As we pass the halfway point in the third season of Barry, things seem bleaker than ever for almost every major character involved. Just as things seem to be going great for certain characters — most especially Sally and Gene — events transpire that leaves them questioning their lives and the personal choices they’ve made in the past, contemplating what to do next. Similarly, things that have been going poorly for other characters so far in this season— like NoHo Hank, poor old Cristobal, and Barry himself — continue to deteriorate, leaving them in increasingly dangerous, unstable situations.
Shortly after Sally has broken up with Barry at the end of last week’s episode, “all the sauces,” a dejected Barry moves back in with his former roommates/acting classmates. Lamenting his romantic issues to Hank and Cristobal, Hank tells Barry that his problems stem from being split into two personalities — the kindhearted, normal, aspiring actor Barry Block and his cold-blooded hitman alter ego — which Hank sees as being “unsustainable,” literally tearing Barry apart. To overcome this, Hank suggests Barry try to reveal a small sliver of his true self to Sally, which Barry agrees to try and do.
Having gained a new lease on life after Barry nearly kills him at the start of the season, Gene finds himself personally reinvigorated, trying to make amends with people he’s wronged. He tries growing closer to his son, Leo, gifting him a house, and apologizes to a crew member on the drama series he is currently working on. Heading to a party thrown by his former acting rival, Joe Mantegna, Gene apologizes to Joe over dinner for his petty behavior in the past, and similarly tries to apologize to a former girlfriend, Annie (Laura San Giacomo), who is also attending Joe’s party. Annie, however, refuses to accept his apology, blaming him for ending her career, and asserting that Gene isn’t apologizing out of sincerity, but is only trying to rid himself of his own guilt.
With Fernando now dead, the Bolivians send his daughter, Cristobal’s wife Elena (Krizia Bajos), to act as the new leader of their criminal organization in Los Angeles. Upon her arrival, Elena immediately seeks retaliation for her father’s death, ordering the Bolivians to raid the Chechens’ heroin base, killing several of Hank’s men and a few police officers who stumble onto the scene. Elena also races to Hank’s home, her men extracting Cristobal from the house while Hank hides in a closet, narrowly evading capture thanks to a picture of Hank and Cristobal together that Elena finds, distracting her.
Fuches continues his attempts to build a strong enough force to oppose Barry, contacting the sister of Taylor (a hitman who worked with and was later killed by Barry back in season 1), whose interest he piques when he mentions Barry owed Taylor a significant amount of money. Meanwhile, Barry’s former squadmate, Albert Nguyen (James Hiroyuki Liao, who we briefly saw in a flashback in season 2, shouting encouragement after Barry’s first kill), returns to Los Angeles. Now a hardened FBI agent, Albert takes over the murder investigation headed by the LA Police Department, plainly stating his intention to find Janice Moss’s murderer and bring them to justice.
As Sally’s series launches on her network’s streaming platform, it proves to be an immediate success. After only twelve hours, though, the show is overshadowed by another, more popular series, leading to its immediate cancellation by a network executive (Elizabeth Perkins), who believes the show is destined to fail due to an “algorithm” the company relies on to calculate their programs’ potential popularity, devastating Sally. She returns home and finds Barry there, who has made her a collage of his favorite things.
Seeing Sally is upset, Barry tries to comfort her after she gives him the news about her show, though Sally grows uncomfortable after Barry says that he could try and “scare” the executive as revenge for canceling the show, gaslighting her with severe methods of psychological torture. Frightened by Barry’s proposition, Sally throws him out, where Julie and Kyle — the mother and son of one of Barry’s victims we were introduced to last week — wait for him.
As Julie goes over her plan to kill Barry, she accidentally shoots Kyle in the stomach, alerting Barry, who watches as Julie hurriedly drives away in a panic, leaving Barry visibly perplexed over what he’s just seen.
Episode 5 of Barry provides some dramatically big changes for some star players, continues to build off the arrival of new characters like Julie and Kyle, and reintroduces an old character (Albert) who will likely have a main role in the remainder of the season. Once again, Barry himself seems to take a backseat in this week’s episode, but the amount of development the episode sheds on Sally and Gene make this an episode well worth watching.
