When I started watching the new Netflix show, Seven Seconds, I only know one thing about it: Regina King. I didn’t recognize any of the other actors or actresses, and I did not know what the story line held. Regina King did not disappoint me; the rest of the series did, at least seven times. It had its good moments, and I think that I would ultimately watch another season, but I just hate when Hollywood takes the hot topic of the hour (police brutality! unarmed black boy killed! no punishment!), and try to give it a new treatment, only to stumble on the same bumps in the road. There is nothing said in Seven Seconds that we haven’t heard before; sometimes it’s said better than we have heard in other places and sometimes it’s said worse. I have a lot of nits, but these are the big seven:
- First an foremost, who was Brenton Butler? We never get to find out. The whole series is presumably about his death, but we never find out that much about his life. Honestly, the biggest shock, and most interesting plot element, in the entire series, is when we finally do learn something big about who Brenton Butler was and what he was actually doing in the park when he died. It’s the single most satisfying moment of the show for me—which is strange, because by that time you will also probably have to reproach yourself for thinking what you are likely thinking about why he was in the park. Why couldn’t there be more of that? The show doesn’t do too much by the way of making Brenton Butler a hashtag or figurehead of a movement, though it does simplistically portray what is apparently seen as the “knee-jerk” reaction of the Black community to any deaths involving police officers nowadays. I guess that’s Netflix throwing the Blue Lives Matter folks a bone. But, a boy is dead and we know he loved seagulls and he was a teenager and his mother loved him fiercely, but if Netflix had taken more care with this show, we would have known (and cared) so much more.
- The show creators chose, for some ridiculous reason, to make Peter Jablonski at first repentant (a “choir boy” as his wife refers to him), and then all-the-sudden and inexplicably hard-hearted, callous, and really just kinda evil. The writers undoubtedly thought that the carrot of family was sufficiently powerful to serve as “nuance,” and give him a plausible and even sympathetic reason to turn demonic (anything for La Familia, F* everyone else’s, huh?). But you honestly want me to believe that the same dude who was crying and carrying on and running up on the hospital bed of his victim all the sudden turned into a cold-hearted mofo who looks his victim’s mother dead in the eyes and lies through his teeth? Oh…okay. [The showrunners also chose to make the majority of the other police involved in this scenario only slightly troubled with cold blooded murder. This feels cheap to me, almost as if saying that the police who engage in these tactics, such as the Baltimore police who recently admitted to carrying fake guns to plant on victims, are just sociopaths and outliers as opposed to regular dudes who make up the bulk of the police force in this country.]
- I really struggled with how quickly mama Butler went from jamming that tambourine at church to basically screaming “F*CK GOD” to the high heavens. I am not a religious person, but this writing seemed to reflect a superficial understanding of religion in the lives of Black folk, and how historically we have leaned on our religion in times of turmoil. Now, is it completely implausible? No, of course not—people get mad at God and circumstances that they perceive God to have allowed all the time. But Mrs. Butler’s reaction coupled with Mr. Butler’s reaction to revelations about his son’s life make it seem that Black Christians are incapable of complex thinking and analysis in terms of religion, and cannot comprehend God or our world except in the most simple terms. Maybe that’s true for some. But I thought the Butlers deserved a little bit better treatment.
- I wanted to see so much more of Brenton’s best friend. If the show wasn’t going to give us more of the Black boy that died, they should have at least given us more of the Black boy who lived. Those are the ones we are still failing.
- Outside of the prosecutor, KJ, being a complete hot ass mess, she was also just not good at her job. It took her way too long to connect obvious dots, way to long to seek out obvious evidence, and even still she never got to some of the most obvious places that any lawyer worth their salt would go in terms of strategy, evidence, witnesses, and just making the best case possible. The best thing she had going for her was that her drunken shit-show of a life was somewhat of a distraction for how terrible she was at lawyering. The showrunners could have made her just a little bit…better.
- Not that Fish is any better. This has to be the worst detective work I have ever seen in my life. So, for example, you have veeeeery strong suspicions that your witness died under duress. You don’ ask the medical examiner to check her fingernails for DNA….even after you later see a suspect with scratches on his arm? Oh, okay. I get it…the story has to stay interesting across the whole season of episodes. But to create obvious holes and blind spots in the investigation just so that the story can drag on? Ugh.
- Let’s talk about Pete Jablonski’s wife and the false narrative of the innocent white woman. She is so hurt about losing her previous baby. Okay, so? So now, Mrs. Butler loses her son, who she came to know and love for a decade and a half, and all little Mrs. Jablonski has to say about it is, “I don’t care about that woman. I don’t care about her son.” So, she is allllll hardcore and ice-veined until someone graffitis “baby killer” on her garage, then she is just a crying bag of bones? A victim caught up in the circumstances of her husband’s behavior? Nah, bish. Like many white women who have come before her, when it came time to chose between pain to her own family (which would be only the repercussions of the actions of her own family) and pain to black bodies, she gladly chose pain to black bodies. You can tell that the writers of this foolishness are trying to paint her as a victim at best, and at worst, a human acting naturally on the human desire to save self and family. The writers clearly don’t realize how this portrayal is underscoring the thread of history that connects Mrs. Jablonski to every white woman since Gone With the Wind, who would rather see black boys dead in the streets than any kin to her face their own deeds. I don’t feel bad for Mrs. Jablonski….she is almost worst than her damn husband. And the writers that are trying to feed us this equivocating bullshit are the worst of all.