The algorithm must be happy: Barry just wrapped its darkest—and possibly best—season yet. Below, our staff weighs in on the HBO dark comedy’s latest installment, including its thrilling finale, what characters made the biggest difference this season, and what could come next for the Hollywood hitman.
What is your tweet-length review of the Barry Season 3 finale?
Justin Sayles: I guess Cousineau can act.
Alison Herman: Only on this show could the ostensible hero getting swarmed by dozens of cops read like a happy ending. Barry’s spent three seasons trying to act like there can be redemption without taking responsibility; even if he never had a moral breakthrough himself, the world has for him.
Keith Fujimoto: I need to know what game Jim Moss was watching and if Edwards ended his career with five interceptions.
Alan Siegel: Over the course of this season, Barry went from a show that I’d quote funny lines from incessantly to one that’s too scary to watch before bed. Knowing who the main character is, the fact that the series went down this route is appropriate.
What was your favorite moment of Barry Season 3?
Herman: Gene fumbling the gun in the premiere was the perfect tension breaker. Barry’s had an increasingly difficult time balancing the darkness of its material with the comic abilities of its cast. That short, sweet bit is proof it’s still got it. The more terrified we are, the harder we laugh as release.
Siegel: I can’t fully explain why, but Vanessa Bayer (BanShe exec Morgan Dawn-Cherry) and Jessy Hodges (Sally’s agent Lindsay Mandel) one-upping each other with weird vocal sound effects and grunts to describe the feel of various TV shows in Episode 6 made me cry laughing.
Adeniran: Fuches having two separate chances to settle down on a goat farm with a lovely lady only to spurn them for a chance to equal the score with Barry was comedy gold.
Sayles: Since no one will say it: The dirt-bike crew chasing Barry on Los Angeles freeways was some of the best filmmaking I’ve seen on television in years. (It also made for great fodder for the best post-ironic meme account about a Southern California shopping mall.)
What was your least favorite?
Sayles: The show sometimes requires an incredible suspension of disbelief. (Like, how did Ryan’s dad find Barry behind that dumpster?) But so long as the show purports itself to be a comedy, it’ll have some cover for that.
Herman: Barry’s increasing surrealism can sometimes come at the cost of realistic human behavior. I get the sparse, biblical feel of the final confrontation between Barry and Albert; I also don’t believe a seasoned pro like Barry would loop back to that particular crime scene, nor that Albert would agree to let him go.
Siegel: Watching the dirt-bike goon nearly kill Sally in the finale was nauseatingly harrowing. She doesn’t deserve to go through that kind of hell again.
Adeniran: The deaths of Akhmal and Yandar. Two kings gone from this mortal coil way too soon. (Akhmal’s death hit me pretty hard because he plays a central part in the funniest scene Barry has to offer.)
Who is the MVP of Season 3?
Sayles: The great Robert Wisdom, best known as Bunny Colvin from The Wire, not only added necessary gravitas and emotional weight as Jim Moss, but also did what no one else had been able to in setting Barry up to get arrested.
Siegel: Jim Moss, the perfect fresh set of eyes to see through the bullshit narrative built around his daughter’s murder. It made sense that someone outside Barry’s orbit—someone who’s not so desperate to make it in the entertainment industry that they’re blinded to his true nature—would catch on to him before it’s too late.
Fujimoto: Special Agent Albert “Whoever Came Up With That Is a Clown” Nguyen. Runner-up is the audition room at Jermaine and Nick’s apartment.
Adeniran: Gene Cousineau is easily the runaway MVP. He got his career on track and put his no. 1 opp behind bars with his acting skills. He put up 2012 and 2013 LeBron James numbers this year.
Herman: Hader will get his accolades, so I’ll simply shout out Sarah Goldberg, who destroys the myth of the perfect victim one eyebrow twitch at a time. Sally is both a repellent narcissist and a sympathetic person caught in a violent cycle of abuse; Goldberg makes sure we know it, and travels freely between Barry’s many different tones.
Our colleague Alison Herman wrote last week about just how dark this dark comedy has gotten. Did you find Season 3 bleaker than the show’s previous two installments?
Adeniran: Far and away. I felt more dread watching this season than ever before. It didn’t help that Barry looked absolutely downtrodden and out of it this year.
Herman: Oh hey, that’s me! To my previous thoughts, I’ll simply add: Count the laugh lines in the finale. I’m not sure there were any.
