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In a TV world where courtroom dramas and legal thrillers are airing on at least one network at every hour of the day, only the most original of series can stand out in the crowd. Crackle’s latest original series Sequestered has subverted nearly every expectation one might have for an online streaming thriller, and by doing so has established itself as a breezily suspenseful trip through the conspiracy-soaked aftermath of a well-publicized murder. This might be a gamechanger, guys.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make Sequestered out to be the most original series in television history or anything, but it’s making all the right moves right out the gate. In the first place, Crackle has released only six of the first season's twelve episodes, giving audiences a chance to bite down on this story and develop a hunger for the second half of the season, which will be released on October 14. Viewers can either watch one per week like a normal network schedule would have them do, or they can have two quick marathons, six weeks apart. Why are they quick? Because these episodes are only 22 minutes long, and it cannot be understated just how refreshing this anti-traditional choice is. Sequestered delivers its fair share of thrills and chills with a pronounced lack of fluff, making every story feel like the A-story.
At the depressing heart of Sequestered is the dead son of Governor Bennett (Patrick Warburton), who paid a very steep ransom to get his boy back from whoever kidnapped him. The alleged killer, Malcolm Miller, is caught and put to trial, and the first episode basically begins as the trial ends. One of the jurors is attacked outside of a bar, and the rest of the jury is sequestered inside of a hotel with very limited access to the outside world. No one wants to be there, so of course popular opinion instinctively leads some to a guilty verdict, but there are several detractors.
Anna, played by Firefly’s Summer Glau, is a high-strung juror whose unreliable sister is headed for trouble, and Anna has to try and figure out how to stop that from happening despite her closed quarters. She seems level-headed, which makes her a good ally for Ryan (Ryan McPartlin), a juror who isn’t easily swayed into voting guilty; he seems almost too invested in Malcolm's innocence. And what about Heather Dubrow’s assertive and opinionated juror who would rather assume guilt than have anything actually proven to her. The other jurors, including a bland ringleader, a pair of knuckleheads and a dumb blonde, come across mostly as stereotypes for these six episodes, but there’s always room to improve when it returns. The key point here is: this is a courtroom drama that doesn’t take place inside of a courtroom.
Outside of the jury circle is Danny, an earnest young defense attorney played by Guys with Kids’s Jesse Bradford, who isn’t feeling completely optimistic about his current client, the one Malcolm Miller. Going against the advice of his boss, Danny looks down a different avenue to try and give Malcolm the slimmest chance to find justice. Assuming he didn’t do it, of course. It’s worth noting here again that through watching Danny having sex and performing minor detective work, we’re given a lawyer drama without any of the lawyering we’re accustomed to seeing on TV.
The mystery behind the death of the governor’s son is a solid hook, made all the more intriguing by an indifferent and understated performance from Warburton, best known for howling at things in comedies like Family Guy. Everything and everyone on Sequestered is almost immediately placed in a shady light, creating a sub-tension existing solely through rampant suspicions. Someone is pulling strings somewhere here, and the quick pacing grants partial immunity to whatever resolution may come, no matter how undesirable. I mean, if it turns out aliens did it, then I’d have a problem, but creator Aaron Tracy (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) isn’t shooting for the moon with Sequestered’s plot. This is fairly grounded TV that still earns each of its larger-than-life cliffhangers.
Minor quibbles are to be found, of course, such as the oddly written relationship between Danny and his dad, played by Bruce Davison, who is mostly used as a generic source of information after their boundaries have been established. I have a sneaking suspicion that will change in the next six episodes. Also, we’re getting a look into Malcolm’s miserable life in prison, but it’s not yet apparent what his side of the story is doing to move anything along. And some of those jurors are the kinds of character you cheer for when they die in a slasher movie. Still, Sequestered’s strengths are much more noticeable than its faults, and no one would find me guilty of lying about that.
Find the first six episodes of Sequestered on Crackle, with the second six coming on October 14.