This Barry review contains spoilers.
Barry Episode 2
Theater games can be pretty stupid. Whether you’re doing poorly executed improv, playing unnecessary word games, or forced to flail around in search of “physicality,” these time-wasters don’t much help a person’s ability to stand and deliver. The only thing theater games are good for is getting people loose, and Barry, he definitely needs to loosen up.
Sally tells Barry toward the end of the episode, “You’re like a weird nut I can’t crack,” and she doesn’t know the half of it. Barry’s like a shell with no nut inside, the contents having disintegrated from the acidic combination of repressed emotions and bad memories. It’s laughable to think that Barry can be an actor when he doesn’t even seem able to react in a noticeably human fashion. When its announced to the acting class that Ryan has died, his faux surprised reaction is priceless and certainly not believable. The only reaction to the death that’s funnier is Gene’s, who tells the class that they’re likely next, immediately co-opts the grief for an acting lesson, then cancels the class, but not before reminding everyone that they’d still have to pay for the session.
The entire acting class uses Ryan’s death for their own self-serving reasons, turning a “tragedy” into an excuse to get on stage. It’s so transparent that they’re performing for themselves under the guise of a tribute to Ryan, but Barry doesn’t seem to particularly notice or care, he’s just happy to feel like a part of the community. Their vanity, lack of awareness and skill are all played for laughs, but when Ryan’s father shows up to show his appreciation and gets emotional, Barry is horrified. It’s the first time he’s forced to face down the realities of his job, the loved ones that his marks leave behind, and the experience leaves Barry fraught. Only the pull of Sally and the acceptance of the group is able to keep Barry from completely breaking down.
It’s a serious, dark moment that’s only upstaged by Fuches having his teeth filed. The sound of the scraping and Stephen Root screaming will likely revisit me tonight when I’m trying to go to sleep. The Chechen mob comes for Barry and Fuches, with Fuches taking pretty much all of the abuse since Barry was busy on the phone. They let Barry know that since he killed their top hitman, Barry must carry out a planned hit, or Goran will have Fuches killed. Barry’s initial teary-eyed refusal followed by his stern threats warning if anything happens to Fuches that he’ll take them all out singlehandedly is heavy stuff and expertly handled by Hader.
If I’m making this sound grim, I should point out that this episode is even funnier than the pilot. NoHo Hank and his peculiar, polite manner make him an instant standout character. Also, as expected, police officers are introduced, with Hank’s camera in custody, and they provide some traditional quips and a funny running gag about a detective’s recent breakup. Clearly Barry will be in some trouble if they figure out how to obtain the footage from the camera, but Barry has seemed to already put two and two together based on Hank’s brief leading questions that the camera is going to be an issue.
The episode ends with Barry walking Sally to her door, having not yet carried out the hit. Sally awkwardly asks Barry to come in, obviously wanting things to turn physical but being dramatic about it, of course. The thought had never crossed Barry’s mind, but he has to be going. Ominously, the mob’s henchman that is, by Hank’s words, “a bit much” stakes out their goodbye and snaps a photo of Sally. It looks like worlds are going to collide for Barry sooner than he thought.
Once again, I’m impressed by how well Barry is able to balance its disparate tones. Barry’s obvious damage and earnestness makes this show affecting in an interesting way. It has me invested in the character so early and honestly worried about his well-being so much so that I appreciate the moments of levity when they come all the more. Also, in two episodes its stunning how much story work this show has done. Barry is one of the most self-assured new series I’ve ever seen, I can’t wait for casual TV fans to catch wind of it.