Barry on the phone inside the prison.

Bill Hader as Barry. Image courtesy of HBO.

Barry: HBO’s Dark Comedy Delivers Laughs in its Fourth and Final Season

Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s dark dramedy has come to an end. In its fourth and final season, Hader and Berg summarise the hitman-turned-actor Barry’s journey with thrills and laughs. The titular character has spent four seasons killing criminals in Los Angeles. At the end of the third season, Barry’s acting teacher and surrogate father, Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), is responsible for his arrest. Barry never loses sight of the show’s satirical nature and the bizarre story plots that lead to strange situations.

The first episode (seven of the eight episodes were provided for review) picks up with Barry, newly incarcerated. Asking Gene for forgiveness and understanding after murdering Detective Janice Moss (Paula Newsome). Barry’s former handler, Fuches (Stephen Root), is also in jail and collaborates with the FBI to tie him to the murders. NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and his partner in life and crime, Cristobal (Michael Irby), are happy together in Santa Fe. But Hank prefers a wealthy life and plans to start a new business and bring a truce between two crime families. Sally (Sarah Goldberg) tries her hand in acting classes and introduces the “Cousineau Method,” which backfires immediately. Each of the characters is on a journey of love, happiness, and acceptance. They’re not afraid to venture into dark places to find what they are looking for.

NoHo Hank wearing a hat and black sunglasses.
Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank. Image courtesy of HBO.

The first few episodes will surprise the audience. Hader and Berg explore new dimensions and transformations of these characters. The season taps and pokes fun at Hollywood’s superhero movies, i.e. Marvel’s big franchise movies, and the shallow people that work in the industry. There’s a desperation that surrounds characters such as Gene and Sally. Both of them remain hungry for fame, fortune, and recognition by the industry that doesn’t seem to accept them. It showcases how cutthroat Hollywood is, and Hader and Berg balance the dark humour and horror of its exploitation. 

Barry is a delightful series that knows when to end the story. Both of the creators have created a show that creates hilariously ridiculous situations and adds layers to the characters’ backstories. Hader’s Barry as the “hitman-turned-actor” who wishes to switch jobs to find more meaning in life is a great premise, and its continuing storyline till the final season proves that it is one of the best shows on HBO. Even if the third season might have lost some of its original humour, the fourth and final season proves that Hader and Berg never lose sight of what makes the character tick. 

Sally looking at her friend, who is off-screen.
Sarah Goldberg as Sally. Image courtesy of HBO.

Understandably, a story like this cannot go on forever, and Hader and Berg know that the titular character’s story must end one way or another. In the first season, Barry is not in touch with his emotions. He finds it hard to process what he’s feeling but with the help of Gene and his acting classes, Barry is able to access his feelings. Instead of relying on Sally and his acting teacher, Barry grows into a person who understands that there are consequences to his actions. He’s still a criminal and a murderer, but it is only when he meets people outside of his world — anyone other than Fuches — that he understands his emotions. 

This season is by far Hader’s best contribution to the series. From the direction, writing, and performance, Hader brings the miserable, angry, and tormented hitman-turned-actor to the screen for the very last time, with humour and darkness, and he is fully in command. He directs every episode — with equal amounts of tension which increases as the season progresses. Even when Hader plays the titular character, he lets the supporting characters shine in their roles. 

Hader nails the central themes and understands the consequences of his central character’s problems. Barry has a brilliant ensemble of actors with outstanding performances by Hader, Winkler, Goldberg, and Carrigan, who is a fan favourite. The show manages to bring the familiar thrills and laughs and at the same time, show Hader’s brilliance as a director. The final season of Barry is one of its best seasons. It’s sad to see a show of this magnitude end — it certainly is a bittersweet goodbye.

Want to read more from Nuha? Check out all her other pieces here!

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