Hall might be creepy and odd, but those qualities — from the Yosemite Sam facial hair to the way his voice trails off into high-pitched nothingness — explains why law enforcement hasn’t taken him seriously. Still, there appears to be a trail of missing girls behind his strange boasts, leaving shrewder investigators desperate to find tangible evidence that will keep him in prison, which is where Keene comes in.
Facing a long drug sentence, Keene is offered the chance to get out of prison if he can cozy up to Hall and earn his trust, forcing him to enter a dangerous lockup and try to befriend someone who is suspicious of any kindness.
Everything about Hauser’s performance makes Hall seem like an unlikely criminal mastermind. Yet he’s as cagey in sharing details as he is emotionally needy, qualities that Keene must work to exploit without giving himself away or getting killed first.
The narrative actually starts slowly, but it takes on a growing sense of urgency and tension as Keene’s deadline to secure the kind of damning information that will tangibly connect Hall to the crimes nears. That includes Hall’s bizarre need to puff himself up by sharing vague details while Keene ca n’t appear too eager to wring them out of him as he struggles to hide his revulsion.
It’s another immersion course in the sordid underbelly of that genre, and one not-all-that-good guy’s willingness to crawl through that darkness in order to claw his way back into the light.
“Black Bird” premieres July 8 on Apple TV+. Disclosure: My wife works for a division of Apple.