Netflix debuts a new Black-led thriller in Regina King’s Seven Seconds.
It all goes down within the first 20 minutes of the first episode. A man Peter Jablonski, played by Beau Knapp, is on the phone with his wife, not paying attention and driving too fast on a snowy road. He hits something, spins out. We quickly find that Jablonski hit a kid, evidenced by the bloody trail going up a snow bank, a kid’s boot, and the bike wedged under his truck.
Just as quickly, we find out that this freaked out the man is a cop. So, when he calls the police, they don’t come to investigate a crime. They come to cover one up. They send the now guilt-ridden Jablonski home, while they “pick out” a perpetrator. No one even goes to look at the body.
On to a woman, Regina King, who shows us all her dramatic acting chops in this role as Latrice Butler, mother of the boy laid up across town in the snow. She takes a few students home, goes to church for choir practice and comes home with her husband Isaiah, played by Hank…I mean Russell Hornsby. There she gets the message that no mother ever wants to hear: the school calling to tell you that your kid never made it that day.
Another character, KJ Harper, played by Clare-Hope Ashitey, is featured in this introduction. When we first connect with her, she is at a bar on a lunch break. In the words Queen Bey, KJ “been drankin.” This, dear viewers, is the prosecuting attorney. She goes from the bar to the courthouse, where she crashes and mixes up her cases. Later on, KJ is singing karaoke to no one, nursing another drink. Later still, she is hitting mini bottles from her car!
Sista is not living her best life.
Meanwhile, Jablonski is falling apart as his fellow brothers in blue close ranks and hand over a suspect.
Oh, and the boy is still alive.
These are the facts that come rolling in fast as Seven Seconds opens up in its first episode. We sit watching Jablonski spiral, spilling his guts figuratively and literally until he almost gives himself away, while a black boy’s family struggles to find out just what happened and what they can do to protect their own. Their only advocate is drunk ass KJ, who almost crashes into a semi-truck head-on, only hours before meeting with the investigator and two of the dirty cops that are spearheading the cover-up. This is the person this family has to look to for justice.
I find myself so wound up by all this tension that I am screaming at KJ at one point, “don’t talk to them, girl! They did this! Go home and sober up!” As evidence of racial tension between whites and people of color arises, the decision to cover up the accident instead of fessing up becomes apparent. There is so much more to this story and we are just getting started.
Seven Seconds isn’t an emotional roller coaster, it’s a nail-bitingly tense ride that spirals downward, getting worse with every revelation, and burrowing so fast that the characters are buried before they even realize a decision has been made. Some before they even know they have been implicated. No scene is a bore. Not even the routine court appearance. By the end of the first episode, the viewer is left at the head of a rabbit hole that goes down into God-knows-where. The story is so compelling, so thrilling, that there is nothing else to do but fall down that hole and see where this first series ends up.
This is a crime drama the goes so fast that you can’t blink, or you miss something new. I suggest you have all the snacks close, and plan to pee between episodes. Just like Alice did in Wonderland, when you go down this rabbit hole, you won’t be coming out until the series is over.
Jonita Davis loves, reads, studies, and writes about comics, books, TV, culture, and more. You can usually find her in a corner somewhere, dragging a pen across paper in an effort to make sense of the world.
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