Apple TV+ Miniseries ‘Black Bird’ Is a Fascinating Entry in the Fictionalized True Crime Phenomenon
Black Bird is the latest in a long line of series that are taking true crime stories and turning them into fictionalized series. We’ve seen it with Under the Banner of Heaven and The Staircase recently, and now we’ve got Black Bird, the story of how Jimmy Keene got a confession out of murderer Larry Hall by tricking him into a friendship and letting Larry confide in him what he did. The series stars Taron Egerton as Jimmy Keene (with the late great Ray Liotta as Jimmy’s father, Big Jimmy Keene) and Paul Walter Hauser as Larry Hall, and takes us into their “friendship” as Jimmy is trying to get information out of Hall to get a reduced sentence so he can be out of prison and back with his father before he dies.
What I thoroughly enjoyed about this series is that, a lot like Under the Banner of Heaven, we get flashbacks to the victim’s life, and in a later episode, we get to see one narrated by Jessica Roach and go through her life and her final day before she met Larry Hall. We get to see the tactics that Larry would use in order to commit his horrific crimes, and the show doesn’t shy away from the fact that they were horrific, and even Jimmy Keene has a hard time trying to unpack everything that Larry did and was capable of.
The series focuses its energy on Jimmy Keene, who went on to help profile serial killers after helping them figure out exactly where Larry Hall buried some of the bodies of his victims. While the show has an energy that just hooks you in and keeps you engaged in Jimmy’s journey, we get to really see Taron Egerton shine. Jimmy has an important part to play in the series, and we get to see Egerton both have a “comedic” side to him, as Jimmy is trying to be personable and hide his fear behind his humor, but also have moments that completely break him down.
At one point in the series, Jimmy gets close enough to Larry that he’s willing to tell him “stories” about what he did, and Jimmy listens and plays along, and we see him completely break down in the quiet of his own cell. Egerton brings to life that pain that Jimmy is feeling for Larry’s victims and his own fear in that situation all at once, and it’s just incredible to watch.
The show is hard to watch for the sheer attack on women that Larry Hall carried out throughout his time as a free man, and while I am someone immune to the horrors given how much I have watched throughout the years, what works with Black Bird is that it doesn’t shy away from highlighting the kind of monster that Larry Hall is.
A true crime adventure
As someone who watches both real true crime documentaries and then the deep dives that happen in fictionalized stories, it was refreshing to see how the series tackled what Larry Hall did mixed with giving one of his victims their story. Getting to see how this story also affected the lives of those surrounding both Larry and Jimmy (more importantly) was fascinating. Ray Liotta gives an incredible performance as Big Jim Keene, who is trying so hard to get his son free despite not being able to know why Jimmy was moved into a new prison, and it was just all around a great look into profiling and the work that Jimmy Keene ended up doing.
It’s a must-see and one that will definitely stay with you long after you finish the series, and that’s because of the brilliance performances from Egerton and Hauser.
(featured image: Apple TV+)
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