Barry Season 2 Episode 1 Review: The Show Must Go On, Probably?

HBO's breakout hit Barry returns, setting up its central conflicts for Season 2 with shocking efficiency. Read our review!

Bill Hader stars as Barry

This Barry review contains spoilers.

Barry Season 2 Episode 1

Barry, Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s hitman comedy for HBO, burst onto TV screens last year like a pinpoint shot from a high-powered sniper rifle, shooting to kill. The series was universally acclaimed, widely touted by critics as the best new show of 2018, and for good reason: Barry was a fully-formed thrill ride, taking the bones of Grosse Pointe Blank and infusing them with the moral quandaries, existential ennui, and downbeat, spirit-sucking compromises of Better Call Saul. Add in a pinch of potent Hollywood satire and a roster of scene stealing character actors, like Emmy-award winning Henry Winkler and Gotham’s Anthony Carrigan, and Barry was as sure to kill as the titular hitman turned wanna-be actor himself.

With that much praise heaped onto a freshman outing, creating the second season of Barry couldn’t have been an easy task for Hader and Berg, but the first episode of Barry Season 2, “The Show Must Go On, Probably?” (that title had to feel a bit meta for the creators) succeeds by doing what the pilot did so well; setting up central conflicts, establishing character, going deep, and providing genuine laughs. In a jam-packed half hour, Fuches is in hot water, Gene is in crisis, Hank has a new adversary, Sally is still as self-absorbed as ever, and Barry has a new Burmese mark while his Facebook page once again puts him in harm’s way. It’s shockingly efficient while still sparing time for emotional character work.

We don’t join back up with the show immediately after last season’s cliffhanger, after Barry murdered (or didn’t?) Detective Janice Moss in the woods, instead picking things up a few weeks after her “disappearance.” Gene, too distraught over Janice, has been absent from rehearsals for The Front Page and Barry is trying to rally the troops in his stead. Trying to soldier ahead while everyone is still emotionally dealing with the fallout from his actions is exactly the type of thing that the Barry we know would do. His complete inability to pick up on social cues and his lack of remorse, either out of self-protection or something worse, has him saying things like “who died?” out loud amongst his downtrodden troupe of actors before realizing his error. Barry has found a purpose, a new life, and a safe place to work out his issues, and he isn’t going to let Moss’ death or her lingering memory ruin that.

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Barry tries, in his own completely cold, unhelpful way, to get Gene to refocus his energy on his work to heal. He suggests that Gene use the space in the theater to talk about his feelings, but Gene rejects the premise, saying that it would be too hurtful and then compares talking about his grief to Barry discussing the first time he killed a man. This leads to Barry telling the story to everyone in the class while Sahsa (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and Nick (Rightor Doyle) act out Barry’s story alongside him. This is the first time that Barry flashes back to Barry’s actual experience in the military, and the juxtaposition of what Barry’s first kill was like compared to how his classmates perceive how that moment would have felt is like the first layer of the onion being pulled back on why Barry is the way that he is. Barry’s first kill lead to him feeling accepted, he beamed as watched his peers celebrate his display of manly aggression. The moment is enough to convince Gene to continue the class.

Afterward, shaken from reliving the memory and noticing how his experience feels at odds with how the others imagined it to be, Barry turns to Sally for comfort. While she’s relieved that Barry saved the class and is happy to find him bringing down his wall, she hilariously blows him off and promises that she’ll “find a window” to be there for him. This scene, coupled with an earlier moment when Sally just can’t help but relate a personal experience with what Barry’s going through, proves that Barry is seriously blind to Sally’s self-centered nature and totally cruising toward heartbreak by tying his happiness to someone who is so narcissistic.

However, Barry may have bigger problems than dealing with an absent girlfriend. After Fuches’ new employee royally screws up and gets Fuches landed in custody, his DNA is matched with a tooth that was found in Goran’s garage. Fuches location in Cleveland leads Detective Loach to do some digging, and his Facebook reminds him that Barry is also from Cleveland. A look at the grainy footage from the Barry pilot allows Loache to finally connect the same dots that Moss connected. Barry might end up regretting letting Fuches live.

Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite cheery Chechen gangster Noho Hank is the happiest he’s ever been in his new arrangement with the Bolivians until Cristobal, “baby Tony Robbins,” alerts Hank of his plans to cut in the Burmese and their boss Ester. Ester has a set-up where, under the guise of religious freedom, she can smuggle anything into the country, such as heroin. The Bolivians are going to allow the Burmese to share their stash house in exchange for a team of smugglers and assassins. Hank doesn’t like his new partner, and he especially doesn’t like receiving a bullet in the mail from his family back home, who demand to know who’s responsible for Goran’s death. Wanting to protect Barry for God knows what reason, Hank thinks quickly and tells him family that Ester was responsible. He then asks Barry to murder Ester in exchange for having saved Barry’s life. Initially, Barry violently rejects Hank’s ask, calling him a “fucking idiot” in the process. When Hank arrives unceremoniously after acting class to ask again, it’s a dark side of the character that we haven’t seen before, one that takes umbrage with being called an idiot. Sensing the drastic shift in Hank and his seriousness, Barry agrees.

The season finale of Barry’s first outing was satisfying and complete enough to serve as a series finale, but here, Barry resets the table effortlessly, introducing new threats and shades to characters while still having a masterful hold over the show’s disparate tone. I haven’t anticipated the return of a show this much in quite some time, and thankfully, Barry delivers from the episode’s very first moments. If things got heavy and complicated for Barry last year, then by the looks of it, he better buckle up.

Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.

Rating:

4 out of 5