CultureTV

I Binge-Watched Seven Seconds on Netflix: My Review

seven seconds poster

I have a problem with art that imitates life so well, it leaves us with the message that there is no WINNING. It punches you in the gut and reminds you that even when you think you might win, you will lose. And that is my main problem with Seven Seconds, a drama offered up by Netflix, and created by Veena Sud.

TRIGGER WARNING: police brutality and death

When Seven Seconds starts, we see a white dude driving while on the phone. He’s distracted when he hits something and his car spins around a couple of time and finally stops. When he gets out his SUV, he sees spinning bicycle wheels under his tire. He didn’t hit something; he hit someone. He looks around and his truck’s guard is half off and bloody. He looks a few feet ahead and sees blood leading to a ditch. What does he do? Surely, calling 911 would be too much like right. He calls a buddy who shows up with 2 others and we see they’re all cops. His superior (Mike DiAngelo) walks to the ditch and looks down. There’s a body there. DiAngelo tells him to drive off, because they cannot let it out that a white cop has killed a Black boy. Especially not in this age of Ferguson.

7 seconds

Shaken up by the magnitude of what he just did, Petey Jablonski drives off, leaving the 3 officers behind to handle the rest. They “handle” it by leaving the scene, as if nothing happened.

And that’s in the first 10 minutes of the show. Later on in the day, a dog finds the body in the ditch, and that is when the story really starts. We find out the person that Officer Jablonski hit is a 15 year old Black teenager named Brenton Butler. His parents Isaiah and Latrice have to pick up the pieces, and an assistant prosecutor (KJ Harper) is assigned the case. KJ is a Black woman who is overworked, messy AF in her personal life and a barely functioning alcoholic. Her partner on the case is a gum-loving, jokester white dude detective who goes by “Fish.”

The show spends 10 episodes (each an hour) getting KJ and Fish caught up on what we already know. They start connecting the dots of what happened, who did it and why Brenton was left for dead. With the help of Latrice Butler’s compulsion to find justice for her son, the case starts to come together, but it is no easy feat.

Seven Seconds is definitely timely in the theme of police brutality and our assertion of “BLACK LIVES MATTER” even as the justice system tells us otherwise. The show is gripping. I was drawn in before the first 15 minutes and was invested in what would happen. These fucked up cops, the innocent Black boy victim and the parents whose lives are torn apart with grief. I was IN and over 3 days, I binged all 10 hours because I needed to see it through.

KJ Harper 7 Seconds

Seven Seconds had some character development problems, in my opinion. The character, KJ, in all her shenanigans often came off as a self-saboteur and we were barely given a reason why. I found mysef screaming at the screen at her behavior often. Although I had to root for her, it felt like she was just set up to fail. Also, HER HAIR. What the hell was that? It was a limp wig with terrible bangs and a thin ponytail. I never got over how bad it was, as I watched the show. It was almost offensive, how bad it was. Anyway…

The highlight for me was Regina King’s portrayal of Latrice Butler. It felt so real how she vacillated between crippling grief and blinding rage, as a mother who needed answers for why her son Brenton’s life was cut short. The event, which took about 7 seconds, changed her life and seeing how she wanted to jump out her skin from the pain was heartwrenching. I think it was an award-winning performance. Regina King is a quiet force.

Latrice Butler Seven Seconds

HERE IS WHERE REAL SPOILERS START. IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED IT AND WANT TO, TURN BACK NOWWWWWWW.

OK YOU GONE? Lemme finish.

I usually like to finish things I start, and up to episode 6 or 7, I was excited to keep watching. And then something happened once the show got into the courtroom. KJ and Fish finally got to the point where they found out the cop who hit Brenton, and the 3 others who helped cover it up. This is where it gets painful to watch because it’s the part that got TOO real.

In the end, the 3 others get off and Jablonski is sentenced to less than a year behind bars. For killing a Black boy, leaving the scene and hiding evidence.

