Barry S3E5: “crazytimesh*tshow” and Sally Reed

Natalie looks stunned, sitting in front of a laptop. Sally, across the table at a cafe, looks concerned
Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO

The following contains spoilers for Barry S3E5, “crazytimesh*tshow” (written by Emily Heller and directed by Alec Berg)

Let’s talk about Sally. Throughout Barry’s three seasons, she’s been a defining presence on the show, and as S3E5 features her story arc in a significant way that is largely independent from Barry’s story arc, it seems like a good time to reflect a bit on her character and her role in this series as a whole.

Sally is Barry’s love interest, of course, and erstwhile girlfriend, but she’s a lot more than that. She’s been more than that from the beginning. It would be all too easy to dismiss her passion for acting as a shallow search for meaning where one cannot find it. Perhaps it is that, but it’s more than that, just as it is with Barry. Or, rather, it is a search for meaning, existentially, and it’s not fair to write it off as a shallow one.

In short, Sally is genuine in her investment in her show Joplin, and genuinely crushed by what happens with regard to that show in this episode, and to demean that would be to be totally unsympathetic to her character. It would be to fail to acknowledge who Sally is to complain that she doesn’t act in a different way, because from the very beginning of Barry what we’ve seen in Sally is a woman whose entire sense of self-worth is tied up with her success (or lack thereof) in her creative endeavors.

Sally sits on a bed looking at a laptop as Natalie leans over the bed towards her
Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO

Last week, she ended her relationship with Barry, and was completely justified in doing so. The fact that he is the protagonist of this show might create bias in his favor, and we’ve seen this before with a misogynistic edge, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to see some similar kinds of comments on the internet in recent days. And I guess I wasn’t, but that doesn’t keep me from being disappointed.

Let’s not forget that Sally was in an abusive relationship in the past, with Sam, and that though her fictionalized version of events did not match up with the reality of what occurred, she did escape that abusive relationship, which is deserving of praise. Indeed, her whole arc with regard to that story in Season 2 can be taken as an exemplar of Sally as a whole—the truth was there even in the fiction; she just can’t help but to embellish and become hyperbolic.

Sally puts on a show as a defense mechanism, but the sad thing is that there’s little difference between the polished version for show and the deep kernel of personal truth. When she tells Barry about her past (back in Season 1), for example, she comes across as a bit of a narcissist overblowing the importance of her own pain, but that painful past is very real for Sally and worth respecting. She just has trouble properly acknowledging her own worth.

She’s making the move that many women often make, of presenting something serious but not in a serious way, because how could she dare to take herself that seriously, or to truly be vulnerable in that expression of pain? That’s too risky, and she’d be too exposed. And it’s for the same reason that at the end of Season 2 she couldn’t help but flip back to the embellished version of her split with Sam when push came to shove. The quiet truth of how she stayed for the apology would have left her too vulnerable. What if the audience didn’t accept it? There’d be no way to defend herself. So she deflects.

Sally and Natalie smile and laugh at a coffeeshop
Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO

Thus Sally’s speech at the Joplin premiere is both saccharine and genuine. It’s what she truly feels but polished up for the eyes and ears of others. Of course she wants acceptance and praise. Doesn’t everyone? And you might think it’s a mistake to seek it in the acclaim of the viewing public because of course that is a mistake, but when you’re Sally those close to you in life—the ones you should be able to count on—have kept letting you down.

Most recently, one Barry Berkman, who in S3E5 tries to comfort Sally by offering to mess with the executive at BanShe who cancelled Joplin. In that moment, Sally sees Barry for the psychopath he is. If he’d just offered to kill Diane, Sally might have been able to shrug that off as a joke, or hyperbole, but instead it’s clear that Barry is absolutely serious about being willing to replace this woman’s dog with another dog, take pictures of her while she’s asleep, etc., and that Barry does not think doing any of these things would be morally wrong.

Suddenly, the man staring back at Sally is a monster and she can’t believe she ever shared her life with him. And as much as we might empathize with Barry, she is not wrong.

Barry, looking haggard and holding a duffel bag, returning to his old room that has been taken over by other things
Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO

Barry has sought salvation through acting even more than Sally has, and Season 3 to this point shows his radical failure in that regard. But if pretending to be someone else isn’t Barry’s path, his attempt to follow the advice he got from Noho Hank and Cristobal vis-à-vis Sally shows the extent to which honesty isn’t going to be prone to work for him either.

And I’m not just talking about the above referenced offer to make Diane lose her mind, but also the ridiculous collage and note he was preparing to leave Sally before she came home. Perhaps he has no way to connect to who he is in truth, or did indeed come closest to that through his relationship with Gene. It’s sad, but the humor is there. Again, this show is a comedy.


Barry’s past is coming back into the picture as Albert Nguyen enters the fray as an FBI agent aiming to solve Janice’s murder. We’ve seen him previously in flashbacks to Afghanistan, which are repeated here in S3E5. Albert knows something about Barry, and it will be interesting to see where this storyline goes, but for the moment I mostly found it hilarious how he rejects the theory about The Raven out of hand.

The police in Barry have been largely incompetent throughout the course of the show’s run, with the exception of Janice and maybe Loach (who did also put the pieces together about Barry), but that incompetence has always been tied up with their willingness to blame everything on the Chechens. That Nguyen rejects this makes things immediately more intriguing with regard to how the law fits into this story than it has been in a long time.

Meanwhile, Fuches is persevering in his quest to sic metaphorical panthers on Barry and we see him visiting Taylor’s sister in S3E5. In more ways than one, things do not look good for Barry coming down the homestretch of Season 3.

Barry stands in the middle of the street, looking on with a furrowed brow
Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO

Noho Hank and Cristobal are absolutely adorable together, and it stings to see Elena crashing in and disrupting their affair, though we should feel some sympathy for her when it comes down to it. Her husband has been unfaithful, not only romantically but to their crime family. Her pain is warranted.

Perhaps this is the lesson that we should take from Barry, such as it is, to think about the difficulty of accepting the legitimacy of the pain of others. Is Gene doing so when he apologizes to Joe and Annie at dinner, or is the latter right in calling him out as just trying to make himself feel better?

Is it even possible to apologize without excuse or ulterior motive? Can we acknowledge the validity of each other’s positions even when our interests are in conflict?

I think we can, but I wouldn’t expect that kind of happy ending from Barry. There are moments when it flashes, as between Hank and Cristobal, but mostly this is a show about people making mistakes.

It’s fitting that S3E5 ends with Julie accidentally shooting her son Kyle. It’s hilarious how things go absurdly wrong in life in unrectifiable ways, and there’s no way to take back what we’ve done. So we often push further into the darkness.

Crazytimesh*tshow, indeed.

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 *