Barry (Season Three)
HBO, April 24, 2022
Apr 24, 2022
By Kyle Mullin
Photography by Merrick Morton/HBO
It would be an understatement to say the new season of Barry starts off with a bang. The best gag from the HBO dramedy’s new episodes involves the titular aspiring actor by day, mob hitman by night (played by Bill Hader) fiddling with a cutesy phone app for a deadly bomb. It’s an explosive satire of our relationship to tech in 2022.
Picking up from where the 30-time Emmy-nominated series left off in 2019, a newly traumatized Barry attempts to ingratiate himself with Chechen head honcho NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan). The hitman’s transgression: initially refusing to help Hank fend off Bolivian and Burmese rivals at the latter’s Buddhist monastery. Then came Barry’s dramatic reversal: arriving late and massacring nearly all the gangsters, despite the Bolivians and Chechens having speedily since mended ties.
Barry’s violent change of heart was of course driven by a more personal vendetta. And now, NoHo Hank is none too pleased with Barry in the handful of new episodes made available to critics ahead of Season Three’s premiere. Even though he began the series as a shellshocked Afghanistan war vet, after committing that slew of fresh murders at the monastery, Barry may be more shattered than ever. So much so, that he now pleads with Hank for work, and hints at a longing for comradery. The Chechen mobster initially rebukes Barry, though it’ll be obvious to audiences that he’s not just angry because of the hitman’s recent recklessness— Hank also wants the hitman off his lawn so he can go back inside to the awaiting arms of Bolivian syndicate leader Cristobal (Michael Irby), with whom Hank took the reunion of their gangs to the next level. TV’s best will-they-won’t-they couple since The Office’s Jim and Pam finally get the romantic subplot they deserve, one full of enough hilarious twists to keep you laughing and guessing through multiple episodes.
Hank realizes he was too quick to send Barry packing. That’s because he and the other gun-toting Chechens want to outsource a bomb attack. Enough NoHo-hijinks ensue to delight fans, and critics that have raved about Barry since its 2018 debut.
Barry’s acceptance of Hank’s mission makes him miss a special red carpet premiere for his girlfriend and fellow up-and-coming actress Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg). After embarking on a fits-and-starts romance that rivals that of Hank and Cristobal in Season Two, by Season Three’s premiere, Sally and Barry have moved in together–though she has little time to spend at home. Sally and Barry speak without hearing each other, as Sally rushes off as the showrunner and star of a series about the domestic abuse she once endured, in a subplot that becomes Barry’s main event.
For all the bruising-ly realistic, breathtakingly exciting action that takes place in Barry’s mob-related scenes, what makes the series truly special in Season Three are the showbiz moments. A tracking shot of Sally through the set of her sitcom home is so gorgeously filmed, and boasts enough emotion from Goldberg’s body language, to thrill audiences more than last season’s climactic gangster shootout. Ditto an engrossing zoom-in of Sally and Barry’s acting coach Gene, played by living legend Henry Winkler, during a redemptive opportunity on the set of a popular law drama. After the recent death of his girlfriend, the grieving Gene is unphased in Season Three by showbiz opportunities, which he would have killed for in the past. Each of these Winkler-centered plot developments reveal more giggle inspiring details about his character’s despicable past. Better still, Winkler exercises his slapstick chops in both a face-off with Barry and an attempt to flee the dysfunctional hitman. There are equally funny scenes starring Barry’s mentor-turned nemesis Monroe Fuches (constant scene stealer Stephen Root), along with suspense between Cristobal and elder mobster Fernando (a violent yet avuncular Miguel Sandoval), not to mention pathos entangling Sally and her younger co-star Katie (Elsie Fisher, of Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade).
If all those twists and turns make this review dense to read, it’s a testament to creators, writers and directors Hader and Alec Berg that Barry’s runtime always whizzes by like a hitman’s bullet, the laughs constantly killing and the tone hitting an elusive bullseye. Aside from these richly layered plot developments, the characterization and performances of Barry, Gene, Hank, and, above all Sally, help this hilarious and occasionally heart wrenching dramedy once again — just like its title character — hit the mark. (www.hbo.com/barry)
Author rating: 8/10