When Netflix first announced that it was moving ahead with a live-action Resident Evil series, most fans knew what to expect. There would be some jump scares, a lot of gore, and a plot that made little-to-no sense. As long as it cleared the aggressively low bar set by Resident Evil: Apocalypse, everyone would be happy. That is not the show Supernatural‘s Andrew Dabb has delivered. Netflix’s Resident Evil isn’t just one of the best additions to this storied franchise. It’s far and away one of the most addicting, thrilling, and delightfully unpredictable shows of 2022.
That sentiment may sound like hyperbole, but it’s true. Resident Evil fucking slaps. Even if you’ve never played a second of the games or have never watched the Milla Jovovich series, chances are that you’ll be hooked. Set between two timelines, the series follows twin sisters Jade and Billie Wesker. In 2022, the teenaged Jade (Tamara Smart) and Billie (Siena Agudong) launch an ill-fated investigation into what their father, Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick), really does. And because he works for Umbrella Corporation, you just know that everything he touches is morally deplorable. Fourteen years later, we see how devastating Albert and Umbrella Corporation’s experiments were as an adult Jade (Ella Balinska) desperately tries to find a cure for the zombie-making T-virus.
At every moment, these two timelines complement each other. While an adult Jade is revving up a chainsaw and preparing to saw through a literal horde of monsters, her younger self is discovering that she’s isn’t the only one who has encountered an infected person. As young Jade and Billie are forced to run and hide from various Umbrella lackeys, our hero’s older counterpart is trapped in the middle of tense trade negotiations. At almost every point in this story, someone is scheming to get the upper hand while someone else is literally fighting for their lives against some of the coolest monsters on TV. The result is a nonstop thrill ride.
But even that pacing and Resident Evil‘s exceptional directorial work can’t fully explain why this show is so great. No, the final piece to this particular puzzle rests in its acting. Both Smart and Agudong capture the messiness, irrationality, and deep feelings that come with being a teenager without ever drifting over into farce. Balinska makes for a killer action star as she always looks cool while never drifting into superhero territory. And then there’s Lance Reddick. Reddick has always been an exceptional actor, but Resident Evil gives him the space to show off how extraordinary he is. Throughout the series, he switches from loving father to sinister corporate overlord in seconds, just to highlight two of the many turns he takes.
It’s this combination of talent, chemistry, storytelling, jaw-dropping VFX work, killer soundtrack, and great direction that consistently makes seemingly impossible moments work. A great example has to do with Resident Evil’s midseason bottle episode. The games have always featured a similar gameplay loop: run from monsters, fight those monsters, solve a needlessly convoluted puzzle. It’s that last detail that’s often missing from on-screen adaptations, and for good reason. If you’re not actively solving them, those puzzles can be a snooze. Yet somehow Resident Evil the series manages to incorporate this element, dedicating an episode to parsing through the layers of a single mystery. Even the most ridiculous elements of this puzzle always manage to feel interesting, rather than tedious.
That sort of loyalty to the source material appears in every strand of this show’s DNA. If you’ve been a longtime fan of this universe, your expertise will be rewarded through several monster revelations and name drops. Yet the series is never too overt in these moments, choosing to let these big Easter eggs casually land rather than holding for applause. If that isn’t you, don’t worry. You’re not going to miss a single beat.
When Capcom released the first Resident Evil game in 1996, it paved the way for a genre of horror games that were heavy on the jump scares and refused to take anything too seriously. That’s exactly the kind of energy Dabb’s Netflix adaptation has channeled. Packed with humor, heart, and some of the coolest action scenes of the year, it’s a show that will leaving you alternatively screaming at and cheering for your television. Resident Evil is simply a great time. What more could you want?
All episodes in Resident Evil Season 1 premiere on Netflix on Thursday, July 14.