Black Bird: a queasily absorbing true crime drama from Apple TV+
Taron Egerton show is a ‘cut above’ other TV dramas about ‘smug, gloating psychopaths’
Black Bird’s premise is so neat, it sounds like something dreamed up by scriptwriters; but in fact, it’s rooted in a true story, said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph. Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton) lived the high life as a drug dealer, until he was caught, and given a ten-year jail term. Then the FBI offered him a deal: if he elicited a confession from a suspected serial killer, he could walk free. Keene agreed to the challenge, and over six episodes, we find out if he pulled it off.
The show weaves together two timelines: Keene’s dealings with the killer, Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser); and the investigation into Hall. The structure doesn’t quite work – you often want Keene’s story to barrel ahead – but the writing keeps us interested, more or less.
The pace is “sluggish” at times, said Barbara Ellen in The Observer, and there is an element of serial-killer fatigue: how many more “smug, gloating psychopaths” can the TV schedules really absorb? But Black Bird is a “cut above”, thanks in part to Hauser, whose “semolina pallor, vacant eyes” and mutton chops make him look straight out of central casting, but are actually true to reality.
The series “doesn’t delve as deeply into psychological abysses” as, say, Mindhunter, said Dan Einav in the Financial Times, but it has a “queasy tension” and features some strong performances. The most moving of these comes from Ray Liotta in his final TV role: his turn as Jimmy’s “regret-filled father” is a powerful testament to his range as an actor.