Barry

GAME OF THRONES may currently stand as HBO’s crown jewel, but there is another series airing concurrently with THRONES that is an absolute must-see. Combining comedy and drama with surprising deftness and skill, BARRY has quietly become one of the best shows on television.

The first season of BARRY, which had an eight episode run last year, was near perfection. Starring Bill Hader (who also served as co-creator, writer, producer, and director) as a veteran suffering from PTSD who happens to make his living as an unassuming hitman, it’s the story of a deeply flawed, severely wounded man who
unexpectedly stumbles across his life’s calling. One of his assignments leads him to an acting class, taught by legendary performer Gene Cousineau (the phenomenal Henry Winkler), and Barry falls in love for the very first time.

Hader’s ability to mold the dead-behind-the-eyes Barry into a sympathetic, endearing character was one of the main reasons he earned himself an Emmy for his incredible turn in season one. Cold-blooded and calculating, he has no qualms about taking a life, and will do virtually anything that is requested from him by his employer, Fuches (the always hilarious Stephen Root.) Emotionless, savage, and precise, Barry is an impeccably skilled assassin, and one of the worst actors that has ever lived.

Had it remained a standalone season with no further follow-up, BARRY would have emerged as a shining example of the best that the genre had to offer. With the announcement by HBO that the show would continue, there was reason for elation, but also concern. The initial eight episodes had a logical beginning, middle, and end, so where could the story possibly go from here?

As this article goes to print, 4 episodes of the second season of BARRY have aired, and they have found a way to not only progress the storylines established in its initial run, but have helped Barry evolve into a far more complex and fascinating character. Picking up shortly after the events of season one, the series finds Gene devastated by the disappearance of his beloved Janice. In his dismay, he has let his acting school fall by the wayside, and Barry feels as if it is responsibility to attempt to pick up the pieces. Though he encourages the troupe to persevere, when Gene announces that he is shutting down the class, Barry speaks his truth for the very first time. Discussing the horrors of his first kill, his raw confession inspires Cousineau, and the doors to the school remain open.

Much of season two has focused on the catalyst of Barry’s homicidal tendencies, and his inability to cope with these feelings of despair and fury. More than anything, he longs to be a decent person with genuine human connections, but finds himself engulfed in the circumstances that prohibit his personal growth.

Every episode of BARRY has moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity, and then suddenly diverges towards poignant, thought-provoking drama that examines the very nature of evil and humanity. This, for me, is what sets the series apart from virtually every single one of its peers. While there are countless series both current and past that blend comedy and drama, it’s difficult to think of another that has so expertly and convincingly melded the two. Wooden, largely devoid of emotion, and utterly hollow, there is no reason to identify with or sympathize with Barry. Thanks to Hader’s flawless performance, however, he emerges as surprisingly sympathetic and complex character. As the series progresses, he seems to be more aware of the consequences of his actions, which in turn allows him to become more vulnerable. Pair this with outstanding supporting performances by Winkler and Root, and you have a series that now has legs, and far more potential than anyone could have expected.

BARRY: A

(Season two currently airing on HBO)

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.