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Barry, "you're charming": Cameos, Close-Ups, and Killings, Oh My!

After a season of forgiveness and (comparatively) less violence, Barry Berkman is back. The third episode of the fourth and final season of Barry aired last night with a return to the sharp and witty energy of earlier seasons. Quirky podcast references, a questionable acting class, and humorous hyperviolence made this episode refreshing and familiar without sacrificing the dramatic tension the show has built over the years. With the addition of two surprising cameos and a continuation of impressive camera techniques, “you’re charming” is an ideal episode of Barry.

The ebb and flow of Barry’s violence have been a foundational aspect of his character since the first season when he decided to retire from being a hitman to pursue acting and have a normal life. While Barry (Bill Hader) was by no means a pacifist in the previous season, Sunday’s climatic shoot-out was a brilliantly crafted and entertaining reminder of Barry’s casual expertise. This outburst of violence doesn’t only stem from the imminent threat of his assassination, it’s also the result of realizing his isolation.

When Vanity Fair reporter Lon O’Neil (Patrick Fischler) reveals that Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) talked about the extent of Barry’s abuse, the convict calls NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) with a favor to ask. However, in this tense yet cathartic scene, Hank truly stands up for himself for the first time against Barry. This scene, as well as Sally’s which precedes it, is filmed in a domineering close-up shot. Bill Hader, who has also directed every episode this season, explains that these excruciatingly claustrophobic shots are indicative of the overwhelmed characters. As Barry and Hank argue, the most menacing aspect is how the former stares directly into the camera lens.

However, we keep being reminded that just because Barry is a murderer doesn’t mean he’s the only guilty character. This episode also demonstrates how Sally, Hank, Gene, and even Jim terrorize others for selfish purposes. Strangely, it seems that by trying to protect Barry from being killed in prison, Fuches (Steven Root) is the only character looking out for someone else in this episode.

After receiving some advice from Gene, Sally (Sarah Goldberg) is trying to salvage her new life by following in Gene’s footsteps. She’s started teaching acting classes like Gene, in his theatre, with his techniques. When a blonde student, Kristen, is underprepared, Sally berates her mercilessly to conjure a better performance, mimicking the exact behavior Gene directed towards her in the pilot. While the other students in the class call this behavior abusive and quit the class, Kristen stays behind. While Sally has only demonstrated physical violence once in the show’s duration (pay close attention and you can spot her murder victim sitting in the back of the theatre), her outbursts of rage have finally found a home.

Meanwhile, upon learning of Barry’s cooperation with the FBI, Gene and his agent Tom (Fred Melamed) realize the danger of the Vanity Fair article. Gene has always been a character that’s been desperate for attention, but he still values his life over publicity. The surreal Barry solution to this problem is breaking into reporter Lon’s home to destroy any evidence of Gene’s cooperation. In this hilarious sequence, Fred Melamed serves as the perfect guest star for such an irreverent show. The camera lingers on one room, so as Gene and Fred leave the frame to search the home for any writing, we hear the absurdly destructive ransacking of a room only to hear Melamed say, “Oh shit. That’s a kitchen in there.” For as useless as Gene and Tom are in their search (Tom tossing a monitor in the pool is another favorite moment of mine), Jim Moss (the father of the cop Barry killed, played by Robert Wisdom) has things under control. Lon comes to Jim looking for further insight. After mysterious torture takes place in Jim’s garage (we only see Jim hosing down the trunk of his car), Lon returns to his house in different clothes and is speaking fluent German, which he never spoke before.

These characters aren’t in the clear yet, though, as the assassination attempt against Barry naturally doesn't go according to plan. After Hank decides to kill Barry, he hires Toro (the first cameo of the night, Guillermo Del Toro). Toro assures Hank and Cristobal (Michael Irby) that he has his best guys on it. While other shows wouldn’t require further information, Barry weaves in its odd and delightful humor by including that the two assassins have a podcast where they review gadgets that never work.

These janky gadgets are likely why Barry makes it out of this episode alive. Providing its second cameo of the night, Barry is being informed about the risks of witness protection (in an improvised and highly entertaining monologue from Dan Bakkedahl) when he notices one of the men in the back is behaving abnormally. “That guy’s gonna kill me,” he says, staring at a sweating Fred Armisen. Barry is a television show that doesn’t include cameos often, which is why this appearance from Hader’s longtime collaborator feels so intentionally jarring. Sure enough, Armisen’s podcasting assassin tries to shoot Barry only to have the weapon backfire and gruesomely destroy his own hand. This triggers the other assassin, hiding in the rafters to immediately kill everyone else in the room, narrowly missing Barry. Although it has been a minute since the audience has seen Barry demonstrate his killing capabilities, he calmly dodges bullets and successfully fires at the other podcaster in the ceiling.

Barry has broken out of prison and all hell is about to break loose.

Written by Mary Leer

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