'Black Bird' Series Review: Investigative Apple TV+ Prison Drama Imprisons Taron Egerton
Okay, okay, we see all you true crime freaks out there, don't you worry. That is why we are talking about Black Bird which is adapted into a miniseries by showrunner Dennis Lehane from former convict James Keene's memoir, written by him and Hillel Levin. The show is a mix of investigative and prison drama, following James/''Jimmy'' (Taron Egerton) who gets sentenced to prison for 10 years because of narcotics, only to later receive an offer for release from federal agents Lauren McCauley (Sepideh Moafi) and Brian Miller (Greg Kinnear). Catch behind the offer is that Jimmy must transfer to a maximum security prison, befriend serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Houser) and find out where he has buried bodies of teen girls he's killed, which is information that agents are desperate to receive so Hall wouldn't get released.
Black Bird's premise has that classic cat-and-mouse thing going on just as much as it gives storytelling the avenue to bounce back and forth with timelines. Some of it is the cops first figuring out how ''serial confesser'' Hall is linked to the murders, then following Jimmy in more linear fashion from his initial arrest to his time in prison and partly flashbacks showing both their differing childhoods. While the creative team can't quite carve a singular path with that type of storytelling and some of the time jumps do miss—mainly awkwardly composed sequences in episode five, featuring one of the victims—there's still a fine amount of tension and psychological battle in scenes where Keene and Hall engage in conversations where the former tries to get Hall to open up.
Main reason for staying with the series is the tremendous work that actors provide, as the cast features a magnetic star in Egerton and line of solid character actors, compiled by casting director Alexa L. Fogel and Lehane. Egerton channels well his character's journey from a cocky hustler to someone who's way in over their head trying to empathise with a ruthless killer, believably showing his charms at first and lashing out at the end due to all the pressure. It's harder to pick out those kind of perceptions from any of the filmmaking which is operating like a true crime assembly line, though some menace and elements of danger occasionally does seep through Natalie Kingston's camera work and sound design.
Smileys: Performance by a cast, casting
All that space and you throw the football ten yards? No wonder the kid didn't make it.