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The third episode of Barry has arrived on HBO, and with it comes a notably slower-paced story compared to the earlier, rocket-speed events of the season’s first two episodes — although it’s certainly not lacking in humor or important developments in characters’ overall story arcs in the show’s continuity.
Barry and Gene prepare for their work on the drama series that Barry arranged for them in “limonada.” As they wait, the series’ producer informs Gene that he’ll be given a brief line in the show, telling Barry’s character, “I accept your apology,” in dialogue that coincidentally mirrors Barry and Gene’s own fragile situation (in the drama series, Barry’s character is responsible for the death of Gene’s character’s wife). When it comes time to film the scene, emotion overwhelms Gene, leading him to punch Barry, telling him to stay away from him and his family, before running off.
As this transpires, Sally and her co-star Katie (Elsie Fisher) begin their press junkets promoting Sally’s own series. The experience proves a troubling one for both stars, with Sally awkwardly struggling to answer interviewers’ trivial questions, and Katie stumbling over a question about Sally’s current relationship with Barry, who she feels is a danger to Sally.
Hank deals with the fallout over the Bolivians’ attempt on his gang’s lives. When one of his men, Batir (JB Blanc), advises him to kill Cristobal as retaliation, Hank dissuades him, convincing him that the Bolivians’ new leader, Fernando, is to blame, not Cristobal, which Batir appears skeptical of.
Hank — trying and failing to come up with a plan that appeases his men — contacts Fuches in Chechnya, who he tries to lure back to the US as a “scapegoat” to use against the Bolivians. Having found a new, happier life for himself in the countryside, Fuches tells Hank he has no desire to return to America — even after Hank tells him that Barry has forgiven him — prompting the Chechens to go with Batir’s plan to plant a bomb at the Bolivians’ household.
As Barry prepares for his scene with Gene, he receives a call from Fuches. With Chechnya seeming to have humbled him, Fuches apologizes to Barry for “interfering” in his relationship with Gene. The initially peaceful conversation turns ugly, though, when Barry fails to apologize to Fuches for trying to kill him, with Fuches growing even more embittered when Barry tells him
that he and Gene have patched up their relationship. Later, Fuches fumes at his cabin, beginning to plan a way to get back at Barry.
Meanwhile, Barry — reeling from Gene punching him — contacts Hank, agreeing to drop the Chechens’ bomb off at the Bolivians’ house, to Batir’s suspicion and chagrin.
Vital plot developments abound in “ben mendelsohn,” continuing to lay the groundwork for several overarching storylines that are guaranteed to take center stage later in the season. In fact, there seems to be not one wasted scene in the entire episode, each scene working to develop continuing storylines or bridging interweaving narratives together (such as Hank contacting Fuches, and Fuches contacting Barry right afterward). It’s a great episode that helps to expand Barry’s several main and side storylines further, shining light on practically every main and side characters’ individual stories within the series.
Perhaps the biggest developments we see in “ben mendelsohn” are Barry’s, Gene’s, Fuches’s, and Barry newcomer, Katie, Sally’s young co-star who becomes increasingly unsettled and disturbed by Sally’s relationship with Barry.
As we see from their interactions together at the start of the episode, Gene starts to put the pieces together for how Janice found out that Barry was actually a hit man, leading him to feel accountable for her death, as he was the one who told Janice about Barry in the first place. Though Barry tries comforting him, the two’s scene together in the drama hits too close to home for Gene, who is unable to bring himself to say that he forgives Barry.
Gene’s refusal to forgive Barry also has consequences for Barry, who is beginning to see that the redemption he had in mind for himself isn’t as attainable or easy as he had hoped, leading him to accept Hank’s assignment and once again turn to contract killing as a way to escape his pain.
