by Julian Spivey
“Barry,” Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s HBO dark comedy about a hitman who wants to become an actor and the violent hijinks that ensue, was a unicorn of a television show in that it’s a mixture of dark, brooding, violent drama with frequent laugh out loud humor made it the most unique show on television for its terrific four-season run.
*Spoiler Alert* If you haven’t finished the series don’t go any further!
The series ended on Sunday, May 28 with an episode simply – and ultimately humorously – entitled “Wow.” The exclamation is a great title for such a series finale.
We knew going in that “Barry” and many (if not all) of the show’s characters were going to have unhappy endings. Before the season even premiered in mid-April I remarked to a friend that I wasn’t sure any of the show’s five main characters – Barry, Sally, Gene, NoHo Hank or Fuches – would survive the season. So, if you were hoping for a happy ending for “Barry” I’m not sure what show you’ve been watching for four seasons, especially the super dark final two.
The penultimate episode, “A Nice Meal,” ended with NoHo Hank, the always brilliant Anthony Carrigan, kidnapping Barry’s wife (or maybe still just girlfriend – did we ever find out if they were married during that “missing years”) Sally Reed, the stunning Sarah Goldberg, and John, Barry’s son, in hopes of luring Barry out for The Raven (formally Fuches), played by one of television and film’s all-time great character actors Stephen Root.
The finale ends with Barry (Bill Hader) in a shopping center of some sort loading up on a militia’s worth of firearms and walking down a busy children’s toy aisle in a terrific satire of how truly fucked up America is before getting into his car and heading toward his final showdown.
Except, Barry was late to his final showdown.
While he was driving to the meetup to rescue Sally and John, NoHo Hank and Fuches were having their own showdown that quickly turned into a Tarantino movie. All Fuches wanted out of Hank was to be truthful with himself and admit aloud that he had his boyfriend and business partner Cristobal (the wonderful Michael Irby) killed. It was something Hank would rather die than come to terms with and the bloodiest scene in “Barry” history takes place between Hank’s crew and The Raven’s crew and damn near everybody dies. We see Hank mortally wounded. We see a dazed Sally screaming for her son. We see Fuches had intentionally fallen on the young boy to save his life before getting back on his feet and leading him outside.
Barry arrives at this point. John runs to his father. Barry and Fuches have a nice little silent moment of understanding and then Fuches/The Raven disappears into the darkness, presumably never to be seen again.
The camera quickly goes back inside for Hank’s final seconds as he reaches for the hand of his business’s Cristobal statue and the two are reunited in death. Hank was very possibly my favorite character on “Barry,” he was no doubt the funniest character of the show, and Carrigan’s performance is one that I hope finally wins an Emmy this fall. I think his ending was deserved – something the “Barry” finale did right by most of its characters. I also feel the end to Fuches’ character was also deserved, even if it was one of the more surprising endings for me. I really thought Fuches would die at Barry’s hand this season.
The episode, moving along quickly as “Barry” episodes always do – even in the end they fit the episodes into a swift-moving 30 minutes, goes to a hotel scene where Barry, Sally and John are all lying in bed and Sally, coming to grips with everything, tells Barry he needs to turn himself in and put an end to the entire thing. In his usual denial of reality, Barry declines.
The next morning Sally and John are nowhere to be seen and Barry assumes they’ve gone to the house of their former acting teacher Gene Cousineau, played by Henry Winkler in his Emmy-winning role. It is here where Barry, somewhat surprisingly, meets his end. It’s not surprising that Barry dies. I figured the entire season Barry would meet his end with the show ending, but the fact that Hader and company chose to do it with an entire third of the episode’s runtime remaining was shocking. Gene shoots and kills him (with Rip Torn’s “prop” gun – one of the show’s great lines of the season), finally avenging the death of Janice Moss in season one. It was over just like that. No major shootout and death in a blaze of glory that Barry had envisioned for himself earlier in the episode. Barry was offed the exact same way he offed those he was ordered to kill – unceremoniously.
Barry, the character, got an ending he deserved.
The episode quickly jumps forward another eight years or so to find Sally as a high school acting teacher celebrating the end of a triumphant school play. She seems to have gotten the happiest ending of all of the characters, though it’s still not what she envisioned for her life. The Sally ending felt the least involved in the series finale, but honestly, the character and Goldberg’s Emmy-worthy performance were the highlights of the whole final season.
This is where the finale gets a bit wonky for me and I still have questions as of the time of this writing and might for some time.
