Barry Season 2 Episode 4: “What?!”

Bill Hader and Henry Winkler sit on a couch in HBO’s Barry
Courtesy of HBO

Season 2 of Barry is now halfway complete and the stakes were raised considerably this week. Themes of identity and whether or not a person can really change took center stage in an episode that had the feeling of a midseason finale and was light on humor in favor of drama and furthering character arcs. We also got an origin story of sorts for Barry, which narratively speaking, came at the perfect time.

We started this week exactly where last week’s episode ended, with Sally’s abusive ex showing up in the parking lot as Barry and Sally were leaving a rehearsal. Barry’s recent attempts at not acting on his violent tendencies were challenged as he entered a headspace we hadn’t seen the character in before. The three wind up at dinner together and it’s clear that killing Sam is the only thing on Barry’s mind.

The themes of the episode came to the forefront when Barry confronted Sally about how polite she was to Sam the next day after their dinner. Sally’s confession to Barry that she hadn’t been as strong as she had been claiming to be when she left Sam, gave the guarded Barry a chance to speak from personal experience in a way that he rarely gets to. In telling Sally that she can be whoever she wants to be, that her story is whatever she wants to tell people, Barry emotionally connected perhaps more than we’ve seen from him before. No, he can’t tell Sally who he has been but he can share his methods to changing his own life with her.

The Sam storyline culminated with that character not breaking his own cycle and continuing to be emotionally manipulative and abusive. He showed up at another rehearsal and was spying on Sally, obviously there to see what Sally said about him. Barry chased him off without Sally seeing and was right back to that headspace of needing to kill him. On his way to kill Sam, we saw Barry behave in a much more reckless manner than we’re accustomed to. Barry did not seem like a hitman; he seemed like a man who didn’t care. Unbeknownst to Barry, Sally had been lured to Sam’s hotel room, repeating her pattern of always giving in to him. Sam’s manipulation of Sally worked until he demanded she not continue with her scene about their abusive relationship. When Sally saw his anger this time, she broke her own cycle. On the other side of the hotel door was Barry, gun drawn. In his fit of rage, Barry nearly pulled the trigger on Sally and hit a breaking point of his own.

The rest of the episode saw a broken Barry desperate for anyone to reach out to. Barry’s quest to be a new man had taken a dangerous detour with Sam, and in wanting to get back on the right track, Barry called his old friend Fuches, who was still being held by Detective Loach. Fuches, who has always been the show’s shadiest character, seemingly had a change of heart after his moment of bonding with Barry last week. We got to see Fuches break his self preservation cycle and tell Barry to never contact him again, knowing that was his only way of protecting Barry from Loach. Not knowing where else to turn, we saw Barry wind up at Gene’s house.

Gene, played by the amazing Henry Winkler, has also been attempting to break the cycles and patterns in his life. We see him in his own awkward ways trying to build a relationship with the son he abandoned. In Gene’s home, Barry wants to spill his guts but struggles. Gene finally gets Barry to tell him the truth about the Albert story Barry has been playing over in his mind, giving half truths to this season. Barry’s best friend was killed and in a fit of rage, Barry walked into an innocent man’s home and shot and killed him in front of his wife in the middle of an Afghanistan village. Barry was sent to military doctors and Fuches pulled strings to get him discharged. This is how the hitman chapter of Barry’s life began.

In this scene with Gene as Barry poured out his soul, the two men discussed their shared hope that people really could change. Gene, after telling Barry to never repeat that story to anyone else, offered a confession of his own, telling Barry about the son he had abandoned. Momentarily, I thought that a genuine bonding moment was happening here and perhaps Gene could even become to Barry what Fuches had previously been (minus the murder), but alas, the scene ended with Gene telling Barry that he charged for private sessions differently than group sessions and he would be right back with his ledger, in by far the funniest moment of this dark episode.

Detectives Moss and Loach from HBO’s Barry
Justice for Moss isn’t Loach’s motivation after all. (Courtesy of HBO)

The Barry and Fuches dynamic has always been tense, dating back to the beginning of the show. We knew that Barry didn’t want to work for him anymore, and the show had always led us to believe that Fuches was somewhat manipulative with Barry to keep him in his employ. Both characters have been humanized a lot more this season and we can see that there is a genuine relationship there. Despite their shared line of work, the two men care for each other. Business complicates friendships and this one was no different.

In the episode’s final scene, Barry went to find Fuches. Barry’s conversation with Gene had given him hope for his future due to the fact that Gene didn’t outwardly judge him, but equally as important, that conversation made him realize how important Fuches is to him. Fuches was attempting to escape Loach’s hotel room he had him in but it was too late. An overly excited Barry spilled his guts to Fuches, including admitting to the murder of Janice Moss, all with Detective Loach listening and recording. In a final twist to the episode, it wasn’t justice for Moss’ murder that Loach wanted; he wants Barry to kill the man his estranged wife is now seeing.

This episode was by far the most therapeutic for Barry, only to have it all ripped away at the end. He’s so close to breaking his cycles and moving toward being the man he wants to be, but now here he is, back with Fuches, being blackmailed by a police officer to commit homicide. Barry’s inability to kill anyone this season is certainly going to be a factor moving forward, and one can’t help but feel terrible that no matter how hard Barry wants to break his patterns and escape his old life, he’s constantly getting pulled back in. Will he ever be able to break free?

Written by Andrew Grevas

Andrew is the Founder / Editor in Chief of 25YL. He’s engaged with 2 sons, a staunch defender of the series finales for both Lost & The Sopranos and watched Twin Peaks at the age of 5 during its original run, which explains a lot about his personality.

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