April 16, 2023

You’re Not Ready for the Final Season of “Barry” (Review)

There have been very few times in my life that I have been so floored by a television series that I want to sit with it for a while before going out and telling everybody about how absolutely incredible it is. The only show that has done that more than once (to the best of my knowledge) is HBO’s Barry, which is now in its fourth and final season.

Image courtesy of WarnerMedia

Barry, which premiered in 2018, stars former SNL star Bill Hader as the titular ex-military hitman who struggles with anxiety and focus in the very profession he’s gifted in. After a job goes awry, Barry decides to dedicate his life to acting, choosing to forsake the world of crime in favor of taking a class with washed-up performer Gene Cousineau (Happy Days’ Henry Winkler). Soon after, Barry begins to learn it’s not that easy to quit the world he’s so deeply ingrained himself in, and maintaining a life in both of his chosen worlds is only viable for so long.

Through a complex web of events, Barry has found himself in prison by the beginning of the show’s fourth season, as his relationship with nearly every single other character has been irreversibly changed and, in some instances, destroyed entirely. There’s an air of seriousness and solemnity settling over this season, as every choice that every character has made thus far comes back to haunt them. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s Barry’s final season, and it’s the last chance for bold tonal swings — but maybe it’s because everything that has happened in the show’s first three seasons causes the stakes to feel so real and grounded (and sometimes downright scary), in addition to being even more crucial for the eventual outcome. The words ‘final season’ only add more urgency.

I forgot to mention that technically, Barry is a comedy. There’s drama, and the comedy is almost always insanely bleak, but it’s been a true-blood comedy through and through. Season Four flips the script and prioritizes the drama above all else. Instead of a comedy with somber moments, it’s a drama with funny moments. This is a change that began taking over the series during the last season (which premiered almost exactly a year ago), but it’s even more noticeable now as the quality bar continues to be raised. This is a call Barry is more than capable of answering.

Image courtesy of WarnerMedia

The writers of Barry know we’re hooked. They know we’re hanging on every line of dialogue, every twist, every turn, and every reveal. The series maintains its excellent continuity, and features astounding supporting performances from Henry Winkler, Sarah Goldberg, Stephen Root and Anthony Carrigan (whose storylines I couldn’t discuss even if I wanted to — the weight of each and every surprise is just too good to give away!). In a show full of big swings, the final season goes places I never expected, bundling our knowledge of the show with our expectations built up over three seasons, and throwing all of it completely out the window.

It’s a bold statement, but I can confidently say that the final season of Barry is one of the best seasons of television I’ve ever seen, and certainly one of the very best final seasons. With most shows, I’d be worried about their ability to stick the landing, but I would never doubt Barry — especially with Bill Hader doing stunning work both in front of and behind the camera. The show’s spectacular final season is only further proof that he can do no wrong.

Image courtesy of WarnerMedia

The final season of Barry premieres tonight at 10pm on HBO and HBO Max. Seven episodes were screened for this review.

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