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Barry Season Four: The Bestest Place on Television

The fourth and final season of HBO’s Barry kicked off last Sunday with two tightly crafted, high-energy episodes. The titular hitman-turned-actor was finally caught red-handed in the finale of the past season and every character’s life was turned upside down in an instant. While there are two shows in their final seasons led by former SNL cast members, with Bill Hader’s involvement (he’s directing every episode this season) in addition to the show’s excellent performances and writing, I think there is a clear winner. Sorry, Ted Lasso! This past week, the first two episodes “yikes” and “bestest place on the earth” were released, so here is a quick recap to catch you up!

"yikes" S4 E1

Season four begins with an ode to Los Angeles. As a barely visible Barry is dragged into a prison in cuffs, two cops begin to fangirl. “He was just on that screen and now he’s in our cell block, dude, that’s awesome!” From the first episode, Barry, like all of his fellow actors, has craved being known. Despite a stint on Laws of Humanity (which I keep hearing is a great show), Barry (Hader) is more famous than he’s ever been. This extends to the people in his life, as both Sally (Sarah Goldberg) and Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) have new attention drawn to them.

For Cousineau, this is the best-case scenario after the murder of his cop girlfriend. For Sally, it is another pitfall in her rapidly deteriorating career. In the season three finale, she stabs and bludgeons a biker from the Taylor Gang. Barry discovers the aftermath, saying he’ll take care of the body and take the blame for it. This experience, coupled with her cancellation after becoming the subject of a viral “Karen” style video, leads her to return home to Joplin. There, her parents (who have never even seen her show) are apathetic and inhospitable.

This nightmarish yet highly naturalistic home is a stark contrast to the idyllic New Mexican Airbnb that NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan, pictured above in an incredible outfit by designer Tiffany White Stanton) and Cristobal (Michael Irby) have retreated to. While this peaceful landscape is a much-needed escape from the horrific treatment of the couple in the season 3 finale, it’s too pleasant to last long (despite Bill Hader’s original wishes which included the two of them “just going to art museums”). Their Airbnb host’s mention of the sand industry inspires Hank and Cristobal to go back to LA and start a new powder-based trafficking ring. This rush back to reality inspires Hank to reach out to Barry, who he only just realized is imprisoned.

Speaking of the titular character, Bill Hader continues to impress both as a director and an actor. This episode features a classic “man gets angry at a mirror” scene which normally bores me but this scene is elevated by the distinctly Barry inclusion of a meek cop telling him everything’s going to be ok. While Bill Hader has played this character as depressed and detached for seasons, Barry Berkman has never been so much of a shell. Although he is still unable to feel guilt for murder (a trait that has gone on since his season two relapse into killing), guilt for hurting those close to him overwhelms him. He calls Gene, asking if it was a mistake and reminding his former acting coach of his love. He apologizes to Fuches, also imprisoned, not for killing but for trying to be an actor in the first place and abandoning his violent and selfish father figure.

Meanwhile, the ever-desperate (and ever-entertaining), Monroe Fuches (played by Stephen Root, above) decides to work and stop working with the FBI within the span of this one episode. As much praise as I have for the other genius actors in the show, Stephen Root’s manic energy feels dialed up this season and I can’t help but watch his every move in awe. It looks like this season will be exploring the beginning of Barry and Fuches, and if it means more stunning desert flashbacks and screen time for Root, I couldn’t be more pleased.

"bestest place on the earth" S4 E2

What this episode lacks in action, it makes up for with gripping visuals and tense character evolutions. This episode features an impressive dream sequence that is sure to be only the second of many. As Barry sits slack-jawed, he begins to daydream about being a child and being with his father and a friend, Monroe Fuches. This memory is interrupted by a wedding procession moving through the desert, which seamlessly transitions into an indoor wedding where an older version of Barry and Sally slowly dance. It’s a gorgeous sequence, sure, but not as exciting to me as the technically simpler Dave and Buster’s pitch that comes earlier in the episode.

Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank and Michael Irby as Cristobal (both pictured above) are always delightful to watch and this scene proves to be no exception. After returning to Los Angeles, Hank and Cristobal are trying to get two rival gangs to work together to start trafficking sand for construction projects. In classic Barry fashion, this collection of criminals and gangsters gather at a Dave and Busters. Hank and Cristobal take turns delivering their tightly scripted pitch, moving in opposite directions around a circular table and rotating the camera. This uninterrupted two-minute shot highlights Hank and Cristobal’s absurd interest in hospitality and presentation, showcases the technical prowess of cinematographer Carl Herse, but most importantly, it’s really funny. Barry as a whole does an incredible job of finding humor in severe circumstances. While the tableau of tattooed criminals holding stuffed animals they won is an amusing image, it doesn’t distract from the threat of Hank’s attachment to Barry and the consequences it might hold.

Gene Cousineau is another highlight of this episode. Henry Winkler (above) is impossible not to love as he fails at executing a mysterious scavenger hunt for a Vanity Fair reporter. His incredible one-man show recreating his relationship with Barry takes many liberties (as most of Cousineau’s stories do) but I cannot help emulating the completely engrossed reporter eating a bag of Skittles in disbelief.

Since Gene rebuked his role as a father figure to Barry in the last season’s finale, Fuches has stepped up again to help the man he’s always treated like a son. Stephen Root continues his deranged overconfidence by quickly ceasing his collaboration with the FBI to regain Barry’s trust by any means necessary, as long as everyone will still call him “The Raven.” However, this trust is shattered when he discovers that Barry has now begun working with the FBI.

Why is Barry working with the FBI when one episode ago he was too depressed to care about being assaulted by a police officer? His newfound lust for life and freedom is the result of a terrifying and engrossing conversation with Sally, who comes to visit him. Asking about a “dog” she left behind with him, Sally arrives to get peace of mind over the murder she committed. However, after hesitating to leave, she confesses to feeling safe with Barry. Latching onto this, Hader gives a frighteningly committed performance as she departs, fixating on this comment and telling her that he still loves her.

This episode is full of captivating scenes. However, the most shocking moment of this episode comes in its final moments. When NoHo Hank discovers Barry’s involvement with the FBI, he decides to kill Barry. Bill Hader has promised a major early season surprise, but I find it hard to believe that HBO’s Sunday lineup would kill a major character early in its final season twice. This doesn’t mean a major character death won’t occur soon, and frankly, it doesn’t look good for anyone this season. From Fuches to NoHo Hank, anyone could be a target. This season has not fully devolved into chaos yet, but its first two episodes have done an excellent job establishing the beginning of the end. Who knows what the future holds, all I hope is that we get to see more of D’arcy Carden as Natalie soon.

Written By Mary Leer

[ Stay tuned for more "Barry" review articles each week! ]

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