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The Totally Unnecessary and Missing-the-Point ‘Barry’ Finale Power Rankings

Someone on this show found redemption, just not who you’d expect. What about the rest of the main cast?

Getty Images/HBO/Ringer illustration
Spoiler warning

It was better than the Succession finale. Shall we start there? No? Too much? Too soon? Still digesting them both? OK. Sure. I get it.

The Barry finale was exponentially funnier than the Succession finale. Does that work better? Reasonable? Can we agree on this immediately? The long shot of Barry stalking through several toy aisles of a department store and out to the parking lot with a full Call of Duty loadout strapped to his back, the guns all crunching and jostling as he awkwardly scrunches into his car to speed off to the big badass Reservoir Dogs shootout he personally will play no part in: hilarious. Truly. A pitch-black slapstick goof to kick off the series finale of an ostensible comedy whose fourth and final season was so relentlessly traumatizing that I, for one, often worried that I’d never laugh at anything again. But I laughed my ass off at the sixth-episode scene of Fuches, a.k.a. the Raven, getting out of prison and immediately picking up a smitten barista to the tune of Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard,” and if the grand finale didn’t have any one moment quite that deliriously loopy, well, there was a lot of shooting and killing to be done.

Pretty good finale. Possibly great, upon reflection, upon digestion. No way it cracks, say, the top half of the 40 best series finales of the 21st century thus far, but Barry’s final bow gave us one more virtuoso set piece of semi-slapstick, action-flick brutality; a couple pretty phenomenal mini-soliloquies (a great one from Stephen Root as Fuches, and an even better one from Sarah Goldberg as Sally); and a reasonably satisfying, shocking, traumatizing, kind of hilarious ending for Barry himself: shot in the head by his old acting teacher with Rip Torn’s old gun after muttering “Oh wow” in, unmistakably, Bill Hader’s old Comedy Voice. Pretty good. Possibly great.

Let’s go in ascending order of how satisfying this finale was for each major character. Which means we’ll get the crabby stuff out of the way early.

Worst: Jim Moss. Yeah, this didn’t work. Robert Wisdom was fantastic as Janice’s grieving but also comically furious and methodical and unbullshitable and unstoppable father, but it was my genuine hope that we’d find out he let Barry escape his Garage of Doom on purpose, because a tied-up Barry just clomping his chair over to a conveniently located knife to free himself smacked of a carelessness we were very explicitly not supposed to associate with the guy who finally got Barry throw in prison in the first place. But worse yet, Jim totally got bullshitted. “I believe deep in my heart that Gene Cousineau manipulated Barry Berkman to kill my daughter,” he announces at a press conference as the finale’s warming up, and … may I ask why? The $250,000 certainly helped Jim realize that Gene’s a terrible person, but I do not get Jim therefore concluding that Barry’s maybe not a terrible person after all. Don’t tell him I said that, though. I don’t want to get on his bad side.

Second-Worst (But It Was Fine): Gene Cousineau. The second-hardest part of the finale to swallow is the part that takes up most of the last 10 minutes and drives home the point Hader—as Barry’s titular star, cocreator (with Alex Berg), and sole Season 4 director, a massive all-around achievement even if you liked the Succession finale more, which you’d better not—takes great pains to make here, which is that pretty much every character here fucked pretty much everything up, but nothing and nobody fucks up absolutely everything like Hollywood. So in the public eye, and in the inevitable cheesy movie, Gene is the manipulative supervillain, and Barry is the traumatized and easily manipulated hero soldier, and Barry IRL is buried at Arlington Cemetery with full military honors, and Gene’s in prison for killing both Barry and Janice, but at least the guy playing Gene is handsome and has a commanding British accent and bellows “YOU’RE A SOLDIER, NOW DO YOUR DUTY” with the cheeseball gravitas the line requires. Gene is famous but ruined; Barry is revered but dead. It works in theory, and Henry Winkler’s quiet dazed devastation (and his beard) are awfully affecting, and I like that our long last shattered look at him is broken up by applause that isn’t his. Tragedy is not supposed to be satisfying, not really. Keep that in mind and you’ll be fine (though he won’t).

