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The Most Disturbing Moments In Black Bird Season 1

The following article includes graphic descriptions of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Dennis Lehane's six-part miniseries "Black Bird" is one of the most intense true crime shows of 2022. Based on James Keene and Hillel Levin's autobiographical novel "In With the Devil: a Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption," the series offers an intriguing story delivered by an ensemble cast that includes Taron Egerton, Paul Walter Hauser, Greg Kinnear, Sepideh Moafi, and the late Ray Liotta, among others.

The plot follows Jimmy Keene (Egerton), a big player in the drug-dealing business in Chicago, who gets caught and accepts a plea deal. However, he's trapped by the prosecution (which wants to make an example out of him) and receives 10 years without parole instead of the promised five. His only chance to reduce his time behind bars, and to get his record cleared, is to befriend an alleged serial killer, Larry Hall (Hauser), in a maximum security penitentiary and make him confess to two murders and reveal where he buried the victims. After learning that his ex-cop father Jim (Liotta) suffered a stroke, Jimmy decides to take the deal and walk into a hellish scenario voluntarily.

"Black Bird" is a slow-burning, intense crime drama that — in its best moments — shows some similarities with "Mindhunter." It methodically digs deep into the psyche of a horrifying cold-blooded murderer, with some really disturbing moments along the way.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

Jimmy negotiates over his childhood friend's life

In the pilot, we're introduced to Jimmy Keene and the lavish but dangerous lifestyle he leads as a drug dealer. We witness a deal between him and a guy named Roger (Lee Tergesen) in a warehouse where — according to Jimmy — everything began to go sideways for him. He claims that the last shipment he received from Roger was a kilo short. Rog insists that it was an embarrassing mistake, one he'd never made before, and he thinks someone stole the package. The two step into a room where Jimmy's childhood friend, Danny (Stephen Louis Grush), is tied to a chair, beaten up, and bleeding. Rog thinks he's found his thief. Since Jimmy had no idea, he grows angry and tries to bargain a way out of this mess, but his business partner doesn't forgive easily.

Rog starts firing a shotgun loaded with dummy rounds at Danny to force Jimmy to compensate for his loss. He offers him a kilo — then another, and another. But Rog doesn't stop because he prefers the whole shipment as compensation. Jimmy won't go that far, though. He shouts that Danny's life is only worth three kilos to him. It's an intense scene filled with eerie suspense that gives us a key understanding of what kind of person Jimmy is; how he values human life and money when things get heated. It's a pivotal character trait given what he'll have to face and endure in a maximum security prison soon.

Larry talks about his dreams

At the end of the first episode, detective Brian Miller (Greg Kinnear) goes on a hunch and asks a favor from another department to talk to Larry Hall regarding the homicide of a teenage girl named Jessica Roach (Laney Stiebing). Although the meeting is set up, he can't have a one-on-one with the suspect. Nevertheless, he questions Larry about his whereabouts when the young girl went missing. Larry fits the bill perfectly, but the other detectives claim he's a serial confessor, often talking garbage to gain attention. Miller, however, believes Larry is saying the truth.

Everything about Larry's demeanor — including his odd body language and dragging speech — screams serial killer. It's baffling that they never took him seriously when he confessed to certain crimes before. The most alarming sign is when he starts talking about his vivid dreams, explaining that he likes to kill women in them. He describes these dreams as out-of-body experiences, like he's not in control and bad things just happen. When Miller shows him a photo of Jessica Roach, Larry turns defensive and freaks out, demanding they let him leave immediately. The whole sequence is a long, uncomfortable moment that sends chills down your spine. Paul Walter Hauser brings the most out of this character, and he's frighteningly convincing.

Larry confesses to two murders

After their first encounter, Detective Miller arranges an official interrogation with Larry. It's led by an FBI agent, while Miller and two other cops watch from the next room. Although Larry seems nervous, it doesn't take much effort to make him talk. He becomes edgy when asked to sign some paperwork and consent to a polygraph. The first red flag goes up when he says he can't do the test because he won't pass. Then he talks about being tired due to recurring nightmares and how depressed and lonely he feels all the time. For a second, he seems so candid and vulnerable that you almost feel sorry for him. That goes away quickly, though, when the agent shows Larry a photo of a teenage girl.

He recalls the first time he met her, how nice she was, and why he had no time to bury her — even though he normally buries all of them. He only confesses to two specific murders but mentions that there were more. The scene is horrifying not because of any gruesome details (he doesn't specify his methods) but because of the stoic calmness in which he talks about the slayings. He doesn't dismiss the seriousness of his actions but still looks at them as things he had no control over. He believes that they just happened naturally, and he isn't the one to blame — and yet he dislikes the fact that another suspect is claiming that he killed one of Larry's victims, trying to take credit for something he did.

