Veena Sud’s Seven Seconds:
A New “Limited Series” on Netflix
Alex Hall, 07-08-2018

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Cara Howe / Netflix
Veena Sud rose to prominence in 2011 as the creator of AMC’s The Killing, which started out as a dark crime procedural that came off like Twin Peaks without the surrealism. The dead girl in The Killing even secretly worked in a casino—just like Laura Palmer—and both series take place in the state of Washington. For all its critical acclaim, however, The Killing started to feel a bit like watching an episode of Law and Order that took an entire season to get through, only to leave viewers frustrated when the first season ended with no revelation about who actually killed its version of the Laura Palmer character. By the time the series got around to tying up the loose ends, no one much cared, and the allure of The Killing had all but worn off, yet Fox Television Studios convinced Netflix to share production costs with AMC for a third season, which aired on AMC before Netflix completely poached the series for a fourth and final season.

Sud has returned to television series production on Netflix as of February of this year with what is now being characterized as a limited series, entitled Seven Seconds. The series is officially canceled, but there was never any indication that it was meant to be produced in a limited format, so it’s more likely Netflix has simply spun the cancellation to either save face itself or protect Sud from ridicule following two series that have not fared especially well (or both). All the same, Seven Seconds does not fall into the traps that The Killing did, and, whether its short lifespan was intentional or not, the series does actually work fairly well as a standalone, limited production.

Part of the series’ appeal is the way in which it checks so many proverbial boxes in terms of race relations, in particular the strained relationship between the police and people of color. At the very beginning of the series, a new addition to a Jersey City police narcotics unit named Peter Jablonski (Beau Knapp) races to the hospital to be with his pregnant wife, whom he believes may be having a miscarriage or other complication with the pregnancy. Along the way, he cuts through a park in his blue SUV—in heavy snowfall—and hits an African-American teen on a bike. He calls the other three members of his tight-knit narcotics unit, and they send him off to attend to his wife while they deal with the accident. The victim’s bike is supposedly indicative of gang affiliation, which the unit concludes is the only likely excuse for him to be in the park to begin with, so they assume he was in a gang, and leave the body for someone else to find. When the body is finally found, the victim turns out to be alive, and he is rushed to a hospital. The narcotics unit finds a homeless alcoholic to pin the hit on, and the case is transferred to an assistant prosecutor who is herself African-American (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and a self-loathing alcoholic. For all her issues, she is able to see past the frame job, and it soon becomes clear that she will have to take on the police force with the help of an eccentric detective (Michael Mosley) to find the killer and seek a conviction. In doing so, she endangers the only witness she has, and she must answer to the victim’s emotional family, including a distraught mother played by Regina King. All of this occurs against the backdrop of a city on edge over the police’s role in the victim’s eventual death, complete with protests, politics, and even religion.

Given this depth of narrative field, the series works on several levels, but there does come a point where the mystery gets a little tired, especially given the constant new revelations, which somewhat contradict the audience’s omniscient perspective. Like so many series these days, there are not many truly likable characters, and the audience is a bit beaten over the head with the politics of it all, for better or worse. Nestled inside the complex, multilayered narrative, though, is a story of loss, complete with the stages of grief, which play out on multiple fronts. For that reason and thanks to (or in spite of, depending on your point of view) the political angle, the series has something for everyone, making it entertaining and worth the watch.

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