First Impressions: Netflix’s Seven Seconds is a confronting drama, disturbingly grounded in reality

Dark, confronting, haunting. Although Netflix‘s new anthology series Seven Seconds is based on 2013 Russian film The Major,  the grim themes of this crime drama are deeply and uncomfortably reflective of prevalent issues in cities within the United States today.

Seven Seconds begins in the misty backdrop of Jersey City, as Peter Jablonski (Beau Knapp), a white cop, accidentally hits and critically injures a black teenage boy. Leaving the scene of the crime, an unravelling of events leads to a cover-up and an explosion of racial tensions. A family becomes divided, helmed by powerful and heartbreaking performances by wife and husband, Regina King and Russell Hornsby; Jablonski is conflicted with his actions and delves into corruption within law enforcement; and K.J Harper, a young lawyer, (Clare-Hope Ashitey) is attempting to make a fresh start before she finds herself in the middle of the trial of the century.

Firstly, this show is not for the faint of heart. Incredibly confronting, the series – produced by The Killing‘s Veena Sud – wants you to feel uncomfortable and angry. Not only is the image of a young boy’s blood mixing with snow a distressing image to see; but as the show furthers, incredibly intense situations unravel that are almost too graphic to stomach. Episode 3, the last directing credit for The Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme before his passing in April 2017, features a grim colour palate and invasive, fast-moving cinematography. It’s an intense viewing experience, but sadly not all too removed from reality.

Regina King delivers her most powerful performance as grieving and heartbroken mother Latrice Butler. Her sadness and anger as a mother whose son was left to die, is harrowing and moving. Isaiah Butler (Russell Hornsby) attempts to keep the falling pieces of his family together. The dynamic between these two characters is wrenching, as both react to the pain of their son’s accident in different ways.

One of the stand-out performances is Clare-Hope Ashitey as lawyer and recovering alcoholic K.J. Harper, who is assigned Brenton Butler’s case. As a central character, it was moving to see a female character who was dynamic, uncertain, angry and flawed. Ashitey portrays the weight of a complex and arduous situation on a young lawyer incredibly well.

Clare-Hope Ashitey as K.J. Harper (Netflix)

Other standout performances include Nadia Alexander as Nadine, a troubled young teenage girl who runs in with police, and Michelle Veintimilla as Marie Jablonski, Peter’s pregnant wife.

Although an intense show, it is slow moving at times. Its dialogue-heavy, the episodes are an hour long each, and it takes a lot of concentration and listening; but when the action picks up, its dynamic editing moulds into a fast-paced and engrossing drama.

Overall, Seven Seconds focuses on uncomfortable, real-world topics that need to be touched on in the entertainment sphere. Through this, it delivers incredible performances, an engrossing storyline, and an excellent set-up for a well-formed crime anthology.


All ten episodes of Seven Seconds will be released on Netflix February 23.