Still Digesting This One: Noho Hank. So he becomes an ultra-badass, semi-straight crime boss, but he (hilariously) sucks at it: Hence the four severed heads of his hired assassins on his desk, hence his hapless single-rocket ambush, hence his cold-blooded decision to kidnap Sally and her son that’s tempered by his slightly warm-blooded final words to Sally: “Let me guess. You were in a bad place and you felt like he was the only one who could help you. Good luck. I mean it.” I believe that he means it. For NoHo Hank to die at the feet of the golden statue he erected of the lover he betrayed, his trembling hand in Cristobal’s, uh, golden hand: That’s, y’know, not hilarious, but it’s a pompous overblown action-movie gesture that feels earned, or at least Anthony Carrigan himself certainly earned it, investing Hank with, yes, a deliriously loopy tragicomic energy that made him singularly lovable right up to the inevitable bitter end. I am going to rewatch the Season 2 rooftop sniper scene where Hank tries and fails to kill Barry probably 50,000 times in my life (“IF I SUCK BALLS, THEN YOU ARE KING OF SUCK BALLS MOUNTAIN”), and nothing Hank got up to in Season 4 quite compares to it, but we’ll always have Dave & Buster’s. He got to go out like Scarface, kinda. He also took part in the best exchange of the whole finale.

Hank: “He was the love of my life.”

Fuches: “I know.”

Hank: “It wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Fuches: “It never is.”

Hank: “I just wanted to be safe.”

Fuches: “We all do.”

Third-Best: Fuches. So, the shootout. One final virtuoso set piece of semi-slapstick, action-flick brutality for the road. Fuches shows up at the big final confrontation out for blood but clearly reconsiders the second he lays eyes on Barry’s son John. He tries (and fails) to get Hank to admit he killed Cristobal. And, in the split-second mass shootout that follows—love the hand grenade, yet another startling bit of Looney Tunes ultraviolence that drives home that you should watch whatever movie Hader ends up making after all this—Fuches dives on Barry’s son, smothering him, protecting him. Rewatch that scene and focus on him if you didn’t notice him the first time, which I don’t think you’re meant to. It’s a tender human gesture amid an appalling burst of bloodshed that’s played, well, not for laughs exactly, but the grenade was pretty funny, man. And then Barry shows up, and the shootout’s already over, and his son is safe, and Barry and Fuches exchange one of those badass wordless drawn-out safe-distance exchanges of macho understanding and acceptance and farewell, and then Fuches disappears back into the total blackness Hader has wielded so effectively this season. Farewell, the Raven. I will never hear Black Sabbath again without thinking of you fondly.

Second-Best: Barry. “Lord, I’m gonna die tonight,” Barry prays, pulling up to the shootout that’s already over. “Please give me the strength to sacrifice myself so that my son can live a long and pious life. And that by doing this, all my sins will be washed away, and I will be redeemed in your eyes, and I will be able to sit next to you in my rightful place in the kingdom of heaven for all of eternity, amen.” And then he struggles to get out of the car, what with all the guns still on his back. Barry’s thorough delusion and denial and desperate clinging to the idea of Instant Redemption is, y’know, not hilarious, but it tracks, and effectively forces everyone watching to constantly confront the fact that he’s a murderer, not a tragic hero, which is of course the way Hollywood ultimately portrays him, and That’s the Joke, and OK, maybe that is hilarious. What Barry as a whole makes clear is that Hader is a legitimately good actor but a potentially extraordinary director, and in this last season especially he’s been more visible, more present behind the camera than in front of it, if that makes sense. Barry’s long look of dejection before he announces that he’ll turn himself in is legitimately affecting, though you may not remember it on account of the fact that, right after that, he gets shot in the head. I’ll see any movie Hader’s in once and any movie he makes twice. Put it that way.

Best: Sally. “I’m a murderer, too,” Sally tells her son. “I killed a man. And I deserve whatever happens to me.” And that’s what (comically, tragically) nobody on this show could ever say: I deserve whatever happens to me. I would, admittedly, like to know where Sally physically is during the big shootout—how exactly she avoids getting shot, how exactly she gets away, and when exactly she reunites with Barry and John in the parking lot—but I am truly relieved that she survives all of this, and truly delighted that the show gives her one more patented prickly Sally moment. She’s a high school drama teacher now who still cares way too much, and responds to her son saying I love you by asking him if the show was really good, and shoots down a handsome man’s romantic overture in (truly) hilarious, brusque, dismissive fashion. Sally was by far Barry’s least-worst character on any moral scale, but her narcissism could wipe out all the literal killers in her midst, and That’s the Joke too, and it was the funniest joke of them all. Sally was the best actor in the Barry universe, and Goldberg was likewise the best actor on Barry the show, and also Sally wound up with great glasses. That is a small consolation, I realize, but on one of the most traumatizing and tragic nights in television history—the Barry finale was better, just accept it—take your victories where you can get them.