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You know what pairs well with summer? A giant, zombie blockbuster. That is exactly what Netflix is delivering with Resident Evil, the streaming giant’s new take on an old property.
Over the years, we’ve seen dozens of iterations of Resident Evil. There were the Milla Jovovich movies that barely followed the games, Welcome to Raccoon City, the mainline games, the spinoff titles, the anime, and the animated movies. It’s a whole complex universe. That’s what makes Netflix’s new addition way more confusing than it needs to be. Whether you’re a diehard Resident Evil fan or a newbie, we have your back. Here is exactly how this show ties into the grander universe of evil.
It certainly is. But there are some caveats. As showrunner Andrew Dabb told Decider, every Resident Evil game through Resident Evil: Village serves as the backstory for the Netflix adaptation.
“From that point on, I would say the games and the show diverge,” Dabb said. “Look, if something comes out in the next game that’s amazing, we will steal it, and we will put it in the show. But I don’t expect Capcom to make their decisions based off our show. They have a big, broad, awesome plan for the franchise that I don’t know all of, but I know enough of to be excited about. And they will go their own direction.”
This divide doesn’t just have to do with Capcom’s plan for the games. There is a major difference in how long it takes to make a TV show compared to a video game. “We’re producing a show every year, every 18 months. They’re producing a new game every five to six years — sometimes a little faster,” Dabb explained. “So, the timelines are just very different.”
The short answer? The Resident Evil TV series covers two timelines: one in 2022 and one in 2036. It takes place after all the games, including Resident Evil: Village. This is with the exception of a single cutscene in Village, which takes place in 2037.
The longer answer? You can spend full days trying to parse through Resident Evil’s over 25 years of story. But for the purposes of brevity and to ensure no one loses their minds, we’re only going to stick to the main game titles for this explainer.
Confusingly, this story doesn’t start with the first Resident Evil game. It starts with Resident Evil Zero, which was released in 2002 and takes place in July of 1998. The game follows officer Rebecca Chambers and a criminal named Billy Coen as they’re forced to battle their way through an infected-filled train wreck. This happens at the start of Raccoon City’s zombie problem, so there’s a lot of people asking what the hell is going on. This is the title that better explains virologist Albert Wesker’s role in the Umbrella Corporation and reveals that Dr. James Marcus was the one who originally created the T-virus.
The events of Resident Evil Zero then lead directly into the first Resident Evil. Set in July of 1998, Raccoon City Police Department’s S.T.A.R.S. team is sent to the Spencer mansion to investigate the disappearance of another team. Things quickly go wrong, forcing Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker, and Barry Burton to team up with each other. This is when we learn the T-virus was Umbrella’s fault. Toward the end of the game, it’s revealed that Albert Wesker has been secretly working for Umbrella all along. He seemingly dies shortly after this revelation, but you know how these stories go. It’s not going to last.
Because Resident Evil 3 has two timelines that happen on either side of Resident Evil 2, it’s best to discuss these two at the same time. Set in September of 1998 — two months after the first game — 2 picks up in a version of Raccoon City that’s been heavily infected by the T-virus. A brand new police officer, Leon S. Kennedy, meets a college student by the name of Claire Redfield, who is looking for her brother, Chris. Remember the names Leon, Claire, and Chris; they’re important. Leon and Claire are separated, leaving Leon to team up with the mysterious spy Ada Wong and Claire to team up with a little girl by the name of Sherry Birkin. Ada and Leon learn about the G-virus, which was designed to trump the T-virus. Meanwhile, Claire learns that Sherry’s father, Umbrella scientist William Birkin, impregnated his daughter by implanting an embryo in her. Right before Sherry’s mother dies, she tells Claire how to make a vaccine using the embryo in her daughter. This one ends with Ada declaring her love for Leon, Leon vowing to take down Umbrella, and Claire still looking for her brother.
Now it’s time for Nemesis, which starts 24 hours before the events of 2. Remember former Special Tactics And Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S) agent Jill Valentine? She’s back. As she tries to escape Raccoon City, she’s stalked by a new bioweapon programmed to target S.T.A.R.S. members. After she faces the creature, known as Nemesis, she’s infected by the T-virus and helped by Carlos Oliveira, a member of the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (U.B.C.S.). It’s Carlos who later tells Jill that the U.S. government plans to nuke Raccoon City. Depending on the choice the player makes, Jill will likely be betrayed by Nikolai Zinoviev, another U.B.C.S. agent. Both Jill and Carlos manage to escape right before Raccoon City is destroyed. The game ends around October of 1998.
