The world would be a much better place if it wasn’t for shady pharmaceutical companies with megalomaniacs in charge. This is certainly true of Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corporation, led by the unhinged Evelyn Marcos (Paola Núñez), who repeatedly reminds viewers she wants to change the world. Despite largely being detached from the storyline of the games, there are references to the original Raccoon City incident – and others – which will appease fans here, even if Netflix’s adaptation is more teen drama than outright anime horror.
This is a silly, silly television show, riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies. There’s no real logic to the way events unfold, so you need to switch off your brain as it segues between two connected timelines, depicting the origins of a deadly outbreak and the aftermath. Tearaway twin sisters Jade (Ella Balinska, Tamara Smart) and Billie Wesker (Adeline Rudolph, Siena Agudong) provide the through line for the plot, beginning in the present day as they struggle to adapt to their dystopian New Raccoon City surroundings as teenagers. Set in South Africa, this Umbrella-owned complex is all white-washed walls and picket fences: blissfully inspired by the American dream.
Both of the protagonists have plot armour, so you never get any sense of impending danger – particularly in the present day, when you already know Jade’s still alive. As is par for the course for horror fiction, they all make terrible decisions constantly – the kind that will have you screaming at your television screen. Motives and emotions seem to change at the scriptwriter’s whim, and so it can be a little difficult to keep track of everyone’s intentions. You do get a sense that the show is simply making it up as it goes along.
While we appreciated the globe-trotting aspect of the future scenes, the decision to tackle the T-Virus as a widespread global pandemic doesn’t exactly help the show to stand out. Resident Evil is at its best when it’s personal: a contained outbreak in a small, confined location. This isn’t that, and some of the later set-pieces make sure you know it. Nevertheless, the action sequences are entertaining in a ridiculous kind of way, especially one underground scene with Lickers – although the ending payoff never quite delivers to the level that we’d have liked it to. It sets up a sequel, of course, but Nemesis only knows if Netflix will make it.
Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick) steals the show a lot of the time, even if he is banging his head against an idiotic script. It’s important to remember that Resident Evil is not exactly high art to begin with, and so it feels befitting of the franchise to take the story in such a stupid direction. However, faithful fans may take umbrage with the direction employed here: this is “well hello, fellow kids” cringe as opposed to “Chris Redfield punches a boulder” ridiculousness. It’s Resident Evil for the Riverdale crowd, and you’ll already know whether that appeals to you.
The show’s pacing does come to a crawl around Episode 5 where the teenage twins embark on an Easter egg hunt for what feels like an eternity. While this does bring some of the puzzle solving aspects from the games into the adaptation, it feels like cynical hot air designed to boost Netflix’s watch time statistics. Nevertheless, it goes off the rails from there, so the lunacy at least feels earned. And when we say off the rails, we really mean it: not even Chris Redfield’s chiselled chest muscles are ready for the silliness that ensues.
That’s not to say that it’s not all entertaining, of course – it is. You just have to turn your brain off and let it wash over you, because as alluded to earlier, the writers will do anything for a shock or a twist – even if, in many cases, it means defying the rules of the universe they’ve established. In the show’s defence, it never really strives to be an award-winning masterpiece: it knows it’s goofy, cartoon horror and it leans heavily into that.
The debate will, of course, rage about whether this needed to be based on Resident Evil in the first place. While the connections to the games do deepen as the plot progresses, it’s still ultimately its own thing – both tonally and from a pure lore perspective. There’s fun to be had from the sheer stupidity of it all, though, and even if many of the plot devices have been done to death – shady pharmaceutical firm! Unhinged CEO! Dumbass teenage decision making! – it passes Netflix’s binge-worthy test. For that alone, we think the show’s a success.
For more on Resident Evil, you can read our First Impressions through here. How would you rate the show? Were you able to embrace its silliness, or was it a little too cringe for you? Don’t let the dogs out in the comments section below.