Netflix recently released Seven Seconds, a new crime drama series about a fictional hit-and-run of a black teenager. Seven Seconds is directed by “The Killing” director Veena Sud, and takes place in our very own Jersey City.
The pilot opens up with rookie Jersey City police officer Peter Jablonski (Beau Knapp) driving in a SUV on a particularly snowy day in Liberty State Park, rushing to attend the birth of his first child. He is brought to a sudden stop when he hits fifteen year old Brenton Butler, who had been riding through the park on his bike.
The title Seven Seconds refers to the span of time that officer Jablonski could have done the right thing – but instead of officially reporting the accident, he phones his supervisor on the narcotics task force, Mike Diangelo (David Lyons). Mike arrives at the scene with two of his colleagues, and quickly cleans up the scene of the crime. They leave the boy and the bike in a near by ditch, erase the trails of blood that lead from the road, and send Peter Jablonski off to the hospital to attend to his pregnant wife.
A few hours later, the boy is found by a man walking his dog nearby. They transport him to the hospital and find out that he is alive. His parents, Isaiah (Russell Hornsby) and Latrice (Regina King), are called into the hospital, where they are told that their son is in critical condition after having been involved in a hit-and-run accident. They are told by assistant prosecutor KJ Harper (Clare-Hope Ashitey) that the perpetrator will likely receive the maximum penalty of three to five years for an accident that will affect his life forever. Latrice (Regina King) laments the lack of justice for her son, and delivers an insightful portrayal of a grieving mother’s sorrow.
While Regina King’s performance is absolutely stunning, multiple elements of the series are lackluster. Although the series is based in Jersey City, most of the scenes were shot in New York. Maybe it would have been different if the New Jersey Film tax credit was in place, but to add insult to injury there really aren’t any specific neighborhoods mentioned in the series besides the ‘hood’ near Liberty State Park. Other than the frequent aerial shots of Liberty State Park and the Statue of Liberty, there isn’t much of Jersey City in this series.
Even though Seven Seconds is supposed to be set in Jersey City, its not really an authentic representation of the racial and political issues happening in our society. It seems to list stereotypes within the black community and police force. It just feels contrived and the message is lost in the process.
There are no mysteries when it comes to the story either – we know who the bad guys are, what needs to happen, and the ensuing drama is a little bit too predictable. The pilot lays out all the elements of the series on the table, and it feels like there aren’t too many surprises for the viewers to discover from episode to episode. While it might have made a good movie or a single one hour episode, Seven Seconds ultimately feels like a quick narrative about equal rights forced into a ten episode series.
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