This Barry review contains spoilers.
Barry Season 2 Episode 8
It sounds trite, but the truth is complicated. We all like to consider ourselves honest people, good people, but when push comes to shove, do we always do the right thing? The honest thing? Or is the path of least resistance too alluring? Season 2 of Barry has been all about being honest with yourself, and in the finale, “berkman/block,” while some of our main characters get brutally honest with themselves, others can’t escape the comfort of the lie.
“berkman/block” is an intense episode right from the get-go, with Barry racing to find Fuches and Gene before something terrible happens. Thankfully for Barry, Fuches doesn’t have the stomach to kill and flees the scene of Moss’ murder once he hears police sirens nearby. Finally processing the impact of his actions, Barry looks on in a horrified stupor as Gene lies collapsed gazing into the trunk of Moss’ car. Barry and Gene are both taken into custody by the police, but after a brief probe, Barry is free to go. The police have a confession from “Gene” delivered on his phone, and with no “Goluet” character in sight, Moss’ case appears open and shut.
Barry is rightfully furious at Fuches and decides to hunt him down and enact revenge, but that’s what a violent person would do: continue a circle of violence. Fuches may be a shitbird, but he’s right in telling Barry that if he wants to do right by Gene and get him out of police custody, he can turn himself in. Barry, with the help of Gene, has been trying to convince himself that he’s not a violent person, but faced with a difficult situation, a violent revenge mission is his first reaction. He has the choice to choose the truth instead and fess up to Moss’ murder, which would also be a major first step in proving himself to be capable of change, but instead, Barry chooses violence.
Meanwhile, Hank has to deal with the fallout from his own moment of honesty. After declaring himself a nice guy and not a hardened gangster, he has to try to reassert himself to his men after they’ve clearly tossed him aside as their leader. While the Chechen’s prepare for an assault from the Burmese and Bolivians, Hank gets a call from a superior in the Chechen mafia who informs him that he’s on the way from Ontario to relieve Hank of his duties. Suddenly, Fuches arrives looking for backup against Barry and inserts himself into the warring crews’ struggle. Speaking honestly about his situation with Barry through the lens of Hank and Cristobal’s relationship, Fuches is somehow able to convince Cristobal that he and Hank are a great team that should put their differences aside. It turns out that Hank’s polite, jovial nature is exactly why he and Cristobal worked so well as partners. Embracing his true self and hugging it out with Cristobal is all it takes for Hank to avoid a firefight.
Elsewhere, Sally prepares for the acting showcase and tries not to let nerves rattle her. When Barry arrives at the new auditorium, she snaps on him when he comments on the size of the space and all of the seats in the house, likely because she’s trying to keep those details out of mind. While happy that her candid scene finally allowed the others in the class to stop treating the scene exercise as a form of competitive grief, Sally loses her resolve after discovering that her agent is visibly worried about the performance.
On stage with Barry, Sally pulls an audible and reverts to the original version of her scene, an untrue depiction of her forcefully standing up to her abuser, a scene that communicates that domestic violence was the catalyst for transforming Sally into a “strong woman,” the same sentiment that was expressed and roundly criticized by fellow HBO program Game of Thrones recently. After the performance, Sally is ashamed of herself and begins receiving praise that echoes the exact things that she recoiled from in her meeting with Aaron Ryan. However, the praise is uniform and overwhelming, and Sally can’t help but bottle her true feelings and roll with it.
Finally, Gene is freed from prison after the police discover the Chechen pin that Hank gave Barry in the trunk of Moss’ car, which must have fallen off when Barry forcefully closed the trunk. Barry learns this in a phone call with Gene’s son, where he identifies himself as Barry Block, then clarifies that it’s Barry Berkman. It’s a subtle thing, but it seems to communicate that Barry is resigning himself to life as Barry Berkman, the violent hitman, and not Barry Block, the growing actor, despite signing off the call with the statement that people can change. Barry’s being honest with himself, but it’s not a moment of celebration. Barry then storms the Burmese monastery and goes completely scorched earth. It’s an ugly, frightening, and ultimately heartbreaking scene, as Barry gives into his pain and worst impulses and blows away several men, including Esther and his star pupil Mayrbek. The carnage is ultimately futile, as Fuches is able to escape. In the aftermath, Hank’s new Chechen boss arrives on the scene, signaling that we may a new heavy for Season 3.
Still, that’s not the real cliffhanger. We return one final time to Gene as he cozies up at home and begins processing the day’s events. He remembers Janice warmly before the image of her in the trunk creeps into his head. He then recalls what Fuches said to him before fleeing the woods: “Barry Berkman did this.” The revelation causes Gene to jolt upright in his bed, completely astounded by the reveal, something that makes so much sense in retrospect.
Though the episode is quite heavy, several jokes help to ease the tension, like Hank’s Fleetwood Mac reference or Sasha’s horse story from the acting showcase, where she glosses over some very real personal tragedy. On the directing side, Bill Hader once again dazzles, be it with the long tracking shot back stage at the acting showcase or the staging of Barry’s monastery slaughter. The image of Barry framed in the middle of the shot as he begins to make his way down a newly darkened hallway sticks in your head after the credits roll. Behind the scenes and in front of the camera, Hader is executing at the highest level, threading a tricky tonal needle and delivering a dynamic, devastating performance. It’s truly stunning stuff.
Barry has now lost both of his father figures and will enter next season more broken than when we found him. Though not as explosive as the Season 1 finale, “berkman/block” is a more satisfying on a thematic level and an exquisite finish to a phenomenal sophomore outing. Series creators Hader and Alec Berg have said that they like to write themselves into corners and try to find their way out, and now with Gene knowing Barry’s dark secret, they better get to work on navigating this particularly tricky corner. If everything that’s come before is any indication, they’ll work it out.
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.