ANN/THE STAR – At some point in the genesis of Netflix’s new Resident Evil series, its writing team fumbled a dice roll and decided it would be a good idea to have the story driven almost completely by stupid decisions.
Uh, don’t we have enough of that in real life already? This is escapism we came for, not a mirror.
Though I guess we could turn it into escapism by treating any given episode of the show as a game.
Take a swig of your preferred beverage whenever main character Jade (Charlie’s Angels’ Ella Balinska as an “adult”, Tamara Smart as a teen) said “I’ve got this under control”, and another one a couple of minutes later when she’s tearing her hair out and whining “Oh nooo what have I done?” or “This is all my fault!”
You’ll be feeling no pain soon enough. To be fair, there appears to be a lot of promise, and some sense of mystery, at the start of this eight-episode first season brought to us by Andrew Dabb, co-showrunner of Supernatural seasons 12-15.
An apocalypse – no doubt, caused by the greedy mega-company Umbrella Corp and its notorious T-virus – has left humanity crammed into small, desperate bastions around the world while zombified, mutated afflictees roam everywhere else.
Big Jade is conducting some sort of experiment on the ‘Zeroes’, as these creatures are called, when the series opens; of course, thanks to some missteps on her part, things go sideways quickly enough.
This opening foreshadows the head-scratching bewilderment to come, as the story cuts back and forth between Big Jade and Teen Jade and drags us down into a mire of impulsive, irrational, selfish, inexplicable decisions that are used to propel the show forward.
And when I say “forward”, I mean lurch about in a crude approximation of motion.
The show dwells on Jade’s teenage years with her sister Billie (Sienna Agudong) way too long as all these flashbacks ultimately add way too little to the big picture.
In fact, right after the rather decent fourth episode where Big Jade and (to that point) the series’ most annoying character make a frantic escape from a nightmarish prison, the lengthy flashback in the fifth installment just kills the momentum completely.
It’s almost enough to make you stop viewing, if the following episodes did not put series co-star Lance Reddick front and centre in a somewhat unexpected development.
Sure, we know Reddick is playing ‘Albert Wesker’ from the start, but you figure that it’s just the show trying to dip a toe into the games’ (and Milla Jovovich movies’) mythology.
But his presence has stronger ties to canon thanks to the show’s one bright twist from Episode Six on, after which Reddick steals every scene he’s in (right down to a gobsmacking, probably unintentional Pikotaro homage in the final episode).
More of this delirious, delicious nonsense earlier on in the series in place of the uninteresting teen-angsty flashbacks and horrendously awful Big Jade decisions would have done Resident Evil a world of good.
As things stand, even with its efforts to link up with established game/series mythology, this first season only serves to make one appreciative of the other, better Resident Evil fare on Netflix (including the underrated Welcome To Raccoon City movie).
Play that game enough, though, and you might soon be commending the brilliant way it weaponises stupidity, extending the ordeal of “survival horror” from its characters to the audience as well.