A COUPLE YEARS AGO, ONE OF THE MOST PROLIFIC NAMES
in adult comedy films, Bill Hader began working on a project with HBO. At the time, no one knew exactly what the legendary comedian was working on, but we all knew that it was going to be something much different to his usual irreverent material or wildlyaccurate impersonations. As it turns out, it’s actually one of the funniest and most important series of the past decade, as well as an incisively deep character study.
Barry was released to the world in 2018 to critical claim. The first season was so phenomenal that audiences were champing at the bit for more content. It surprised us by surpassing the gritty, realistic, and perversely funny foundation to become an excitingly fresh story about a guy coming to terms with his own life in a relatably existential way. Although he’s an antihero in the purest sense, Barry is also one of the most lovable protagonists of the modern age.
Season 2 dove deeper into the character and season 3 has truly tested the breaking point of an audience who still wants to root for a character despite his flaws.
Relaying the story of Barry is a much simpler endeavor than most would expect. How does an actual hitman, whose entire life has revolved around killing people left, right, and center, switch his focus to sprouting dreams of becoming an actor? It’s a series about serious reforms that a broken, tattered man’s mind goes through in order to find new passions and stray further and further away from his violent past and wrongdoings.
Barry is a hitman who works paycheck to paycheck. He’s sent to Los Angeles by the people he works for in order to assassinate an aspiring actor who is having an affair with a Chechenmob boss’ wife. He follows the actor to an acting class, and in one of the oddest of situations, he finds a new passion: acting. He decides that this is the a life he wants to lead, and so learning and becoming an actor is where his true focus must lie. However, life isn’t that simple, and Barry’s violent past will continue to haunt him even after he’s decided to let go of it.
Bill Hader stars as the titular protagonist, a silent and somber middle-aged man. He portrays Barry as someone going through various forms of existential crises at the same time. That’s what makes him such an effective character for audiences, especially because he’s consistently on the verge of breaking down due to the constant physical altercations he finds himself in.
A SHORT REVIEW AND THE STORY SO FAR
A series that creates such atmospheric tension with each and every episode that it becomes a nailbiting extravaganza with each new rendition, Barry has been a wild ride, to say the least.
The series has also been somewhat experimental, mixing elements of neonoir, action thrillers, and black comedies, with a generous dose of untouchable action choreography along the way.
Beginning and ending with Barry, an anti-social hitman with tons of mental health issues from his time in the war, the show delves into our protagonist’s past as well. He’s an ex-marine who couldn’t find solace in a calm life after returning home, and so he took up work as a contract killer for Mr. Fuches (Stephen Root). Barry is fantastic at his job, becoming one of the best hitmen in the world. He’s soon hired to take down various gangsters and prolific figures from different mobs across the US, thus leading to dozens of enemies who want to exact their vengeance.
However, the thing that separates Barry from most other people in his profession is his compassion. Though he seems like just another ruthless killer at first, struggling to survive and kill anyone in his path, in reality, he’s just a man who’s lost beyond recognition and looking for a higher purpose. When he’s called to Los Angeles, he takes up acting lessons under the tutelage of Gene (Henry Winkler), a Hollywood veteran. What Barry doesn’t expect is his genuine passion for the theatrical arts.
Ultimately, the series is a twisted redemption story of a completely broken and lost man who’s now found a new love, and in doing so has found a source of humanity and empathy within himself. However, the life he’s led for so long will not be easily tamed as he’s constantly forced to face his past through horrifying situations of violence and brutality that he’s put into. Not to mention, his business manager Fuches is making a ton of money through Barry and won’t let him leave this life that easily.
Barry is easy to root for, despite living the life of a ruthless killer, because he has issues of his own. He’s had a traumatic past and a life that’s been unforgiving to him. His wealth of mental health issues, helps to make him so much more nuanced compared to your average protagonist. And Hader portrays the lead with such emotional depth that it’s heartbreaking to watch him go through the ringer. The series is written by Alec Berg and Hader in collaboration, who allow this to be such a comedic and tension-filled delight.
Barry is deeply rooted in comedy and every aspect of the story reflects that. On the other hand, the show isn’t afraid to get serious and push the limits of action and violence when it comes to the television medium.
A SHORT REVIEW AND THE STORY SO FAR
It’s been a while since we saw Barry last, with season 2 concluding back in 2019. Due to the pandemic, season 3 was delayed to this year.
But now, the show is back and we’re finally getting to see more of our favorite hitman. We pick up right after the aspiring actor went on a brutal rampage inside of a Burmese monastery. Although his actions can be defended, his friend and acting coach Gene now learns his true identity as a killer.
The third season is just as bombastic as the previous two, but this time around the stakes are higher than ever before. If you already thought the show was a never-ending roller coaster of emotions and intensity, you still won’t be prepared for what’s coming in season 3. Barry is basically at the hardest point in his life, with a relationship that isn’t going anywhere. He’s also got a ruthless business manager who’s out to get him and he’s not landing very many acting gigs at the moment either.
The first episode shows Barry desperate to make a living and resorting to the Dark Web for work while still taking acting auditions. Meanwhile, Sally (Sarah Goldberg) has her own show now and is feeling the pressures of being successful, thus putting a halt on her relationship with Barry. But the plot really kick-starts when Gene confronts him about his past.
Ultimately, season 3 is a fantastic addition to the series, with more of the witty dark comedy and character drama we’ve come to admire. With Barry getting renewed for a fourth season, we can’t even imagine how this show will continue to level itself up like it’s done each outing thus far. But that just all contributes to this being one of the most unpredictable and unexpected series in recent vintage. If you haven’t dove into the world of Barry, please do. Not only will you have a great time and laugh your heart out, but you’ll be able to witness the national treasure that is Bill Hader, who showcases his acting chops better here than anything else he’s ever done.