"Barry": Dark Comedy at its Finest

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

Author: Sophie Gilbert

Video courtesy of HBO's Youtube

REVIEW- I am a sucker for anything that comedian and SNL alum Bill Hader is involved in, which was why I felt fairly certain that I would enjoy “Barry” even before watching the season pilot. However, while I was expecting the familiar laughs that the show brought, its highest points lay instead in the tense drama and moral dilemmas presented, adding up to a series that could make me laugh as easily as it could leave a pit in my stomach. “Barry” works so well because its premise lends itself flawlessly to both drama and humor. Hader portrays the protagonist role of Barry, a former marine who now works as a dissatisfied hitman. While on a job in Los Angeles, he takes an acting class and falls in love with both the course and one of the students. Barry’s experiences as a hitman and greenhorn actor are starkly different yet eerily similar: watching him take down a Bolivian stash house can be equally as comedic or tragic as viewing his attempt to get through one line in a Shakespeare scene. The show really finds its footing toward the second half of the season, when Barry’s characterization takes the forefront. We watch as his decisions get tougher and are left wondering who we are meant to root for.

This is not to ignore the comedic side of “Barry,” which is certainly present throughout. The show’s humor especially shines through the emoji-aficionado Chechen mobster NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and the overconfident, underqualified acting teacher Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler). Comedy is often used to cut through tension, yet this show seems to know what many others do not: sometimes, dramatic scenes do not need to be laced with humor. The show recognizes where humor fits best, making sure that no laugh feels out of place.

The show’s most notable strength is its complete mastery of endings. Each episode left me wanting more without resorting to cliffhangers or twists. Instead, they were more likely to end with a subtle emotional gut punch, none more memorable than that of the season finale, which, without giving too much away, manages to distill Barry’s character into two chilling words.

The series has already been renewed for a second season. My only hope is that the writers are able to find a new angle for Barry rather than pulling his character into a repetitive cycle of wrongdoing and redemption. But in the writers’ capable hands, the show should have a second season as entertaining and intriguing as its first.

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