At the time of writing, Netflix’s Resident Evil series hasn’t been getting the greatest of reviews and I can generally see why. I mean, we’re only two episodes in and the fact that the story is split between two time periods is turning out to be more of a hindrance than than a benefit as both plot threads sort of collide into one another in order to get our attention but has so far failed.
Still, I’m somewhat of a positive person – even when it comes to live action Resident Evil properties – and we still have six whole episodes to go to turn things around, but until then its business as usual as we wind our way through the standard post/pre-outbreak sort of shenanigans that we’ve seen a hundred times before.
Still, it’s streaming, so all it’s going to cost me is time, I guess.
When we last left Jade in the apocalyptic England of 2036, she had thrown herself off the side of a human outpost in order to avoid falling into the clutches of the Umbrella Corporation who have mysteriously named her public enemy number one, but luckily for her, it’s her fall that’s broken and not her entire skeleton. Avoiding the gaggle of Zeroes (read: zombies) that have converged around the structure like gangs of youths hanging out around a McDonald’s on a Saturday night in the 90’s, Jade is rescued by a strange man in a jeep who drives her to moderate safety. While it doesn’t work out too well for him (easy come, easy go, dude), Jade manages to make it to Dover only to find that the town is under Umbrella protection and realises she’ll have to try and get to France if she’s ever going to avoid Umbella’s grip.
Meanwhile, during the 2022 flashback, we rejoin young Jade and her twin sister Billie after their run in with a mutant dog that took a sizable bite out of Billie’s shoulder. After killing the dog, they are bailed out of certain jail time for trespassing by their scientist father, Albert Wesker who hides them away and cooks up a story to appease stern Umbrella bigwig Evelyn Marcus – even going as far to rub the dog’s blood all over his face to fake the look of an attack. However, Jade finds her father’s stories of that manical dog simply being there to be treated for an illness a bit on the bullshitty side and decides to do some digging of her own online to try and get the truth about the ubiquitous corporation and bonds with internet whistleblower Angel after sneaking round Umbrella’s firewall who has some worrying news about a devastating infection that happened before in Tijuana.
Meanwhile, Billie’s bite seems to be having some worrisome side effects from her wound including surprising acts of aggression, but does it anything to do with the violent spasms her father secretly suffers from that he keeps under control with a big-ass injection?
Putting giant caterpillars and infected dogs on the backburner for the time being, Resident Evil’s second episode is a noticably more restrained affair with the main threat coming from the dependable actions of zombies – but even though we get some reassuring scenes of Zeroes swarming after their victims, they don’t seem to be much of a threat with Jade escaping their clutches rather easily. Later on we even get a semi-humerous scene where our heroine has to snatch a vital macguffin from a Zero handcuffed in the bathroom of his wife’s apartment but this proves to be an oddly diverting change from the usual conspiracy theories and lab wandering the franchise usually trades on. However, if one thing stands out from this episode, it’s the deliberately strange tone the show seems to be clumsily trying to zero (pun intended) in on, which seems to be a mixture of Lynchian weirdness mixed with the glibness of the usual post-apocalyptic swaggering seen in the later Paul W. S. Anderson movies and it doesn’t seem to be working. Take Turlough Convery’s slobby Umbrella operative Richard Baxter – is he supposed to be threatening? Funny? Both? Unfortunately he’s neither and it’s not until Umbrella unleashes killer drones onto the population of Dover during the climax that the sinister corporation is actually something that should be feared, instead of just coasting by on pre-existing knowledge we’ve gotten from over twenty years of videogames and movies.
Adding to this is the performance of Paola Núñez as 2022’s head of Umbrella, Evelyn Marcus which, while being an ok performance, is hardly subtle as she give the character such an oversized injection of “frosty villain” that her constant unblinking stare is a titanic read flag it makes the show’s approach to Umbrella somewhat confusing. We know that it’s evil, not just because of all the other media we’ve experienced over the years, but because the 2036 timeline drills it into us endlessly; now, this all very well and good, but it means that that the 2022 plotline is essentially playing catch up to what we already know and it’s nowhere near gripping enough to make us give much of a shit about the journey.
Still, despite all this, I am still curious about what is going on with Lance Reddick’s Albert Wesker, as his character seems to be walking an intriguing line between a genuine, caring, but overworked parent and an utterly batshit, insane, mad professor who will intimidate the parents of the kid who is bullying his child but at the same time let the child suffer a bite from a zombie dog just to see what will happen. Similarly, now that whatever is coursing through Billie veins has started to get her to act less like a passive wimp, I’m starting to warm up to her too – although the fact she punches a jogger full in the face over a disagreement about a dog always helps.
So, after two episodes, Resident Evil is hardly endearing itself to either fans or newbies, but with a host of classic creatures from the games waiting in the wings, there’s still plenty of time to wring a mindless monster mash out of this series if only it stops taking so much time teasing us about things it’s already told us.