A show about a hitman who decides to become an actor could have been a stretch, but not in the capable hands of Alec Berg and star Bill Hader. Its first three seasons fluctuated between outright hilarious and downright chilling, often ebbing back and forth within the same episode. But now Barry (Hader) is in uncharted territory, and this show is bravely – and skillfully – navigating what life looks like when its title character is no longer able to roam free and keep killing people who somehow don’t realize just how very dangerous he is.
Barry isn’t quite able to understand how he’s come to be in prison, wondering whether his acting teacher Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) is mad at him when he was the one who set him up, and he’s also in the same prison as another man with a vendetta against him, his old friend Fuches (Stephen Root). No one knows exactly what to make of his startling arrest, and Sally (Sarah Goldberg) is a particular mess, trying to process what her association with this newly-exposed hitman means for her floundering career. Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and Cristobal (Michael Irby) are trying to enjoy life together, but a business opportunity takes them back to Los Angeles and it’s not long before they too aren’t able to resist being drawn in by the toxic web of death, destruction, and surprising emotion that surrounds Barry.
This season, which will be the show’s last, taps into a darkness that has been hinted at before but is clearly swelling within Barry. There is a piece of him that isn’t able to engage with the real world, and rightly can’t square the innocence he sometimes exudes with the violence of the work he does. Hader magnificently portrays all of that complexity with just a look, and this show would be interesting and worthwhile enough if the camera remained focused solely on his face. Fortunately, that’s not all there is, but Hader is magnetic and deeply compelling in his interpretation of this deeply wounded person.
The show hasn’t lost the lightness that makes it so entertaining, and that’s on display most prominently in the enterprising efforts that Hank and Cristobal make to channel their unlikely romantic union into an effort to get other sworn enemies to work together in the name of achieving their true goals (with the acknowledged likelihood that it won’t lead to the same relationship bliss the two of them have found). This show keeps its silliness in check but allows it to go just far enough, best exemplified by the show’s standout performer, Carrigan, and the excitable delivery he infuses into each of his lines.
Barry also hasn’t lost sight of its supporting threads, like the presence of Jim Moss, brought to terrifying life by Robert Wisdom, who wants to ensure that no one exploits his daughter’s story even after her killer has been put behind bars. Cousineau is also the type of character who has no idea when it’s time to stop, and though he should be enjoying the positive press from his role in apprehending a hitman, he’s too egotistical to understand what he already has. Winkler continues to be terrific, and he’s in great company with the entire ensemble.
Though it’s been stretched out due to a longer-than-expected nearly-three-year hiatus between seasons two and three, this show is coming to what some may interpret as an early end after just four seasons and thirty-two episodes. But that decision seems purposeful, acknowledging that this is where the story ends, and leaving audiences wanting more is an acceptable consequence of concluding it without dragging it out unnecessarily. This show has always been unique in tone and style, and this fantastic fourth season is sure to be no exception for its fans.
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Season four of Barry premieres with two new episodes on Sunday, April 16th on HBO.