I’ve just finished watching HBO’s dark comedy series, Barry, and I highly recommend you give it a try. I’m going to attempt to avoid direct narrative spoilers here. Instead I’ll focus on the overall tone of the show, as well as highlighting what it does well.
Barry follows the life of a low-level hitman in LA who is becoming increasingly unfulfilled with the work he’s doing. Through his “work”, he stumbles upon an acting group and instantly feels more at home than he has for a long time. The series centres around him trying to escape his past whilst attempting to conquer his future. The whole show plays out like the storyline from an as yet unreleased Grand Theft Auto game. Albeit with a lot more heart, and fewer micro-transactions.
Let’s start by showering praise all over Bill Hader. Go on Bill, pop yourself in the praise shower while we all collectively turn our praise faucets one-hundred-and-eighty degrees to the right. Lather that praise all over your pasty white bod, you deserve it sir.
I’ve always been a fan of Hader’s work. Whether he’s in sketch shows, comedy movies or more dramatic roles, he is always memorable. Barry is no different. Bill’s performance (we’re on first-name terms now apparently) as the eponymous lead is as humerous as it is heartbreaking. I’ll quickly take this moment to recommend the film The Skeleton Twins, for another example of Bill’s range.
There are a handful of scenes in the final few episodes where Barry is faced with some pretty harrowing decisions and Bill, who I typically associate with comedic genius, sells these moments perfectly. For what it’s worth, I expect him to get at least an Emmy nomination. I don’t know how much the Outstanding Lead Actor for a Comedy Series award is worth anymore, since Jim Parsons won four out of the last eight awards, but some recognition would be great.
The praise shower is over. Pop your towel on Bill, we can see your ding dong.
Just to clarify, that’s not the word I typically use for ‘penis’, but it is the word that a Bill Hader character would use.
The overall story arc of the series was so brilliantly satisfying that it’s hindered the potential for a second season. Barry has already been picked up for season two and I, no doubt, will give it a try. The show ended on just the right note. I certainly know how they could continue, but whether or not they should is something else.
That’s nothing against Hader or co-creator Alec Berg, more the money-driven system of continuing on with a story, just because it receives acclaim in one form or another. I’d rather see the pairing write a new and original story. Although I’m very happy to be proven wrong, if the second season proves itself to be just as compelling.
I will say that an eight episode run was the perfect length for the narrative, and I’m glad that we’re seeing the trend of stateside shows running for the appropriate number of episodes. As opposed to testing how much milk, puss and blood they can draw from a potential cash cow.
Unrelated reminder that The Big Bang Theory is still on the air at 255 episodes.
Barry captures incompetence in three different fields of work; acting, crime and policing. Supporting characters from each of these worlds are portrayed in very similar ways, as buffoonish caricatures of the professions they’re supposed to have. This is where most of the comedy comes from. The central characters have their moments, but it’s the acting friends, the incompetent criminals and the slow police officers that keep the show lighthearted, in places.
The writers play with the expectations of drama perfectly. For about five minutes at a time you’ll forget that the show is supposed to have any comedic elements at all. You’ll be tricked into thinking something horrific is about to happen, only for a dark and twisted slapstick routine to play out. Those were the moments that gave Barry a unique style and hook. It’s not that I came to expect them, but as the series rolled on they were less of a surprise, in the most satisfying way possible.
The pacing, for me, constantly had a Breaking Bad vibe, with weighty character development followed by explosive and intense action sequences. It could be that’s just the feeling we get now when we see the crime genre mashed with slice-of-life. The bar has been set.
Barry falls for a struggling actress in his group, Sally, played by Sarah Goldberg. There’s a sub-plot where she doesn’t get an audition due to her refusing to sleep with her agent, which leads to several highly emotive scenes. Given the current climate, and how we know women are being treated in all industries, this storyline hit me hard. Particularly in a universe where a (mostly) kind-hearted hit-man exists. I found myself wanting him to carry out another hit, if you catch my drift…
I wanted him to kill her agent.
The rest of my notes on Barry contain a helping of spoilers. So I’m just going to recommend this little show once again. It has something for everyone, as long as you understand the tone and pacing of dark comedy. This isn’t a laugh a minute riot, but when it’s meant to be funny, it hits its mark. It’s LA noir but written by comics and shown through a 21st century lens.
If you’ve already seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Particularly on whether or not you agree with the decision for a second season. Personally, I’m satisfied. I’ve just had an excellent entree and there’s no need for dessert.
Today is Thursday, May 24th and seeing the paws of my cat emerge beneath the bathroom door is usually enough of a reason.