This Barry review contains spoilers.
Barry Season 3 Episode 8
Who would have ever thought that the “hitman becomes an actor” show starring the guy from SNL who did the Vincent Price impressions would deliver something as visceral, complex, and thrilling as “starting now?” Barry Berkman may not be evil, but he will finally have to pay for his crimes. The cyclical nature of violence and how it trickles out and infects everyone that it touches has been a prominent theme all season, but it comes to a wicked crescendo in the Barry season 3 finale. There are some thrilling choices made that will drastically change the show moving forward. In the immediate aftermath, “starting now” feels like an instant-classic that people will be talking about for a long time.
Barry awakens from his poison-induced vision of the afterlife after seeing Sally and Gene standing with him on the beach. Sure enough, when he returns to his apartment, he finds Sally waiting for him, already hatching plans to take revenge on Natalie. Having lost everything, Sally feels the pull of violence, but Barry warns her about the toll and tells her he doesn’t want her to travel down that road. Unfortunately, one of the motocross gang members appears in the doorframe before the message can be fully received. What follows is a shocking attack on Sally that she only narrowly survives. She then proceeds to kill the intruder with a bat.
It’s a harrowing sequence and Sarah Goldberg is as excellent as ever, barely comprehending Barry as he tells her that he will take the blame and for her to go home. After everything Sally has been through as a victim of abuse, her self-defense feels cathartic even if it’s traumatizing in a new way. Sally’s story ends with her returning to Joplin, abandoning Barry’s idea of going on the lam.
Barry takes the body to the open field from episode one and is caught burying it by Albert. In the way he confronts Barry, Albert doesn’t feel like he’s acting in official police capacity; he’s another one of Fuches’ angry victims wanting Barry to answer for the murder of Chris. What is so compelling in this scene is Barry’s full on panic attack – the wordless, primeval expression of horror, guilt, and fear. It feels so real and honest, it’s perhaps Bill Hader’s best work as an actor.
Albert looks down on the shuddering shell of a man and doesn’t see a criminal mastermind, just a scarred boy caught in a vicious cycle. Albert recounts that Barry is the only reason that he’s alive and decides to show him mercy, begging him to end the cycle. Barry has been looking for forgiveness all season long, and it’s finally given to him, whether he deserves it or not. It’s a great inverse of the season’s opening scene. However, Barry doesn’t heed Albert’s advice and is caught in a trap laid by Jim Moss and Cousineau.
Moss calls Cousineau over to his house and sits down with him man to man to determine why exactly he’s covering for Barry. It’s an awkward confrontation that causes Gene to completely break down. When we next see him, Gene gets a phone call from Barry , who has received a similar invite to Jim Moss’ home. With a gun in his hand, Gene tells Barry that Moss knows everything and that he doesn’t know what else to do. It appears that just like Sally, Gene is being driven to violence.
Barry takes the gun from Cousineau and decides to confront Jim himself, but the whole situation is a set-up. Gene wanted Barry to take the gun so he could be caught red-handed by a SWAT team that was hidden. While Gene had been doing the work in his professional life to own up to some of his past mistakes, this is the acting coach’s real moment of redemption. Using what has become one of the series signature shots, we watch in the background as the police leave the scene and Jim and Gene have a moment of closure while the foreground prominently features a photo of Janice. It’s a beautiful, human touch to cap off a wildly upending, climactic scene.
The rest of the episode is spent concluding Hank and Cristobal’s arc, which offers equal amounts of horror and genuine romance. Hank must listen as his Chechen comrades are brutally murdered by an unseen animal. Without showing a thing, the scene is brutally efficient at creating terror, and Hank’s fight or flight instincts allow him to break from his handcuffs and wrestle a weapon away from an armed guard. When he reaches the main floor of where he’s being kept, he discovers he is in Cristobal and Elena’s home, and Elana is in the process of performing a primitive form of shock conversion therapy on her husband. It’s somehow more frightening than the unseen animal attack.
Hanks kills both Elena and the other man and he and Cristobal have a tearful, beautiful reunion. Anthony Carrigan has become a fan favorite because of his charismatic performance, but here he flexes different muscles, so tender and elated to be reunited with his love. It’s genuinely touching and I’m so happy that the writers took their relationship seriously. We also see a flash of realization on Hank’s face as he processes everything, he did to make it back to the arms of his love, another character forever changed by violence.
We know Barry will be back for Season 4, so it’s thrilling that they made the decision for Barry to be caught. It will be interesting to see if the next season will focus on some sort of trial or if it will follow Barry in prison. There are also logical endpoints for most of the supporting characters, so it’s possible that people like Sally and Hank may not appear next season. Regardless, this finale packs so much action, emotion, and surprises in 29 minutes. It’s a real tour de force and cements Bill Hader as one of television’s most towering talents.