Apple TV’s Black Bird is a thrilling crime drama based on James Keene’s 2010 autobiographical novel, ‘In With The Devil: A Fallen Hero, A Serial Killer, and A Dangerous Bargain for Redemption’.
It follows Keene’s character (played by Taron Egerton) who is tasked with befriending a serial killer, Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser), in a maximum security prison. He attempts to get past his secrets and get a confession out of the killer in hopes of attaining freedom from his own jail sentence.
This episode of Black Bird takes the viewers on a journey into the ’70s and focuses on Jimmy’s and Larry’s drastically different childhoods. Jimmy has fun in football practice with his dad whereas a young Larry is forced into the family business of digging graves. The latter’s dad pushes him to dig up graves to rob the corpses of their belongings.
In the present, Jimmy searches through Larry’s unattended cell for some proof but finds nothing. He observes pictures of Civil War reenactments and cars alongside books magazines.
However, he comes across a stack of adult magazines in which Larry has defaced photos of women. He also chances upon creepy drawings of death and torture inside them.
A shocked Jimmy then places the magazines like they were and returns to his own cell where Carter greets him. The guard has demanded money and drugs to keep Jimmy’s true identity a secret but the latter hasn’t able to get him anything.
Asking his father for something to give Carter proves fruitless as well. The impatient guard warns him and leaves. Meanwhile Larry rows sceptical of Jimmy due to him asking a lot of questions.
The former drug dealer finds it difficult to control his anger as he wants to strangle Larry for the deeds he’s committed. Things take a devastating turn when a riot breaks out in the jail.
The violence is relentless and a lot of inmates and guards are stabbed or hurt in the ordeal. This results in the premises going into full lockdown as Jimmy and Larry crawl back into their cells.
Later, the duo is part of a few inmates who are tasked with clearing up the aftermath of the riot. Jimmy uses this opportunity to talk to Larry and they discuss childhoods, first jobs, among other things.
More flashbacks reveal Larry being told to collect rings and jewellery from bodies by his father. The kid despises the tasks initially but grows fond of it eventually, cherishing the time spent with his old man.
He is forced to chop off a finger from one of the corpses to retrieve a wedding band and keeps the amputated body part as a souvenir. Meanwhile Jimmy happy past transforms into a horrible one as well after his father leaves his mother. Her new boyfriend is abusive and takes it all out on her and the kids.
Back in the present, the two engage in more topics of conversation like high school, pets and eventually, murder. This is where Jimmy realises that Larry has a twisted view of the world. His brain sees nothing wrong with eating a pet or befouling a body.
Jimmy cautiously continues to push the serial killer for more details but is outraged at the answers and information he gets in return. He’s sure in his head that Larry has sexually assaulted and murdered many women, however, a concrete proof still eludes him.
- Jim McKay directs this episode of Black Bird instead of Michaël R. Roskam. He maintains the thrilling narrative and pace that has now become the show’s signature.
- The childhood comparisons between the two inmates is a welcome addition and really adds a layer of perspective to the case that factual evidence cannot.
- Taron Egerton gets to do a lot more in this episode and his chemistry (although very eerie) with Paul Walter Hauser is impeccable. The two actors in these four episodes have proved how masterful they are at their craft.
- With two episodes remaining, the suspense has almost reached boiling point and still the somehow the developments feel measured. Black Bird is a slow burning narrative for sure and may test some impatient viewers.
- The last part of this narrative needs to match the consistency that Black Bird has brilliantly maintained so far.