Barry: What We’re Praying Doesn’t Happen This Season
Well, Barry, you seem to have painted yourself into a corner.
HBO’s jet-black comedy about a hired assassin seems to want it both ways. Surely we’re supposed to detest Barry Berkman, the amoral hitman who, in addition to taking out a bunch of faceless foreign baddies, kills a fellow marine, his acting coach’s lover, and his best friend.
And yet! Hader makes Barry Blocker, the new, sensitive, artistic version of Barry Berkman, so damn sympathetic that we want him to find a way out. Clearly, he’s being controlled by Monroe Fuches, the man who groomed (brainwashed?) a damaged Barry for a career as a hitman. How can any of this be Barry Blocker’s fault?
And yet. Barry -- Berkman, Blocker, or otherwise -- pulled the trigger every time. The fellow marine, the innocent cop, the best friend who’s leaving a family behind.
In a less complex series, the show creators would surely find a way to give Barry a Hollywood ending, the kind he’s learning to act out in Gene Cousineau’s classes. His victims would have all been faceless bad guys who probably had it coming. He’d have a moment of self-realization, offer a tearful apology, commit an act so heroic and selfless that it erases his previous sins.
Bill Hader, you better not. Barry is too damn good to let Barry off that easy.
If Barry wanted to do this the simple way, it had its opportunity. In fact, it was suggested by fellow Marine Taylor in the first season’s episode six -- Barry should just kill Fuches. Of course! Sure, it’s another murder on Barry’s conscience but it’s one killing for which the audience would readily forgive him. Fuches is objectively evil. and he clearly isn’t going to stop manipulating Barry into murdering all kinds of people, wicked or otherwise.
So: Take out Fuches, become Barry Blocker full-time, then spend the next ten years doing summer stock with Sally. Easy peasy.
But Barry didn’t take the easy way out, creating a much tougher narrative job ahead. Season 3’s tagline, “You Can’t Bury Your Past,” acknowledges it.
There’s no forgetting what’s happened, much less forgiving. For a guy who seemed at rock bottom when we met him in Season 1, Barry has deeper, dimmer pits into which he can fall. Usually, the thing that pulls Barry further into the depths are the consequences of the “one last bad thing” he does so he can be free of all of it.
Finding a way for Barry to find hope amidst the bloodbaths seems a futile task. At some point, he needs to face real consequences for the violence he’s inflicted on the people around him. And, somehow, Hader and Co. have to make that journey hilarious. Oh yeah, Barry is one of the best comedies of the century, so don't forget to deliver the laffs!
We’re not saying redemption of some kind is impossible. But it sure as hell better not be easy.
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Top image: HBO