Slower moving than the title implies, Seven Seconds TV series on Netflix is an intelligent, tense crime drama centered on the cover-up of a hit and run accident involving a New Jersey policeman. It’s the kind of show police procedural fans devour like a tub of buttered popcorn. Well acted, directed, and filmed, Seven Seconds is also heavy handed, with ironic contrasts and personal turmoil at every turn. Unfortunately, the loss of subtlety dulls the emotional impact of this otherwise binge-worthy thriller.
Pete Jablonski (Beau Knapp, right) is new to the narcotics squad, recruited by Mike DiAngelo (David Lyons) for unknown reasons. Driving while distracted – his wife just admitted to the hospital – Jablonski hits something, then discovers a bicycle under the car. He doesn’t see the kid, Brandon, that was riding, but there’s blood on a nearby snowbank. DiAngelo and the rest of his team arrive on the scene and convince Jablonski to leave. A white cop killing a black kid looks bad for the Jersey City police department. A cover-up begins.
The case lands in the lap of assistant prosecutor KJ Harper, a heavy drinker and second rate attorney. She’s the perfect choice for botching the investigation and making sure the truth stays buried. Harper is played by Clare-Hope Ashitey from Suspects, one of our favorite young British actors. Her performance is effectively understated with a believable American accent.
Another new cop in the precinct, Joe Rinaldi (Michael Mosley, supporting actor from countless shows), nick-named Fish, forms the other half of the investigative team. Fish is all wise cracks and gum smacking, giving off a less-than-serious aura. It appears Jablonski is safe, that is until a couple of unusual details catch Harper’s eye.
From the first episode, much of Seven Seconds is obvious and predictable. A white teen gets help from a black teacher finding her little brother, but on returning home, the teacher finds her own son is missing. A vet returns from overseas, but can’t find work. As one child dies, another is born, and so on. Plenty of twists and turns happen along the way, none of them (save for one or two) particularly surprising.
Fortunately, the team of Harper and Fish (right) entertain as they struggle against the system, a pair of Davids fighting Goliath. We pull for them, along with Brandon’s dad (Russell Hornsby) and his friend, Kadeuce (Corey Champagne). Brandon’s mom, Latrice, stays lost in anguish and anger, and Regina King does well with the role, not eliciting excessive sympathy from anyone. There are no saints in this TV series.
The last quarter of Seven Seconds abruptly turns into a courtroom drama. Like most legal TV series, the proceedings are often not quite convincing. To its credit, the story sidesteps an anticipated John Grisham movie, Hollywood-style ending.
There’s much more to the series. It plays out in a novel-like arc, with tangents and side stories. Though many characters fit stereotypes, Seven Seconds spends time giving them personality and depth. Perhaps, too much time. By the end, it’s like we’ve slogged through a month of recent headline news stories without gaining any new insight.
All ten episodes of Seven Seconds TV series are on Netflix. Veena Sud, best known for The Killing, created the series. Despite a number of faults, we eagerly watched all the way through.