy conversations and drawn out shots that do nothing but fill the time they don’t have the material for. At an hour run-time per episode, it just leaves you feeling tired and glad it’s over. Almost every dramatic scene can’t stand on its own without a popular modern song being played over it to tell viewers how they’re supposed to be feeling. If you have to work that hard to evoke a response, maybe your show just isn’t that good.
The plot holes will obviously get filled in later if the past-to-present structure is how they’re going, but the constant flip-flop between the two just feels like you’re being bombarded with story threads as a means of keeping viewers confused enough that they aren’t sure what they’re watching is actually good. Answer: It’s not.
As a long-standing fan of the games, I was hopeful that this series was actually going to take a chance and try to stay true to the source material. Luckily, my expectations weren’t that high. A few references to the lore of the games, about three favorite monster types, a Lisa Trevor that looks like someone sewed together cheap Halloween masks, and one ten minute scene with the true Wesker does not a “Resident Evil” series make. Don’t bother with this one. It takes too long to get where it’s going, and still hasn’t found a map by the end of season one.
The full series is currently streaming on Netflix.