A review of the Barry season finale, and thoughts on the year as a whole, coming up just as soon as I know the song “Fly Like an Eagle” by Seal from the Space Jam soundtrack…
“I’m done, Fuches. Starting now.” -Barry
Remember when I warned you in my initial review of the series that things were going to get dark, and that Bill Hader and Alec Berg were really going to commit to the reality of what Barry does?
I wasn’t lying, was I?
I wrote a bit about Barry’s murder of Chris in last week’s piece about comedies doing dramatic episodes. On whatever scale of moral relativism we’re applying to this show, Chris’s death is arguably worse than Detective Moss’s, because Barry roped the poor guy into his world, and left his grieving family behind, where Janice was a cop who had been pursuing this investigation and died doing her job. But ultimately, they’re both terrible acts, and one of the smartest (and cruelest) things the season did was to slowly chart Janice’s relationship with Gene Cousineau, with whom she improbably found happiness late in life. She was a good cop, a good woman, and could have spent years at that lake house letting Cousineau’s theatrical charms wash over her. Instead, she’s just the latest decent person Barry has killed, despite his long-standing code of only killing bad guys, and even after he’s insisted that he’s retiring from the assassination game.
The series’ chief source of humor has always been the parallels between killing on stage and killing for real, and the blurring of the lines between the two. The line blurs both ways, not only with Barry last week using his grief over Chris to finally give a great performance, and here with the Chechens continuing to argue about overly dramatic ways to kill people versus just shooting them, with Detective Loach trying to crib from Apocalypse Now during the raid on Goran’s house but playing the wrong music (“Flight of the Bumblebees” instead of “Ride of the Valkyries”), and the cop at the press conference comparing the plot of this season to Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (which has been remade/copied many times over years, including A Fistful of Dollars, Bruce Willis’s Last Man Standing, and now this). But the show understands that the joke only goes so far, and when Barry does a monstrous thing, it’s treated as such, even as it finds dark humor in the way that Barry’s worst deeds help fuel his greatest successes as an actor.
Barry getting back into bed with Sally and repeating his “starting… now” mantra (the last word interrupted by the cut to credits) was, in fact, such a perfect conclusion to both the story of the show and its themes that my only real concern is wondering what a second season would be. Berg’s Silicon Valley has run into trouble repeating the same cycle of success and failure (to the point where I finally dropped this season a few weeks ago). Barry isn’t the same kind of show, as it takes the consequences of Barry’s actions very seriously, but there’s definitely a chance of the show winding up on a similar “I quit for real this time!”/”Oh no, I have to kill again!” kind of treadmill.
But this season kept surprising me in so many ways, and particularly in how the writing and Hader’s performance didn’t flinch from the tragedy Barry brings into the world. So I will hope they have a specific — and hopefully short-term — plan for where the story goes next, and will look forward to seeing what that is next year.
Some other thoughts:
* While many of the Chechens die, NoHo Hank thankfully survives. His genial enthusiasm the primary source of comic relief in these bleaker final episodes. Hank’s inability to separate professional needs with his love of admiration for guys he thinks are cool is always amusing, here with him warning Barry to run from Goran’s men because, “You are super good guy!”
* One thing I definitely hope to see in season two is a glimpse of Sally and Barry’s production of The Front Page, since Hader is great at that kind of Jazz Age patter. (And it’s also a nice touch that they’re doing the original, with Sally playing a man — like she did for Macbeth — instead of just performing a stage version of the play’s most famous cinematic adaptation, His Girl Friday.)
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His new book, Breaking Bad 101, is on sale now.