Review: Sequestered Wants to Lock You Up with Summer Glau

While I am an avowed fan of thought-provoking television, sometimes I don’t want to go on an emotional roller coaster ride. Sometimes I don’t want to be reminded of how bleak – or how beautiful – the world is. Sometimes, I just want a decent yarn, but with more plot than a standard procedural.

If you’ve ever felt the same, then Sequestered might be right for you. It isn’t groundbreaking or incredibly original, but rather workmanlike and competent. The brisk plot has just enough intrigue to recommend the show as a quick summer binge.

Sequestered is Crackle’s latest foray into original programming. An online network run by Sony Pictures best known for Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Crackle is available for free in the US, Canada, and a handful of other countries. The show’s first six 22-minute episodes are available today; the final six will be available on October 14th.

The legal thriller opens, predictably, with a dead body. The eight-year-old son of California’s governor (Patrick Warburton, Rules of Engagement) was murdered after a kidnapping gone wrong. The family’s ‘manny’ is arrested and tried for the crime. After a juror is brutally beaten in a possible hate crime outside a gay club, the judge orders the remaining jurors to be sequestered for their own safety.

Legal shows are easily accessible for viewers; they’re variations on a familiar tune everyone can hum, which makes them a perfect fit for a fledgling online network. They’re heavy on plot momentum and light on character development. In this case, the plot follows parallel stories and protagonists (in a way reminiscent of The Good Wife‘s season 1 episode, “Doubt”): juror Anna (Summer Glau, Firefly) is coerced into changing her jury vote by strangers menacing her family and defense lawyer Danny (Jesse Bradford, Guys With Kids) refuses to let go of lingering doubts over how well his firm represented the accused.

The premise cleverly embraces the series’ budgetary limitations. The stark anonymity of the jurors’ hotel gives the jury deliberation an astringent, frustrating feel. The jurors mostly look like normal people; the lawyers on the outside work long hours. The show uses our expectations of how “TV law” works to hit fast forward and move from twist to turn with efficiency. The set pieces here aren’t new, but they’re assembled into a story with a solid conspiracy hook.

Sadly, the show wastes Glau’s talents with Anna, whose character is mostly relegated to panicky desperation after a promising introduction. In fact, none of the female characters on the show fare much better; most can be reduced to borderline offensive stereotypes such as “racist mom”, “dumb blonde”, and “sexy bitch”. (In all fairness, many male characters are tired stereotypes too, but at least they’re given agency to act and take charge.)

The supporting actors are a mixed bag. Bruce Davison (Last Resort) is a standout as Danny’s resourceful ex-cop father, and Ryan McPartlin (Chuck, giving off a major Clark Kent vibe here) manages some layers as a boy-next-door juror smitten with Anna. However, some of the other actors fail to sell what’s written.

Each episode concludes with a cliffhanger practically begging you to binge the series in one sitting. (I did, and my guess is that I liked the show better for it.) Don’t expect resolution at the end, either – these six are designed to reel you in for the denouement in October. No, the series isn’t perfect, but there’s enough good in this whodunit to justify the brief time commitment involved. And, as the saying goes, since Crackle is free, the show is a bargain at twice the price.