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Seven Seconds

The television “crime series” genre has exploded over the past 10 years, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to sort out which productions are worth watching, and which should be avoided. The new Netflix series SEVEN SECONDS attempts to set itself apart from its competition by offering a timely, searing, and somber exploration of a tragic accident, a heinous cover-up, and the extraordinary lengths some will go to in order to protect those that they love.

The pilot episode begins with Jersey City narcotics officer Peter Jablonski (Beau Knapp) racing to reach his pregnant wife who has just been admitted to the hospital. Whipping his SUV through a snow covered park, he frantically attempts to reach someone who can provide him with information regarding her condition. Glancing down, he takes his eyes off of the road for the briefest of moments, and feels something collide with the front end of his vehicle. He gets out and tentatively tiptoes around the SUV,
fearful of what he’ll find. His worst fears are confirmed when he sees a bicycle, one wheel still spinning and dripping with blood. An embankment nearby is saturated with red, and just beyond this small hill, lies the victim.

A short time later, the rest of Pete’s tightknit narcotics crew
arrives on the scene, and officer Mike DiAngelo (David Lyons)
immediately makes a fateful decision that will impact everyone involved. Despite objections by Jablonski, he looks at the body,
decides that the young, African American victim is dead, and decides to cover-up the crime. This devastating decision serves as the axis of the entire series. Unbeknownst to the shady officers, the teenage boy had not died on impact, and spent 12 agonizing hours in a freezing, isolated ditch.

There is not a shred of joy to be found through the 10-episode duration of SEVEN SECONDS. Created by Veena Sud, who was the showrunner behind the excellent, exceedingly dark drama THE KILLING, the series features a cast of characters who are virtually devoid of endearing qualities. Dog obsessed detective Joe “Fish” Rinaldi (Michael Mosley) is abrasive, short, and largely devoid of emotion. The narcotics crew does little more than lie, abuse, and destroy anyone in their path. Assistant District Attorney K.J. Harper (Clare-Hope Ashitey) is an alcoholic who cares more about slurring her way through karaoke than she does about anything (or
anyone) else. The father of the victim, Isaiah Butler (Russell Hornsby) mourns his son, but at the same time, believes he may have been involved in gang activity, which makes it impossible for him to grieve properly. In fact, it is only the boy’s mother, Latrice (Regina King) who consistently projects empathy and sadness for these tragic events. She will stop at nothing to uncover the truth behind this monstrous act, however dangerous or violent her investigation may become.

Assistant District Attorney K.J.Harper (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and her partner Joe “Fish” Rinaldi (Michael Mosley)

Despite the lack of empathetic
characters, the story is engaging enough to warrant a binge. Tackling difficult
subject matters like racism, violence,
corruption, substance abuse, gang
activity and PTSD, there is a ton of content and moral ambiguity projected in each episode. While SEVEN SECONDS does feel like it’s trying a bit too hard at times, it remains strangely addicting. Packed with a number of twists and turns, there is rarely a clear-cut resolution in sight, and this effectively leaves the audience in a constant state of suspense.

SEVEN SECONDS is reminiscent of THE KILLING in tone, style, and structure. Trading the dreary, rainy Seattle landscape for dreary, snowy Jersey City, it features an oddball
partnership (Harper and Rinaldi) and a bleak outlook on the human condition. It also
tosses in aspects from AMERICAN CRIME, THE SHIELD, and THE WIRE into the mix, and while it never reaches the same heights as these other stellar series’, it is admirable
attempt to infuse real-life drama into an ambitious small-screen series.

Clare-Hope Ashitey as K.J. Harper.

(Now streaming on Netflix)

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.