Don’t do crime. Or do, I’m not your mom, you face the consequences of the legal system if you wish. I’d recommend you don’t, but I can’t make ya.
Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a show… which it is. Disclaimer over.
Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Black Bird”.
After getting sent to prison to serve a ten year sentence, drug dealer Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton) makes a deal with the FBI to befriend a suspected serial killer (Paul Walter Hauser) in order to hopefully get information on the locations of the victims. And so we follow Jimmy taking a dive into murky water as he works to befriend the suspect, along with trying to stay alive within the prison system. All the while a detective (Greg Kinnear) tries to solve the case on the outside. “Black Bird” is a slow burn drama, a believably gritty and unsettling descent into darkness, exploring the depths of human depravity and what that can do to seemingly normal people who get drawn into it. It’s a compelling six episode run, a little too slow in moments, but for the most part it’s well paced and quite riveting and got so deep in the murky waters that it made me feel like I needed to scrub myself off on multiple occasions. It’s dark, it’s nuanced, it’s haunting, it’s a great story.
The characters in this are all quite interesting, believably flawed and written with enough layers to make them feel real. Taron Egerton plays Jimmy Keene, a cocky, womanizing drug dealer who has to eat a bit of humble pie when he’s arrested. I like having him as a protagonist because he’s a charming asshat, a twat that has enough charisma to keep me from totally hating him. It makes for some compelling drama, as he is a bit unlikable at times. And Egerton is great in the role, especially in the last two episodes where he truly gets to flex his chops. Next is Paul Walter Hauser as Larry Hall, a seemingly timid, kind of odd man who’s the suspect that Jimmy has to befriend. He’s a really fascinating character in ways that are hard to explain without giving away things, but they do some really interesting stuff with his development and I always found engaging. And Hauser is great in the role. The rest of the cast is great too, containing people like Ray Liotta (R.I.P), Greg Kinnear, Sepideh Moafi, Robert Wisdom, Tony Amendola, Robyn Malcolm, and more.
The score for the show was composed by ambient rock band Mogwai, and hoooooo I loved what they did here. Utilizing some piano, synths, and guitars, they create this unsettling and emotionally rich atmosphere that really added so much to the show, along with being pure ear candy. There are also a handful of licensed songs used throughout and I think they work quite well in their respective scenes.
Based on a book by James Keene and Hillel Levin called “In With the Devil”, “Black Bird” was developed for Apple TV+ by Dennis Lehane (my favorite author), with writing by him and a few others, and directing divided between Michaël Roskam, Joe Chappelle, and Jim McKay. I really dug the way this was crafted, giving the show a grimy, borderline claustrophobic feel, even in scenes set outside of the prison. The crew somehow find ways of making sure no scenes ever really feels safe, bringing an oppressive atmosphere that really brought me into the darkness in a really eerie and strong way.
This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 80/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.1/10.
“Black Bird” is an unsettling, really compelling drama series that I can highly recommend. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Black Bird” is a 9.56/10. Which means it gets a “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
My review of “Black Bird” is now completed.
Blackbird singing in the dead of niiiiight…