Barry S3E2: “limonada” and Fast Food in the Trunk

Barry gazes out of a car window
Photograph by Warrick Page/HBO

The following contains spoilers for Barry S3E2, “limonada” (written by Bill Hader & Alec Berg and directed by Bill Hader)

So it turns out Barry’s plan to fix his relationship with Gene Cousineau (in light of the knowledge that he murdered his girlfriend) is to…get him a part on a TV show.

This is ludicrous, of course, and the humor in it is apparent in the abstract, but I can’t say the joke landed well for me personally. (I thought it was funny, but did not actually laugh). Perhaps it landed better for you.

“limonada” is full of funnier little moments that don’t quite connect to the main story: the shock on the faces of the little girls selling lemonade; the break-up scene involving a woman with too many dogs (while Gene is being attacked by said dogs in the background); a woman talking on the phone about a bad date who ordered milk at dinner…

And then there is the running joke that everyone in the industry has decided that Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) is persona non grata, which is all the funnier when we think about his whole demeanor of self-importance over the course of the first two seasons of the show.

Regardless, as S3E2 proceeds it becomes increasingly clear that Barry (Bill Hader) is unhinged. Maybe he always has been, or has at least been a bit out of joint, but here he’s grabbed onto the idée fixe that getting Gene a part will fix things so tightly that we close with him threatening to kill Gene’s family if the latter doesn’t act like the plan has worked.

Do you love me, Mr. Cousineau? […] Say it again.

So there is a pressing question as to whether we can still root for Barry, though perhaps the better question is whether we ever should have been rooting for a guy who has committed such heinous murders. That’s unfair, of course, insofar as we were rooting for him to reform, genuinely, but with “limonada” that possibility feels well and truly gone.

Instead, he’s broken further, and if Barry has from the beginning explored the line between acting (pretending) and being, or semblance and truth, we see now how Barry is insisting on the truth being at the level of appearance in a way that’s becoming detached from reality. Acting allows him to (pretend to) be someone else, and may have presented a door to actually becoming someone else within himself, but instead Barry has fallen into bad faith, unable or unwilling to confront himself. He cannot live in the truth.

Gene sits on the ground with one hand to his chest and the other in his lap holding some paper
Photograph by Warrick Page/HBO

More to the point, though, Barry has never really been about rooting for Barry. It’s an exploration of the human condition through the lens of PTSD, and about the effects of wanton killing on the psyche of the killer, but at its core this is a comedy. Rather than looking for a moral or standing in moral judgment of our friend Barry, we should instead let that humor take us to dark parts of the human soul—things we can perhaps only bear to look at when we can at the same time laugh at them.

Barry’s actions make a lot of sense insofar as he’s fixated on Gene not only as a father figure but as the figure of the possibility of his own redemption. He can’t let that go, or he’d be lost. Or he’s already lost but can’t face that truth. One of those. And here we have to ask whether he is beyond redemption, or if not what it might look like, because this surely isn’t it.

He storms in to see Sally (Sarah Goldberg) on the set of her show, and as he moves from asking her to give Gene a role to demanding that she does, he legitimately becomes abusive. He may not hit her or throw a chair—the violence here isn’t physical, but it’s very much not OK.

Of course Sally reacts to this by buying him spaghetti and a new videogame controller. She apologizes to him, and we start to see her replaying the dynamics of her previous relationship with Sam. In Season 2 Barry and Sally were working to pursue their truths; in Season 3 they’re falling back into bad habits and self-delusion.

And if Sally’s in it for the apology, Barry doesn’t give her one.

Sally looks on, clutching her cellphone, in a room on set
Photograph by Warrick Page/HBO

Meanwhile, Fernando (Miguel Sandoval) arrives and disrupts the romance between Cristobal (Michael Irby) and Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan)—because he intends to kill all of the Chechens. This is also a bummer. Cristobal tips his lover off about the raid of the business of I have decided is named Plants!, such that he’s able to save himself and the buddies he has left for the moment, but he assures Hank he has no chance against the elite soldiers Fernando has brought to town, and ultimately encourages him to run.

I’m not sure where Barry goes from here. I was honestly expecting something a bit more outlandish and protracted when it came to Barry’s plan, but instead S3E2 seems to have seen it fully carried through. I hope the season will proceed through Barry and Gene working together on Laws of Humanity, as the show seems so trite it would provide a hilarious backdrop for the potentially murderous dynamic between these two. And I think in one way or another Barry Season 3 will continue to explore questions of abuse and mine humor from them. That’s a risky play, but I do believe this show is up to the task.

What will Noho Hank do? I doubt he’ll take Cristobal’s advice and run. Will Fuches (Stephen Root) return and somehow factor into Hank’s plan?I hate to say I sort of missed him in this episode.

And has Sally messed up the plan to launch her show by shifting her focus to repairing things with Barry? Will her series end up being cancelled as she watches Pam! succeed?

Will Swim Instructors be a flop because neither Adam Devine nor Josh Gad is tall? Which one gets to ask Ike if he wants a little pie?

Various people stand in the background on set as Sally and Katie sit at a circular table performing a scene
Photograph by Warrick Page/HBO

See you next week.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *