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“Barry” Review: Bill Hader’s Hitman Comedy Concludes with a Bleak and Brilliant Final Season

HBO’s pitch-black comedy takes aim at the soul in its final season.

In the first season finale of “Barry,” protagonist Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) made a solemn vow to leave behind his life as a hitman and pursue a crime-free existence with his girlfriend. However, this resolution proves short-lived as Barry finds himself repeatedly drawn back into the world of killing due to various circumstances and personal flaws. As the series progresses, it delves deeper into themes of redemption, the complexities of human nature, and the elusive nature of true change.

In its fourth and final season, “Barry” takes a darker and more introspective turn while still maintaining its signature blend of surreal humor and profound storytelling. The season serves as a thought-provoking exploration of the consequences of one’s actions and the difficulty of breaking free from past mistakes. As Barry grapples with his own inner demons and attempts to atone for his past sins, the series offers a poignant and deeply moving examination of the human condition.

The season premiere, titled “yikes,” continues shortly after the events of the previous season’s finale. Sally finds herself back in her hometown of Joplin, Missouri, grappling with the aftermath of killing a biker in self-defense. Her return home exposes her to a dysfunctional family dynamic, with her mother displaying dismissive and belittling behavior, while her father anxiously tries to compensate for it.

Meanwhile, NoHo Hank has relocated to a quiet rental house in Santa Fe with his boyfriend, Cristobal, but struggles with lingering trauma from his encounter with the Bolivian mafia. Gene Cousineau, having played a role in Barry’s arrest, grapples with his own ego, which craves recognition and glory above all else, even at the expense of justice.

Barry

In the final season of “Barry,” creators Bill Hader and Alec Berg delve deeply into themes of redemption and the inherent complexities of human nature. The characters grapple with their past mistakes and the possibility of change, but find themselves trapped in destructive patterns that seem impossible to break.

Barry, heartbroken and remorseful, seethes in prison, tormented by the mistakes that led him there. A prison guard’s words about redemption offer a glimmer of hope, but Barry and others struggle to believe in the possibility of salvation. Even when Barry reunites with his mentor-turned-tormentor, Fuches, they find themselves unable to escape the cycles of violence and betrayal.

Sally, still reeling from the fallout of her past actions, returns to Los Angeles where she faces backlash for her previous behavior. Despite her own experiences of abuse, she falls back into toxic patterns, perpetuating the cycle of harm in Cousineau’s acting class.

Through these characters’ struggles, “Barry” challenges the notion of redemption and examines the ways in which individuals are shaped by their past traumas and choices. Despite their best efforts, they find themselves trapped by their own demons, unable to break free from the destructive patterns that define their lives.

The risk of having characters revert to their familiar coping mechanisms, especially after the profound events of the previous season, is palpable in the first two episodes of the final season of “Barry.” Compared to the raw intensity of season 3, these initial episodes may feel relatively tame. However, just as a sense of familiarity threatens to settle in, the series takes a dramatic turn in the latter half of the season.

Without delving into spoilers, the characters are forced to confront familiar challenges in unexpected ways, leading to a dynamic shift in the storytelling. This shift proves to be an effective showcase for the talents of the cast, particularly Sarah Goldberg, whose portrayal of Sally’s emotional turmoil is haunting and deeply affecting.

As the season unfolds, viewers can expect the stakes to heighten and the characters to grapple with the consequences of their actions in new and unexpected ways. Despite the initial sense of sameness, “Barry” demonstrates its ability to surprise and captivate audiences with its bold narrative choices and compelling character development.

Barry

Bill Hader continues to impress in the final season of “Barry.” Taking on the role of director for every episode, Hader demonstrates remarkable skill in pacing the action and utilizing sound to evoke profound emotional depth.

In a particularly striking scene where Barry provokes a prison guard into assaulting him, Hader employs a deliberate camera zoom on Barry’s face, accompanied by the sounds of footsteps and crashing surf. This auditory imagery harkens back to Barry’s vision of the afterlife and serves as a powerful representation of his inner turmoil. As the camera draws closer to Barry, the sounds shift to wind over an open plain, heightening the sense of tension and isolation. Through this sequence, Hader skillfully conveys that the true violence Barry faces is internal.

Hader’s directing prowess is undeniable, as evidenced by his masterful execution of tense and evocative scenes throughout the series. His work in the previous season’s motorcycle chase scene was particularly noteworthy, and it would be a mistake for the Academy to overlook his contributions once again.

“Barry” injects moments of playful absurdity amidst its bleak narrative, providing much-needed relief from the heavy themes. In one instance, Hank and Cristobal organize a summit between rival cartels at Dave & Buster’s in a humorous attempt to launch a new money-making venture. This scene features a cameo by Guillermo del Toro as an imposing fixer donning a fedora.

Additionally, the series incorporates quirky subplots, such as Fuches’ associates engaging in a lighthearted debate about the loudest “Fast & Furious” sequel. Actor Patrick Fischler, known for his role in “Twin Peaks,” portrays Lon O’Neil, a Skittles-eating Vanity Fair reporter seeking an interview with Cousineau, adding another layer of comedic charm to the storyline.

Furthermore, Robert Wisdom’s return as Janice Moss’ father adds to the ensemble’s dynamic, with his character’s impassive yet terrifying presence enhancing the tension in the narrative. These moments of absurdity and comedic relief serve to balance the show’s darker elements, creating a rich and engaging viewing experience.

Barry

Anthony Carrigan’s wide-eyed reaction shots continue to resonate deeply, often surpassing the impact of traditional punchlines. However, Carrigan also showcases his versatility with an increasingly poignant portrayal of Hank as his relationship with Cristobal encounters unforeseen challenges. The chemistry between Carrigan and Michael Irby is genuinely heartwarming, and our affection for them is amplified by the genuine concern that their aspirations for a happy ending may be unattainable.

It’s a sobering realization that people cannot be defined solely by the worst actions they’ve committed, nor can they expect redemption solely through subsequent acts of goodness. This sentiment is encapsulated in Barry’s fascination with Abraham Lincoln, whom he admires for his blend of pragmatism, optimism, and compromise. However, Barry’s research uncovers less admirable aspects of Lincoln’s legacy, highlighting the complexity of historical figures. The episode aptly titled “Tricky Legacies” serves as a poignant reflection of the final season’s overarching theme. As Barry’s characters strive to overcome their pasts and redefine themselves, they grapple with the weight of their actions and the repercussions they face. The more they attempt to erase their pasts, the more they find themselves mired in a sense of emotional emptiness and detachment.

The fourth season of “Barry” debuts on HBO on Sunday, April 16.

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