Between watching reruns of “Law & Order,” watching “Moulin Rouge” for the 100th time and trying to get into whatever money-grabbing nostalgic reboot our TV overlords have concocted this month, I finally watched the third season of the HBO show “Barry.”
“Barry” follows our titular character Barry Berkman, a former Marine turned hitman who, when he gets a job in Los Angeles, California, to take out an actor, discovers an acting class. He starts to become connected with the people in the class and then begins to have aspirations to become an actor.
I became interested in the show because I grew up watching its co-creator/star Bill Hader during his “Saturday Night Live” days.
At its core, the show is a dark comedy, and Hader’s background in comedy makes it work. Especially since, at times, “Barry” can be an intense viewing. Episodes teeter between a comedy and a tragedy.
Humor is found in the most unlikely of places. The show is okay with pointing out the more uncomfortable parts of life. But to me, that is what comedy is all about and it is a rich, diverse genre.
In Kurt Vonnegut’s 1962 novel “Mother Night” the protagonist Howard W. Campbell Jr. uttered these words, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.” Now I bring this up because Barry is pulled between two versions of himself- the killer for hire and the aspiring actor. He is putting on a facade pretending to be something he is not and struggles with that dilemma. But that can be said about all of the characters in “Barry.” They are all just presenting the best versions of themselves to the world. Acting in a lot of ways is the biggest game of pretending.
Barry strives to have some semblance of a normal life. Throughout the three seasons, whenever he tries to leave the hitman life behind he will say to himself, “starting now.” It is his promise to himself he will never kill again. Barry seeks to change and absolve himself of his past crimes, but he is repeatedly pulled back into the perpetual cycle of violence. And his saying “starting now” becomes this twisted reminder of what he can’t ever have.
I enjoyed how “Barry” is not afraid to have a main character who is sometimes the villain of his own story. The viewer does not always have to agree with the character’s actions. While watching each episode, I asked myself, “Can Barry ever find redemption?”
Barry wants to be famous and trade in his life of anonymity for something more. We see a glimpse of this in the season one episode, “Chapter Four: Commit…To YOU.” In the episode, he daydreams about his ideal future, filled with domestic bliss, a mansion, barbecues and a Jon Hamm cameo.
Without giving too much away, season three is where we see Barry’s world begin to crumble. His past starts to catch up with him, and the clock is ticking; it is just a matter of time before his secret is revealed.
The top episodes for me have been season one’s “Chapter Five: Do Your Job” (the English major in me appreciates the use of “Macbeth” in the plot), “Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going” (Hader performance left me utterly speechless), season two’s “ronny/lily” (still bitter this didn’t win for its writing or directing at the 2019 Emmy Awards) and season three’s “candy asses” (one of the darkest episode so far).
Each season “Barry” progresses more into unknown territory, and I am on the edge of my seat to see what happens next to Barry Berkman.