A great opener with some top-quality performances from its A-list cast. With this exceptional premise, the series has the potential to be an unforgettable crime drama.
This recap of the Apple TV+ series Black Bird season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.
Read the season 1 review of Black Bird.
Apple TV+ has stepped it up a gear this year, delivering some truly great standalone TV dramas, starring some of Hollywood’s finest actors no less. Black Bird is the latest miniseries to join this ever growing library of top notch content. The crime drama from Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island) features Taron Egerton in the lead role as a convicted drug dealer who is offered an enticing, if problematic, way out of his sentencing. The “Pilot” episode perfectly sets up this narrative hook in a gripping hour of TV.
Black Bird season 1, episode 1 recap
Jimmy Keene (Egerton) narrates in the opening scenes, introducing viewers to nineties America and his rock and roll lifestyle. The former star athlete is now a wealthy drug dealer, living in a fancy mansion, driving a sports car and sleeping with whoever he likes. Jimmy’s riding high until one of his own employees tries to steal his goods and then the FBI come knocking. They raid his house, seizing drugs, cash and a battalion’s worth of weaponry.
The charming drug dealer finds himself in prison, looking at a lengthy sentencing. Jimmy’s father, played by the late, great Ray Liotta, in one of his last performances, comes to give him the lowdown. He’ll likely go down for five years, but would be out in four on good behavior. His dad tells him to take the deal, so Jimmy pleads guilty. The judge states that if this went to trial, he’d be looking at twenty five years away, but they’ll give him ten instead. It would seem Jimmy has been tricked, losing a decade of his life in the process.
We catch up with Jimmy seven months later. He’s adapting well to prison life, making a small profit as a porn dealer. It’s clearly not the most ideal situation though and his only glimmer of hope comes in the form of a deal which could see Jimmy out of jail in record timing. FBI agent Lauren McCauley (Sepideh Moafi) offers him an early release if he is willing to transfer to a maximum security prison for the criminally insane, befriend a murderer and get the guy to confess. They need the location of at least one dead girl, maybe up to thirteen. It’s a superb premise that is brimming with potential.
Jimmy turns down the offer and goes back to his dreary existence, handing out porn magazines to eerie inmates and working out whenever he can. His father tells him to reject the deal, warning Jimmy about the hell that awaits him at Springfield, Missouri. Jimmy contemplates the offer some more and starts to read up on the file of the criminal he’d be coercing. This nicely leads us into the investigation.
The series rewinds to four years earlier and detective Brian Miller (Greg Kinnear) is hot on the case, back in 1993. This family man is investigating the murder of a young girl called Jessica Roach, who was found dead in a farmer’s field in Indiana. Following up on a promising lead, Brian believes a man called Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser) may be their prime suspect. Described as a harmless weirdo, this creep is known by the local enforcement for harassing young girls whilst driving around the neighborhood in his grey van.
Brian manages to arrange an interview with the suspect and brashly interrogates the man. All the police officers keep telling Brian that Larry is a serial confessor, who just loves to talk, but the detective thinks otherwise. The van matches a witness’s statement, Larry has admitted to being in the area the day before the girl went missing and the creep has a history of criminal activity. Larry concedes to as much and then explains how he has vivid dreams of murdering women – nothing incriminating there then.
This is an expertly made opening episode, with some stunning performances and an aptly pitched tone. A great premise married up to some top quality filmmaking – this is sure to make for a memorable series.
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