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Could a live-action 'Resident Evil' TV series work?

We learned last week that Mance Media is currently in the process of pitching a live-action television series based on Capcom's popular Resident Evil series. If greenlit, Arklay will act as a prequel to the original game, much as the upcoming Gotham series is to the Batman franchise. At this time there exists only a short pitch reel comprised of clips from Hannibal and other TV shows and films, which serves to illustrate the proposed show's general tone. We were initially skeptical upon hearing about this project, as film adaptations of video games have a long history of straying from the source material, something we've seen with Resident Evil's own line of movies directed by Paul Anderson. Skepticism aside, could things possibly turn out differently this time around? We'd like to think so. Before we begin with our reasons why, we'd like to warn you that there will be spoilers for the first three Resident Evil games.

Victims as seen in the Resident Evil REmake
Photo courtesy of Capcom, used with permission

The basic premise of Arklay will focus on Detective James Reinhardt as he investigates the bizarre murders that took place in the outskirts of Raccoon City before the 1998 T-Virus outbreak. He eventually learns of a dark conspiracy, most likely involving the Umbrella Corporation's control over the city, as well as the aforementioned virus. Not many details were given beyond this, though we know that Reinhardt will somehow become infected with the virus, turning his investigation into a race against the clock.

For starters, the premise sounds like an interesting way to approach the series, and Reinhardt's investigation could give the show a chance to explore several topics and background events that were only vaguely alluded to within the original games. Resident Evil has an extensive lore with plenty of characters and history that could be brought into this series. If handled correctly, Arklay could be an infusion of science fiction, horror and crime drama that we haven't seen since The X Files, which seems fitting given its 90's setting (assuming the series retains the original timeline of events and isn't modernized).

The show's original concept would also allow for several of the established game characters to make appearances as well. Including recognizable characters from the franchise's past could either work wonders for the show's appeal or destroy any faith the fans have in this adaptation, depending on how these characters are handled. It would only make sense for S.T.A.R.S. to become involved with these crimes, which could lead to appearances by series regulars like Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield and Albert Wesker. The fact that Wesker is working for (and simultaneously against) Umbrella could lead to some very interesting conflict, as none of Arklay's characters would be wise to him at this point. Minor characters like police officers Marvin Branagh (Resident Evil 2) and Kevin Ryman (the Outbreak sub-series), could also make appearances. Unfortunately, it wouldn't make much sense for fan favorite Leon Kennedy to show up, unless Arklay featured a scene of him being hired for the job as a cameo.

Another minor character we'd love to see featured is the corrupt police chief Brian Irons. In the games, this creepy sadist took bribes from Umbrella, did everything in his power to hinder his own officers and was revealed to have a criminal record (two rape charges in the original Japanese version, which were replaced with more vague allegations of domestic abuse here in the states). His eccentric tendencies and horrifying double life would be absolutely thrilling to watch and could serve to make him an even more interesting main villain than the obvious Wesker.

Even with an idea of which characters we'd like to see depicted if Arklay manages to make it to air, there are still a few things that need to be considered when aiming for a successful adaptation. For instance, when would this series begin on the timeline? If the “gruesome murders” described in the pitch are indeed the cannibalistic killings that occurred shortly before the mansion incident, it would place the series opener during May of 1998, only a few short months before the city-wide disaster. That doesn't leave the series much time to build upon these mysterious deaths before all of Raccoon City is infected and subsequently nuked at the beginning of October. Of course, there could have been other incidents of escaped test subjects before the virus was let loose in the mansion's laboratory.

There's also the issue of Reinhardt being infected by the virus. The early games in the franchise stated that humans only have a few days before succumbing to the disease (as seen with the Keeper's Diary in the first game, as well as other accounts). Granted, television shows like 24 have managed to do wonders with extreme time constrictions, but it greatly limits the type of story that can be told. While having a main character be infected with a deadly mutagen would certainly help ramp up the suspense, we can't help but think that it would absolutely destroy any chance the series would have at steady pacing, much less longevity.

With everything said, many of these speculations assume that everything presented in the proposed series would match Capcom's original canon, which is highly unlikely. Whenever a story is adapted for another medium there are bound to be changes. If Arklay, or any other similar proposal were ever to be made, all we can hope for is that they stay respectful of the source material. We don't know if this idea will go anywhere, but aspects of the premise definitely have us interested in learning more. We'll have more information regarding Arklay if anything substantial is ever released.

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