What could the Resident Evil Netflix series look like?

A recent report from Deadline has confirmed that Resident Evil is heading to Netflix as a scripted TV series. The series is being produced by Constantin Film, the same company behind the oft-lambasted (yet incredibly lucrative) Milla Jovovich-starring Resident Evil movie franchise. However, before fans start to worry, the few details we know about the TV series suggest it will be a different sort of beast than the movies that preceded it. So what could the Resident Evil TV series end up looking like?

What we know so far

Details are scarce at the moment, which isn’t surprising since it sounds like the TV series is still in the very early stages of development. What we do know (at least going by the above Deadline report) is that the series will be set after the initial T-Virus outbreak that defined the early Resident Evil games (along with the recently release Resident Evil 2 remake).

The Deadline report also says the series will “deepen the existing mythology” of the Resident Evil universe and will focus heavily on the inner-workings of the villainous Umbrella Corporation. Nothing seems to suggest the TV series will be connected to the movies in any way, but we can’t confirm that fact for certain.

Keeping things small

Some fans may disagree with me on this, but I actually thought the first Milla Jovovich Resident Evil movie was pretty good. It had a small, self-contained setting which combined original characters with iconic Resident Evil elements like zombies and undead dogs.

A big reason why I like the first movie so much (and why I think later movies in the series lost their way) is its sense of scale. By keeping things small and lean, the film allowed audiences to bond with the characters and become invested in their single goal (escaping). The action scenes were also used judiciously and with a sense of purpose that aided the larger narrative. Again, compare that with the later movies which were just chock full of “one-up” action set-pieces that felt hollow and were entirely devoid of tension.

My point with all this is that Resident Evil works best when the overall scope is kept to a minimum. Allusions can be made to the larger global impact of the T-Virus outbreak, but the Netflix TV series should be kept as small as possible. I’m talking a small setting, a small cast of characters, sparing use of action scenes, etc. Let the tension build, let audiences get familiar with the characters and root for them (and mourn for the ones who inevitably become zombie food).

Of course, just because the show has a small scale doesn’t mean there can’t be any major world-building.

Embrace the dark side

I admit I’m intrigued by the prospect of focusing predominantly on the Umbrella Corporation. I think that’s something which neither the games nor the movies have been able to do to a satisfying degree. The games mostly reference Umbrella’s involvement through background lore and ancillary documents the player can find.

The movies, meanwhile, were too focused on steering Milla Jovovich’s Alice towards her next big action scene to portray Umbrella as anything more substantive than a boardroom full of mustache-twirling rich people.

One concept which I think could work for the Resident Evil Netflix series would be doing a sort of “before and after” premise. The “before” section would be flashbacks of a deep dive into Umbrella’s shady dealings and how the idea of the T-Virus was brought to fruition.

The “after” section, meanwhile, would be present day and focus on a small group of survivors trying to make it out of post-outbreak Raccoon City. The show could cut between the two sections on a per-episode basis, and of course there could be some overlap between the two.

Maybe one of the survivors is a former Umbrella employee who’s trying to keep their work history hidden from the others? Maybe Umbrella deploys certain “measures” to ensure said former employee doesn’t share what they know with the outside world? Maybe the survivors inadvertently discover how deep Umbrella’s influence over Raccoon City goes? No matter what direction the series’ story heads in, making Umbrella a key part of said story should work in its favor.

Make direct game references meaningful

One of the biggest crimes the later Resident Evil movies committed was taking iconic characters and monsters from the games and reducing them to small one-off bit parts (usually as fodder for Alice to effortlessly dispatch in the latter’s case). It was pretty obvious that the movies’ producers didn’t care about respecting the legacy of these characters and monsters, they just wanted to find new ways to trick existing fans into seeing each new movie.

Now, I’m not saying that the Netflix TV series should avoid game-inspired cameos entirely, but the series’ producers should definitely look towards the movies as what not to do. Personally, I think it’d be neat if characters like Hunk or Ada Wong and monsters like Lickers or the Tyrant showed up in the series, but such appearances would need to be treated with care. The characters would need dimension and personality, and the monsters would need to feel suitably dangerous and terrifying.

Of course, I’d be just as ok with the series not having any direct game-referencing elements at all. Again, the very first Resident Evil movie showed that stuffing the script with iconic characters and monsters isn’t necessary for success. Here’s hoping the Netflix series remembers that lesson.

Terrifying potential

As of this writing, there really aren’t any strong indicators of what the Resident Evil Netflix series will look like or how faithful it will be to the games. There’s no showrunner attached, no writers, no script outline, no casting news, nothing. However, Netflix has proved many times over in the past that it can really nail original programming, and its animated Castlevania series has been a particularly big hit for gamers.

I’m the foolishly optimistic type so I’m betting Netflix’s Resident Evil series will be well worth the time I spend watching it. Anything’s possible at this point, though, so for now we’ll just have to wait and see how the streaming giant tackles one of the most iconic franchises in video game history.