As Barry and Gene take a backseat of sorts in this episode, lacking the in-depth exploration of their characters in the season’s first two episodes, we don’t know the extent of the pain, desperation, and emotional upheaval Barry feels from having Gene once again refuse to forgive him — Barry’s last chance at having a normal relationship with Gene or even a normal life now perhaps impossible — but it’s easy to see that Barry’s defeated demeanor at the end of the episode is similar to the stupor we saw him in at the beginning of the season.
With this episode, we were also granted plenty of insight into Sally and Katie as they began promoting their show — Sally was noticeably addled by the entire experience, and Katie was uncertain about her feelings towards Sally and Barry’s relationship (something we saw hinted at in the previous episode, and that will likely become a key plot point moving forward). Katie’s storyline may be still a minor one compared to the more expansive stories involving Barry and Gene or Hank and the Bolivians, but such limited exploration and insight is likely more reflective of big things to come on Barry in the future. (Like all great shows, Barry spends its time setting up future plot lines in the background of the ones that are currently holding our attention, gradually snowballing their way into potential plot points instead of throwing too much at us one time.).
The biggest takeaway from the episode, though, is the return of Fuches, who we only momentarily saw at the start of the season. Whereas Fuches’ exile in “forgive jeff” was played out humorously, with Fuches shown to be living in squalor, boredom, and isolation after the events of Barry’s second season, he’s shown to have adjusted to his new settings, embracing his life as a goat herder and living in happiness with his caretaker/potential romantic interest, Anna (Marika Domińczyk).
It’s Fuches’ inclusion that arguably makes the episode. In his conversation with Hank and at the start of his phone call with Barry, we see a new, more mature of Fuches — a kinder, more humble, and rational person than the jealous and vindictive villain we last saw in season two and the start of season 3, someone who is more at peace with his emotions and get past his own past mistakes. (In this regard, he’s actually a lot like Barry, further cementing the two’s similarities and their whole surrogate father-son relationship.)
It’s only when Barry doesn’t apologize to Fuches that we begin to see shades of the old Fuches come out. As their conversation continues and the subject of Gene comes up, this older, pettier Fuches that we know from the show’s first two seasons fully returns.
It’s very telling that the peak of Fuches’ anger comes when Gene is brought up, with Fuches growing noticeably addled when Barry tells him that he and Gene have settled their issues, and that Gene has “forgiven” Barry for killing Janice. In the past, we see that Fuches’ hatred of Gene and his antagonism toward Barry stems from Fuches’ fierce jealousy. Internally, it’s obvious that Fuches still loves and cares deeply for Barry, seeing himself as a parental figure who “saved” Barry by giving him purpose (killing “bad guys” for a living).
When he learns that all of his hard work in the previous season — getting Gene to turn against Barry in the hopes of destroying his and Barry’s own father-son relationship — has come to nothing, and that Gene and Barry are once again friends, Fuches becomes embittered, once again jealously feeling his own relationship with Barry is being overshadowed by Barry’s emotional connection to Gene (who he sees as direct competition for Barry’s affection).
In the end, it’s Fuches love for Barry that may be his undoing, as Anna points out to him through her parable at the end of the episode that illustrates a person can either give into their hate and suffer the consequences, or choose forgiveness and achieve internal peace. Fuches has the option of staying where he is (a place he describes as “Heaven,” perhaps the first and only place he’s been in his life where’s actually happy), living out his days with Anna and tending his goats in peaceful solitude.
However, he’d rather have a chance to drag Barry down to hell with him than live the last of his days in paradise— his emotional attachment to Barry costing him his one chance at happiness.
Owing to the lack of “action” or climatic “events” that we saw in this episode compared to the season premiere or last week’s “limonada,” “ben mendelsohn” can technically be described as a “filler episode.” However, it does a fantastic job setting up the events for later episodes this season, connecting narrative gaps and providing us with a good deal more about characters’ motivations and their current narrative arcs moving forward.
Barry airs weekly on HBO and HBO Max, every Sunday at 10 pm EST.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Image Credit: HBO Max.
Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).