I was pissed. PISSED. Not because this is unexpected but because this is how it would have played out in real life and I don’t think we needed to see that. What did Seven Seconds want us to feel? Because I don’t think it accomplished anything but to remind us that life sucks, Black lives don’t matter to the state and there’s no winning for us.

seven Seconds

It felt gratuitous, and somehow exploitative to be put through that. Even in fiction, ain’t no win for us. There wasn’t justice for Brenton. Just like there hasn’t been justice for Trayvon. Alton. Rakia. Sandra. Eric.

That is why I wouldn’t recommend anyone who is Black watch it. Not because the show wasn’t good, but because it is triggering AF. I audibly said “whew” so many times during the drama that I had to take a few deep breaths.

This is the same problem I had with Poussey’s death on season 4 of Orange is the New Black. It’s the reason I am really thankful that Get Out didn’t use their alternate ending where Chris ended up in jail. Then I realize that MAYBE, just MAYBE, the difference is that a Black man (Jordan Peele) knew that he didn’t need to use his film to break our hearts further. Meanwhile, Jenji Kohan and Veena Sud are creators who can write these stories of tragedy from the detached space they occupy as non-members of the groups whose heart they can break over and over again with their stories that lack triumph for Black people.

Nothing good happened in this show. The marriage of the Butlers fell apart too, on top of all that. TEW. MUCH.

Jenji is a Jewish woman and Veena was born to parents of Filipino and Indian heritage. They can write these and stomach the tragedy porn because they aren’t TRULY connected to the pain of what they’re creating. They can write sympathetic storylines for the white cops who take Black lives, and spend time showing “both sides.” I feel like it’s callous because what we need less of is finding out how the Pete Jablonskis became monsters. What we need more of is finding out how the Latrice Butlers triumph over their tragedies.

Black Lives Matter

In a world where we just found out that Alton Sterling’s murderer will not even be charged, I didn’t need “Seven Seconds” to proverbially punch me in the face. I did not. And I ask WHAT WAS THE POINT? To rub the reality of our lives in our faces? Because well done. Mission accomplished.

Maybe I’m just hypersensitive right now but I need more art that challenges me but doesn’t make me feel like everything hopeless. Ultimately, the hopelessness is what made Seven Seconds lousy, to me.

Previous post

Opening Closed Doors (with Vanessa K. De Luca) - Episode 3 of Rants and Randomness

Next post

Not Even Me Can Stop Me (with Jenifer Lewis) - Episode 4 of Rants and Randomness

41 Comments

  1. Erika
    March 30, 2018 at 1:33 pm — Reply

    This is why I didn’t watch it. I knew it would be too real. I don’t need to see us lose as entertainment. I see that on the daily. 😒

    • Tamme
      March 30, 2018 at 1:57 pm — Reply

      Absolutely! I can NOT! It’s too much 😞.

  2. Leslie
    March 30, 2018 at 1:50 pm — Reply

    I’m on ep. 3 and the only reason I want to continue is because: Regina King. Her portrayal of the intense emotional rollercoaster which comes with gut wrenching grief is realer than reality tv.
    But like others said this ain’t no ‘feel good sries’

    • Leslie
      March 30, 2018 at 1:56 pm — Reply

      series

  3. AB
    March 30, 2018 at 1:50 pm — Reply

    I really loved the show but I cannot sit through it again. I was definitely triggered the whole time and it took me a lil while to get over it lol

  4. Bestunevrhad
    March 30, 2018 at 2:53 pm — Reply

    I feel exactly as you Luvvie. Family members who are watching it asked if I was watching. NOPE. I got enough sad ish in my life don’t need to heap on the fictional woes.

  5. Dana
    March 30, 2018 at 2:55 pm — Reply

    As painful as it was to watch, we need constant reminders of our reality so we don’t loosen our grip on change. As hard as it was to see the white cop get off for taking yet another young Black man’s life, I will continue to watch so I will never get comfortable. Don’t be mad at the truth; create a new one.

