As they say in showbiz, the show must go on.
After a three-year long hiatus and a global pandemic, “Barry” is back and better than ever in its third season.
Known for its mix of dark comedic visual gags and hard-hitting drama, the series stars Bill Hader as Barry Berkman, a former U.S. Marine with a natural tendency for marksmanship, working as a hitman under his handler, Monroe Fuches, portrayed by Stephen Root.
While on a job in Los Angeles, he finds himself enraptured by a stage acting class taught by retired performer Gene M. Cousineau, played to perfection by Henry Winkler.
There, he decides to quit his violent past and become an actor, but the dark criminal underbelly of Los Angeles, spearheaded by idiosyncratic characters like a Chechen mobster, keeps finding new wild opportunities to draw him back into his life of killing.
Last season, viewers saw Barry attempt to quit his hitman life cold turkey after having killed Mr. Cousineau’s girlfriend, when she discovered his hitman alter ego. Nevertheless, his addiction to killing was put to the test when a jealous Fuches revealed Moss’ body to Gene and told him who murdered his beloved.
Enraged, Barry’s hunt for his handler ended in a disturbingly bloody massacre at a monastery under occupation by Chechen, Bolivian and Burmese mafia members before disappearing into the shadows.
Set six months after the second season finale, the third season premiere, “forgiving jeff,” serves as a reload for the show’s themes of forgiveness and violent pasts, playing a lot of plot catch-up in the process. Everyone is somewhere new.
Unkempt and unshaven, Barry is not acting anymore, but rather keeping his violent streak alive by taking odd jobs from amateurs on Craigslist and the “Hitman Marketplace” in between playing video games on his couch.
Distracted by her own dreams, Barry’s girlfriend Sally, played by Sarah Goldberg, is the star of her own series. The curtains have closed on Gene’s acting class while Fuches, distraught and hungry for revenge, hides out in the mountains of Chechnya.
Despite everyone being in a new place, nobody is safe, and the stakes are higher than ever.
Even with its high concept and sketch show-esque premise, what’s amazing about “Barry” is that it consistently outdoes itself every season. This season feels darker and more morose than before with its cold opening seeing a frustrated Barry kills the man who commissioned him and another man when the former keeps changing his plans. All his self-help work that was completed in previous seasons is thrown out the window.
The premiere feels like a dark descent into cynicism and misery that looks promising for viewers, but not for the characters.
Unpredictable as ever, there is no telling what the bloodstained sleeves of co-creators Bill Hader and Alec Berg are hiding, but all viewers can expect for these characters is exactly what was said to Barry: “Forgiveness has to be earned.” As does self-reflection.
Whether it’s a hitman trying to be absolved of his egregious sins or an actress lying about her abusive past in her work, these characters refuse to take a good look at themselves in the mirror for who they are.
It is the self-delusion of both acting and contract killing that instigates these characters to not see themselves for who they are, so forgiveness can be earned. However, what is frightening is that the ship may have already sailed long ago for Barry and others.
Nevertheless, the show must go on.