The Terminal List season 1 – what is the significance of the starling?

By M.N. Miller
Published: July 1, 2022
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This article, “what is the significance of the starling,” contains spoilers regarding the Amazon original series The Terminal List season 1.

Access the recaps, reviews, and news for The Terminal List.

An interesting subplot of The Terminal List is repeated dreams and hallucinations that Lt Commander James Reece has of a bird crashing into a plate glass window at his home. When he recently returns home from a previous tour, one bird crashes and breaks its neck when hitting the window at a high rate of speed. The crash even leaves the window with a chip. This happens when Reece has family time with his wife, Loren, and nine-year-old daughter, Lucy. He stops strumming the guitar and approaches. Naturally, the daughter asks if the starling bird is alright? Reece tries to sugarcoat and outright lie that it is probably fine. Loren though tells him not to lie to her.

This is not the only encounter. Multiple times Reece would revisit this scene in a dream or hallucination. Often with stunning imagery, Reece would leave the scene and enter an intense one involving battle. Or, even take the bird’s view as the family discusses why the starling chose to crash into their window that rainy afternoon. Each time they discuss the subject, the closer Reece comes to the meaning of the significance of the starling.

The Terminal List season 1 – what is the significance of the starling? 

The starling represents Reece and military service men and women who deal with events that become traumatic and turn into posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The starling is a bird constantly putting itself in danger—often moving and taking dangerous dives from the air. They often reach up to 80 miles per hour, mimicking high-risk missions that Commander Reece usually runs. Members of the military, especially the ones suffering from military trauma, will suffer not PTSD, but anxiety, depression, and recurring nightmares. As the intensity rises, all these emotions can lead the patient to embrace avoidance of the issues that are going on inside them. They will often crash without realizing it – just like the starling.

Though, maybe the most significant metaphor for the starling is its connection with their untimely deaths that are like clockwork. As Secretary Hartley states, up to 22 veterans a day commit suicide. The coverup included attempting to orchestrate the ends of the Reeces as a family homicide. They would make it look like James Reece murdered his family. The frame would include himself because the narrative would include struggling with PTSD. The theme of death and suicide is prevalent in The Terminal List. It’s no coincidence these birds are known as “suicidal starlings” because of their disposition to perform falling from the sky and accidentally hit the ground during customary migrating patterns in November and December.

Do you want one more interesting fact? They often look like their feathers are black, but when you get close, they are a dark glossy green. This mimics many suffering from trauma as looking fine from a distance, but up close, they show their true colors and can’t hide anymore.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Amazon Prime. 

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