    • bLL
      April 8, 2018 at 2:03 am — Reply

      I understand and complete respect the need to stay focused on our grip and not getting comfortable. -Here is comes- BUT if we can’t relax and enjoy a dramatized, scripted series what’s the point in watching. We should be assembling the next march or designing more signs for that march. Why sit at home and get reminded of the injustice in the world, we could be out there in the fight. NO we need a break from the reality and show a different kind of life for the black community. If we saw it more maybe we would start to believe it is possible.

  6. Gerri
    March 30, 2018 at 3:09 pm — Reply

    I LITERALLY slammed a stack of books down onto my living room floor end of last episode. I hated the cops, I hated the wives, hated the defense attorney. It was like rubbing salt and then sprinkling lemon on a fresh wound. Regina saves the day as always but I was praying for a better ending.

  7. AngieBee
    March 30, 2018 at 3:32 pm — Reply

    This was actually filmed in my neighborhood right outside my building and I saw some of the scenes being filmed. I was excited to watch the series when I heard it was finally going to premier. But while watching and especially after completing it, I was disappointed in the ending. It left me feeling empty after all of the buildup.

  8. Shelley
    March 30, 2018 at 3:35 pm — Reply

    I had trouble watching Chi for the same reason – it’s too real and too sad; creates feelings. Don’t we do anything happy?? Sigh.

  9. Lorna G.
    March 30, 2018 at 4:03 pm — Reply

    There is a part of me that wonders if more series and movies are telling the “way too much truth” so that ‘other’ folks can see what’s real. Seems like everything is about them and their comfort. And most films/tv are all about letting them believe in a happy ending. So perhaps this is a small way of making them confront the reality of our lives (or loss of lives)?

    I don’t know.
    And it hurts to even think about watching.
    Still, I think we can all agree on two things:
    1) Regina King is THE QUEEN; and,
    2) We are grateful that Luvvie wrote this!!!!
    :o)

    • LarIsa
      March 31, 2018 at 12:12 am — Reply

      I haven’t seen it but I hope that this is exactly what the take away is. Let the cold truth we are constantly slapped with touch those who fix their mouths to say “it’s not as bad as you say/think/feel it is”.

  10. niksmit
    March 30, 2018 at 4:06 pm — Reply

    Thank you for your service, Luvvie. I didn’t think this was for me and you just proved it. I’d only watch this if I was an actress or the like, studying Regina King’s performance.

  11. Donnie
    March 30, 2018 at 4:57 pm — Reply

    You didn’t like it? I loved it! One of the things I liked the most was how real it felt. Yes, it sucked to watch that. I too had moments when I wanted to throw something at my tv. (Which I promptly calmed my happy ass down cuz I wasn’t about to mess up my flat screen) It was a reminder that my life truly has very little value in the eyes of America. And like you said, that’s not news. BUT it was Nina Simone that said “an artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” I think this woman, even not being black, did that. She showed you exactly what happens in today’s America! No fantasy, no bullshit, no mincing of words or ideas….just the ugly face of justice system as it relates to the police and African Americans. My favorite part was how the influence of religion in the black household was examined. Having grown up in the south, with a mother that had me in church at least 3 days a week, ALL WHILE being black and GAY, I identified a lot with the show. I loved how the director showed how tragedy can effect faith. How it brings some closer to god and pushes others away. I LOVED LOVED LOVED Regina King! She was OUTSTANDING!! I had my problems with the series too….that wig miss KJ had on was just down right disrespectful! Come on now! In the era of Cynthia Bailey, and Nicki Minaj, and RUPAUL….they couldn’t find mother some better hair? And it took too long for them to give us her story! Like I knew she was sleeping with ol boy when she showed up to his house and the wifey wasn’t feeling it but some earlier insight into her drinking would have been nice. But overall, I truly liked it. At the end of the day, art should make you feel. I think this series did its job.

    • Tami
      April 5, 2018 at 10:20 am — Reply

      I liked it…It was too real, ugly…But that is art…Wish the ending could have been different…Had a fit about that wig KJ worn too…I kept staring at it, wondering why her hair couldn’t look better…Regina can act her behind off…and to a certain extent, even agree with Luvvie…We need more stories with happy endings.