Fujimoto: This season definitely swerved into the crime-thriller lane more than I anticipated. The lol’s came mostly from Mitch, the Beignet Jedi.
Siegel: Yes, as it should be. Barry began as a cold-blooded killer, never fully stopped being one, and it’s looking like he finally may pay for what he’s done. “People are asking, ‘Can he be forgiven?’ And, ‘Do you think he can find success and happiness?’” Hader said before the season premiere. “Yeah, we’re asking ourselves the same thing. I have no idea. We’ll see. Hopefully. Maybe. Or maybe he doesn’t deserve it.” At this point, it’s clear that there’s no maybe about it.
Sayles: The Barry of Season 1 would’ve put Albert in that hole after he confronted him. Also: There was nothing this year on par with the Chris or Janice Moss killings or the slaughter at the monastery that closed Season 2. (The two candidates for the latter category—the dirt-bike chase and Hank fighting his way out of the mansion—mostly put the bloodshed at a distance or focused on style to such a degree that they simply impressed the viewer.) Instead, this year the show focused on the emotional violence and personal wreckage created by its antagonist. And for as dark as the sowing had been, it turns out the reaping is even darker.
The theme of this season was forgiveness. Did any characters achieve it?
Fujimoto: Gene Cousineau. He can’t get Janice back and he can’t take back whatever he did to Joe Mantegna, but damn did he try his best to redeem some of the awful parts of his past.
Siegel: Gene Cousineau, barely. It took prodding by a former military interrogator, but the man who pissed away every single Hollywood opportunity he ever got gave up his last shot at fame and fortune to help take down the man who killed his girlfriend.
Herman: Only Gene, who redeemed himself—and put those acting chops to constructive use!—by serving as bait for the psychopath who killed his girlfriend. A genuine act of bravery by a man who’s repeatedly taken the easy way out.
Sayles: The great irony is that Barry himself comes close to achieving some version of it, when Albert refuses to arrest him because he owes Barry his (and his daughter’s) life. But cut to the next scene, when Barry is ready to take out Jim Moss, and it’s clear that even that incredible gift can’t change him. (This, of course, won’t shock anyone who’s been watching—this guy has been irredeemable from the beginning. He’s the only one who doesn’t know it.)
Adeniran: Nope. In fact, I’d go as far to say that every main character got worse and deserves less forgiveness than when we started this whole thing.
What did you think of NoHo Hank’s Season 3 story line?
Fujimoto: Still hyperventilating. My anxiety has remained at 11 since the finale.
Adeniran: This story line gave us most of the laughs this season, so I enjoyed it. Him and Cristobal together, the bomb, the subsequent raid on their heroin operation, it was all a hoot.
Sayles: Touching at times, a little silly at others. But where it ends, with Hank committing his first on-screen killings and then seemingly realizing that neither he nor Cristobal will ever be the same, may have been the most harrowing moment in a season loaded with them.
Siegel: It felt like an intense video game side quest. The part in the finale when he’s listening to another prisoner being tortured—and possibly eaten by a jungle cat?—in the cell next to his was like Scarface meets Hostel. But with much more left up to the imagination. The only gore that you see is a pile of puke and that makes the scene even more gnarly!
Herman: I appreciate the impulse to add depth to the character who’s previously been the show’s purest source of comic relief. I also fear the pivot to star-crossed lover may have been a bit too abrupt to fully work, in addition to shifting the show’s tonal balance even further toward outright tragedy.
Where does Barry the show (and Barry the character) go from here?
Fujimoto: Barry in jail with Fuches would be a wild way to kick off Season 4.
Herman: Presumably, jail! I’m curious if next season becomes a legal thriller, or if we simply cut to Barry in Supermax. Maybe he turns on the Chechen mob and ends up in witness protection wherever Sally’s headed on that plane.
Siegel: I wonder if the show now becomes a prison/court dramedy with lots of commentary on tabloid culture. I’m already excited about the fake Us magazine HOLLYWOOD HITMAN headlines. I’m also looking forward to Fuches cosplaying as a drug kingpin in jail and watching Sally rebuild in her hometown. As for Barry: I can’t wait to see who plays his lawyer.
Adeniran: A maximum security prison, probably. I hear correctional facilities are great this time of year.
Sayles: Just a hunch, but I suspect Hader and Co. will find a way to make it darker!