This episode of Barry contains spoilers.
Barry Episode 8
Barry was very close to being Eric. Bill Hader’s original idea for a series pitch to HBO centered around a character based on a friend from high school back in Hader’s native Oklahoma, Eric Singleton, the same friend that inspired Hader’s character in Hot Rod. Though it undoubtedly could have become a funny series, imbued with ultra-specific jokes and references informed by Hader’s experiences growing up, he ultimately decided to abandon the premise because it lacked stakes.
Thank god we dodged Eric. “Lacking stakes” is not how any sane person would describe Barry. Filled with humor, pathos, and tension, Barry was quickly able to establish dramatic stakes with an inventive hitman story that took the bones of Grosse Pointe Blank and infused them with the moral quandaries, existential ennui, and downbeat, spirit-sucking compromises of Better Call Saul.
Just like Jimmy McGill, Barry is a man who tries to be a good person, but keeps getting forcibly dragged back into a world of crime, a world he just happens to excel in. And also, just like that series, Barry was able to establish itself as confident, emotionally affecting, and satisfyingly cinematic series from the very first episode. It’s so rare that a show is this fully-formed and highly functional right out of the gate, but Barry arrived and finished its first season with a firm grasp on its characters and wildly disparate tone, telling a story that became more engrossing as it plunged deeper into the heart of darkness.
“Chapter Eight: Know Your Truth” is the prototypical season finale executed with the precision of a Barry hit; it wraps up its storylines while sowing seeds and adding complications that will reset the status quo when the series returns for year two. Still, even with the threads it leaves for a follow-up installment, this episode could have easily functioned as a series finale, as it shows us what a happy ending for Barry might have looked like before the whole thing comes crashing down.
The episode begins in the immediate aftermath of last week’s episode, with Barry returning bleary eyed to his hotel room. He forcibly lets Fuches know that he’s officially done with the hitman business. Between blows to the face, Fuches informs Barry that the Chechens want them both dead, but Barry couldn’t care less. Being the weasel that he is, Fuches immediately tries to turn on Barry, trying to save his own skin by going to the Chechens to offer his help in getting rid of their real problem and loose end, Barry. But Goran and co. don’t need Fuches’ help; they are already well aware that they can find Barry at the acting class and decide that Fuches’ usefulness has ended.
Stephen Root has made a meal out of Fuches, simultaneously presenting him as a wacky ne’er-do-well and intimidating, manipulative antagonist. The fact that Root can easily switch back and forth, many times within the same scene, and still make this feel like a consistent character is impressive work. Fuches cries and begs for his life once again, and after a silly fake out involving an ill-timed torture-based construction project, Barry begrudgingly rescues him, killing Goran and several other Chechens in the process. NoHo Hank, who earlier in the episode is chastised for his polite nature, survives and takes the living Chechens to join forces with the equally distinguished Cristobal. It’s assumed that Hank’s weird affection for Barry keeps him from retaliating.
When the police arrive at Goran’s with a warrant but find him and several others dead, they quickly pin things on the Bolivians, because Barry was sure to fire his killshots from a low vantage point to suggest that someone short carried out the murders. They hold a press conference, linking Ryan, Taylor, and all the other principle players save Barry, which wraps a bow on the case and ends suspicion with Barry. Still, Barry aims to leave town and heads to the acting class’ normal hangout to say his goodbyes. His best performance was spurned by visiting incredibly painful memories, and he isn’t sure if he wants to access that place again. However, once Barry starts talking to Sally and she compliments his acting and suggests that they work together on a play, Barry is sucked right back in. The fact that someone recognizes worth in Barry other than his ability to kill is enough to keep him rapt.
We then jump ahead into the future, where Barry seems to be living one of his day dreams. He and Sally are peacefully practicing lines at a lake house, looking happy and comfortable. We then learn that the couple are on a weekend getaway with another tandem, Cousineau and Moss. Things seem pleasant and normal until Moss recognizes on the poster for Barry and Sally’s show that he uses Barry Block as a stage name. Then, when Moss questions Barry about his intentions with acting, Cousineau brings up his “audition monologue” talking about his moving speech about being a regretful hitman. A midnight Facebook search reveals the connection between Barry, Chris, and Taylor, then one last look at the recording of the original Chechen killing proves that Barry was her suspect all along.
The final confrontation between Barry and Moss is heartbreaking while also being unnervingly suspenseful. We know that Barry has the skills to get out of this jam, we also know that he’d really rather not have to kill again, so we hope along with Barry that his pleading to Moss that she forgets all of this and walks away actually works. Both Barry and Moss are visibly torn between not wanting to go through with something incredibly difficult but knowing that they must. Hader’s work in this scene rivals that monologue from the premiere, hitting even harder when you see his eyes change from begging determination to regretful submission to what must be done, just like when he decided to murder Chris. The ending implicates that Barry kills Moss, and the fallout is sure to fuel the main conflict of Season 2.
With such a quiet, powerful ending, “Chapter Eight: Know Your Truth” had me lingering in my seat long after the credits rolled completely stunned by the excellence of Barry’s first season. Deeply human, funny, and surprising, Barry is more ambitious and surehanded than any comedy in the last ten years, barring only The Good Place and Bojack Horseman. “I’m a good guy,” Barry says to Moss in their final moments together, but he’s trying to convince her as much as he’s trying to convince himself. Barry can’t restart his plight to be a new man after irredeemable murders like he’s rehearsing for the part, this is who he is and it’s bound to catch up with him.