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.
The final episode of Black Bird opens with Jimmy having a dream about Larry’s murders. He wakes up to find the serial killer watching him. He asks if his stories about murder are responsible for Jimmy’s sleeping problems.
Larry’s confession about Jessica Roach’s murder is still fresh in Jimmy’s mind but he denies it. Larry flips the script and says that they were just stories and not the reality. Jimmy acts agitated that Larry lied to him and mocks him for being a liar.
He adds that he knew Larry’s story was false as he never dug a grave for Roach even though he grew up digging them. This winds up Larry Hall and his simple brain fails to catch Jimmy’s manipulation. He walks off asking him to meet him in the wood shop later.
Jimmy Keane is successful in setting up the bait for his target and awaits a full blown confession. Meanwhile his life is still in danger as Carter has ratted him out. Jimmy knows he has little time before someone attacks him and starts working out in his cell to stay in shape.
Meanwhile, Carter approaches Jimmy and offers to help him if he reveals who he’s working for. Jimmy evades him by saying he’ll let him know if Carter can make sure no one attacks him for at least a week. Unfortunately, even Gigante threatens Jimmy, making him realise that he’s lucky to still be alive.
The narrative then shifts to probably the most intense and revelatory scene of the show. Jimmy goes to see Larry in the wood shop where the killer is sitting over a map surrounded by 21 carved birds.
Larry starts talking about how he’s gonna mail the birds back home to his brother Gary as they are supposed to watch over the dead. Jimmy notices that the map has red dots on it and realises they are the positions of the bodies of the girls Larry has killed.
He boasts about how he remembers each and every place and starts talking about killing Tricia Reitler. Jimmy, now low on patience, tries to reason with him. He asks Larry to anonymously let his victims’ loved ones know of the buried bodies to give them some release.
Larry laughs and answers that he’ll never do that. He adds that he’s about to win his appeal and he’ll walk out to live his life again. This is when Jimmy completely loses his cool.
He yells at Larry for being a ruthless murder and that he’ll never be a free man again. This is too much for the serial killer to bear and he attacks Jimmy. The fight is broken up by the guards who put Jimmy in solitary confinement.
The map is still with Larry and no one knows about it except Jimmy. He tries to get in touch with the shrink who knows about the mission but no guard believes him. He begs for a pencil or a pen to draw the map on the cell’s walls but doesn’t get any.
As the map starts slipping away from his memory, he cuts himself and uses blood to draw it. Meanwhile, the real map is mailed home and burnt. Brian and Lauren visit Gary and try to get a confession out of him. The brother finally breaks and accepts that Larry raped a hitchhiker once.
However, he does not openly admit that he ever murdered anyone. Jimmy’s shrink finally returns and he is escorted out of prison. He draws up a rough map for the authorities and reveals everything he learnt from his conversations with Larry.
In the hearing that follows, Jimmy is released and his criminal record is cleared. Finally, it is revealed that Jessica Roach’s body has been found. Jimmy is sorry that he couldn’t get the locations of the others but Lauren comforts him by saying that he’s made sure Larry won’t ever kill again.
Jimmy heads home and reunites with his dad in an exceptionally moving sequence. Text on screen reveals that his father passed away five years after his release.
Elsewhere, Larry’s appeal is rejected and he’s sent back to prison. More text reveals that the serial killer tried to commit suicide after this event but was unsuccessful. Gary visits Larry and finally lets him know that he belongs in prison.
Larry is shocked to see his brother labelling him a killer too and pleads with him to not talk like the others. Gary, in a tearful state, lets his brother know that he’s sorry for not taking care of him better. He somehow blames himself for letting Larry turn into a murderer.
Gary also mentions that Larry should come clean about his deeds otherwise he’ll never be at peace with himself. The show ends with more information that says Gary was able to convince his brother to confess to 15 more murders.
However, none of the burial sites have been unearthed till date. Larry remains in prison and will not be eligible for parole in this lifetime.
Jimmy, on the other hand, started a successful business and aided the authorities in profiling more serial killers. We get to see the real life pictures of both lead characters before the credits roll.
- Black Bird ends on a higher note than it began on. Which is saying something as the show never put a single step out of line.
- Director Joe Chappelle continues his magnificence from the previous episode and sticks the landing perfectly.
- The scene between Jimmy and Larry inside the wood shop is probably one of the most unsettling moments in television history and showcases the brilliance of the two actors.
- Furthermore, the late Ray Liotta is exceptional as Big Jim in this episode.
- Black Bird dwells deeply into its characters’ unpredictability and vulnerability. It showcases the greyest of the greys in personalities and allows the audience to pick their perception.
- It takes a lot of skill in making the viewers pause to consider a killer’s point of view and maybe even sympathize for him. Special mention to the writers for that.
- This is one of those shows that has made itself and all its actors, very strong contenders for an Emmy.