The Best Limited Series of 2022 Is Not What You’d Think – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

The Best Limited Series of 2022 Is Not What You’d Think

2022 proved to be an exceptional year for limited series, showcasing a variety of incredible performances and captivating narratives. While notable series like “Pam & Tommy”, “Irma Vap”, and “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” garnered significant attention, it was “Black Bird” on Apple TV+ that truly stood out as the best limited series of the year. Let’s delve into the reasons why.

“Black Bird” is based on real events, drawing inspiration from the book “In with the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption” by Hillel Levin and James Keene, who is the protagonist of the show. The story revolves around Jimmy Keene, a former college football star who finds himself entangled in a life of crime. After being caught dealing drugs and possessing illegal firearms, he is sentenced to ten years in prison. However, an unexpected opportunity arises when the FBI approaches Jimmy with a proposition: he can either serve his full sentence in a minimum security prison or transfer to a maximum security facility to befriend suspected serial killer Larry Hall and extract a confession from him, leading to Jimmy’s freedom.

The series unfolds as a riveting prison drama, with the majority of the action taking place within the confines of the prison walls. While detectives Brian Miller and Lauren McCauley work tirelessly to solve the case from the outside, the viewers, much like them, are left in the dark, uncertain of the truth. This approach sets “Black Bird” apart from other serial killer narratives, as it focuses more on the doubt surrounding Larry Hall’s guilt rather than showcasing graphic violence. The suspense and thrill intensify as Jimmy navigates the treacherous prison environment, facing gangs and corrupt officers while maintaining his cover and inching closer to the truth.

Dialogue-driven and character-focused, “Black Bird” captivates viewers with its intimate and claustrophobic atmosphere. Some of the most powerful scenes involve Jimmy and Larry engaging in conversations, highlighting the profound effect their interactions have on both characters. The prison setting serves as a backdrop that heightens the tension and draws audiences into the emotional journey of the characters. Despite its limited six-episode run, the series masterfully develops its characters, allowing them to undergo significant transformations throughout the narrative.

A stellar cast brings the script to life, elevating the already exceptional writing. Ray Liotta delivers a remarkable performance as Big Jim Keene, Jimmy’s father, portraying a flawed yet sympathetic character who strives to be there for his son. Taron Egerton embodies the role of Jimmy Keene with a perfect balance of arrogance and likability, seamlessly transitioning between his real persona and the one necessary to befriend a serial killer. However, it is Paul Walter Hauser’s portrayal of Larry Hall that steals the show. Hauser effortlessly oscillates between a seemingly harmless and peculiar individual and a genuinely sinister and twisted killer, leaving viewers unsettled and captivated.

In an era saturated with limited series, “Black Bird” stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when executed with excellence. Its gripping storyline, impeccable acting, and focused character development set it apart from the rest. As the demand for compelling limited series continues to grow, “Black Bird” serves as a testament to the potential of the genre when executed with precision and artistry.

2022 was a great year for limited series. We got to see Lily James and Sebastian Stan star in Pam & Tommy. Alicia Vikander excelled in the lead role of Irma Vapwhich debuted with a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes. Evan Peters was terrifying in Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. And the limited series that possibly created the most hype was Obi-Wan Kenobias Ewan McGregor reprised his famous role.

However, none of those are the best limited series of 2022. That title goes to the Apple TV+ limited series Black Bird. Here’s why.


The Story

Taron Egerton in Black Bird
Apple TV+

Like many other limited series, Black Bird is based on true events. It is an adaption of In with the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption, written by Hillel Levin and James Keene, the show’s protagonist.

Jimmy Keene is a cocky, popular, and talented guy with a successful college football career. But when we see him, he has turned to a life of crime. After being caught dealing drugs and in possession of illegal firearms, he is sentenced to ten years in prison. However, it is a minimum security prison, and with his swagger and charm, Jimmy fits right in. But these charming and cocky characteristics are why the FBI seeks his help.

The FBI offer Jimmy a deal. Stay in the minimum security prison and serve the ten-year sentence, or transfer to a maximum security prison, befriend suspected serial killer Larry Hall, and get a confession out of him, resulting in Jimmy’s freedom. This would be no easy feat. Coming to Jimmy for help was their last hope, as Hall had left them exasperated.

Hall confesses to murders he didn’t commit and one he did but then goes back on it. As the FBI go around in circles trying to figure out if Hall really did commit the murders, they are full of doubt. Could this man really do it? Is he Evil? Or is he just a strange attention seeker? Which everybody else seems to think he is. It comes down to Jimmy to find the answers as he accepts the deal and goes to the maximum security prison filled with the worst of the worst.

Related: Black Bird Review: True-Crime is at its Best in Suspenseful Apple TV+ Miniseries

What ensues is a brilliant prison drama. The majority of the series takes place within the prison. We see detectives Brian Miller and Lauren McCauley try to solve the case on the outside, but they are in the dark, just like the viewers. This is very effective. Unlike most serial killer series/films, Black Bird doesn’t show us the gruesome acts being committed. Instead, it focuses on the doubt that Larry Hall has caused. And finding out if he really did it is the main thing that keeps this series so thrilling.

Throughout the six episodes of the limited series, there isn’t a moment where you aren’t on the edge of your seat. The pacing of the show is superb. Although the episodes are an hour, they are binge-able because of how captivating the story is. The suspense and tension is constant as we watch Jimmy try to get closer to Larry. All while trying to keep his cover and maneuver through obstacles such as gangs and crooked prison officers.

The story is dialogue-driven and focuses on the characters and their development. Some of the best scenes are just Jimmy and Larry talking. The prison setting creates a claustrophobic and intimate atmosphere that you can’t take your eyes off. It brings us closer to the characters and helps us feel what Jimmy feels as he tries to get the confession. And in the process, we get to see the effects Jimmy’s task has on him as a character.

We see real changes in all the series’ characters, and to do this so brilliantly in only six episodes is a great achievement. And a testament to how good the writing is. Of course, a good cast is needed to get the best out of the writing and the cast of Black Bird delivered.

The Cast of Black Bird

Paul Walter Hauser as Larry Hall in Black Bird on Apple TV+
Apple TV+

The entire cast of Black Bird shone in their roles and helped make this limited series the best of 2022. But there was some standout performance.

In what was one of his final roles, Ray Liotta played Big Jim Keene, Jimmy Keene’s father. A father that has messed up but wants to do better and wants to be there for his son. Liotta excels in the role and brings tonnes of emotion to every scene he is in. It ranks up there as one of the best performances from the late actor.

Taron Egerton plays Jimmy Keene, and Paul Walter Hauser plays Larry Hall. Both actors put in stellar performances and have amazing chemistry. Egerton has the portrayal of a cocky drug dealer down to a tee. His character is arrogant yet likable. We see Jimmy shift gears from his real persona to one that could befriend a serial killer. And as the series goes on, we see the full array of Egerton’s skills as we go deeper into Jimmy’s character.

Related: 15 Best Limited Series on Netflix to Watch Right Now

But it is Paul Walter Hauser who steals the show in the role of Larry Hall. We never know where we stand with Larry. One minute he seems shy and awkward. Innocent even. The next, we see a dark, twisted side to him. Hauser seems able to switch between harmless weirdo and evil serial killer with ease. We are given one of the creepiest and best portrayals of serial killer to date. While the writing is excellent, the series is taken to the next level because of the quality of actors such as Liotta, Egerton, and Hauser.

In a time when limited series are becoming more common, Black Bird has shown how good they can be if done right.

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