Based on a true story, Apple TV+’s crime series ‘Black Bird’ follows James “Jimmy” Keene, a drug dealer who gets sentenced to ten years in prison after getting arrested for drug trafficking charges. As Jimmy suffers to adapt to life in prison, FBI agent Lauren McCauley and attorney Edmund Beaumont offer to put an end to his prison life in return for a suspected serial killer named Larry DeWayne Hall’s confession to the alleged murder of Tricia Reitler, along with the location of her suspected dead body.
As Jimmy and Larry’s story unfolds, one must be wondering how it is connected to the show’s title. Let us share the nuances behind the same! SPOILERS AHEAD.
What is the Significance of Black Bird Title?
‘Black Bird’ is an adaptation of ‘In with the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption,’ written by James “Jimmy” Keene with Hillel Levin. The show, developed by Dennis Lehane, was originally titled ‘In with the Devil’ and was later changed to ‘Black Bird.’ Considering the ambiguity that revolves around the title, it can be interpreted in multiple ways. Since the narrative of the show was chiefly conceived through the POV of Jimmy, the title can be referring to the imprisoned drug dealer, who gets picked to befriend an alleged serial killer named Larry Hall.
The “Bird” in the title can be paralleled with Jimmy’s physical and emotional state upon getting transferred to MCFP Springfield. Like a caged bird, Jimmy is trapped inside Springfield with some of the most dangerous and ruthless federal prisoners. He is desperate to earn his freedom like a bird will crave the open sky. Since his father, James “Big Jim” Keene, is awaiting death due to a heart condition, Jimmy wants to “fly away” from the prison to be with the former. To attain freedom, he even puts his own life on the line as he attempts to befriend possibly one of the most notorious individuals in the prison, Larry.
The “Black” in the title can be about Jimmy’s nature, indicating the despicable part of the same. Jimmy gets chosen to befriend Larry because of his contemptuous nature. He is an alpha male who can comfortably consider women as just physical bodies in his mind as Larry does. His interaction with the suspected serial killer seemingly makes him realize how he is not drastically different from the alleged murderer in front of him. Jimmy’s redemption starts when he apparently understands that he is also an abhorrent human being like Larry.
As a “black bird,” Jimmy is trying to earn his freedom while coming to terms with his true nature. As the series progresses, we may see him questioning his “abilities” that make him a friend of an alleged murderer like Larry. He may also perceive that his freedom is a prize for his contemptible characteristics, which make Lauren and Beaumont pick him for the mission. Dennis Lehane can be stressing the irony of the same by seemingly changing the title of the show from ‘In with the Devil’ to ‘Black Bird.’ However, the title may not be referring to Jimmy alone.
In reality, according to the source text of the show, Jimmy had found several wooden falcons with Larry, which he had placed above a map of Illinois and Indiana with several red dots scattered inside the borders. When Jimmy asked about the wooden birds, Larry replied to him that “they watch over the dead,” possibly indicating the dead bodies of Larry’s suspected victims he had allegedly buried. In the show, Larry can also be a “black bird,” possibly guarding the supposed dead bodies by not revealing their locations to the authorities.