Miller transports Larry

After his confession, Larry is in custody, waiting to be transported to a correctional facility. Miller takes him alone; he's sitting in the back of the car, handcuffed and quiet. He believes that Miller forced a fake confession out of him and tells him that he kept pushing him, and that's why he ended up in such an awful situation. Miller doesn't have to play along anymore, so he tells Larry that they simply documented what he told them and made him sign it. There was no mistake made. By saying that, he upsets Larry so much that he begins shouting and singing a song he learned at one of the war reenactment events he frequently visited.

It's a childish and unpredictable reaction that clearly shows something is seriously wrong in Larry's head. He's acting like a kid, throwing a fit because he didn't get what he wanted. It's another sign that he's mentally unstable, which adds to his profile as an alleged murderer. And that's just one of many troubling characteristics that are yet to come.

Larry talks to Jimmy about what's buried

In Episode 3, in an attempt to bond with Larry, Jimmy asks him how he got into history and war reenactments. He opens up and talks about finding relics like arrowheads, coins, and the base of a hundred-year-old lamp behind his parents' house when he was a child. He ends up saying that the world is nothing but giant lands and fields containing all sorts of things under them. It's an unsettling sentence, since Larry has already admitted burying most of his victims in fields.

It's not so much what he says, though — it's the way he says it. There's a sickening vibe around him, the way he speaks with a high-pitched voice and deep sighs; his odd adoration for fields mixed with a disturbing sexual energy that rubs the listener the wrong way. Jimmy senses it too, but he gets caught up in his own memories of playing football in high school. He says it was his peak, to which Larry responds, "I'm pretty sure I peaked in the womb." Another weird line that concludes this strange and creepy conversation.

Larry talks about women

Later in the same episode, Larry also shares his sexual experiences with women, which explains a great deal of why he turned out this way. He takes Jimmy to his little corner where he cleans and fixes things. They're alone, without any guard supervising them. The conversation quickly changes from discussing jobs to cleaning chemicals to body fluids, and then to having sex with girls.

It's disturbing enough to listen to his words, but it gets worse when Jimmy brings up one of his own sexual encounters. While paying attention, Larry's whole body language and facial expression shift: he eagerly listens with childlike excitement and a smile on his face. It's not entirely clear whether Jimmy's story is true or he just came up with it to trigger Larry. Nevertheless, it works. The more abusive and violent his story gets, the more engaged Larry becomes. But before he can really detail what he does when the girls don't behave the way he wants them to, a guard interrupts them. This time, Jimmy fails to get the truth out of him, but there will be more opportunities. He's found the evil in Larry — and it wants to come out.

Jimmy finds Larry's violent drawings

In Episode 4, Jimmy sneaks into Larry's cell while he's away in order to search for some physical evidence. He looks through the pictures on the wall and the books on the shelf, but he can't find anything — and then he flips through the stack of reading material on the floor and finds an adult magazine. Once he opens it, bloody drawings stare back at him: Human skulls, mutilated female bodies covered in blood, dirty texts, murderous scribblings, and decapitated heads on sticks — basically the sketchbook of a serial killer.

If there was any doubt about what Larry is capable of, it's all gone now. The sick thoughts and fantasies spiraling in his head are clearly illustrated on paper — and, based on Jimmy's conversations with Larry, these aren't just bizarre drawings. In fact, they're most likely inspired by events that have already taken place.

Larry's flashback

Character-wise, Episode 4 is also the most revealing regarding the upbringing of the show's protagonists. We see Larry and Jimmy in flashbacks as kids, and the families they were raised by; in the end, it isn't hard to understand what led them to become criminals. Of course, Larry's childhood was a lot more traumatic than Jimmy's. After all, not many kids have to work in a cemetery and dig up graves to help their parents.

In a flashback, we see Larry working with his dad one night. The old man orders him to dig up a fresh grave while he's busy drinking. It's clear that it isn't the first time. Larry does what he's told, but the labor doesn't stop there: He also needs to rob the corpse — any valuables such as cufflinks, watches, necklaces, bracelets, and rings. It all goes well until he gets to the wedding ring, which just won't move. Undeterred, Larry's father throws down a pair of pliers and tells him, "Get to it. Come on!" At first, Larry hesitates, but he has no choice. He's visibly disgusted by the act but cuts off the finger anyway. And that isn't even the most disturbing part — once he's "finished" with the body, he jumps back down to grab the finger because he intends to keep it. He laughs at it and says, "Mine now." Hands down, this is one of the most unsettling scenes of the miniseries.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Jimmy's abuse

In Jimmy's flashback, the memory works more as an emotional gut punch. He recounts what happened after his parents broke up and his mom's new boyfriend, Glen, moved in with them. After a year, Glen became physically abusive, hitting Jimmy and his mother and brother regularly. As a kid, he couldn't figure out why she stayed with him, until he decided his mom was waiting on him to stand up to Glen and protect the family. He started to focus on his karate and jiu-jitsu classes so he could handle himself in a fight when the day came; after much practice, he felt ready but didn't realize that he wasn't old enough to match a full-grown man even with martial arts training. Glen painted the kitchen with him — he bloodied his nose, gave him a concussion, and fractured more than one of his ribs.

