When you think of actors who might do well playing multiple roles in the same movie or TV show, Lance Reddick does not necessarily come to mind. Not because of any weaknesses he has as a performer but because of his specific and memorable presence, including, especially, his physicality: that shiny dome; that tall, slender frame; that smoothly sonorous voice. There’s simply no need for a second Lance Reddick when a single one makes such an impression, on The Wire, on Lost, and while attending to John Wick at the Continental.
So it’s a real late-season delight to find that Resident Evil has offered Lance Reddick the opportunity to, as it’s known in the industry, pull a Multiplicity. Yes, the penultimate episode of season one finally makes it clear that clones are afoot: It begins in 2005 (at a time when both The Wire and Lost were still on the air!), with a roomful of Albert Weskers busying themselves in a secret underground lab. (In Resident Evil world, most labs are underground and/or secret.) Here, finally, is the nerdy Wesker that’s been talked about but largely unseen so far in the series; a multiplicity of them, in fact! Distinguishing themselves through various nicknames — Bert, Al, and so on — the crew is on the verge of discovery when the original model turns up. This one is another as-yet-unseen Wesker: the cartoonish-looking sunglasses-wearing badass Wesker who appears in the Resident Evil video games and films. In keeping with his reputation, he attempts to blow them to bits. (He calls this “destroying the evidence,” but, uh, I’m pretty sure dead bodies still count as evidence.)
Original Wesker escapes; one clone is shot in the head. Years later, two more end up in adjacent cells: the Wesker we know from the rest of the series, father to Jade and Billie; and Bert, the bearded fellow we glimpsed in the last episode, who is far less socialized than his bro. Bert is the one who really makes this episode, which for most of its running time, skews far more sci-fi than horror. He learns a little about Regular Wesker before Umbrella thugs come to retrieve this more worldly model, and that’s enough motivation for him to lose his shit in an upbeat way. He takes it upon himself to help the girls, who he considers his nieces, which involves taking them to Olive Garden and basking in the glory of unlimited breadsticks (until he experiences the unfortunate constraints of a limit being placed on said breadsticks). A scene that might have easily played too cutesy comes across perfectly because of the conviction that Reddick summons in praise of those breadsticks.
Regular Wesker, meanwhile, gets no breadsticks; only an audience-friendly recap of his deal with Evelyn Marcus: When she discovered Original Wesker’s burgeoning clone army, she agreed to let Regular Wesker stay on and live something resembling a normal life as long as he used his genius-level intellect to do her bidding. Evelyn also brings mind-control more explicitly into the mix, as we see that she’s been slipping the Joy drug to her wife to make her more compliant. She nabs Jade and Billie from their Olive Garden date with Uncle Bert and brings them to their dad, revealing his clone-related plight: Original Wesker accelerated the aging of his clones, which has made their health unstable, hence Regular Wesker’s need for his daughters’ blood as his medicine. No one mentions this as high-tech vampirism, perhaps not wanting to confuse the issue with another brand of the undead. But Wesker’s “regular” life is somewhat akin to a vampire: a man out of time, dependent on the blood of others, hiding in the shadows even when he has the appearance of success, even luxury. Jade and especially Billie react accordingly: repulsed but, in contrast to their situation in 2036, still bonded.
The 2022 material wins this episode in a walk: It’s got sci-fi loopiness, multiple Lance Reddicks, and a still-unpredictable path toward Billie separating from her sister. 2036, by contrast, has a lot of stuff we’ve already seen: Jade feeling guilty over her hubris and the damage it’s caused; Jade cornered by Umbrella; Jade imitating her father by instructing her child to find a go-bag she left for her and leave; Jade summoned for some face time with a scary-leader antagonist. The surprise comes from that antagonist’s identity: It’s not a shock to find out that Billie’s emotional release of Jade last episode was a ruse, or even that she planted a tracker in the severed head she turned over in a gesture of fake generosity. Less expected, though, is Evelyn greeting Jade with a Dua Lipa singalong, complete with choreography — because Billie is mind-controlling the former Umbrella CEO and running the company/government/military installation herself.
Resident Evil has some work cut out for it if it’s going to make any attempt to reconcile the shakily hopeful, emotional, oft-distraught Billie from 2022 with the snarky 2036 version who says stuff like “you did the Jade thing” while firmly advocating for Umbrella’s world domination. That contrast is entertaining but not, at the moment, especially convincing. That’s supposed to be part of the show’s late-developing hook, too: If we’re not going to see how Billie wound up dead, we’ll see how she wound up so traumatized and alienated from her family that she’ll parrot Evelyn’s old talking points about making the world a better place. (And enforce that betterment by destroying all of the University’s artifacts, if necessary.) The show is betting that the most human parts of its story can be deepened and extended.
Both Jade and the show know, however, that it always has zombies up its sleeve: In yet another tight spot, Jade unleashes a vial of pheromones that draws hordes of “zeroes” toward Umbrella’s base camp. This is how an episode that’s mostly indulged the show’s science fiction sides ends with its biggest-yet display of zombie force. In between the marauding, director Batan Silva bridges past and present: He cuts between the younger Jade and Billie sitting in the Umbrella lobby, united in their fear and anger, letting their hands find each other; and the older versions in 2036, where Billie grasps Jade’s hand so that she can’t escape. There may be a multiplicity of Weskers running around, but for these moments, however briefly, Billie and Jade only have each other.
• So yeah, why haven’t we seen any Weskers running around in 2036 yet? If Regular Wesker died asking for Jade, as Billie reports, surely Original Wesker found some nook or cranny to burrow into or had some clones on back-up. And what of Bert?! Did he ever return to the Olive Garden and experience unlimited breadsticks?
• Teeming masses of zombies will forever and unfortunately remind me of that thing in World War Z where they couldn’t really show much zombie-worthy gore, so they compensated with pure volume, where fast-moving zombie piles would turn into CG tidal waves. Yeesh. Bad movie.
• The University’s boat is also dragging what looks like a dinosaur-sized reptile underwater — a King Kong technique for a Godzilla-like creature.
Resident Evil Recap: Multiplicity