  12. Deborah
    March 30, 2018 at 5:37 pm — Reply

    Yes Luvvie! I watched all 10 episodes & would have been perfectly happy if they had ended at episode 6 when the cops got arrested. It was 4 episodes too long. This is why I haven’t watched Frutvale Station or 12 Years a Slave because I just can’t take heartbreak for entertainment. And about that wig….it was SO DAMN DISTRACTING!!!! I kept thinking there was some deeply hidden secret up under there that would eventually be revealed along with more of KJ’s back story. And as good as Regina King is in it, I fear she is getting typed into the suffering black mother role (American Crime) which I would hate to have stifle her abilities. Naw. I’m too old for this kinda real as entertainment.

  13. Denise
    March 30, 2018 at 6:18 pm — Reply

    I watched it. A couple of times I had to turn it off to deep breath and remember this was from someone’s imagination. As stated by Luvvie, still TOO REAL. i watched until the end in hopes that this would be a grandioso ending of what we hope for in real life. All officers sentenced justly and the wives prosecuted for helping hide what they knew. Butttttt, Nope. Not what we got. What we did get, i was hoping that the writers were hoping to tug a some wipipo heart strings and make them see what damage is done after these types of incidents occur. That hopefully one of these viewers would end up on a jury and be a voice of reason that says NO! This can’t happen again under my watch. Cause a hung jury, make the other jurors think “if we were black”
    I doubt any of that was done but in my little Libra heart, me hoping for all to be fair at some point. That is what I hope it was meant for.

  14. Movindri Reddy
    March 30, 2018 at 7:42 pm — Reply

    Excellent review and it was gut wrenching to go through the whole series. You are so right about the creators/directors and the implications of not being African-American.

  15. VBranch
    March 30, 2018 at 7:57 pm — Reply

    It was so heart wrenching that I cried. This was too real. The wig, the wig and the wig..WTH

  16. Sarah Wagner
    March 30, 2018 at 9:26 pm — Reply

    I knew something was not going to be right about this one and I’m glad I didn’t watch it. I wonder (again, didn’t watch) if the equation of “oops, I was careless and killed a Black child” and cops killing Black boys (and girls and men and women…) bothered people too. If this is supposed to be an allegory for real life, how are those the same? Are the IRL cops just careless? Just took their eyes off the morality road for a second? That doesn’t sound right, right there.

  17. Crystal
    March 30, 2018 at 10:08 pm — Reply

    It was a good show. Regina King was incredible but at the end all I could think was, I could have just watched the news. I was left with the same empty and hopeless feeling. Maybe the movie wasn’t made for black people. Maybe the hope was to get others to understand our plight.

  18. Reesee
    March 31, 2018 at 12:20 pm — Reply

    Luvvie I feel like KJ is the way she is b cause of her relationship with her uppity, self-absorbed Dad. He looks down on her and has pressured her to “be like him.” I left feeling like she tried to drink his disappointment away. Oh and I thought about Erika Alexander the actress the whole time.

  19. Gwinne Kindle
    March 31, 2018 at 2:48 pm — Reply

    I have followed and stalked you on all social media for a few years now. (Began with Scandal). This review right here is so on point. I have not watched and couldn’t bring myself to watch because of how it’s so true and my rage us soooo “whew”. Thank YOU Luvvie for this heartbreaking true review.

  20. Ric
    March 31, 2018 at 7:11 pm — Reply

    Why didn’t KJ introduce Jablonski’s cell phone records that would’ve proved the other cops involvement? Other than that I felt Verna Sud just wanted to create a tragic finale even though there was enough evidence at least in a Northeastern state to produce guilty verdicts. Just as in the Killing she can not finish

  21. Janellmt
    April 1, 2018 at 8:55 pm — Reply

    Yes! I 100% agree. KJ’s storyline seemed like an afterthought. The cop who always wore a fitted was a trash version of white ppl’s perception of urban blacks. The PR cop was an ultimate trader to The People. The storyline dragged on unnecessarily for Brenton’s family not to come out on top. There should have been some black/brown people with a seat at the Seven Seconds table.

