[TV REVIEW] HBO’s Barry is a hit


Taken from hbo.com/barry

Barry is a comedic take on the story of a hit-man who takes up acting and attempts to distance himself from his old life.

Barry, HBO’s new 8-episode series, which ran weekly from March 25 to May 13, is a comedic take on the story of a hit-man who takes up acting and attempts to distance himself from his old life. Barry stars Bill Hader as the lead character, who co-created the series with Alec Berg. The first season is available now on HBO GO and provides a unique story with complex characters and a gripping plot.

The series follows Barry Berkman, a man from the Midwest who took a job as a hitman offered by a family friend after leaving the marines. The first episode immediately introduces what type of show this is, depicting Barry casually walking through the house of a man he had just killed, perfectly setting up the comedic yet dark tone of the next eight episodes. Barry is sent to Los Angeles for a new job, but after realizing his next target is an actor, he decides to join the acting class the actor is taking. Throughout the rest of the series, Barry has to make many decisions balancing his dream and personal life with the jobs he is being given and must deal with the consequences of his actions.

One of the show’s greatest strengths is its ability to balance comedy and drama.

There are many great actors in this show, all of whom balance drama with comedy perfectly. SNL’s Bill Hader gives a serious performance as Barry Berkman but makes the role more comedic as Barry Block, the stage name he uses at acting class. Sarah Goldberg plays Sally Reed, a woman at the acting class with whom Barry falls in love. Goldberg’s character has more serious moments in the story than many of the other characters, and her character addresses issues of toxic masculinity in her relationship with Barry, a very relevant topic in today’s society. Glenn Fleshler and Anthony Carrigan play leaders of a Croatian mafia that Barry is sent to perform jobs for. Carrigan, in particular, does an excellent job of lightening the tone of the show with the occasional much-needed comic relief. One of the other more comedic aspects of the show are the members of Barry’s acting class, including the incredibly funny D’Arcy Carden from The Good Place playing an acting student, and Henry Winkler from Happy Days playing Gene Cousineau, the acting guru teaching the class. All the performances in this show are stellar, and the casting director did a wonderful job finding the right people for the environment of this show.

One of the show’s greatest strengths is its ability to balance comedy and drama, which is just the right mix for the tone of the show. The funny momen ts last just long enough to lighten the tension a little bit, but not so much that they distract from the more serious moments of the show, which is where the actors get to shine. However, the show could have toned down the violence a little. There isn’t so much as to turn viewers away from the show, but they could have done with less given the comedic edge the story has. That said, the violence is never unnecessary, and always contributes somehow to the story. Unlike some action films or shows, the person behind the violence, often Barry himself due to his job as a hit man, sees the consequences of their actions. Barry’s actions always factor into his character arc and helps the show develop his character and show his internal struggle.

There is one scene in particular that really makes the viewer think: the actors are talking about the morality of the murders in Macbeth and who can be considered guilty of them, which of course is one of the struggles Barry is going through. The actors eventually conclude that with the exception of serving in the marines, as they all know, Barry has and other branches of the army, killing is bad even if the killer is just following orders. This type of theme is present throughout the show and provides a very interesting main character with complex and conflicting motivations. The season ends on a particularly chilling scene that ties the whole series together and represents Barry’s character arc.

The question remains whether there will be a second season. Hader originally stated that “I don’t think I was that good at it. I feel like other people were [better]. […] D’Arcy Carden was really good at it. Sarah Goldberg was good at it. And I was kind of– I just said words.” and would not be continuing, but has recently announced that there will indeed be a second season, with an even darker plot than season one. However, the first season was so incredible that it would be incredibly challenging to live up to it in a second season, and the first season ended in such a good place that the story might be even better if that’s the end of it and the rest is up to the imagination of the viewer.

This show has something for everyone; it can be comedic, dramatic, romantic, and quite intense at times. Being rated TV-MA, this show is most likely not something anyone younger than high-school-age should be watching, but it can be a very engaging and entertaining watch for everyone else.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5