Today was the release of the first Resident Evil Netflix project with their four-part series/"this should have just been a movie" Resident Evil Infinite Darkness. While the main portion of the series is set after the events of Resident Evil 4 but before Resident Evil 5, we're introduced to the war-torn country of Penamstan from six years ago to begin. This piece will go in-depth into just how strange it is that Claire had no impact on the plot whatsoever, so if you haven't seen the series yet, you can check it out on Netflix or prepare for spoilers.
We've seen Claire in a number of games by this point, with 2019's Resident Evil 2 Remake being her most recent appearance, we've also seen her a number of times in the CGI canon (and even live-action non-canon) movies. She can hold her own with the best of them taking on hordes of zombies, fighting on the frontlines, and delivering zombie-related quips. Across the 90-minute runtime for Infinite Darkness, Claire manages to only appear for 17 of those; even stranger is that at no point does she even encounter a Zombie. Her journey isn't one of action in Infinite Darkness. Instead, hers is one of discovery. While first completing humanitarian work in Penamstan, Claire manages to learn from one of the civil war survivors that what he saw at the battle wasn't just guns and death, but zombie soldiers attacking the local militia. Comparing it to her own experiences, she begins to investigate the American survivors of the war, a team called the MAD DOGS led by a soldier called Jason who is celebrated as the "Hero of Penam."
Claire's research doesn't just lead her to the revelation that one by one, each of the MAD DOGS have been committing suicide with a bullet to the head, but that Jason and one other soldier remain. Tracking down the last member's home, she finds that he too is dead, discovering a note behind an old picture of the MAD DOGS that reveals the truth: Each of them was infected with the zombie virus. She also learns it was the government that was sending in infected soldiers, and that the new secretary of defense, Wilson, has been using the MAD DOGS for covert ops in exchange for more suppressants.
While Claire is uncovering these truths Leon has been sent by the President to China via submarine with Jason, surviving member of the MAD DOGS, and Shen May, a comms officer at the time of the civil war. Leon gets to fight zombies in the White House, travel the world on suspicion of Chinese hackers stealing important information, meet an infected soldier who was smuggled out of Penamstan, and by the end of the film, destroy the facility that the government was using to create these infected soldiers. At each important moment in Claire's story that another piece of the puzzle was found, Leon was simply told what occurred by Jason or Shen May. Claire never even got the satisfaction of being able to narrate her own revelations, where we would see Claire finding a note but hear Jason talking about Wilson's involvement in the attack force.
It can be easy to look at the A plot of Leon travelling and fighting zombies and thinking, "OK, this is the action-oriented part of the plot, where the blood will be pumping and they'll throw a few jump scares in," and that Claire's B plot is the exposition of the story, adding context and meaning to the events of the film. What the final series delivers is an unbalanced and strange A and B plot for Leon, that Claire gets an occasional cameo in.
For a character who already had such little involvement in the series, everything she does is undermined by Leon hearing first-hand accounts. Even as Wilson is outed as the man behind the zombie outbreak in the White House and the "supposed" Chinese hack, it's Leon that calls ahead to stop the president of the United States from causing a rift in American/Chinese relations. At no point in Resident Evil Infinite Darkness does Claire even communicate to another character what she has discovered! It's tragic to see Claire's role so shrunk down; you could remove her from the series entirely and nothing would be lost. The best moment for Claire is found at the very end of the movie, Leon holding proof but not wanting to expose the truth, and Claire without proof but wanting to get the word out to the world. This encounter only lasts for two minutes, but it shows off a fantastic dynamic of two heroes wanting to save the world with different methods. It's those last two minutes of the movie that made me wish there was more than seven minutes of screen time between Leon and Claire.
There's a number of ways that a plot like this could be improved and the relationship between Claire and Leon, two survivors of Raccoon City, could be improved. A simple way this could be done could be through further correspondence between the two lead characters. Claire being the point of discovery then passing on information to be supplemented by Jason and Shen May would be a fast and easy fix. This could also make Claire's kidnapping by secret service agents much more dire, as Leon loses contact mid communication. It would be interesting to know if there were any specific reasons for such a focus on Leon.
In a series that was already only sitting around a 6.5/10 mark in my mind, it was truly tragic for the writers to do so little for Claire as such an important part of Resident Evil history. Leon might be tall, broody, and handsome, but that doesn't mean he should be the only one with the spotlight. With so much promotional art highlighting Claire, I was hoping this would be a great team-up story and was instead left wondering about her presence. From here though, a second season highlighting Claire and Leon's differences in ideologies or potentially a race to a new secret could definitely get me interested in watching more.
What did you think of Resident Evil Infinite Darkness? Did you also notice the distinct lack of Claire? How do you think it could be improved?