The Resident Evil franchise is being adapted into live-action once again. But whereas the previous theatrical films were very loose adaptations of the source material, Netflix’s new series seeks to build on the established Resident Evil game continuity. And this time, the series’ most fascinating yet convoluted villain – Albert Wesker – is the star of the show.
How exactly does Wesker fit into this new series, and how does it all tie back to his confusing history of deaths and resurrections? Let’s break down what we know so far.
Albert Wesker: S.T.A.R.S. Captain or Umbrella Agent?
Like series mainstays Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker made his debut way back in the original Resident Evil in 1996. The game introduces Wesker as the captain of the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad (or S.T.A.R.S.), a special ops force called upon to investigate a series of mysterious killings on the outskirts of Raccoon City. But while Wesker initially comes across as a helpful ally as the player explores the zombie-infested halls of Spencer Mansion, he’s eventually revealed to have a sinister agenda all his own.
Wesker betrays his own team in the game’s climax, revealing himself to be a double agent working for the Umbrella Corporation. The zombie outbreak was caused by exposure to Umbrella’s experimental T-virus bioweapon, and Wesker’s job is to observe the zombies and report back on their military effectiveness. Wesker is seemingly killed in a lab deep beneath the mansion, but not before he frees Umbrella’s deadliest creation – the Tyrant.
Wesker manages to survive his brush with death, however. That would become something of a running theme with the character.
The Many Deaths of Albert Wesker
Wesker went on to play a major role in several Resident Evil sequels and spinoffs, most notably 2000’s Resident Evil Code: Veronica, 2002’s Resident Evil Zero, 2005’s Resident Evil 4 and 2009’s Resident Evil 5.
Over the course of these games, players learn the full, complicated backstory of Albert Wesker. He began his career as a promising virologist who rose up the ranks of Umbrella Corp and colluded with fellow researcher William Birkin. By the time of the original game, Wesker is planning to betray his employer and sell the secrets of the T-virus to a rival corporation. And despite being impaled by the Tyrant, Wesker survives after injecting himself with an experimental version of the T-virus. And not just survives, but gains enhanced strength, speed and glowing red eyes, to boot.
Wesker returns several times over the course of the series, sometimes directly battling heroes like Chris and Claire Redfield and other times quietly pulling everyone’s strings from behind the scenes. But the common thread throughout the games – apart from Wesker constantly faking his death – is that he’s obsessed with stealing Umbrella’s research and unleashing it upon the world. He believes humanity has reached an evolutionary dead end, and only by unlocking the full potential of the T-virus can the species reach its true potential.
All of this comes to a head in Resident Evil 5, as Wesker resurfaces yet again and conspires with the Tricell Corporation to release the Uroboros virus across the globe. Though Wesker is more powerful than ever by this point, Chris and his allies learn their old nemesis is dependent on a constant supply of a special serum to stay alive. If he takes too much or too little, Wesker could die.
Ultimately, Wesker’s luck runs out when he’s overdosed with the serum and crashlands into an active volcano. After one final battle with his old nemesis Chris, Wesker finally dies a fiery death. Or did he?
Albert Wesker in Netflix’s Resident Evil
Netflix’s early teasers for Resident Evil have revealed a surprising detail about the series. While it may not be set in the exact same universe as the Capcom games, the new series exists in a world where some version of those stories has happened. That includes Wesker’s death in 2009.
The Netflix series takes place in two separate time periods – one in 2022 and the other in a zombie-ravaged 2036. Wesker (played by The Wire’s Lance Reddick) is a major character in the 2022 storyline. The trailers hint that Wesker is once again working as a virologist for a resurgent Umbrella Corp., which has rebuilt Raccoon City on the ashes of the original city. Even more surprisingly, Wesker now has two daughters whose story forms the backbone of both timelines. There’s no word yet on whether Wesker’s son Jake Muller, who plays a big part in Resident Evil 6, will appear in the Netflix series.
Showrunner Andrew Dabb previously confirmed to IGN that Wesker did indeed perish in the final battle in Resident Evil 5 and didn’t simply fake his death as he so often has in the past. Somehow, Wesker is back, and he seems relatively more sane than he was in most of the games. Is it possible we’ll learn that Wesker was some sort of deranged clone, and the original has remained loyal to Umbrella all this time?
Whatever the secret to Wesker’s return, it’s clear he’s still pursuing his ultimate agenda of forcibly advancing human evolution. The post-apocalyptic 2036 storyline suggests Wesker will eventually unleash his creation on the world, leaving a dwindling population to fight for its survival against billions of zombies and the worst monsters Umbrella has to offer.
How do you think Wesker survived his death in Resident Evil 5? How will the Netflix series build on the foundation of the games? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And for more Netflix Geeked Week coverage, brush up on everything that’s been revealed at the event so far.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.