Developed by Dennis Lehane, Apple TV+’s crime series ‘Black Bird’ follows James “Jimmy” Keene, a prisoner who strikes an astounding deal with the FBI in return for his freedom. Jimmy, a Chicago-based drug dealer in prison, accepts to befriend suspected serial killer Larry DeWayne Hall to elicit the latter’s confession to the supposed murder of Tricia Reitler. The series progresses through Jimmy’s efforts to create a bond with Larry to make him confess to killing the girl. Since the narrative of the show includes a narrator, the viewers must be wondering who it is. Let us share the answer! SPOILERS AHEAD.
Who is Black Bird’s Narrator?
Protagonist James “Jimmy” Keene is the narrator in ‘Black Bird.’ The crime drama is an adaptation of real-life Jimmy Keene’s book ‘In with the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption,’ which he co-wrote with Hillel Levin. By employing the character Jimmy as the narrator, developer Dennis Lehane makes it evident that the show progresses through the POV of the drug dealer, which is significant since the source text is autobiographical. Through the narrator, Lehane makes it clear that the show isn’t an outrightly objective representation of reality but Jimmy’s version of the same.
Jimmy’s narration also makes it evident that the show’s primary focus is Jimmy and not Larry Hall, despite the prominent screentime of the latter. The flashback scenes that depict Larry’s connection with the murder of Jessica Roach and the abduction of Tricia Reitler are presented as a foundation of Jimmy’s mission that involves Larry and not as a standalone storyline. Jimmy’s narration even starts by explaining how Jessica is connected to him despite them not having crossed paths ever. If the show is narrated by an omniscient narrator, the connection between Larry’s past and Jimmy’s storyline may not get established properly.
In addition, Jimmy’s narration leaves with an unanswered question: how does his meeting with Rog and Danny change his fate forever? The answer to the question is present in the source text of the show. Danny is the fictionalized version of Jimmy’s real-life friend Nick Richards. Rog is the fictionalized version of a drug trafficker referred to as Hector Gonzales in the non-fiction book. As the show depicts, Nick stole cocaine from Hector, infuriating the trafficker. Like Rog wants to kill Danny, Hector attempted to kill Nick, as per the source text, only for Jimmy to intervene.
Through Jimmy’s intervention, Nick was able to escape from the clutches of Hector alive, as Danny escapes from Rog. However, Nick turned out to be a snitch of a task force that was targeting Jimmy and his narcotic network. Through Nick, the government agents infiltrated Jimmy’s organization and eventually arrested him. If only Hector had killed Nick, Jimmy might have escaped from the agents and avoided the imprisonment that led him to Larry. In the show, if Jimmy has let Rog kill Danny, he may not get arrested, imprisoned, and became the FBI’s tool. Thus, the meeting changes his fate forever.
Read More: When and Where is Black Bird Set?