Barry S3E3: “ben mendelsohn” — Oh, the Hugh Mannity!

Barry leans over the wheel of a car, looking out the window with a smile in Barry S3E3
Photograph by Merrick Morton/ HBO

The following contains spoilers for Barry S3E3, “ben mendelsohn” (written by Emma Barrie and directed by Alec Berg)

As I’d hoped, Barry S3E3 shows us the dynamics between Gene and Barry on the set of Laws of Humanity. It’s an uncomfortable, dark, poignant and short-lived situation, which sees Barry moving ever further into delusion before Gene brings it all crashing down.

It would seem that Barry’s suggestion that this is a possibility for redemption for both of them isn’t entirely without basis, but to suggest an analogy between murdering Janice (among many others) and doing things like punching someone on the set of Murder, She Wrote is pretty unhinged. And Barry’s insistence that Gene say thank you when he’s given a line smacks of the kind of infantilizing tone that abusers often take. He is demanding not just that Gene refrain from going to the police, or that he feign happiness—no, Barry is demanding that Gene actually be happy and actually forgive him.

It’s a truly disturbing move, to not only try to control the behavior of the other but to control their desire and their very being. And Barry (the show) ramps that up to 11 by making the line Gene is given an acceptance of Barry’s character’s apology. We have to wonder if Barry had any role in putting these words into Gene’s character’s mouth, but we’ll probably never know and it doesn’t matter with regard to how it pushes the abuse right over the line into absurdity and allows us to laugh at something thoroughly, utterly heinous. (Mark-Paul Gosselaar being there to say, e.g., “call me Hugh,” certainly also helps—Laws of Humanity hits the sweet spot of the kind of cheesiness we could well imagine seeing on primetime TV, contorted just enough to put it on the edge of parody).

It’s cathartic when Gene instead goes off script and punches Barry in the face during the actual scene, as it cuts through both the delusion of Barry’s insistence that things between them are OK now and the implausibility of the legal melodrama they’re supposed to be acting in. It’s also, of course, in practical terms, a terrible idea. We see the fear creep into Mr. Cousineau’s face quickly as he flees—he’d previously lamented that his actions fed into the situation which led Barry to kill Janice; now he’s played a role in a possible situation where Barry might kill his son and grandson. (I’m sure he won’t, but still). Plus, Gene has reinforced the perceptions of those in the industry who’d blackballed him by engaging in the very form of behavior people trotted out examples of last week. Of course the content is different—here Gene is justified—but that just helps to drive home the humor of it all.

Barry, wearing a suit and tie, with a cellphone to his ear
Photograph by Merrick Morton/ HBO

So Barry picks up the phone and calls Hank to take him up on the offer he’d earlier sent a hilarious text message about. Batir wants to blow up the Bolivians in retaliation for their raid of Plants! and Noho Hank is at pains to put that hit on Fernando instead of Cristobal. (Did you notice, by the way, that they text each other as Luke and Lorelai? It’s adorable).

I don’t know where this is going, but Batir seems to be putting pieces together about Hank’s allegiances. What’s funny is that truly Hank isn’t some nefarious double agent; he just genuinely follows how he feels about people. I’m sure he would run a great Dragonfly Inn. Alas, he’s caught in the middle of petty (if violent) squabbles.

Given this scene, however, I’m not sure if the plan for Barry to kill Fernando is on or not. I’m also not sure if I want it to be, as Fernando actually kind of also seems like a super nice guy. At least, he seems to acquiesce to Cristobal’s request to pack it in pretty easily, and their little exchange about taking the guys to lunch before breaking the news to them is very endearing. I suppose it remains possible that things are not as they seem with regard to all of this, though.

Noho Hank stands talking on the phone, with plants around him
Photograph by Merrick Morton/ HBO

Fuches has been enjoying life in Chechnya, and refuses to come back to the States when Noho Hank calls, but after he talks to Barry he’s riled up and full of a desire for vengeance. I look forward to seeing if he’s actually going to try to kill him with a team of panthers. Probably?

“ben mendelsohn”

The title of Barry S3E3 comes from Sally’s response to a question during her press junket. She says that Ben Mendelsohn should be the next Spider-Man, which is pretty hilarious when you think about it because he absolutely should not be (as great of an actor as he is). I don’t know if Sally has been watching Bloodline or what, but I’m more curious if her response to this question is going to create some weird overblown kind of scandal in the universe of Barry (which I could see happening), or if the episode title is more symbolic.

The fact that Sally is asked this question is unfortunately realistic. You can get mad at people for things they’ve said about Marvel movies all you want, but we should bear in mind the way in which there is often no reason for the question being asked of the person in question in the first place, just as their is no reason to bring this up during the press junket for Joplin.

But to carry this joke further, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the media mocking Sally’s response while they at the same time ignore Katie’s visible discomfort when Barry is mentioned. She knows that he’s abusive, as she’s seen it firsthand, but she’s totally stuck in terms of being able to do anything about it. That is, she can’t.

Sally sits in a chair looking off camera, with a poster of herself and Katie that says Joplin across the top in the background
Photograph by Merrick Morton/ HBO

Insofar as Barry is back to a very dark place where he is seeking meaning in murder for hire—or maybe not really meaning so much as just something to do—I wonder how he’ll respond if Noho Hank has to rescind his offer. And I wonder what he’ll do vis-à-vis Gene Cousineau, given that the latter knows he killed Janice and has broken their tenuous truce.

Given the way Barry has presented the police at large over the course of its run so far, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gene go to rat Barry out only to be told that it was definitely The Raven and he must be mistaken.

I can’t wait for the next one! 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

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