That should be all. The most excellent television show is over. Due to its high-wire ability to blend brilliant comedy with the kind of deep drama that causes your stomach to knot for days, it has surpassed its competitors since 2018. It is now over. It was done after four seasons. Succession? What? No. I’m referring to Barry.
Barry has closed with “Wow,” a television program that managed to be the biting Hollywood satire it always was while pulling off the remarkable feat of having a clear conclusion and in the future in time by ten years (for the second time in a month). It was a noteworthy accomplishment, and one can’t help but think that it deserved much more than to be Succession’s sidekick.
But first, let’s talk about the ending. There was only one possible outcome for “wow,” and Barry died. For a show as focused on atonement as this one, a character who has perpetrated more legal and moral atrocities than nearly any other on television would almost invariably have to die. Personal development could have been more successful. The prison was a failure.
Whatever adjective you use to describe their relationship, it wasn’t successful. Barry had a chance to have his cake and eat it in the end because he would turn himself in when he was killed, but the resolution was fair.
But that wasn’t how it ended. The genuine resolution occurred during a subsequent 10-year flashback, when John, Barry and Sally’s now-teenage son, watched Barry’s Life movie. In addition to presenting a false Hollywood story in which Gene Cousineau set up Barry as a helpless stooge and then had him buried at Arlington with full military honors, it also presented itself as the trashy, gory, gratuitously oversimplified nonsense that many people secretly wished Barry was.
Barry, though, was unique; it was lofty, experimental, and obstinately singular. This could be the reason why it didn’t connect with the public as well as Succession. Despite its ambition, Barry always felt like it was shot on the cheap, while Succession is all about enormous money and exotic locales. Its inspirations were also more unconventional.
If you read any Bill Hader interviews from the last five years, you will be inundated with references to Soderbergh, Luis Buuel, FW Murnau, and Preston Sturges. The fact that Succession’s episodes lasted an hour gave the impression that it was considered more serious, and there is still some snobbery about the advantages of the dramatic half-hour format.
Besides that, Barry’s final season has likely been his least approachable. This is partial because season three ended on the pleasant note of Barry being eventually prosecuted. Hader has previously used a tale about Larry David to demonstrate this point. When Hader announced he was working on a fourth season of Barry, David responded that he must be crazy because the show had ended.
However, this season provided the opportunity to emphasize just how repulsive these characters are. Barry reminds the sympathetic jail warden (and the audience) about all the police officers he was slain in the first episode. Gene Cousineau, played by Henry Winkler, shot his kid. No-Ho Hank idly observed as his lifelong sweetheart was killed. Even though Sally Reed, who was brilliantly portrayed by Sarah Goldberg, eventually received the closest thing to a happy ending, she had to go through a period of being a dreadfully careless mother.
There are many villains and antiheroes that viewers have unjustly fallen in love with throughout the history of television. Consider Walter White, Kendall Roy, or Tony Soprano. Barry’s fourth season frequently gave the impression that it was the writers’ chance to stop this from happening. The show made a lot of effort repeatedly emphasizing how nasty these folks were.
You’ll likely recall how oppressively black this last season was while reflecting on it. In one episode, we overheard a man drowning in the sand, making frightened gasps. In another, we saw a silhouette pursuing a character through their house, providing the stuff of once-seen, never-forgotten nightmares.
The sound of a man hyperventilating signaled the start of last week’s penultimate show as his tormentor revealed that he had amputated his arms and legs if you have the stomach for it, which is a major if it has been incredibly fulfilling material. Since when has television had a season that was so unavoidably depressing? This was not comfort food.
However, when viewed as a whole, this turn makes total sense. By turning into a meditation on the nature of forgiveness, Barry swiftly shed its rather cliched premise—hey, everyone, a hitman wants to be an actor!—and gained attention.
When does a person lose all hope of being saved? When can someone leave the darkness they have imposed on the world? Can love make a difference for you? Justice? God? Since this is a program about repercussions, it was only fitting that we were made to observe every one of Barry’s consequences in agonizing detail.
However, I wonder if this will be how we will remember Barry. Yes, the past few weeks have been challenging to watch, but they have also featured inventive vaulting moments consistent with the entire season. A motorbike chase from 710N last year will be remembered for decades. The second season of Ronny/lily was as brutal and strange.
Additionally, it was a brilliant example of a Hollywood parody. The scene where a streaming executive cancels a show on the orders of its all-powerful algorithm] recently went viral as striking writers picked it up as a demonstration of all their frustrations. The scene where a network executive discusses an actor with an agent with a series of yelps and grunts was hilariously on the money.
For this reason, Barry deserves to be considered one of the best of all time. I’m sure this will become clearer once the Succession chaos has subsided. In the meantime, Bill Hader has just assured himself of a following that will follow him wherever he decides to go next.