The only name that will be familiar to “Resident Evil” gamers here will be Albert Wesker, who was first introduced in the original 1996 game as the captain of the Raccoon City Police Department’s Special Tactics and Rescue Service, but his character arc has really changed over the years to represent any nefarious evil pulling the strings. In the gaming world, the mastermind behind a lot of the carnage died in “Resident Evil 5” in 2009—the intense action here often recalls that game more than any other, by the way. He was played by Jason O’Mara in “Resident Evil: Extinction” and Shawn Roberts in “Resident Evil: Afterlife” but it’s the great Lance Reddick who steps into the role here, playing him more traditionally as a power player in the world-destroying Umbrella Corporation.
Wesker has moved to New Raccoon City after the old one was destroyed in an Umbrella cover-up to control an undead pandemic. He’s there with his twin daughters Jade (Tamara Smart) and Billie (Siena Agudong), who have to adjust to life in a new part of the world. Yes, “Resident Evil” has teen coming-of-age drama elements, something no one has ever associated with this genre and an aspect that feels like a producer wanted to reach a coveted YA audience more than the fans of the games or movies. (I picture a studio note that says, “Can it be more like ‘Stranger Things’?”) To be fair, Billie gets bitten early in the season, which leads the girls down a path to figure what dad’s company actually does, but a lot of the sister stuff falls flat. The more effective material from this half of the show’s dual-track narrative comes courtesy of the show-stealing Paola Nunez as Evelyn Marcus, Albert’s boss. Nunez understands that this show should be fun, and so she delivers a lot of her lines with a sly smile that elevates her character’s evil.
The other half of the show takes place 14 years later, after the world has collapsed, leaving only human refugees hiding out from what they call “Zeroes,” or the brain-dead horde that’s trying to eat them alive. This half of the show recalls “The Walking Dead” in its survivalist structure, but that show had actors like Steven Yeun and Jon Bernthal to hook viewers. Ella Balinska is a capable action heroine as the older Jade but the structure forces her into episodic encounters as she tries to survive and escape the Umbrella soldiers who are still after her, and the flashback structure drains the momentum.
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