Warning! Spoilers ahead for Black Bird.
Episode 2 of Black Bird shows Lauren considering someone other than Jimmy for a job in Springfield, but it’s unclear if she’s actually interviewing other candidates or if this is just one of her strategies to prepare Jimmy for the job. Written by Dennis Lehane, also known for Clint Eastwood’s “The Mysterious River” and Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Island of the Damned,” “Black Bird” is a tense prison drama that benefits greatly from its miniseries format. In its first two episodes, the show gradually uncovers the tapestry around its overarching mystery, scrutinizing its characters through an unbiased lens.
Adapting James Keen’s nonfiction book Together with the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption, Black Bird tells the story of an author sentenced to 10 years in prison for petty crimes. When Keen realizes that spending a decade behind bars will mean he will miss time with his ailing father in the last days of his life, he accepts Detective Lauren McCauley’s offer to move to a dangerous prison to extract a confession from an alleged serial killer named Larry Hall (played by Paul Walter Hauser, a Stingray from Cobra Kai). Before starting work, Jimmy Keen is very afraid of moving to a maximum-security isolation unit, but Lauren does an incredible job convincing and preparing him.
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When Jimmy finally accepts the offer, Lauren informs him that he’s not the only one being considered for it. While it’s possible that Lauren and her team actually interviewed several candidates for the Springfield mission, it’s likely that Lauren played mind games with Jimmy to make sure he answered her questions honestly and took the case seriously. This is further clarified in the following interview, in which Lauren briefly questions Jimmy Keen (played by Taron Egerton) about the case, tells him about Larry’s twin brother, and then, without thinking twice, asks him to pack up for the transfer.
Why Jimmy from Black Bird Was the Only Person to Work in Springfield
Since their first interaction, Lauren continues to dig Jimmy’s ego. As a detective, she seems to be well versed in deception, which allows her to understand that Jimmy hides trauma and pain behind his stoic behavior. By outsmarting him into believing that his competitors are better than him, she breaks his ego and forces him to open up about his childhood anxieties and loneliness associated with the separation of his parents. This is in tandem with the previous realistic police procedural scene in the style of “Mind Hunter”, where Larry admits that he dreams of killing women because they often ostracize him and make him feel lonely. Taking this as a hint, Lauren realizes that Jimmy’s charm and wit alone will not be enough for him to get close to Larry Hall. So she tells him that he has competition only to destroy his self-esteem and, in turn, crack his repressed feelings of loneliness and separation. She encourages him to use the same basic emotions to find a common language with Larry and rightfully take the place of his twin brother.
In a way, Jimmy from “Black Bird” sounds like an echo of DiCaprio’s last lines in the final scene of “Island of the Damned”: “What would be worse — to live as a monster or to die a good man?” Jimmy faces the same conundrum throughout the first two episodes and wonders if he should risk everything for freedom. However, he eventually gets rid of his selfish worldview and risks his life to one day “die like a good person” instead of living “like a monster”.
Episodes of Black Bird air on Fridays on Apple TV+