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In Barry's "it takes a psycho" and ""tricky legacies" : Nobody's a Hero

Barry has always succeeded with the difficult task of balancing humor and violence. As violence becomes more explicit and prominent in television, it would be easy to simply use murder as a cheap joke. However, in its fourth and final season, Barry is ready for its characters to face consequences.

“it takes a psycho”

An unseen helicopter looms over Los Angeles. Its presence highlights the absence of Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) after he escapes from prison. While Hank (Anthony Carrigan), Sally (Sarah Goldberg), and Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom) all have reason to believe the convict could be coming after them, no one is more petrified than Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler, above). After spilling everything he knew about Barry to the press, Gene retreats to his cabin in Big Bear to keep himself away from more reporters. However, when he learns that Barry has escaped from prison, Gene is convinced he’ll be the hitman’s first target. However, his son Leo (Andrew Leeds), convinces him to stay put. This ends up being a fatal mistake for Leo in what is potentially the most shocking scene in an incredibly shocking episode. Forget Chekov’s gun, as Rip Torn’s gun has shown up again in Barry. A gift from one actor to another, Gene has kept this gun for each season but doesn’t fire it until this episode. When a figure approaches his door, a terrified Gene shoots before asking any questions. However, it is not Barry that he has shot but his own son, who only stopped by to drop off his favorite meal.

While Gene spent most of the episode frozen with fear, Hank was moving at an unprecedented pace for power. Hank’s first action in this episode is drowning his new crew in their sand. It is a horrifying sequence for Cristobal (Michael Irby) and is one of two moments in this episode that demonstrates why Hader’s next project will probably be a horror film. When the Chechens return and Hank re-joins them, Cristobal doesn’t recognize the murderous brutality in the man he loves. After an excellently performed breakup scene by Carrigan and Irby, Cristobal is shot and killed by the Chechens. While Barry has drawn Breaking Bad comparisons in the past (Hader even sat in on the writing of Better Call Saul this season), Hank allowing Cristobal to be killed is the closest thing to a Heisenberg-like transformation yet.

As Hank grows into the crime boss he’s always wanted to be, Sally’s dreams of acting continue to be shattered. After taking on a model-turned-actress as an acting student (Ellyn Jameson) in the last episode, Sally is on the completely green scene-based set for Mega Girls. A very thinly veiled parody of MCU films, Kristen is the blonder and taller mirror of Sally starring in the film. While the movie represents everything Sally hates about Hollywood, when she meets the director of the Oscar-winning film CODA, Sian Heder (making an appearance as herself) Sally can’t help but deliver Kristen’s monologue to the director. It’s an incredible scene, from Heder’s blunt performance to Carl Herse’s camera choreography which blocks Kristen out of the frame as Sally tries to replace her. However, despite her best efforts, Sally will never get this part. A producer, Mark, tells her that with time she may act again, but Sally’s Hollywood dreams are officially dead.

So when Sally returns home that evening, she is not only completely unsurprised by Barry lurking in the shadows of her home (make that horror movie ASAP, Hader!), but she agrees to run off with him. Leaving both Barry and the audience with the same reaction of, “really?!”

After a series of dream sequences this season, we have revisited the same barren landscape. Only now, instead of a young Barry, we are met with his son. The child Barry and Sally have together in this desolate atmosphere is revealed to not be a hallucination, but a product of a time jump 8 years into the future.

“tricky legacies”

No, the photo above is not a random stock image of a father and son. And no, Abraham Lincon and Gandhi weren’t perfect. In Barry’s fifth episode “tricky legacies,” audiences are greeted with an 8-year time jump where Barry and Sally have run off together and raised a son in the middle of nowhere. Without access to friends, freedom, or video games (“Who doesn’t know Call of Duty?”), John (Zachary Golinger) silently knows that this idyllic suburban family has something strange hiding under the surface. In one of the few interactions he has with another child, he asks, “Does your mom wear hair on your hair?” While it’s a hilarious question, it’s all John knows since his mother “Emily” has to put on a brown wig each morning before going to work.

This surreal, desolate, and domestic wasteland is a waking nightmare for Sally (above). She chugs booze on the drive home from work, steals money from the cash register, and hates-watches the show her former acting classmate and assistant Natalie stars in (yay for the return of D’arcy Carden!). While completely unsatisfying to her, it is a strange combination of the life she could’ve had if she stayed in Joplin with her abusive ex-husband while simultaneously being the role of a lifetime. Adopting a southern accent, a new name, and a new identity is something Sally has been spending her whole life training for, yet she’s playing to an audience of zero.

While Sally grows bitter and defeated, Barry is having the time of his life as a father, who now goes by the name Clark. We’ve seen Barry imagine himself as a father in dream sequences since season one. While his reality doesn’t include John Hamm like his season one self-imagined, Barry is leaping at the opportunity to teach his son about math and Abe Lincoln (which was something he knew about before). This delusional enjoyment of a crime-free life mirrors his behavior in season two, where he also tried to live a normal, murder-free existence.

However, in this episode written and directed by Bill Hader, he wastes no time reminding the audience of the violence Barry is trying to ignore. When Barry finds a baseball glove in John’s room, he wastes no time showing his son clickbait-y snuff videos on youtube of kids being killed at little league games (with excellent titles like, “7 Year Old Boy Gets Grisly Injury in Outfield - TERRIFYING”). As committed to being a father as Barry seems, he prioritizes buying himself a Lincoln biography over a blanket for his son’s freezing bedroom. Sally is a completely inattentive mother who “scary cries” and detests the thought of cuddling John. When a mysterious doorbell ditcher arrives one night, Barry stands outside with a gun all night while Sally and John sleep in the bathtub.

This entire episode feels eerily detached from reality and while this season has already drawn Lynch comparisons from some, this deserted vision of suburbia feels like a spiritual successor to Blue Velvet.

But as audiences have repeatedly learned, delusion can never last long in Barry. After spending eight years in hiding, Gene Cousineau returned to Hollywood as soon as he gets the opportunity for more attention. While the Warner Brothers staff can’t tell if the man in the lobby is the real Cousineau (they’re both old!), he eventually works his way into meeting an executive.

Which brings the Berkman familial facade to a screeching halt. When we return to the empty house, Sally is screaming for Barry (no longer Clark, but Barry. “They’re making a movie about us,” she says, and Gene is consulting on the bio-pic. The idyllic family scene is over and a new goal takes precedence, Barry is going to kill Gene.

Will Gene please cut his hair? Does NoHo Hank finally have control over the LA crime he’s always wanted? How will this Bonnie and Clyde duo operate now that they have a child? What quote from Natalie’s sitcom did they reference at the White House correspondent's dinner? Regardless of how these questions are answered, the rest of Barry’s final season is sure to be a wild ride.

Written by Mary Leer

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