'Barry' review: Dramatic final season goes out with a bang
Courtesy of HBO
This review is spoiler free
In the early days of Bill Hader’s sensational action-comedy “Barry,” there was a lighthearted earnestness about the value of being seen. It was about mentorship, compassion, and understanding that begin with a simple premise: a hitman discovered a passion for acting. The first two seasons managed to tap into its main character on a therapeutic level: Barry had been exploring something that would let him escape from the trauma of executing thugs and drug lords. Above all else, he wanted an honest, legitimate lifestyle. He wanted to feel human. Those elements are still prevalent throughout the audacious final season of “Barry” that allows Hader, who wrote and directed the entire catalog for the first time, to finally answer the one overarching question that’s been on everyone’s minds: Who is Barry Berkman?
Over the seven (of eight) episodes provided in advance for reviewing press, that answer unravels in stunning fashion, complete with a slew of wild turns only a final season of a beloved show can get away with. Like a fellow HBO behemoth that’s currently singing its swan song, “Succession,” “Barry” is going out on a high note. Season four is a tad lighter compared to the lows of season three where you were left to wonder if HBO was going to put this in the Drama slot as opposed to Comedy at the Emmys, but nowhere near the breeziness those first two seasons allotted. But the evolution of these characters and how their choices and actions have led them to here is some of the smartest writing on television. Yes, Barry is a bad guy with a supervillain alter-ego, yet this new season shows even the good guys, including Sally (Sarah Goldberg) and Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), can act shady if it’ll get them ahead. Nobody is immune.
Season four picks in the immediate aftermath of last year's finale with Barry finally achieving the accountability he’d desperately had been searching for. He’s behind bars after his former acting coach, Gene and father/detective Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom) collaborated to get him arrested. In isolating Barry to the confines of a state prison while he awaits whatever verdict is coming to him, it allows Hader to hand over the spotlight and calculate various intersecting plots, which include schemes by NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and his lover Cristobal (Michael Irby).
It’s up to these relationships and characters to flesh out the comedic aspect on this season as “Barry” traverses into some uncharted territory. It also deals with unresolved plot points from last season, like Sally weathering the fallout from her viral rant, Gene’s rebound from obscurity to A-lister, and if Fuches (Stephen Root) can finally enact his revenge on Barry. Every performer is working at top tier levels, especially Hader behind the camera who creates several thrilling set pieces that, in a shocking mid-season shake-up, brings the journey full circle. It’s probably an understatement to say these people are pushed to their limits.
A good show knows when to hang up its laurels and even though the selfish part of me wants “Barry” to continue, it’s best to get out while the quality is peaking and to leave audiences wanting more (unlike, say, “The Walking Dead”). Relish the weekly rollout and don’t take it for granted, because who knows how long it’ll be until a black comedy as bold and endearing as “Barry” makes it onto the airwaves again. Enjoy the ride.
BARRY debuts on HBO and HBO Max Sunday, April 16th.