At first, the viewer isn't sure whether all this really went down or if Jimmy's just making up another story to bond with Larry. The altercation happens offscreen. But when Larry tells him that the physical pain wasn't as bad as the emotional — that her mother loved her boyfriend more than her son — Jimmy's eyes can't lie. He gets up from the table and walks away. That's when the aftermath of the beating — the conversation between Jimmy and his mother — is shown. It's a cold and cruel exchange of words, which shows that Larry was right. This scene might be the most poignant and emotionally devastating moment in the series.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Larry asks Jimmy how he'd kill his mother

What follows this strange heart-to-heart between the two convicts, although not that surprising, is still unnerving. After learning about Jimmy's past, Larry asks him if he ever wanted to hurt his mother — to beat or even kill her. Jimmy knows what he's getting at and plays along, so Larry asks if he thought about how he would kill her. Jimmy says, "Chuck her down the stairs." That's when Larry's murderous experience come into play. He shares one of his key methods: he used to soak a rag in starter fluid to knock his victims unconscious. "Nothing to it," he explains. "They're out in seconds." Then Jimmy asks why he would do that, and Larry says, "So they stop hitting me." They.

Again, it's not just what Larry says but the way he says it, giggling and sighing with a depraved look of satisfaction on his face. Paul Walter Hauser's delivery is so apt that it makes you shiver every time — like you need to shake the thoughts and visual imagery he evokes in you. It's a wicked feeling that only grows as the audience learns more about him.

Deeper into darkness

In Episode 5, Larry talks to Jimmy about how it was once common to marry quite young — the age of consent was 14, and many people didn't think twice about it. Then he rambles into a conspiracy theory, saying the government raised the age of consent in order to make more money. He thinks they forced children to delay growing up so they would stay in school longer and pay tuition. He argues that girls would marry at 12 and 13 years old back then, which was how it was supposed to be. 

Seeing Larry riled up, Jimmy tries to bait him into a confession, asking him about the youngest girl he'd ever had sex with. Larry doesn't bite right away — he insists that Jimmy should go first, and Jimmy tells him that he was with a 14-year-old girl once. Larry's first question is whether she fought back; then he wants to know how old Jimmy was at the time. Hearing that Jimmy was 17, Larry laughs and implies that he was with girls that age when he was much older. They're interrupted by a guard before the conversation can go further, but what we hear is disturbing enough.

Larry's encounter with Jessica Roach

We don't have to wait long until Larry goes into specific detail about having sex with underage girls. In another conversation with Jimmy, he claims he's never raped anyone, and the women he had sex with weren't children — well, not until recently. After Jimmy tells him how many women he was with in high school, Larry wants to know how he did it. He explains that he just talked to them, and at one point, one thing led to another. Larry objects — that isn't his experience, which he illustrates by sharing his encounter with Jessica Roach.

He says she was nice to him at first. They talked about war reenactments, and she asked intelligent questions — but once he kissed her, it all went downhill. She started slapping and scratching him, so he drugged her with the starter fluid. After that, Larry's memory gets blurry. He's not sure he had sex with her because it all seemed like a dream — one in which he kept hitting and drugging her until she started crying and asking for her mother. Eventually, he had to kill her with a tourniquet he made by putting two leather belts together.

Jimmy is visibly upset by Larry's story and struggles to disguise the disgust and dread he feels. His character helps us to put ourselves in his shoes, listening to a murderer describing how he killed a 13-year-old girl. It's pure horror.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Larry finds out about Jimmy's real intentions

In the finale, Jimmy is running out of time to get Larry to reveal where he buried his victims. In their last interaction, he's too impatient and rushes the conversation, which angers Larry. He admits to killing Tricia Reitler and insists that he dug one of his best graves for her, adding that he's dug more graves than Jimmy's had women. Still keeping his cool, Jimmy gives it one last shot, trying to trick Larry into disclosing the locations of the bodies so their families can have closure. Refusing, Larry says that will never happen, and he'll be on the outside soon. That's when Jimmy loses it — he storms toward Larry, physically intimidating him and shouting that he'll never get out of prison because he's a demented monster who kills children.

Finally, Larry realizes that Jimmy was sent by the FBI to make him confess. It doesn't take long until his darkest self explodes too, ad although it's somewhat of a relief to finally see the real men behind both façades, it's also an unpredictably scary moment when everything can go wrong in a moment. It's a fitting way to end this twisted, malicious relationship.