Barry on HBO accomplishes what few shows attempt (and even fewer succeed at) when it comes to weaving between humor and serious drama. Throw actual physical action and themes of killing into the mix, and that formula sounds even more difficult…but not impossible. I live for shows that can toe the line between the two extremes of humor and Drama. Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s Barry bodies the line, easy.
We’re introduced to Bill Hader’s character Barry post doing what he does best. Snuffing people the fuck out. Hader is able to make Barry come off not only as a believable killer but a person who’s finding their line of work stagnant. He’s a hitman who’s just going through the motions. His relationship with his handler Fuches (Stephen Root) is evident to the audience immediately. Fuches sets Barry up with a job for a crime family in LA ran by Goran Pazar (Glenn Fleshler) and his right-hand man Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan). Barry is hired to kill the man sleeping with Goran’s wife. Upon scouting the mark, Barry finds himself becoming involved in the mark’s acting class. The class provides a new outlook on life for Barry. A chance to be more than he was…which is where the series gets brilliant.
An Artsy Hitman? Tell me more…
What I love about this show’s take is that Hader isn’t playing the typical killer. Barry knows what he is doing is wrong but justifies it with the belief that he’s killing lowlives. He’s a good person that that’s with the shits, for fucking real. Barry’s desire to change and get involved in acting is the purest thing on the show. He’s been killing for years but getting to the root of a character? Drawing on his own emotion? That’s a whole new world to him, one that’s harder than pulling the trigger.
The premise of the show is simple enough, taking a man Bill from a hardened background into a new environment, the acting involved tho? *shakes fist in the air* sooo fucking good. Henry Winkler plays the acting class instructor Gene Cousinea perfectly. He ruthlessly digs out the best of his students for them to reach new heights while on the flipside wants to ensure everybody’s checks for the class are clearing. Cousinea is presented as a seasoned, big-shot actor and a closer look at his life gives unexpected depth to his character. Classmate Sally (Sarah Goldberg) becomes a friend/interest to Barry. Godlberg does an incredible job embodying the self-centered and superficial tropes of the LA acting world in one scene in particular. Then showcases the hard struggles of being an actor, especially as a woman, trying to make it.
The attention to detail makes this show
I love when actors on a show are playing one character and have to be in character while acting as another character. That’s my fetish, right there. The acting class scenes are not only hilarious, they are insightful. There are discussions of real world shit that come up that keep you tuned-in to the screen. The show has so many good parts that make up a whole, pleasurable puzzle. My favorite thing is how sloppy Barry becomes as a Hitman.
There are little things that occur and show how distracted Barry is—the arrival of Detective Moss (Paula Newsome) is a constant reminder of this fact. As well as his involvement with Goran Pazar and Noho Hank. The scenes that have these guys interacting are brilliant. They seem so friendly then flip to cutthroat instantly. Anthony Carrigan’s Noho is unbearably charming and easy to like. Noho and Barry’s relationship is the definition of comedic relief and straight-man playing off one another.
It’s all jokes till shit gets gully
Alec Berg, Maggie Carey, and Hiro Murai’s (Atlanta shout out) directing make Barry work. The camera shots and timing sync up so well that Barry’s attempts at a double life don’t seem so far-fetched. I love how things can be all jokes one second and instantly get gully. The action feels fucking quick, hard, messy, and clean all at once. It’s so true to life that when the guns go off and the clips get empty, you’re sitting there like “Whoa… RUN THAT SHIT BACK!” The violence is compacted into a beautiful and believable package for the audience.
Barry is only eight episodes long, a perfect length. I can’t stress enough how this isn’t the typical comedy. You’re really not going to see shit coming. You’ll be laughing one minute, in a shootout the next, saying what the fuck? Barry gets in the thick of drama and comedy to make a complete transformation for a hitman’s character and struggle to become more than a killer.