Given the escalating events over the past few years involving the treatment of young black men in the United States, “Seven Seconds” is a show that feels like it’s been a long time coming but, hopefully, will not age well as time goes by.
Peter Jablonski (Beau Knapp), a young white cop starting out as a detective accidentally runs over a black teenager in a deserted park in Jersey City. Tensions run high in the city as the incident is initially covered up by his team before the truth is eventually discovered and exposed by the assistant district attorney assigned to the case.
Adapted by Veena Sud, who was responsible for the conversion of “The Killing” to the U.S. market, it’s a show that doesn’t quite equal the sum of its parts and feels like a formulaic clichéd recipe for the modern-era crime show. All the ingredients are there; rife corruption, racial undertones, a fallible yet heroic lead, victims torn apart and family secrets uncovered, but they don’t mesh, discrediting the journey the story is attempting to take you on.
It seems to be that for every Netflix show nowadays the episodes must be at least fifty minutes long and there must be as many of them as the writers can squeeze from the plot as humanly possible. “Seven Seconds” stretches itself to ten episodes, including a finale that is almost an hour and a half long, for a total of ten hours to tell a story that could easily have been completed in under six hours. To say it’s incredibly complex is an understatement, I counted at least five separate, unnecessary storylines layered on to maximise the run time, fleshing out characters that we didn’t even need, nor care about.
The show’s hero is the assistant DA who slowly uncovers the truth whilst drinking as much as possible, a miscast Clare-Hope Ashitey, lumbered with a grab-bag of grizzled crime drama personality flaws. Alcoholism? Promiscuity? Ding ding ding. We have a ‘character’. Next! And next her is her partner Joe ‘Fish’ Rinaldi (Michael Mosley) is as likeable as a hernia and the two utterly lack any chemistry which doesn’t bode well when they’re meant to form the backbone of the plot.
And the series needs a strong backbone because there are huge plot holes in the story’s structure which threaten to collapse not only the prosecution’s case but the audience’s interest. For example, the concept of cell towers and cell phone records to track the movements of the accused and his accomplices lacks authenticity and the finale feels ridiculous in its conclusion.
The only positive I took was Regina King’s performance as the grief-stricken mother of the black teen, who almost holds the show’s central theme together on her broad shoulders demanding justice for her Son. It’s a real shame her clear talents are wasted on a recycled paint-by-numbers show like this one because her performance is worthy of an Emmy nomination, it’s that good. She just has nothing of substance in the surrounding cast to support her.
Watch this if you like: “The Wire”, “The Killing” (US Version), “The Shield”.