  22. Kymbakai
    April 2, 2018 at 9:13 am — Reply

    I see your point and I disagree. Our stories are real and need to be told. Fairy tale endings where positive results are rarely achieved are already present in the lexicon. Although, difficult to watch I felt authenticity every moment (even rarer). From not-quite-right hair to not enough character development, I was drawn in.

  23. April 2, 2018 at 9:47 am — Reply

    I didn’t it like for those same reasons. Then people wonder why Black Panther was such a huge success. It’s because when you are constantly depicted in film as being helpless and powerless then to witness yourself being depicted as kings and queens with power, that speaks to the soul of a person. It’s like living in a house where you constantly told your stupid, then your parents make a movie about how stupid you are. Really, was that necessary? How does that help? Educate me because the reality of whats going in the world is enough drama for me.

    • April 7, 2018 at 12:35 pm — Reply

      “It’s because when you are constantly depicted in film as being helpless and powerless then to witness yourself being depicted as kings and queens with power, that speaks to the soul of a person.”

      THIS.

  24. Evelyn
    April 2, 2018 at 2:22 pm — Reply

    Oh Luvvie, you took the thoughts right out of my head. The difference is I saw where it was going and had to stop. I simply can’t take the trauma of seeing in my fictional entertainment what I have to live in real life. You are much braver than I, and I sooooo appreciate this review… I’d been vacillating on whether or not I should finish watching, but now I know I don’t have to – and don’t WANT to.
    (And YASSSSSS on that wig!!! I mean, WTH?!?!?)

  25. Kim
    April 2, 2018 at 8:48 pm — Reply

    I’m ok w the wig bc I think it fit in w her hot mess character/alcoholic.
    I’m gutted by this show.

  26. April 3, 2018 at 12:25 am — Reply

    The part that had me the MOST pissed was when she lost the racial bias argument. When the white female lawyer RIPPED her argument to shreds. I mean, did it have to be that brutal?! I threw a shoe at the TV.

    And don’t get me STARTED about the fact that the star defense attorney was a WHITE WOMAN. Not only do you wanna slap us in the face, but you’re pitting two women against each other AND the white lady wins?

    Bruh. Get off my Netflix.

  27. Susan
    April 3, 2018 at 8:24 pm — Reply

    Very on point. I expected the outcome, so I had to stop myself from exhaling and saying whew! and/or from getting excited about little victories. I would have been insulted if the cops had gotten their just dues because it would have turned this series into a fairy tale.

  28. Not Impressed
    April 3, 2018 at 10:04 pm — Reply

    I enjoyed this show up until the trial. It became clear to me at the end that this was about sensationalism and exploitation for ratings. How else do the directors explain the decision to portray a black female prosecutor as so incompetent? Because that is why the case was lost; she had good intentions but could not execute. Let’s go down the list: (1) Screwing your married boss instead of working on trial strategy; (2) Not demanding your boo give you experienced co-counsel (nobody in the real world tries big cases like this solo); (3) Not demanding that your boo keep your star witness under lock and key and with an escort when you know she’s prone to run away to get a fix and the bad cops have been after her; (4) Not thoroughly reviewing your evidence to see the missing grill (cause you were busy with your boo and getting beat down by his wife or getting wasted cause you got played); (5) Falling into that ridiculous trap with the dummy and giving the jury a clear visual of your extremely weak race theory; (6) Not excluding testifying witnesses from the courtroom (why were the cops there the entire time); (7) Calling Pete’s no-good daddy as a witness (seriously who would rely on that scumbag); (8) Failing to actually take a written statement under oath from a defendant who wants to confess (you never know what the hell he’ll say on the stand, as you sadly discovered the hard way); (9) Telling Brenton’s father the defendant is going to testify against his boys (did she seriously think he wouldn’t say something); (10) Losing your $hit while questioning the defendant to the point where you are forcibly removed from the courtroom in handcuffs in front of the jury and still did not get the tea you need from the witness (cell phone records girl!!!)…etc., etc.,

    We (the audience) knew the full story of the dirty cops, their wives and the cover-up so the verdict stabbed us in the heart. The judge and jury had no clue. The judge simply saw a prosecutor with a bad reputation who was always drunk and poorly prepared so she wasn’t taken seriously at all. The jury saw an unprofessional black woman who could not keep her cool and was outwitted at every turn by her opponent. I wouldn’t have believed KJ’s case either!

