As a die-hard Resident Evil fan, I’ll be the first to admit that these games make absolutely no sense. Resident Evil Village might actually be the worst offender when it comes to hand waving important details and lunging over gaping plot holes — though that could also just be a recency bias, especially considering I’ve managed to block out most of Resident Evil 6. Despite having an entirely nonsensical plot, Village has been broadly well received by fans and critics. What the Resident Evil series lacks in coherent storytelling, it more than makes up for with compelling, iconic characters. Village has the most frustrating story in the series because it’s frontloaded with intrigue but shrugs at every opportunity to deliver satisfying resolutions. It’s a game that seems content with building memeable characters instead of meaningful narratives, and if my social media feed is any indication, that strategy has really paid off for Capcom.
When we talk about Village’s plot holes, it’s important to keep in mind that context matters. Resident Evil is fantasy as much as it is horror, and there’s no use nitpicking the fantastical things that happen in Village or pointing to its magical happenings as some kind of fallibility. The Caduo parasites create a variety of mutations in their hosts, for example. Sometimes this means that the host turns into a vomiting fish-man, sometimes this means the host grows four feet and has to drink blood to survive, and sometimes this means the host becomes Magneto. There’s some hint through the data drops about why these differences occur, but for the most part, the answer is “zombie magic,” and I think it’s perfectly fine for us all to move on from there. Chris Redfield can punch a boulder into a volcano, get over it.
The other type of “plot hole” we can safely ignore is the kind that leads us to ludonarrative dissonance. It’s bizarre and kind of funny that Ethan needs to sneak all around Castle Dimitrescu to avoid getting eviscerated by Lady D, yet he’ll spend time breaking all of her ornate pottery to find the bullets and cash hidden inside. It’s very silly when you step back and think about it, but it doesn’t have a meaningful impact on the story that the game is trying to tell. You can argue that it harms the game’s atmosphere, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a plot hole.
The plot holes I’m talking about are the massive gaps in logic that either disregard or contradict the narrative. Those moments where it’s time for a question to be answered, but instead, the game just sort of throws its hands up and says “who cares.” Perhaps the most glaring plot hole in Village — though far from the only one, mind you — is the death and return of Mia Winters.
In the first 10 minutes of the game, Chris Redfield bursts through Ethan’s front door and shoots Mia 30 times in the chest, kidnaps baby Rose, and has Ethan dragged out of the house by his feet. Obviously, this is a huge moment and an incredibly intriguing way to start the game. Chris is a hero, yet he’s acting like a villain. Why would the good guy kill Ethan’s wife and steal his baby? It’s a fantastic setup because it motivates the player by giving them questions that need answers. Unfortunately, the answers just lead to even more questions.
When you meet up with Chris for the third time in Heisenberg’s Factory, he explains that the person he shot wasn’t Mia, it was the game’s antagonist, Mother Miranda, pretending to be Mia. At some point, she replaced Mia so that she could get ahold of Rose. Chris found out and came to kill her, but Mother Miranda only pretended to be dead and attacked the vehicle transporting Rose and Ethan, stealing Rose and taking her back to the Village.
It’s a pretty lousy reveal because it leaves out so much information necessary to understanding that inciting incident when Chris kills “Mia.” Where is the real Mia? Why is Miranda playing house with Ethan? Why shapeshift at all when she could just walk in and take the baby? How did Chris know? Why didn’t he just explain all of this to Ethan in the first place?
We never get an answer to most of these questions, and the ones we do, still feel like they’re only half answered. Chris explains that he didn’t tell Ethan the truth because he knew that Ethan would want to get involved, which isn’t really a satisfying answer considering how involved Ethan immediately got. The real answer is that it created a better mystery. Unfortunately, when the mystery doesn’t have a satisfying conclusion, the entire thing feels extremely cheap in retrospect.
When Chris finds Mia locked in a cell while leading the assault on Miranda, Mia explains that she was caught and used in experiments. Once again, we are given an answer that just leads to more questions. We never find out when Miranda replaced her, how she was caught, or what experiments she was used in. Mia’s only role for the rest of the game is to tell Chris that Ethan is special — something we learn during Ethan’s afterlife/dream in the very next scene — and to be reunited with Rose on the helicopter at the very end. Maybe Mia’s time during Village will be explored in the next game, though it seems unlikely.
There are plenty more examples of loose threads in Village, including the parabolic storybook that, upon close inspection, doesn’t seem to actually be about anything, but the biggest example (literally) has got to be The Duke — an enigmatic character and the epitome of the series’ style over substance approach to storytelling.
The Duke has elements of ludonarrative dissonance, given that he’s the game’s vendor and is somehow able to travel anywhere in the game before you and fit into places that wouldn’t seem possible. But The Duke also takes on an active role in the game’s final act by retrieving Ethan’s lifeless body and delivering him to the ceremony site for the final battle with Mother Miranda. Ethan asks The Duke who or what he is, to which The Duke responds “Even I can’t quite answer that!”
Who is The Duke? The Duke is a cool guy that makes for fun memes, of course. The Duke doesn’t know who or what he is, because the writers don’t know who or what he is. He’s a Deus Ex Machina by the strictest definition, and all the proof you need to realize that Resident Evil is never going to answer the questions it proposes in this game. Instead of “I can’t quite answer that,” The Duke could have said “who cares?” And, to be truthful, it’s clear that the vast majority of Resident Evil players don’t. There’s a lot to love about these games, but the hand waving in Village is taken to an uncomfortable extreme. I know we all want the tall lady to cut us up into little pieces, I just wish the pieces of the story fit together a little bit better.
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