Seven Seconds is a riveting episodic crime drama released by Netflix. Set in New Jersey, the first season chronicles the story of the accidental vehicular death of a 15-year-old black child at the hands of a police officer. The officer, Pete Jablonski (Beau Knapp) convinced that the child has died, is easily coerced by fellow officers to leave the scene and cover up the accident. Pete’s commanding officer, Mike DiAngelo (David Lyons) reasons that the race factor will overshadow good intentions, resulting in his crucifixion by the public. Ironically, race is indeed the overwhelming factor that motivates these officers to leave the child in a ditch like roadkill.
Regina King and Russell Hornsby earnestly portray the boy’s parents Latrice and Isaiah Butler. The dynamics within their family structure is so authentically layered, watching creates the feeling of being drawn into a family one might know personally. Latrice bears the emotional weight of the family. In contrast, Isaiah embodies the persona of a man that pours whatever emotions he may have into religion and considers providing for his family the ultimate display of love. He is not likeable for most of the series, but, his character’s evolution is well defined throughout.
KJ Harper (Clare-Hope Ashitey), the Assistant District Attorney, shares Isaiah’s affliction, as she avoids emotional espousal by crawling into a bottle and having trysts with strangers. She has perfected wearing an impenetrable mask while in public and has garnered an undesirable reputation. KJ’s backstory, once revealed, makes her motivations for being drawn to the Butler case clear. Ashitey’s performance can be misconstrued as flat, but KJ is a flat, broken character seeking a way out of perdition--subtle nuances that are all captured very well.
The police officers are such a despicable lot, it’s hard to determine who is more racist or corrupt than the other. Although we learn some sombering details about Pete and Mike’s family life, it is impossible to sympathize with them and overlook their actions. Thank goodness KJ has Fish Rinaldi, a dutiful newcomer to the precinct, to assist with the investigation. Michael Mosely’s portrayal of Fish is a delightful combination of optimism and sarcasm which is worthy of more screen time should there be a second season.
Seven Seconds is most definitely “binge-worthy,” filled with interesting subplots that continuously explore important social themes, dynamic characters that keep the story moving forward and a cast that realistically brings them to life.