    One of the proudest moments of my life was as a young lawyer in a majority law firm when the OJ verdict was announced. Everybody was shocked. I ran to my office and called my girl and we both talked about how that Johnnie Cochran was amazing!!! I learned then the importance of being a top notch lawyer and I see sistas doing that everyday.

    By making KJ such a screw-up, the whole point of the movie (the flawed justice system) is lost. It made for a good story (they assumed) but she (and our cause) once again became the joke. As usual, we were playing checkers while everyone else was playing chess. I love Regina King but not even she could make me sit through this fiasco again.

    Next time the directors should talk to Shonda about portraying black women lawyers who may be flawed personally but know how to handle their business professionally. That was an embarrassment to me and my girls who bring it day in and day out to give us a fighting chance! Directors, do better next time when you attempt to tell our story.

    • April 4, 2018 at 11:10 pm — Reply

      Such a good point this: “By making KJ such a screw-up, the whole point of the movie (the flawed justice system) is lost. It made for a good story (they assumed) but she (and our cause) once again became the joke. As usual, we were playing checkers while everyone else was playing chess. I love Regina King but not even she could make me sit through this fiasco again.”

    • April 7, 2018 at 12:33 pm — Reply

      “By making KJ such a screw-up, the whole point of the movie (the flawed justice system) is lost. It made for a good story (they assumed) but she (and our cause) once again became the joke. ”

      GREAT POINT!

  29. LBell
    April 4, 2018 at 9:48 am — Reply

    We really not gon’ talk about KJ’s basic AF sears suit and t-shirt tho? Was I really the only one that noticed?

    Regina King and Russell Hornsby are the only reasons to watch.

  30. Libby K
    April 4, 2018 at 2:10 pm — Reply

    The show gutted me too but the last few minutes have me hope. It started during all that verdict ish at the end was when KJ gave her last stand (I was straight weeping from here on out). Then when the entire right side of the courtroom didn’t stand up for the judge. And then when she walked out of the courtroom, and they all stood for her. It showed me the redemption in her character. And I literally threw my fist in the air and yelled, “Fight fight fight fight!!!” Because what can we do but keep fighting until they hear us. Fight until they see us. It’ll take time and sometimes looks fruitless but they deserve it. They are worth us fighting for. Even when we’re deeply flawed and broken, we gotta do all we can to fight for them. Fight. On.

  31. April 5, 2018 at 11:57 am — Reply

    A whole lot of people have to say “Yes” for this to have reached @Luvvie ‘s eyeballs in the first place. I always wonder when storytelling is problematic, “Who agreed to pay for this? What is the story you think you are telling? Why do you think this is the way to tell the story? Who is the intended audience? What response is the storyteller hoping for, best case, from the audience?”
    I just can’t imagine the people who said “Yes” to all the choices Luvvie decries would have Luvvie-approved answers to those questions.

  32. bLL
    April 8, 2018 at 1:43 am — Reply

    I binge-watched the season Friday and Saturday, all the while hoping that the black community and family would get justice. It really SUCKS that the black stories in these types of shows have to stay so tight in reality and white stories portrayed in everything else seem to get their problem or problems resolved and are allowed live happily ever after… We can’t catch a break even in fake stories about fake crimes and crooked cops that really desired to get killed or at the very least put in jail. The one that did go to jail gets 30 days, SERIOUSLY! It’s the continuous production of shows like “Seven Seconds” that made “Black Panther” a billion dollar movie. Entertaining to all – black, white or purple and for a few hours as a black viewer -WE WIN PROUD AND WITH HONOR! Why Hollywood can’t seem to understand we need that more than seeing life with unfair odds over and over again… Sorry, I will not be watching season 2. I want to be entertained, not reminded.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *