“The Show Must Go On, Probably?” Starts Barry Season 2 Off on the Right Foot

In the Barry Season 2 premiere, Barry is getting ready to direct when Gene won't come back to the class.
Courtesy of HBO

The Barry Season 2 premiere, “The Show Must Go On, Probably?” is a comedy of errors.

There were a ton of funny moments here, even more than anything I remember from last season. This show is much more confident in playing with its tone this season. The most funny moments don’t just happen with the Chechens this time. Fuches’s (Stephen Root) botched hit that began the season was massively funny as it all went south and got funnier as people were getting killed. That’s an accomplishment to not belittle the drama of the situations yet displaying the humor of it at the same time.

Starting at the beginning of the episode, we see a hitman knocking on a door. Funny moment number one: The preoccupied occupant keeps talking to someone else and almost opens the door but keeps closing it. Took him long enough to pay enough attention to know a hitman is waiting to shoot him.

The man in the mask is supposed to give us pause. Is this Barry? No, decidedly not. I suspect Barry would know not to shoot a safe if he has a bad passcode because he knew it’d take out his own kneecap. But not Not-Barry. Funny moment number two is his reaction to taking out his leg.

It’s a comedy of errors, and when we go to Fuches in another motel room, he’s there with a man who arranged the hit and somehow had no idea that people were going to be killed as part of the operation. Funny moment number three is when the hitman knocks on the door, says he got the wrong passcode, is shot, and their customer jumps out the window, landing dead on a cop car.

And when Fuches gets a knock on his door from a swat team, his delivery of “thank god you’re here” is classic as it was unconvincing.

These are the jokes in Barry. A three beat that goes bad for the bad guys, bad for the focus character we don’t know, and bad for the focus character we do know. Absurd larger-than-life dark comedy. And I’m happy as a clam.

When we first see Barry (Bill Hader) he’s acting like a ringleader to the rudderless theater class. I know it’s partially because he’s PTSD-level disconnected from humanity, and partially because he does know what happened to Janice—the love of Gene’s (Henry Winkler) life—hence no uncertainty, but he’s doing a good job all the same trying to get the theater class to focus even though it doesn’t work a lick. He’s a good mission planner though, unlike Not-Barry. He’s going to get Gene back because that’s everyone’s requirement for doing the show he desperately wants to perform because it will make Sally (Sarah Goldberg) happy.

The gist of this episode is that every main character thinks they’re right where they need to be, but there is something they are blatantly missing.

Fuches is working with a new killer and he probably feels like he’s back in business, but he’s not.

Barry has his class, but Gene’s barely a part of it, and Barry can’t force the class to proceed as normal no matter what he tries to do.

NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) thinks he’s got this great “we’re bros” kind of friendship-plus-business partnership with Cristobal (Michael Irby) and the Bolivians, yet Cristobal is thinking even bigger picture and brings in Hank’s bitterest rival Esther (Patricia Fa’asua).

Esther looks like she’s going to be crazy intense but I bet Barry knocks her out of the game next episode. Because yeah, Hank meets his buddy Barry in the clothing store where Barry works, all he’s got to do is ask and it’ll get fixed right up, right? During Hank’s request, he’s wearing The Wig. I can’t find a picture of the thing, but you know what I mean. Seeing NoHo Hank all by himself brings infectious upbeat happiness but then the wig just brings immediate laughs. He thinks his laid-back approach can get him everything he needs, and he can get away with wearing the California model dude hairdo of all hairdos. And he basically pulls it off, the yahoo.

In that scene, Hank is answering the question left to us a few scenes earlier when his family in Europe threatens to kill him for working with the guys who killed Goran, but he tells them who “really” killed Goran right after the scene cut. Esther did it. Definitely not Barry. (It was Barry.)

NoHo Hank learns his family wants to kill him for working happily with Goran's killers.
Courtesy of HBO

Barry just needs to kill Esther, then Hank’s family leaves him alone and everything’s better, right? Except Barry’s “starting now” has already started and he’s going to stay in his new life. His answer is no.

Gene thinks he’s in a situation where the love of his life is missing. He can’t get to that one detail that she is dead. Even though he tells Barry he contemplated suicide with a gun he got from his old roommate Rip Torn—who was Winkler’s real-life friend during their early days in Hollywood, adding that extra level of real to the scene.

Tension is huge when Gene doesn’t show up for the theater class’ play until the very last minute. We’re all worried about him, so it was good that he came to the theater, but it was only to cancel the show. And even though he’s a raw nerve and the soundtrack is playing for drama, Gene is offering a funny explanation to the audience of why he can’t offer refunds but he can offer vouchers that can be applied to purchases of any of his merchandise. These are the jokes you get in Barry, and this is Gene beginning to come around and be himself again.

Later in the episode, the class is back in session except it’s so Gene can say goodbye to the class before he shuts it down. Teaching was his life, until Janice was. So no more Janice means no more class. Except Barry does his best to keep Gene from leaving.

