With shows like Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Veep, and Westworld HBO has perfected television, making arguably some of the most watchable shows on TV. With all these shows having massive stakes that affect the characters and the country or world, some wanted something new that could effectively combine the humor of shows like Veep and Silicon Valley and the drama of Game of Thrones and Westworld. Barry is everything these people wanted, and much, much more.
To describe Barry in one word, one would have to use the word, “subversive.” Barry had been an idea of Hader’s since his Saturday Night Live days before the show finally aired in March, 2018. With eight episodes, all of which clock in at just around 30 minutes, Barry is a very quick watch for anyone who needs to catch up. The way the show expertly tells its story highlights the uselessness of 20+ episode seasons that network television produce.
Barry revolves around an army veteran turned hitman named Barry Berkman who goes to L.A. to carry out a job for the Chechen Mob. The man Barry must target is Ryan Madison, who Barry is told to find in an acting class.Upon stumbling into said acting class, Barry realizes that rather than continuing with his violent occupation, he wants to become an actor. Throughout the rest of the season, we see Barry continue to tell himself that his life as a hit man is over, and continue to get reeled back in.
To say Barry is one of the best new shows on T.V. is an understatement. Barry’s phenomenal first season almost automatically asserts itself as one of the best shows on T.V., period. There is so much this show does right it would be quicker to just get the bad out of the way to start. It feels like the show hadn’t found its groove yet in the first few episodes (besides the excellent third episode), but the quality begins to increase around episode five.
The weakest aspect of the show, however, has to be Barry’s love interest Sally Reed, played by Sarah Goldberg. Goldberg’s performance is by no means bad, but the character herself just comes off as annoying and narcissistic. The relationship between her and Barry feels forced, but the writers obviously saw that she wasn’t a strong character and limited her screen time until the last two episodes, where her character seemed like less of a nuisance on screen and more like an essential part of the plot.
Aside from those two complaints, Barry is pretty much flawless. For starters, the main appeal of this show is Hader’s performance as Barry. By the time the Emmys roll around, Hader and Donald Glover (for his role in Atlanta) should have an extremely close race to see who takes home the award for best actor. Hader thrives during every second of his screen time, and he delivers one of the best performances of the year in episode seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going. Hader’s performance is the heart of this show, and he cements Barry as one of the most memorable characters of the year.
As great as Hader is at carrying the dramatic moments of Barry, the heart of the comedy is none other than Henry Winkler as Barry’s acting teacher Gene Cousino and Anthony Carrigan as the shows funniest character, NoHo Hank. Words can’t describe Carrigan’s performance as the overly polite right-hand man to Chechen mob boss, Goron Pazar (who is right behind these two as the show’s funniest character). Hearing NoHo Hank utter, “Hey Maaan!” to Barry never gets old, no matter how often it’s repeated. The conversation between Hank and Barry to kick off episode three is by far the funniest moment of the entire show.
The last two episodes of Barry alone make the entire show worth watching. After one of the best endings of any show of the year, it almost seems that Barry shouldn’t even go another season so this past one can be remembered as one of, if not the best comedy/drama series to ever come out of HBO’s catalog.