Words: Stephen Wilds
Resident Evil's Jill Valentine is one of gaming's greatest heroes, a woman not to be taken lightly, and a character who has been on a personal journey of fear, torment, possession, and triumph. She's mostly remembered for being hunted by a psycho-stalker bioweapon named Nemesis in 1999's Resident Evil 3 (and its remake of 2020); but Miss Valentine has never been afraid to pull the trigger and give people exactly what they want. To this day, she's a true icon - both of her own series, and the action and horror genres, too.
"You want S.T.A.R.S.? I'll give you S.T.A.R.S.!"
She said, after finally knocking Nemesis into a vat of acid, shooting it with an experimental railgun, and then capping the monster in the head a few times to make sure. But let's not jump ahead to Jill's highpoints before we see where it all started.
Watch our preview of 2021's Resident Evil Village, below
We first met Jill Valentine in 1996's original Resident Evil game - you know, the one set in the Arklay Mountains just outside of Raccoon City in July of 1998. The 'Mansion Incident' was kind of a big deal. She was a part of the Special Tactics and Rescue Service's (S.T.A.R.S.) Alpha Team, recruited by its captain, Albert Wesker. Valentine excelled in her military service, eventually receiving Delta Force training, demonstrating exceptional skills with explosive ordnance disposal and covert entry. She was identified in the group as their B&E (breaking and entering) expert - or "the master of unlocking," as her S.T.A.R.S. colleague Barry Burton puts it.
According to the RE3 novelisation, Jill's father, a man with a criminal past, was the one who taught her how to pick locks. She is also listed as being half-French and half-Japanese, but this seems to have been walked back or ignored since then, so it's potentially outdated information. Jill doesn't talk about her past much and is more focused on the job. She was a team player, but had a special connection to Chris Redfield, her partner, who worked with Valentine on improving her marksmanship. These skills make Jill a worthy opponent and a good test against the horrors in Umbrella's secret lab under the Spencer Mansion.
Jill is, understandably, inexperienced against bioweapons and zombies when she enters the mansion, but that doesn't mean she lacked for confidence and bravery. By the end of that nightmare adventure, she's faced down a horrific plant monster, an overgrown spider, a giant snake named Yawn, and a Tyrant. Jill was a certified badass, then, and although she wouldn't be in the direct sequel, the heroine would return for Resident Evil 3: Nemesis as the star.
She's often mentioned as the first playable female character in a survival-horror game. Critics loved Jill initially, noting her as a believable character and solid example of a female protagonist, especially in the genre. Her return in RE3 had to raise the stakes, outside of the mansion and in an overrun city that was set to be nuked. She had a new partner, Carlos Oliveira, and sharper one-liners; and the game was soaked in greater blood and gore. It also ramped up Jill's sex appeal. No longer a part of the force, her new outfit consisted of a tube top and miniskirt. The attire garnered some negative attention, but the RE3 novelisation stated that she wanted to be able to move easier, able to dodge enemies, and run if she needed to flee. This was her last escape, after all.
Throughout Resident Evil history, there's a theme of abusive authority in Jill's story. She's betrayed by Wesker, suspended by Chief Irons when she wants to investigate Umbrella, and both Nemesis and Wesker (again) attempt to dominate her in different ways. Things aren't easy for her, then, but this makes for a fascinating dynamic when Jill is finally able to turn the tables.
During the events of RE3, Jill is infected and saved by Carlos, but remnants of the T-virus still live inside of her - which proves fortuitous, when it prevents the Progenitor strain from killing her later, when she's infected by Wesker. Another example of just how hardcore Valentine is. Chris and Jill encounter Wesker again in Resident Evil 5: Lost In Nightmares (prequel story DLC for Resident Evil 5), but he's too powerful for them at that point and she tries to take Wesker out by leaping onto him and taking them both through a window, over a cliffside, and onto the rocks below.
Not only did both survive, but Wesker took Jill and repeatedly pumped tons of the new virus into her, using his former colleague as a test subject. Once her usefulness was finished there, he used the P30 chemical, derived from the Progenitor virus, to give Jill enhanced abilities and make her more submissive to suggestions, turning her against Chris and his new partner, Sheva Alomar during the events of Resident Evil 5. These tests changed Valentine, making her paler, her hair blonde. A device was mounted on Jill's chest that kept the new operative in check by continually pumping the drug into her system. But she did look excellent in the cloak and plague doctor mask before her big reveal in RE5.
Thankfully, Jill shows some signs of still being in control when Chris says her full name during the fight, and she has enough control to rip her wetsuit open and reveal the control device on her chest. "Remarkable," Wesker notes as Jill wriggles in pain, "Still resisting at such an advanced stage." Jill has always had a large amount of sex appeal, but there's still something odd about seeing Chris pull at her exposed chest that screams fan service. She gets the last laugh in the end though, having been aware while under his control, noting what gives Wesker his new abilities and how to beat him. Jill is there to watch him die in the volcano, receiving some level of satisfaction.
It's a nice story with a somewhat happy ending for her; but now Jill is sitting in a BSAA lab - the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance, which she is a founding member of - going through rehab and having tests run on her (this, we know from a file in RE: Revelations 2). It's about time she gets back in the field and stars in a new Resident Evil game. She's bored, surely, and we all want to see a return of the icon. There was the RE3 Remake, a fun update of the adventure with Nemesis that portrayed her as an even more assertive action-movie-like badass, walking off explosions and slinging more snark, but some of its big lines just didn't fall right.
Resident Evil has always done a decent job of putting women in leading roles, even if how it handles their development can be questioned at times. Jill Valentine is the prime example of this, and she has left her mark on one of horror's biggest series and gaming as a whole. Some fans even believe that Alice from the Resident Evil movies was inspired by Jill, before Jill herself showed up in the second film, Apocalypse; and she's appeared in other Capcom titles as well, giving the character a special legacy. Jill doesn't look to be present in the new Resident Evil Village, but who knows for sure? Maybe she will show up to save her old partner, Chris Redfield, from a deadly situation in Village, and return the favour from their shared past.
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