Developed by Dennis Lehane, Apple TV+’s crime series ‘Black Bird’ centers around James “Jimmy” Keene, who gets imprisoned for drug trade and storage of firearms. After pleading guilty to his charges, he gets sentenced to ten years in prison. However, the FBI offers to commute his sentence if he manages to elicit a confession to murder from suspected serial killer Larry DeWayne Hall, who is imprisoned at a dangerous maximum-security facility.
The first two episodes of the crime drama, titled ‘Pilot’ and ‘We Are Coming, Father Abraham’ respectively, revolve around Keene thinking about the suicide mission and the primary details concerning Hall’s alleged crimes. Since the second episode ends with significant developments concerning the lives of Keene and Hall, let us take a detailed look at them! SPOILERS AHEAD.
Black Bird Episode 1 and 2 Recap
Set in 1996, ‘Pilot’ begins by introducing former high school footballer James “Jimmy” Keene, one of the major drug dealers in Chicago, Illinois. He gets arrested by the DEA and FBI for his narcotics dealings and their search of his house leads them to several high-end firearms. For a reduced sentence, Jimmy pleads guilty under the instruction of federal prosecutor Edmund Beaumont, only to get imprisoned for ten years. As his sentence progresses, Special Agent Lauren McCauley meets him with Beaumont and offers him a proposal: if Jimmy manages to elicit suspected serial killer Larry Hall’s confession to the murder of Patricia/Tricia Reitler, along with the location of her dead body, he can walk free.
Since Larry is imprisoned at Springfield, Missouri, one of the most dangerous jails with some of the most notorious inmates, Jimmy hesitates. Around four years earlier, in flashback scenes, police detective Brian Miller was investigating the murder of Jessica Roach in Perrysville, Indiana. From a witness, Miller found out that the supposed murderer traveled in a Dodge van. His investigations led him to Larry Hall, a janitor who had used one such van. Miller contacted Chris Drysdale of the Wabash police department, who let Miller know that Larry is his acquaintance and a harmless fellow. The detective ended up interrogating Larry, who revealed that he had been around where Jessica’s body was found.
‘We Are Coming, Father Abraham’ follows Brian Miller contacting Lauren McCauley to involve the FBI in Larry’s case. Under Lauren’s supervision, FBI agent Ellenberg arrived at Wabash to conduct a polygraph test. Larry told the Ellenberg that he wouldn’t pass the test and confessed to killing Jessica. He added that he drove around Perrysville to find a place to bury her but couldn’t. When asked about the girl in Marion, Tricia Reitler, Larry revealed that he had “folded the clothes” of the girl, which were found by the police with Tricia’s blood on it. Larry also confessed to burying another girl in Wisconsin and a few in Indiana.
Black Bird Episode 2: Why Does Jimmy Accept His Transfer to Springfield? Why Does He Agree to Elicit Confession from Larry?
When Lauren and Beaumont propose the mission to elicit a confession from Larry Hall, Jimmy initially doesn’t even think about it twice. He knows that Springfield is nothing but hell, filled with ruthless criminals who wouldn’t make his survival in the prison easier. Since even defending his own life in such a prison can lead to an additional sentence, that too to spend in the same hell in Missouri, he discards Lauren and Beaumont’s offer. However, it doesn’t take long for the special agent to convince Jimmy that earning freedom by putting his life on the line is better than protecting it inside the confinement of prison for almost a decade.
However, when Jimmy comes to know about his father James “Big Jim” Keene’s heart condition, he realizes that he should get freed soon. Since Big Jim may not even survive another three years, Jimmy cannot wait for another decade to walk out as a free man to his father. Thus, he expresses his willingness to Lauren, who transports him to Springfield with three FBI officers. But Jimmy informs the officers that he doesn’t want to move forward with the mission when they arrive at the prison. He fails to make peace with the truth that Springfield can lead him to his death or worse.
Still, Jimmy eventually gets forced to accept his transfer to Springfield when he realizes that life wouldn’t be any easier outside it. The FBI officers who accompany him to Springfield threaten him that the FBI and Beaumont can make his life harder. Jimmy is aware that it wouldn’t take much effort for the FBI to find ways to increase his sentence if he doesn’t cooperate with him. The federal agency, along with Beaumont, can even create an incident to provoke him, forcing him to do anything that may keep him away from freedom more than his original term. Thus, Jimmy accepts his helplessness and agrees to elicit a confession from Larry by getting transferred to Springfield.
Why Does the Court Grant Larry Hall’s Appeal?
After Larry’s arrest, his brother Gary Hall submits an appeal in court. The court considers the possibility of Larry’s confession being false. The judge points out that a false confession expert’s finding, which would have played a pivotal part in Larry’s defense, was not considered while sentencing him to imprisonment. Larry’s defense’s argument that he confessed due to his “pathological eager to please” is also given weight by the court, especially since a confession expert’s report was not considered in the original trial. Furthermore, the court also finds Larry’s confession problematic since he signs it with block letters when he is capable of using cursive writing.
Agent Ellenberg, to waste no time, edited an already filled confession stored in the Wabash police department’s computer to prepare Larry’s confession. Due to his haste, he failed to notice that he hadn’t changed the last name in the confession, Daniel, to Larry’s last name, Hall. The credibility of the confession goes downhill since Larry signed the confession of a non-existent Larry DeWayne Daniel, which leads the court to grant his appeal. Chris Drysdale of the Wabash police also gives a testimony that Larry was intimidated by Brian Miller and the FBI, which makes the court suspicious of the methods the federal agency used to garner Larry’s confession
The court gives one month to the prosecution to prove that Larry killed Tricia, which makes Beaumont demand the completion of Jimmy’s mission within a month instead of the pre-planned slow and steady approach.
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