This Barry review contains spoilers.
Barry Season 3 Episode 2
For as complicated as people appear to be on the surface, when it boils down to it, we’re all simple creatures looking for the same thing: love. Whether from romantic interests, our families, friends, or the adoration of the outside world, most of us just want to be seen and appreciated for who we are. That said, sometimes in pursuit of that love, people do unsavory or even heinous things that make attaining that affection even harder.
It’s clear within “limonada” that all our central Barry characters are either looking for love, trying to hold onto the love they’ve found, or are left emotionally battered after the loss of love. Sally’s pursuit of acting seems driven by her past abusive relationships; she’s seeking the attention and approval of Hollywood and subsequently TV viewers to fill the gap.
Hank and Cristobal are finally experiencing their version of true love, free from norms placed on them by their hyper-masculine criminal outfits, but that world seems hellbent on splitting them apart. And Gene Cousineau finally quieted his narcissistic pursuit of acting notoriety once he found love with Detective Janice Moss, but since he’s lost her, he’s now a shell of his former self and rightfully looking to avenge her death.
But what about Barry? We know Barry is experiencing extreme side-effects of undiagnosed PTSD from his time as a Marine, but it’s obvious there were some emotional holes in our anti-hero before his time in the armed services. Why else would Barry fall victim to the machinations of Monroe Fuches, who presented himself to Barry as a paternal figure and leaned on his connection to Barry’s father? Why would Barry fall so deeply under the spell of his shiesty acting coach, who he used to replace Fuches as his emotionally supportive paternal figure?
It seems reasonable to believe that Barry suffered some sort of neglect from his parents and did not receive the proper love and support as a child. It explains why he was desperate to fit in with his peers as a Marine and his overall arrested psychological development and childlike emotional behavior. Barry is desperate for paternal love, and it’s why he cannot just kill Gene. He loves his former acting coach. That love is what leads him to throw Gene into the trunk of his car.
“limonada” is another stellar installment of Barry, one that manages to push our central character to menacing, scary places while still being laugh out loud funny. It’s such a delicate tight rope but can perfectly be seen in the moment where Barry tells a kidnapped Cousineau that he either helps him get back into acting, to convince him not to go to the police, or he kills him. Barry follows that dark proclamation by telling Cousineau that he loves him, in which Cousineau replies curtly “I appreciate that.” That sort of deadpan, black comedy continues to work even as Barry trudges further into anti-hero territory.
Barry’s big plan to get Gene back into acting starts with him going to Sally’s set and demanding that she cast her former teacher in her series. When Sally says that the casting director turned Gene down and alludes to a history of bad behavior, Barry absolutely loses his shit. It’s a genuinely frightening display of frustration and another example of the violence from Barry’s secret life exploding into his day-to-day and a sign of his stunted emotional maturity.
Barry then goes to the casting director from the Jay Roach movie he auditioned for last season and asks that she help Gene, but she confirms that Cousineau was an absolute monster when he was a working actor and basically burned bridges with all of Hollywood. However, she does offer Barry the chance to audition for popular TV show Laws of Humanity. When Barry auditions for the Laws of Humanity casting director, he again tries to land a background part for Gene but is told that Cousineau has an unsalvageable reputation.
Barry tells the man that everyone deserves a second chance, telegraphing his own struggle with Gene onto Gene’s situation. Then Barry goes on to relay his and Cousineau’s journey as teacher and student, the same story that Cousineau used earlier in the episode to try to convince Barry to let him go. He talks about the way Cousineau’s class saved his life, and his words are so moving, the casting director hires both men on the spot.
Unfortunately, when Barry goes to share the good news with Gene, he finds that he has escaped. Only Henry Winkler could add a bit of comedy to an elderly man running aimlessly, looking for anyone to help him avoid his kidnapper. After he convinces a woman on the street to call him an Uber, Barry comes driving up, and Cousineau reacts like the shark from Jaws is coming his way. However, before Barry can get close to Gene, his car is struck by another vehicle. Cousineau flees into the night, but when he finally arrives at his son’s house, he finds that Barry is already waiting for him there.
Barry shares the good news about the audition, before his tone changes. He warns Gene not to squander his second chance, because otherwise he’ll kill Gene’s son and grandson. It’s chilling stuff, made even scarier by Barry reiterating his love for Gene and making Gene say it back. When Gene returns the words to Barry, Barry instantly begins tearing up, showing the depth of his delusions. We knew that Barry was delusional before, believing he could balance life as a contract killer with an acting career, but this is a startling new layer.
Meanwhile, Sally learns that there’s a rival series in development with a similar premise but going for a much broader tone. D’Arcy Carden’s Natalie scores a big laugh by reacting excitedly to the show’s hokey marketing. The existence of a competing program means that Sally’s series will have to move up its air date, which puts more pressure on Sally. Instead of reacting directly to that news, she finds herself fixated on the earlier blowup with Barry, and she goes out of her way to provide him with his favorite meal and a new game controller.
When he calls her excitedly to tell her about his audition, she offers a genuine apology. It’s a reminder that Sally can be a thoughtful person when she surfaces from the Hollywood bubble she seems so determined to live inside. Unfortunately, Barry barely registers her effort, so consumed by his own situation. Not only is it a bit of role reversal, it’s also an effective scene in getting us interested in their relationship, because so far that’s one element of the show that has felt thin. Both parties are clearly using each other out of convenience, but this is the first time one of them has expressed genuine emotion for the other outside of their early courtship.
Sally may have bigger problems on her hand though. The young actress who works on her show is shaken up by Barry’s dramatic display of aggression. When she tries to voice those concerns, she’s met with faint moral support, but no actual action to address the situation, which feels particularly egregious considering the subject matter of Sally’s show. Barry looks to be expanding its satirical view of Hollywood beyond the superficial and taking aim at a genuine issue of on-set inappropriate behavior.
Finally, Cristobal is surprised by the appearance of Fernando, a superior member of the cartel and his father-in-law. Michael Irby hasn’t been given a ton to do as Cristobal, but he does some stellar acting here, showing his concern about Fernando’s appearance only when his face is turned away while embracing the man. Fernando’s appearance is doubly troubling; not only does Fernando want to get revenge on the Chechens, but he also poses a threat to Cristobal’s authentic, homosexual lifestyle. Knowing that it’s now become too dangerous for their relationship to continue, Cristobal abruptly warns Hank and breaks up with him, leaving the ever-chatty Hank speechless. This is likely the action needed to get Hank and Barry back on the same side.
Season 3 of Barry is off to a wonderful, if terrifying start. Barry’s behavior has never been more manic and threatening, but the show is still managing to be as funny as ever. Bill Hader also continues to be an absolute whiz behind the camera. He delivers two hilarious scenes by juxtaposing foreground and background action. It’s savvy stuff, but we shouldn’t expect anything less from this series at this point.