It’s truly fantastic to see Gene finally embracing life and giving back to strangers and those closest to him, whether it’s someone immediately close to him like his estranged son, Leo, and his grandson, Gordon, or the many, many people he’s hurt in decades past, like Joe and Annie. Having come so close to dying at Barry’s hands and living in perpetual fear that he and his family might be killed at any moment, a weight has been lifted off of Gene’s shoulders when Barry basically lets him off the hook, telling Gene he’ll never see him again.
Emboldened after this brush with death, Gene seems legitimately remorseful over how he’s lived his life and for the endless amount of selfish, narcissistic choices he’s made. Seeking redemption, he tries to right his wrongs, only to run into a roadblock when Annie — his former creative collaborator/girlfriend — refuses to acknowledge his apology, seeing it as insincere and self-serving. This begs us to ask ourselves whether this is true — whether Gene is deriving satisfaction from actually being sorrowful for his cruel actions, or whether he’s only interested in having a burden lifted from his shoulders when others accept his apology.
It’s a situation that directly parallels Barry’s own apology and attempts to help Gene’s stalled career, seeing it as an opportunity to shed his own guilt. Is Gene acting like Barry here, acting out of self-interest as a way to move on for his own personal, selfish reasons? It’s difficult to say, so we’ll have to keep an eye on his future interactions with his family and colleagues to get a better sense of this.
The other big development in the episode is centered around Sally, who has been receiving massive amounts of character progression over the course of this entire season. Fresh off the success of her series, Sally is riding high living out her dreams as a critically acclaimed actor/showrunner, having also dodged a potentially disastrous relationship with Barry after seeing how unhealthy his treatment of her was earlier in the season (thanks to some sound words from her castmate/close friend, Katie).
Just as it seems like everything is going perfect for her — the big break of her career after years of struggle finally here — the network sweeps the red carpet out from under her, canceling her show before it’s even had time to find its audience.
Sally is, of course, shocked, frustrated, and heartbroken because of this, fruitlessly pointing out the show’s accolades (“It has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes!”), blaming the network’s cold, bureaucratic reliance on their “algorithm.” Since its inception, Barry has worked hard to develop its own brand of comedy, mixing humor with darker, more dramatic scenes, but this is the first time we’ve seen the series outright satirize the mindless, poorly-run showrunning process that is modern Hollywood — one where executives are more willing to bank on a computer spewing out data rather than releasing a show based on its individual strengths. It’s a scene taken straight out of a Terry Gilliam film, showing how heartless executives can be, as well as how stunted their showrunning procedures are.
To them, Sally’s series and its subsequent cancellation is just another minor failed science experiment, something they can quickly brush off before getting back to work, trying to find the next big show the algorithm will hopefully deem a success. But to Sally, that show meant everything — it was her ticket to stardom, a project that would’ve propelled her career after years of self-doubt, something that was canceled not because it was bad, but because a computer said wouldn’t succeed. She has talent and by every right should be enjoying immense success right now based on that talent, and yet she’s just … not. It’s depressing and moronic and straight-up unfair, and yet, that’s show business for you.
Arguably the most dramatic part of the episode comes in the final moments, when Barry reveals a slice of his true self to Sally. Following up on Hank’s advice to queue her into who he really is, Barry ends up unsettling her even further, perhaps permanently damaging any chances they have of rekindling their relationship.
Additionally, Barry’s casual indifference to psychologically destroying the executive — a woman he doesn’t even know — reveals an even darker version of Barry, one that we audience members are even unfamiliar with. This Barry doesn’t seem like the same man we know and see at the beginning of the series: the former veteran who hates killing people and wants nothing more than to leave his life as a hitman behind. This man seems more than willing to harm innocent people, showing just how far he’s fallen from a moral standpoint since the beginning of the series, frightening not only Sally, but us audience members by extension.
Episode 5 of Barry’s third season spells some exciting developments for everyone involved, both from a more fundamental character perspective (Gene and Sally’s characters especially), but also continuing to build off increasingly problematic new threats that are emerging from Fuches, Albert, and the inexperienced would-be assassins, Julie and Kyle. With only three episodes left in the season, how will this all end? We’ll have to pay close attention to next week’s episode to find out.
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.