Barry Season 3 Episode 3 Review: Ben Mendelsohn

Barry and Gene try and fail at forgiveness in the curiously named "Ben Mendelsohn".

Sally (Sarah Goldberg) in Barry season 3 episode 3
Photo: HBO

This Barry review contains spoilers.

Barry Season 3 Episode 3

One of the best things about Barry is its runtime. At just a half hour, the typical episode of Barry packs a ton of story into its 30-minute slot. The shorter runtime allows for a brisk storytelling pace, and through two seasons, you can never excuse the series of having bloat. There are several shows that I enjoy that I think could benefit from a switch to 30-minutes. That said, “ben mendelsohn” is the perhaps the first episode of Barry that feels too short. Maybe I’m just being greedy and wishing for more of a good thing.

After last week’s truly frightening conclusion, with Barry threatening to kill Gene’s son and grandson if he doesn’t comply with Barry’s redemption plan, Gene is in hair and makeup on set with Barry, exuding big prisoner energy. Henry Winkler is a television legend, but he’s perhaps delivering the best work of his career here. On Gene’s stoic face, you can feel the anger, disbelief in Barry’s cluelessness, and even a bit of misguided guilt surging through. When it’s revealed that the showrunner has decided to give Gene a line despite their abusive past working relationship, Barry reminds Gene to be grateful and say thank you, as if he’s talking to a child. It’s the darkest of pitch black comedy.

Barry’s delusional behavior is highlighted once again when he’s trying to get Gene to rehearse lines with him. Cousineau breaks through Barry’s “everything is normal” egg shell routine by asking if Janice suffered, but Barry won’t entertain the question. He insists they have a good thing going, which is a blatantly psychotic thing to say, but something that he truly believes. Barry’s words seem to have almost no effect on Gene, who realizes that Barry’s speech from the second episode wasn’t a dramatic monologue, it was real, and had he not relayed that story to Janice, it’s possible she never would have discovered that Barry was Ryan Madison’s killer. It’s clearly unhealthy thinking, but trapped in this strange hostage situation, it’s a reasonable place for Gene’s mind to go. Barry tries to will Gene out of this semi-catonic state by reminding him that he got him a line, as if that makes up for all of the horrible things he’s done. 

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Barry finally realizes that perhaps he can’t just patch over the damage done with a simple acting role once he and Gene are ready to perform their scene. Breaking character, Gene decides to forego his line of “I forgive you,” and instead gives Barry a real-life reaction, punching him in the face and demanding that he stay away from his family. It’s clear that Gene can’t be bribed into forgetting about his love with acting roles, but how will Barry deal with him next? In the immediate aftermath, Barry looks like he’s wondering if redemption, not just for Gene but for himself, is even possible, and he calls up Hank to agree to carry out a job.

As good and twisted as Gene and Barry’s story has been, I’m really starting to get more interested in where Sally’s story is headed. Sally and Katie are stuck doing a press junket for their show, where they must endure repeated questions and inane Hollywood speculation that’s unrelated to what they’re promoting (there has to be a DoG reporter guilty of asking that Spider-Man question). It’s another fun bit of Hollywood satire, but it takes a turn once Katie is asked about Sally’s boyfriend, Barry. She unconvincingly covers for Sally, but it’s obvious that Barry’s episode 2 blow-up is going create controversy for Sally’s show. It’s only a matter of time, and I’m curious to see what the repercussions will be for both Sally and Barry.

Meanwhile, the Chechens and the Bolivians continue to circle each other as Hank and Cristobal each do their best to keep the sides apart. Hank first decides to use Fuches as a patsy, but Fuches is living a happy, simple life in Chechnya that he’s not ready to give up. Hank then mentions that Barry has forgiven him as a lie to coax Fuches back to the U.S. That lie leads Fuches to reach out to Barry and apologize, but of course, he expects an apology in return. When Barry doesn’t deliver, Fuches indignant rage toward Barry being ungrateful for the work and guidance he provided resurfaces. It looks almost certain that Fuches will return to the U.S. as a petty act to get even with Barry. Part of me wonders if the show really needs Fuches at this point, but I’m happy to be proven wrong in the upcoming episodes.

While there are still a ton of moving parts in “ben mendelsohn,” it does feel like the episode ends just as things are starting to heat up. No matter: I’ll happily take wanting more over feeling like an episode has wasted my time with filler. While Fuches reintroduction back into the mix isn’t exactly where I wanted the story to go, it’s clear that Barry must wrap up his conflict with his first father figure if he’s ever going to figure out what to do with Gene.


3.5 out of 5