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Netflix’s new Resident Evil show brings zombies to the White House

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Infinite Darkness channels the best and worst of the video games

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness Photo: Netflix

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is a show that’s made for people who love lore. The most recent games in the series, Resident Evil 7 and Village, have largely gotten away from the story of Racoon City and more typical zombie tropes, instead focusing on more standalone horror stories that are starting to resemble an anthology of sorts. But there’s still a place where the Umbrella Corporation and Racoon City loom large: tie-in movies and TV shows. Infinite Darkness is the latest, a four-episode series on Netflix that really leans into the political intrigue behind the zombie outbreak. There are some fun moments, like when undead monsters infiltrate the White House, but the show is mostly interesting as a supplement to the games.

Infinite Darkness takes place after the events of Resident Evil 4 and features longtime Resident Evil leads Leon Kennedy (introduced as “the guy who saved the president’s daughter”) and Claire Redfield. There’s a lot going on. Initially, Leon is summoned to help investigate a cyberattack on the Pentagon, which the secretary of defense is convinced was carried out by the Chinese government. Meanwhile, Claire is helping to build schools in a fictional Middle Eastern country called Penamstan, which also happens to be 1) of strategic importance for both the US and Chinese militaries, and 2) a Raccoon City-like testing ground for the zombie creating T-virus.

So you have two global superpowers dancing around a war, a small country being used as a guinea pig for a dangerous virus, and a cure for that virus being used to create completely obedient super soldiers. Instead of implements of terror, in Infinite Darkness, zombies are just another tool for powerful men to use to generate either power or wealth (or both). The show doesn’t really have much to say beyond that, other than maybe capitalism is bad — particularly when it involves selling a cure for becoming an undead monster.

The problem isn’t just that the show’s politics are mostly just a backdrop; it’s also that it tries to cram too much into a relatively brief runtime. Watching Infinite Darkness is a bit like watching a video game cutscene that tries to rapidly run through plot points so players can get back to the action. There are so many flashbacks and conspiracies with multiple layers that it can be hard to keep track of what’s going on.

That said, the fact that the show often resembles a video game sometimes works in its favor. The best moments in Infinite Darkness feel like they were ripped out of a survival horror game. Early on, after a power outage, zombies stalk the darkened halls of the White House, and it’s slow and terrifying, like a classic Resident Evil game. Similarly, there’s a tense moment on a submarine infested with zombie rats, where Leon and friends are forced to fight without guns, so they don’t pierce the hull. The show even ends with what’s essentially a boss fight against a superpowered zombie with a glaring weak point. There are dumb one-liners — Leon says “hey sexy,” to a bazooka — and set pieces where an entire level building collapses around the heroes as they attempt to make a daring escape.

Some tie-ins are meant to lure in new fans, while others are designed to appease existing ones; Infinite Darkness is most definitely the latter. It’s for people who actually want to know what Leon was up to after saving the president’s daughter and who wonder about all of the ways a zombie virus can be exploited by governments and corporations. It’s for people with a vested interest — and those who miss the simple days of Raccoon City.

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is streaming on Netflix now.