Apple TV+ murder mystery Black Bird draws to a pulse-pounding close as jailhouse informer Jimmy Keene’s last-ditch efforts to stay alive are being threatened at every turn.
Serial killer Larry Hall is inches from confessing, Jimmy’s about to get shanked — and nobody’s coming to help either of them. Plus, Jimmy’s dad Big Jim is dying in a hurry outside prison walls.
The limited series saves its best mechanics for last as the clock runs out on all of our heroes. Black Bird concludes on a high note indeed.
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Black Bird finale recap: ‘You Promised’
Season 1, episode 6: In the Black Bird series finale, entitled “You Promised,” Jimmy Keene (played by Taron Egerton) is at his wit’s end. He feels like someone’s going to stab him to death before too long. He just doesn’t know who.
Jimmy wakes up from a nightmare and finds Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser) standing over him. Larry says he’s worried that the “stories” he told Jimmy yesterday about killing Jessica Roach (Laney Stiebing) might have upset him.
That’s the last straw for Jimmy. “Stories?” he asks Larry, trying not to seem too mad (and to make Larry think he knew his stories were bullshit). Jimmy prods and prods Larry until he snaps.
“Meet me in the wood shop later,” Larry says. He wants to show Jimmy something to prove he’s the killer he claims to be once and for all.
Jimmy’s nervous when treacherous prison guard Carter (Joe Williamson) comes to him and, without saying so, asks him for a favor. Carter’s still in debt and thinks maybe if he can help Jimmy snitch on Larry, that can get him out of trouble.
However, Jimmy’s sick of Carter and his mistreatment, so he denies him the pleasure of working together. Carter assures him he’s going to live to regret that one. The next time Jimmy leaves his cell, there’s the mobster (Tony Amendola) who brought Jimmy into his confidence, promising him that he’s going to kill him soon.
A confession in the wood shop
Later, Jimmy finds Larry at the wood shop surrounded by 21 carved birds and a map of the state with little red dots on it. It seems like he’s about to confess something very specific. Indeed, suddenly he’s telling Jimmy about the victims: the ones who were a handful, the ones who needed to be stabbed so they’d stop hitting him.
Jimmy asks Larry why he doesn’t tell the victims’ families where their children are buried, to give them some catharsis, some form of release.
“Because I’m going to win my appeal,” Larry says, “and then I’m going to walk out of here and live my life.”
That’s when Jimmy all but reveals his true intentions, calling Larry a monster and advancing on him. Larry tries to kill him. Jimmy tries to call someone on the outside for help but the guards won’t let him and the next day they put him in solitary confinement for good measure.
Jimmy remembers the shape of the map Larry was drawing him, and tries and fails to get a pencil so he can sketch the map from memory. Undaunted, he bites his fingers till they bleed, then draws the map on the wall of his cell in his own blood.
Talking to Larry’s twin
Agent Lauren McCauley (Sepideh Moafi) and detective Brian Miller (Greg Kinnear) go to visit Larry’s twin brother, Gary (Jake McLaughlin). He’s friendly enough with them even if he resents them trying to ruin his brother’s life.
Brian comes right out and says that Gary has to know his brother killed those girls. Gary responds by going inside to get some photo albums and a six-pack. He lets the two cops look through the pictures of family members, convinced they’ll see the real Larry.
After perusing the photo albums for a minute, and with a few beers in him, Gary confesses that something weird did happen once upon a time. He was trying to get Larry laid, and his brother almost killed the poor girl Gary selected for the job.
That’s when Brian stands up and heads to the car, having heard enough. They both try to tell Gary that if Larry comes home he’s not going to be normal again. He was always like this, and no amount of covering for him is going to free him from the burden of looking after Larry. It’s time to face facts.
Outside, Big Jim Keene (Ray Liotta) suffers another stroke at a diner. But because Jimmy’s phone privileges haven’t been restored, he has no way of hearing this. He survives long enough to hear the good news about his boy…
Where’d that entitlement go
When Jimmy gets out of the hole, draws the map for McCauley and Miller, but it doesn’t mean much because it’s too vague. However, he does manage to get them some details about the murders that Larry confessed to committing — and that only Larry and the coroner would know. This crucial info exonerates Jimmy — and condemns Larry to a life sentence.
This section of Black Bird proved riveting and affecting. I was fully in the drama, dying to see how it ended and whether any of Jimmy’s testimony would make it to trial — and I already knew how it ended! The show is based on Jimmy Keene’s memoir, In With the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption. Keene even has a cameo on the show — it’s not like he got killed in prison.
It is a testament to the talent, on and off screen, that this final hour of Black Bird is as amazing as it is.
Strong acting powers a heartbreaking finale
First of all, in this home stretch, Egerton gives his best performance as Jimmy. This is the performance I was hoping he had in him, the performance that’s going to make me actually interested in what Egerton chooses to be in next.
But again, it’s Hauser who walks off with the show with his portrayal of Larry. His confession stands as a great feat of acting. However, his teary-eyed confrontation with his brother just twists your heart.
“Not you, Gary,” Larry says when his brother at long last turns on him. It’s so heartbreaking and we know he killed dozens of young women. That’s the mark of a real talent.
I had many reservations about Black Bird when it started. But, much like the character Jimmy Keene learning how to be a better person and proving himself useful, this show buckles down. Egerton becomes a good actor, and the whole thing just works. What a shocking and satisfying ending.
Watch Blackbird on Apple TV+
You can watch all six episodes of Black Bird on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.