Barry is a show like Killing Eve that is slippery to write about. It doesn’t offer a lot of pegs upon which to hang a piece, and because it’s not particularly plot-driven, it is not very recap friendly, unless you’re the kind of recapper that basically uses Barry as a vehicle for therapy. I am good at dissecting plot, unearthing clues, and crapping on bad TV, but I am not good at trying to get inside the head of television writers, which is what is required of a show like Barry.
But dear God, it is excellent.
I also admire it so much for its restraint, because there have been so many opportunities for this show to provide audiences with satisfying, crowd-pleasing turns, but Barry never takes the easy way out for short-term gains. There have been so many times when Barry is up on stage where I want to see him break into a perfect, soul-baring monologue, where he truly opens himself up and lets others in, and they love him for the person that he is, and not the robotic killing machine that he once was. However, thanks to last night’s episode, we now know exactly the reaction he might get for being truthful about himself after Barry revealed to Gene (Henry Winkler) the truth behind one of his war stories. “You should never reveal this to the class,” Gene tells him. “They will shit themselves. I mean, they’re children.”
But the broader point that Gene is making is also true: Barry doesn’t have to be defined by the murders that he has committed, although it’s a struggle not to define him that way when he’s still taking out hits and, more damning — because the only murders he commits now are the ones designed to get him out of the business of murdering — losing his temper and nearly killing Sally’s ex-husband in a fit of rage (How tense was that scene?). I love Barry, but Barry is still a bad guy.
But that’s also what makes Barry such a remarkable comedy: It can somehow find humor in man’s attempts to quell his murderous rage and channel it into his — let’s be honest — very bad acting (Hader is a brilliant actor; Barry is not). What’s been so terrific about season two, however, is that some of what’s bubbling inside of Barry is finally starting to leak out, which has made it easier for viewers to emotionally connect with Barry. Alec Berg and Bill Hader have perfectly straddled the line between comedy and bleakness, but — by the very nature of the character — it’s been difficult to embrace Barry, which is part of why No Ho Hank has been such a huge fan favorite (also, because Anthony Carrigan is terrific). This week’s episode, however, brought us closer to Barry by giving viewers a motivation with which we could empathize. Granted, we’re not likely to murder a girlfriend’s ex-husband, but the impulse is understandable. Moreover, the way in which Barry was about to connect with Sally after she confessed to the reality of her situation (that she sneaked away from her abusive ex rather than confront him) also made Barry a more endearing character, because he can connect with Sally on that level, just as he can connect with Gene, a shitty father who is trying to be a better human.
There was a lot of character progression in this episode, and a lot of breakthroughs, and that’s even before we get to the holy-shit WHAT? end of the episode. Detective Loach gets Barry dead-to-rights admitting to killing Moss ON TAPE, and just when you think that Barry has been cornered, Loach pulls out something of a Deus ex murderina when he tells Barry that if he kills Loach’s ex-wife’s boyfriend “all of this goes away.”
Barry’s “WHAT?!” is the exact right response, and while the out is a little too convenient, it also throws one more ball in the air for Barry to juggle. Four episodes into the second season, and one has the feeling that Barry is never going to be able to extricate himself from the hitman business. Murders are like lies; the more you commit, the harder it is to dig out of the hole. Meanwhile, Barry is full of rage, but without a constructive outlet for it, he remains a rat in the cage of his own mind.
Header Image Source: HBO