As of late, Netflix has been on point with their original series and films. Canadian director, producer and writer, Veena Sud who is best known for her work on the Netflix Original series, The Killing (2011-2014) has teamed up with Netflix again for the new series, Seven Seconds (2018). Seven Seconds is an American crime drama that depicts the events that follow after a Jersey City police officer accidentally hits a teenage black boy and flees the scene. The series is based on a Russian film called The Major/Майор (2013).
Peter Jablonski (Beau Knapp) is new to the Jersey City Police Department, but is quickly taken under Sergeant Mike DiAngelo’s (David Lyons) wing. On February 15th, 2017 which was a snowy day, Jablonski is franticly making his way to the hospital because his wife is having pregnancy complications. While on his way to the hospital, Jablonski receives multiple phone calls, which he answers while driving. All of sudden he hears a thud and swerves in the snow. He steps out of the car to check what he hit and the severity of it. Jablonski soon discovers a bike under his car along with blood covered snow that goes from his car all the way to a ditch. He quickly goes into shock and then panics. His first instinct is to call DiAngelo who advises him to sit tight until he arrives with the rest of the team to assess the situation.
Upon the team’s arrival, they realize that Jablonski hit a young boy, Brenton Butler, who was riding his bike through the park. While they all decide on what to do Brenton is laying in the ditch just a couple feet away. DiAngelo makes another advisement, which is for Jablonski to continue making his way to the hospital to his wife while he and the team deal with everything else. Wilcox, one of the officers that was a part of the team, is directed to dispose of the grill guard that was attached to the car. The grill guard is covered in Brenton Butler’s blood. Ultimately, everyone flees the scene assuming Butler is dead in the ditch.
Hours later, still clinging to life Brenton Butler’s body is discovered by a person walking through the park. He is identified and his parents, Latrice (Regina King) and Isaiah (Russell Hornsby) are notified. Latrice and Isaiah go into the hospital with no backstory on why their son is in the hospital in a coma. No police have even come forward with a report.
KJ Harper (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and Joe “Fish” Rinaldi (Michael Mosley) are brought together to work on Butler’s case. Initially, they were very dysfunctional and bumped heads a lot. KJ’s struggle with alcoholism and Fish’s pompous attitude really put a strain on them. The duo eventually are able to work together to get to the truth of what happen to Brenton Butler on the morning of February 15th, 2017.
DiAngleo and his team quickly work to pin the accident on Dorsey, a well-known alcoholic, who was nearby at the time. However, that doesn’t necessarily correlate with the time of accident and the time Dorsey purchased his alcohol, which was verified by the merchant. In sum, all of the clues lead back to Jablonski and DiAngelo. Jablonski made things harder for himself when he went to Brenton’s hospital room in the middle of the night asking Latrice whether Brenton was going to make it then saying he was mistaken and was in the wrong room leaving behind a personal item of Brenton’s that was at the crime scene. DiAngelo didn’t do a good job on his end either when he failed to consider that there may have been a witness, which there was. KJ and Fish spend the duration of the series playing a cat and mouse game with Jablonski and DiAngelo.
Initially, I didn’t think I would like this series as much I do now. One critical part of the series, is that Brenton Butler character’s isn’t given a voice for himself. Throughout the series you have to get to know who he is based on his family, the people who spent time with along with whatever is uncovered during the investigation of his death, which leaves a lot of room for you to make your own judgment or come to your own conclusions about he was. Brenton’s character was very subjective. Regina King did an amazing job playing her role as Latrice Butler, Brenton’s mother. In the beginning of the series she was a devoted schoolteacher and God fearing woman, but the loss of her son caused her to question her sanity along with her faith in God. Moreover, Russell Hornsby who starred as Isaiah Butler, the conflicted and religious father had a stellar performance as well. Hornsby effortlessly portrayed Isaiah who was forced simultaneously grieve and come to realizations about his son. Who Brenton was and Isaiah’s beliefs conflicted, but it was up to Isaiah to make peace with it. Clare-Hope Ashitey who portrayed the prosecutor, KJ was put at the forefront of Brenton’s case. She had to make atonement with her past and battle her alcoholism in order to fight for justice for Brenton Butler.
The series really embodied the stages of grief and the reality of being black in America. I liked how as the story unfolded despite what you thought you knew or saw there was always a plot twist.
Jablonski’s sketchy history and childhood was put up for judgment. He may have seemed like a good guy who made a life changing accident, but who was he really? His character was judged when the fact remained that he left Brenton there to die in the ditch that day. Brenton’s father, Isaiah and his uncle, Seth’s connection to a local gang was put up for scrutiny as well. The Butler family seemed to be good people who praised God, but when a social services report of child abuse was brought up it made you question what was really going on in the Butler household. I was really pleased by how the series depicted how distorted the justice system especially when there’s a cop on the stand. It also showed how police actually work alongside the criminals they are supposed to be pursuing, which would make one question the integrity of the authority. Brenton Butler, a 15-year-old black boy’s criminal history and sexuality was put on the stand for people to judge in comparison to a grown man whose duty was to serve and protect, but decided on February 15, 2017 that he would flee the scene after hitting an innocent child instead of serving and protecting him.
Anybody who watches this will be forced to view the harsh, distorted American justice system. This series is a must watch. Check out the trailer below