Gene Cousineau comes to his theater class in the Barry Season 2 premiere.
Courtesy of HBO

Barry is being selfish and needs the class for himself, but it’s not that he’s a jerk. He just can’t connect with people properly. He wants Gene to talk about losing Janice, and Gene compared that to Barry—Mister Icebox—talking about the first person he killed in the war.

And Barry is desperate enough to keep Gene teaching the class that he starts to talk about it. Gene starts a class exercise with it, where one student is in Barry’s role and another student as the man with the binoculars, and there’s a poignancy to the whole scene. Gene is eating up Barry’s vulnerability here, and we get to see a flashback to the real scene he’s talking about.

We get to see Barry’s expression when he really kills the person sniper-style, and it’s pretty close to how the classmate experiences it and collapses, crying.

You can see it in flashback Barry’s face. He wants to cry, wants to feel like he just did the wrong thing, but he never breaks down. Flashback Barry instead gets complimented for being a crack shot. And all the soldiers with him cheer on his natural talent and he eats it up.

Meanwhile the Barry of today’s classmate is crying in the arms of his fellow officer classmate and Barry says, “Yeah, that’s how it happened.”

There’s that disconnect. And he doesn’t correct Gene with the real story, and he doesn’t correct Sally either. Not even when she says “good things happen when you lower your walls.”

Sally tells Barry, "Good things happen when you lower your walls."
Courtesy of HBO

She’s right, of course, but Barry only half-lowered his walls. He could probably find help if he asked for it, but instead he gets Sally leaving for a prior engagement and NoHo Hank waiting until she leaves to talk to Barry again.

And Hank’s all business. He drops the carefree happy vibe and tells Barry he’s the boss now. Barry hurt his feelings when he called Hank a “fucking idiot” so he’s making Barry kill Esther whether he wants to or not.

So Barry is officially back in the hitman life, or else the Chechens will rain bullets down on this nice life he wants for himself. He thought he had the life he wanted but he forgot there were still untied ends.

The last focus character to be in a situation where he’s missing one particular detail is Detective Loach (John Pirruccello). We see him first when Barry tries to get Gene to come back to the class, telling Gene that he’s closing the crime scene. There’s nowhere else to go with the case of Janice’s disappearance and/or death. It was time to move on. He was ready to move on and he was trying to get Gene to accept that the case was cut and dry.

A few scenes later we get a scene that directly sets in motion for Loach. It doesn’t involve his presence at all, but I’d be crazy to not mention it.

We see Fuches and his soda can in police custody. The best—and most telegraphed—joke of the episode, is all about that can.

Fuches slowly talks about all the DNA evidence he won’t volunteer for. He’s too crafty for that stuff. Yet he confidently drinks a soda while he talks about knowing his rights. And he lets the DNA collector take it for him when he finished. Fuches is exactly that kind of a smart man.

From the beginning of that scene, we were directed to look at that can. It had all of the camera’s focus, and I watched that thing all the way until it’s dropped into that lab analysis bag. Comedy gold.

Later on we’re back at the police department and we get a look into Loach’s personal life. He’s trying to hold onto life with his ex-wife however he can, mirroring how Gene is trying to hold onto hope for Janice even though everyone else is pretty sure she’s dead. This is when we see Loach’s new partner bring him the DNA evidence from Fuches’ soda can. It connects Fuches to the Goran crime scene. And then Loach connects Fuches’ Cleveland ties with Barry’s Cleveland ties.

We finish the scene with Loach looking at the blurry security cam image of Barry next to his picture and file. All with the sound of a eureka moment. Loach is back on the case, picking up on a considered-closed case just like Janice before him.

I bet he’s going to avenge her in some capacity. I just hope he doesn’t have to die when he and Barry eventually end up in the same scene together again. I can’t help but like that guy, and I want his actor to avenge himself as a proper good guy too after Pirruccello’s turn as Chad in Twin Peaks. This season’s drama is just as good as its jokes.

Detective Laoch may not be the best in the precinct but he does the work.
Courtesy of HBO

This season premiere set the table nicely for the next seven episodes.

Sally is having dinner with her agent, which will probably cause moments of misunderstanding between her and Barry.

Fuches will get cornered by all the right people and talk himself from one frying pan to progressively larger frying pans.

Hank will stay alive because Bill Hader is a nice man who wouldn’t want to hurt us like that. (Right??)

Gene will grow from being suicidal to the teacher he’s always been able to be.

And Barry will inch closer to connecting more people while outrunning his past as best he can. Which will hopefully be good enough to keep people like Hank happy. That guy’s all business when he needs to be.

Written by John Bernardy

John Bernardy has been writing for 25YL since before the site went public and he’s loved every minute. The show most important to him is Twin Peaks. He is husband to a damn fine woman, father to two fascinating individuals, and their pet thinks he’s a good dog walker.

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