Watch it for...
The edge-of-your-seat anxiety that comes with every interaction between Jimmy, an FBI informant, and Larry, a serial killer, as Larry’s crimes are revealed!
Black Bird is a six-episode miniseries based on the true story of James ‘Jimmy’ Keene, a former football prodigy-turned-narcotics dealer. Arrested for drug dealing, as well as possession of firearms, he receives a sentence of 10 years without parole. Due to Jimmy’s natural charm and charisma, the FBI approaches him with a deal: in exchange for his freedom (with no conditions), he must enter a facility for the criminally insane in order to procure a confession from a dangerous inmate, Larry Hall. Jimmy must carefully ride the line between informant and friend while hearing the horrifying confessions from Larry about his crimes. This show, based on Jimmy Keene’s autobiography, is the story of his deal with the federal authorities and is rife with tension, even though the criminal has already been caught. One note: viewers should be aware that sexual crimes and murder are discussed (but not shown).
One of the best classes I ever took during my time in college was a course called Social Psychiatry. We studied famous crime mafiosos and serial killers and the similarities that appeared among the criminally insane. I kept thinking of that class while watching Black Bird! It strikes a good balance between Jimmy’s experience in prison and Larry’s terrible crimes, exploring both of their psyches. For Jimmy there’s a ton of character growth from start to finish: he starts out as an entitled, unlikeable character before becoming a changed man. There’s also enough information about Larry’s home life, difficult upbringing, and family dynamics to provide some background to the development of his criminality without shifting blame for his horrific acts.
I found myself becoming more and more invested each episode, especially as Jimmy became more entrenched in prison life. I was nervous watching him navigate corruption, prison hierarchies, and a budding friendship with a serial killer. Jimmy’s fear felt palpable, and Paul Walter Hauser’s performance as Larry is one that I feel is award-worthy. I thoroughly enjoyed Black Bird and I was actually a bit sad when it ended. I wished it had another episode or two!