Two months later is where CODE: Veronica takes place. Claire Redfield is back, and she’s still looking for her brother Chris. She’s captured by Umbrella and placed in a Rockfort Island prison somewhere in the Southern Ocean. Surprise, surprise — there’s an outbreak of the T-virus in these close quarters. Claire teams up with Steve Burnside, another inmate. The two repeatedly run from and battle the island’s commander, Alfred Ashford, who often switches between his personality and someone known as “Alexia.” Well, it turns out that “Alexia” was his sister who was put in cryogenic sleep after being infected by the T-Veronica virus. There’s a lot of fighting and an Antartica trip, but the game ends with Steve sacrificing himself for Claire, Claire reuniting with her brother, and Albert Wesker stealing Steve’s corpse for experimentation. Creepy.
We’ve jumped ahead to 2004, and it’s former S.T.A.R.S. agent Leon Kennedy’s time to shine. Leon is given a mission to rescue the President’s daughter Ashley Graham from a cult. No, that’s not a joke. While in a rural village in Spain, Leon discovers that the citizens have been infected by a mind-controlling parasite known as Las Plagas. He also learns that the Iluminados cult plans on using Ashley to infect the President with this parasite. After several battles, Leon realizes that two people he though were dead are actually alive: Ada Wong and his training buddy Jack Krauser. Not only that, but both of them are working with Albert Wesker to kidnap Ashley. Ada and Albert manage to escape, but not all hope is lost. Leon manages to save Ashley.
Time for another time jump. In 2009, Chris Redfield is now a member of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) along with his partner, Sheva Alomar. They’ve been tasked with going to West Africa to apprehend a black market biotech weapon before it ends up on the black market. Soon, Chris realizes that the locals have been infected with the Las Plagas parasites and that Jill Valentine has survived. There’s a battle with an octopus zombie before Albert Wesker’s evil plan comes to light. Albert wants to infect the world with the Uroboros virus, then rule over the remaining few survivors. That ends with Albert Wesker getting grenade launcher-ed to death inside a volcano. Yeah, if you couldn’t tell, Resident Evil is insane. The game ends with Chris, Sheva, and Jill escaping.
Did you know that died-by-a-volcano Albert Wesker had a son? He did, and that man — Jake Muller — is the star of this one. In 2012, he partners with Division of Security Operations (DSO) agent and Raccoon City survivor Sherry Birkin, aka the impregnated little girl from Resident Evil 2. This entry is sort of the chaotic family reunion of the series, so we’re going to speed through the major plot points: Ada Wong was impersonated by an imposter, but returns for real to help Leon and Sherry. Chris is saved by the sacrifice of his friend Piers, which he feels very guilty about. Chris and Sherry remain in their respective organizations. Jake starts a new life in an underdeveloped country. And clones are real.
Does all of that feel exhausting? Then praise Capcom for Biohazard. Set in 2017, Biohazard may be the simplest story in this franchise. Ethan Winters is a civilian who wants to find his missing wife, Mia. His search brings him to the creepiest house known to man. It’s all very Texas Chainsaw Massacre, complete with disturbing family. Eventually, Ethan learns that Mia worked with a company that turned a little girl known as Eveline into a bioweapon. Eveline has the ability to infect people’s minds and control them, which explains the horrifying family. See, she just wanted a home of her own. But since that sweet desire is super destructive, Ethan has to kill her. Ethan and possibly Mia (depending on the player’s choice) are later saved by someone who calls himself “Redfield.” The departing helicopter has the Umbrella logo.
Three years after the events of Biohazard, Ethan, Mia, and their daughter Rosemary have been relocated to Europe to start a new life. But wouldn’t you know it, their new home is filled with vampires and werewolf-like creatures known as Lycans. Ethan learns that his daughter has been disembodied, but he can put her back together and save her if he defeats enough baddies. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t end well for Ethan. After a lot of plot twists that involve the sinister Miranda impersonating his wife, Ethan sacrifices himself to save his family. This saga concludes with Mia and Rosemary escaping with Chris Redfield. There is also a post-credits scene with a teenaged Rosemary that’s set in 2037, which is the only part of the games that takes place after the TV series, which, as a reminder, takes place in 2022 (after all the games), and 2036 (after all the games, but before this post-credits scene). And that’s it. Now you’re all caught up.
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