This Barry review contains spoilers.
Barry Season 2 Episode 5
In a week filled with Avengers: Endgame and THAT episode of Game of Thrones, who would have thought that Barry would secretly be the most impressive piece of media released? “ronny/lily” is an absolute knockout of an episode; suspenseful, surreal, and darkly hilarious. It’s probably the best thing the series has delivered since the game-changing “Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast and Keep Going,” where Barry was forced to kill his friend Chris.
In my review after that episode, I wrote “It’s clear that Barry isn’t just one of the best new series on television, it’s in conversation as one of the best shows on TV period,” but now Barry has set its sights further than just currently “on TV.” “ronny/lily” ranks among the finest half-hours of TV in recent memory, a spiritual sibling to The Sopranos’ “Pine Barrens,” yet one that stays locked in on our hapless Christopher and Paulie surrogates, Barry and Fuches, instead of cutting away to less interesting subplots. And maybe it’s because Bill Hader and company have worked so closely with Hiro Murai, but Atlanta’s bizarre surrealist bent seeps into “ronny/lily” as well.
The most staggering aspect of this instant classic is the direction. In what seems like an impossibly short amount of time, Hader has proven that he’s just as skilled behind the camera as in front of it. The long takes without cuts, the inventive camera placement, and the brilliantly staged fights prove that Hader is more than capable of making a Jordan Peele-like jump from a comedic actor to a critically and commercially successful film director whenever he decides the time is right. It’s not just the direction; the quietness of the episode helps heighten the tension and the production design of Ronny’s house also cleverly adds to the suspense. The Tae Kwon Do memorabilia is an obvious sight gag that lets you know that a fight is coming, but the subtle board games on the shelves and the photos on the walls tell you to expect Ronny’s daughter Lily at any time too.
The whole episode is an exercise in suspense, a pitch-black slapstick routine in a series where consequences for mistakes are painfully real. You laugh when you hear Ronny wheezing an aisle away in the supermarket why LeAnne Rimes’ “How Do I Live?” plays, but you’re just as worried as Barry about the scuffle attracting police. Barry’s stab wounds from the “feral mongoose” Lily make you concerned about Barry’s well-being, but Fuches’ lack of urgency and his unfortunate super glue use keep you giggling through your clenched teeth. Lily herself, described as “a little gargoyle” and “not human,” is the strange little touch that drives much of the comedy, and seeing as the episode ends with her still out their prowling the streets means that we could see the savage little warrior again.
Really, the plot of this episode is pretty bare bones for Barry, which has been spending more time stretching its focus to our other supporting characters like Gene and Sally. Here, we simply follow Barry after a botched hit, not the first of this series but certainly the most memorable. The climactic ending, which finds both Ronny and Detective Loach dead, could help close the case on last season’s Detective Moss story, but I’m sure the grocery store surveillance will lead to Loach’s over-enthusiastic partner Detective Mae being the new lawman on Barry’s tail. Really, my only complaint with the episode was the ease with which Barry escapes the store, but the episode ends before we know whether he makes it out of the parking lot.
“ronny/lily” is just an absolute barn-burner, the kind of episode that you watch the majority of on the edge of your seat with your mouth wide open. Barry Season 2 has been a steady improvement on an already stellar first season, and here the season’s first prestige TV canon-worthy installment. Forget about the Battle of Winterfell, I want to re-watch the supermarket scuffle.
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.