Black Bird is a mini series on Apple TV+ surrounding the real-world events between Larry Hall and James Keene. While it is based on a true story, it is still considered dramatized for TV.
Black Bird is worth watching and is an absolute masterpiece. The acting, the writing, the cinematography, it is all incredibly exact and detailed. The chilling nature of this show does help, but the environment the crew and cast creates is incredible. Taron Egerton and Paul Walter Hauser are amazing, and this is one of the best TV performances I have seen this year, maybe longer.
It is such an incredible show, and if you have access to Apple TV+, Black Bird needs to go on your “To Watch” list.
What is Black Bird About?
Black Bird is about Jimmy Keene’s experiences trying to recover information about missing girls from suspected serial killer Larry Hall. Our story begins when Jimmy is arrested on drug charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison. After a few months, he is presented with an opportunity to commute his sentence. This opportunity involves entering a maximum security prison, befriending a potential serial killer, and recovering information about where the girls are buried. All of this without much of a safety tether should things go wrong. Unwilling to waste 10 years of his life, Jimmy agrees and begins a job that will forever change his life.
Is Black Bird Based on a True Story?
As mentioned above, Black Bird is based on a true story. Keene and Hall are both actual people, and the events in the show are all based on real events. James Keene wrote a book in 2010, detailing his experiences in prison with Larry Hall, and republished this book in 2022 under the title: Black Bird: One Man’s Freedom Hides in Another Man’s Darkness. To keep the show aligned with actual events, Keene was part of the writing crew. Bringing James Keene in while writing the show was a thing of beauty, as it allowed Black Bird to have tons of accurate details, instead of being a cheap rendition of this unnerving story.
Who is in Black Bird?
Black Bird has a fairly large cast for a TV show, with the two main characters playing massive roles. Jimmy Keene, played by Taron Egerton, is our main protagonist. He experiences a redeeming character arc and is nowhere near the same character as he was at the beginning. Taron is awesome in this show, and his performance was really compelling. Larry Hall is played by Paul Walter Hauser, who I recognized from his role in Cobra Kia. Larry Hall is such a weird, unnerving character who made my hair stand up straight, and Paul Walter Hauser does an amazing job creating this atmosphere.
Our story flips between the prison and the investigation, and this is where our second set of main characters come in. Brian Miller, played by Greg Kinnear, provides a more natural way to learn the backstory behind the crimes. Flash to the future, he is joined by Lauren McCauley. She is played by Sepideh Moafi, and is one of the most important characters that contribute to both stories. Brian and Lauren provide extra content that both provides helpful information and more content to take some pressure off the prison storyline.
Black Bird Season 1 Review
I really enjoyed Black Bird, with it being the first Apple TV+ show I have watched to completion. From the acting to the plot, I was thoroughly engaged for the length of the series. I have no previous knowledge surrounding James Keene, but this show sparked some curiosity within me. After doing a little bit of research, I found 3 books written by James Keene himself, which I’ll link later on.
The mini-series clocks in around 6 hours on 6 episodes, and each was better than the last. Our plot, our characters, the entire show continually gets better as the show moves along. Our plot is told in two parts, and I really enjoyed the way it was done. With the need for a lot of backstory on our characters and the surrounding story, the show bounces from past to present as a way to show viewers all of the info they need instead of making it a 5 minute monologue somewhere in the show. It allows for some more characters, and it also really fleshes out Larry Hall’s character a lot.
The split between past and present does become a little bit confusing from time to time, but I thought it was a spectacular way, mind you not overly unique, to tell a second story that didn’t need to be the full focus of the show but did deserve some screen time.
The main plot line was really intriguing, Jimmy and Larry in the prison made up a lot of awesome scenes. Black Bird does a really nice job of balancing different plot lines, not staying on one thing too long to the point that it either becomes too much emotionally or a little bit boring. No one plot line is forced to carry more screen time than necessary, and the pacing benefited greatly from this.
Let’s talk about those spectacular leads why don’t we. James Keene is played by Taron Egerton, who is an absolute rockstar in this show. Jimmy goes through some pretty drastic character changes over the course of the series, but Egerton is able to display them all really well. The emotions and the struggle he displays makes the viewer feel as if they are right there in prison, not chilling on their couch.
Larry is played by Paul Walter Hauser and he is also awesome. The mannerisms, the attention to detail is incredible, and while they might be totally wrong, I don’t know enough about Larry Hall to say anything for certain, they were believable as hell. He embodies a serial killer in everything he does, and he’s a very creepy character to watch. The little, unnerving things, and the way he talks about certain events could not have been easy, but he does a fantastic job with it. I really enjoyed him in Cobra Kai, but he finally gets to spread his wings in Black Bird.
Greg Kinnear and Sepideh Moafi bring some needed pressure relief to Black Bird, and while they aren’t as important as Egerton and Hauser, they mean a lot to the show. The emotional highs and lows of the prison are offset by a “cop-show” feel, dare I say I get Mulder and Scully vibes from these two. It gives the show another angle to enjoy, and like I said it provides a pressure valve for the prison scenes. Without these two, some of the intrigue would be lost as you wouldn’t have that rich backstory or the ticking time bomb. It would also be way too heavy of a show to consume.
While this isn’t the longest of series, it is on par for what we have been seeing from many streaming series lately. I really enjoyed watch Black Bird, start to finish. I love true-crime podcasts and things of that nature, so it does help that this show was right up my alley. I do think the 18+ maturity rating is bang on, with some of the disgusting content covered in this show. It isn’t the language or the violence, it’s the crimes that have been committed and the way they are discussed. That being said, mature audiences are going to find a very intriguing show hidden away on Apple TV+