The show ends with John, probably now 16 or 17 years old, going over to a friend’s house to watch a movie. It turns out to be the Barry/Gene movie the studio was planning to make years earlier. It’s an incredibly corny film, a nice satire of what Hollywood will do to a true story, but in the film, we see that Gene Cousineau has been turned into the villain – an acting teacher who gets in with the mob and has Janice murdered. Barry is the hero of the story, attempting to stop Gene before being murdered by him. The film (and humorously the TV series) ends with cards showing that Gene is serving prison time for the murders of Janice and Barry and Barry was viewed as a hero and buried with full military honors.
Barry got to be both the heroic figure and star he wanted to be.
Gene is the only character who I’m not sure got the ending he deserved. Sure, Gene’s ego is about as big as they come, but does that mean he deserves to be viewed the way he will be for life and spend the rest of his days in prison for crimes he had no part in? Also, I’m bugged by how such a strong and smart character like Jim Moss, played by Robert Wisdom in a nice recurring role, could be duped into thinking such a thing. It seems out of character for Jim Moss.
I likely would’ve gone a different way with the final scene of the series and the wrap-up of the Gene character, but I’m sure Hader and company had a point to ending it the way they did and maybe one day they’ll share it. Either way, I thought it was a pretty good series finale for one of the greatest shows of the last half decade on television.
The Word Podcast's Julian Spivey is joined by Brittany Oviedo to discuss the series finale and final season of the award-winning HBO dramedy "Barry," starring Bill Hader.
by Julian Spivey
Bupkis – Peacock – Thursday, May 4
Pete Davidson’s first regular post-‘SNL’ gig is the new Peacock action-comedy “Bupkis,” premiering Thursday, May 4. The show is supposedly a “heightened, fictionalized version of Pete Davidson’s life.” Davidson is a polarizing figure in show business as viewers either seem to be really into him or absolutely can’t stand him. I seem to be one of the few, personally, who can take him or leave him based on the content. A fictionalized version of his own life feels like something that might be done well, but it also feels like something Davidson’s done before (though I haven’t gotten around to seeing the Judd Apatow-directed “The King of Staten Island” yet). The most intriguing things about “Bupkis” are the talented supporting cast which includes Emmy-winner Edie Falco and Oscar-winner Joe Pesci, who was essentially talked out of retirement for the role, as well as the question – where is the action part of “action-comedy” going to come from? I’m at least intrigued to find out how “Bupkis” goes.
Class of ’09 – Hulu – Wednesday, May 10
Brian Tyree Henry. That’s all I need to know about “Class of ‘09” and I’m in. Henry’s performance on FX’s “Atlanta” was one of my favorite TV performances of the last decade and his Oscar-nominated performance in “Causeway” was just as excellent. He’s easily one of the most naturalistic actors currently in Hollywood. “Class of ‘09” is a limited suspense thriller, premiering on Hulu on Wednesday, May 10, that follows a class of FBI agents in three different points of time dealing with major changes in the U.S. criminal justice system. The series also features Kate Mara, Jake McDorman and Sepideh Moafi.
The Muppets Mayhem – Disney+ - Wednesday, May 10
All right, Disney and The Muppets Studio, I’m going to give The Muppets one more chance. I really enjoyed the short-lived ABC ‘Muppets’ series, but ever since the company brought its shows to the Disney+ streamer I’ve found them to be too kiddie for my tastes. And, while The Muppets are certainly family-friendly, at their best they have something for the adults too. Honestly, I’m only going to give this series a shot because I love Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem Band and the idea of a show revolving around the band trying to make it in the modern music world is sheer genius to me – if it’s done right.
High Desert – AppleTV+ - Wednesday, May 17
Patricia Arquette’s performance on AppleTV+’s “Severance” was one of the best performances and for sure the scariest performance on television last year. Since it doesn’t appear season two of that series is coming around any time soon, I’m happy to see Arquette try her hand at comedy (with some action thrown in) in AppleTV+’s new series, “High Desert.” Arquette plays Peggy Newman, a middle-aged woman who makes the life-changing decision to become a private investigator following the death of her mother. The series, premiering Wednesday, May 17, features supporting performances from Brad Garrett and Matt Dillon.
Platonic – AppleTV+ - Wednesday, May 24
I’m sure Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne no doubt have great chemistry together after playing a married couple in multiple “Neighbors” movies (though I haven’t seen any of them). The duo is reuniting once again, but this time to play a couple of friends approaching midlife who reconnect after a rift kept them apart for many years.
American Born Chinese – Disney+ - Wednesday, May 24
I’m not a big Disney+ fan. Just not really into series with incredibly vast universes based on previous I.P., which is mostly what the streamer serves in. But the fact that Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu all coming off the Best Picture Oscar-winning “Everything Everywhere All At Once” all appear regularly in the new series “American Born Chinese,” based on the 2006 graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, has my interest piqued. I’ll follow those three anywhere right now.