On the surface level the fifth episode of Barry (Bill Hader) was nothing like anything we’d seen before in the series, as Bill Hader’s lead was tasked with the murder of cop Loach’s ex-wife’s new boyfriend Ronny (Daniel Bernhardt), but after entering his house he explains that he doesn’t want to go ahead with the killing and instead just make it looks like he’d ended his life, with Ronny instead moving to Chicago for a year presumably while Barry talked Loach round or murdered him instead.
After it seems that Ronny is happy to go along with Barry’s plan he slowly begins to pack in a stoned fugue state, but after they walk in to his living room it’s revealed that Ronny’s a Taekwondo Master and he (eventually) starts beating the piss and shit out of Barry, it was a beautifully tense and directed scene by Hader himself, who also co-wrote the episode with producer Alec Berg. It went on to become even more violent after when Barry thought he’d killed Ronny the latter’s daughter Lily (Jessie Giacomazzi) came home and proved to be an almost superhuman feral beast, leaping all over the place and stabbing Barry in the back. When she ran from the building Barry was left in a reasonably fucked up place, only for Fuches to demand that he kill the kid, but it wasn’t long before that went terribly wrong (with Barry and Fuches’ shock at Lily’s abilities providing much mirth), Ronny turned out to be alive and bullets were flying all over the place.
For a series which has always felt like it’s set in a very real, genuine and believable world it was odd for the show to become so strange, Lily’s actions were just about possible but only if she had been freakishly talented and trained from when she was about three days old, but Ronny’s return from a presumed death and ability to walk around after being shot through the face by Loach stretched the piece to breaking point, and possibly past that. Right now it will depend on the direction it takes after this episode as to how effective it was, but also something of an issue is that while watching such madness it felt like a thrillingly deranged and very darkly funny piece of comedy unfortunately I’m not convinced it stands up to scrutiny.
This is largely due to the fact that both Barry and Fuches (Stephen Root) acted quite out of character, and made a lot of mistakes that surely two professionals would never make. Barry walked in to the house without a weapon and okay, he’s a highly trained killer and ex-marine but Ronny could easily have had a gun of his own, and after the fight with both father and daughter a lot of Barry’s blood would have been left on the scene, most glaringly on the knife he was repeatedly stabbed with. This can be explained by Barry being in enormous pain but he’s never made mistakes like that before, and even worse is their decision to go to a supermarket in broad daylight to pick up the tools needed to stitch Barry up, by this point in the careers why they didn’t have a dodgy doctor (or vet, as often seems to be the case with this sort of thing) on hand to help out seemed inexplicable, and at the very least Hank (Anthony Carrigan) would presumably know of such a person.
All of that can perhaps be forgiven as the episode ended minute’s after Loach’s death, but if the episode doesn’t have enormous repercussions for Barry and Fuches it’s going to be a frustrating situation. In the final fight in the supermarket there’d be a ridiculous amount of cctv footage which would show Barry being attacked and then later Loach attempting to shoot him, and this along with an employee taking a good long look at him should mean he’ll have to get out of town asap. Fuches should also be in the same situation as there’ll be video of Barry leaving his car to enter the store, so they should have his licence plate on file too, and that doesn’t even bring in to the fact that Lily bit a big chunk out of his face off and stared at them both for several hours from the top of the roof.
It’s slightly annoying as I wanted to praise this episode to the high heavens, it really was like nothing I’ve seen before and as previously mentioned the direction was masterful, the performances from both Root and Hader were the best they’ve yet been, and it was a weird, strange incident that was incredibly memorable. But it’s too easy to pick out glaring mistakes in the writing of it, and the decisions the characters made, so I found it quite unsatisfying. Hopefully this will be remedied in the next episode though, which is why I’ve not posted this review straight after watching the show and am waiting to see what they do with the next episode.
After writing the above last week I really hoped I’d be proven wrong, that I’d be beginning this piece with the sentence “I’m a fucking idiot, why didn’t I have more faith?” but frustratingly that’s not the case for once. After last week’s quite epic episode everything was wrapped up with alarming ease, within the opening couple of minutes we’d been treated to a brief news conference where the cops explained that this was a private matter between Loach and Ronny that had got out of hand, Barry was seen stealing Loach’s files and then it was a return to normality and the acting class and all that.
With a little bit of exposition I wouldn’t have these concerns either, there could have been a throw away scene with Barry creeping back in to the store to steal the cctv footage and a shot of him burning down Ronny’s house, while at the news conference they might have mentioned how the daughter was now out of state being looked after by relatives and that would have been that. It would still have been admittedly a stretch to believe that Barry and Fuches had got away with everything but it would have been enough for me not to be irritated with the show.
Alas that’s not the case though, as mentioned in the review of episode 5 above the police would have undoubtedly checked the cctv footage and seen not only Barry and Ronny fighting but also Logan shooting at him, and the blood on the knife at Ronny’s house along with his daughter’s testimony would have complicated the situation no end. For them not to address this is poor writing, and incredibly lazy at that. Perhaps it will be picked up upon at a later date but right now it’s just not good enough, and it reduces the impact of the previous episode a great deal.
As for the episode itself, well, if you can ignore what came before it was a fairly decent one. There was lots of plot, what with Barry once again telling Fuches he was done with him only for the latter to refuse to take no for an answer (ah, when will Barry learn) and after a misguided romp in the woods he finally managed to track down Janice’s car (and possibly her body) which he’ll either use to blackmail Barry or ruin his life. Hank’s life also got far more complicated as after a training session in the desert he announced his plan to take out Esther and her gang at the monastery only for that to go terribly wrong (and is another reason why you can never trust accordion players) and Barry drew on his memories of murder to enhance his performance with Sally (Sarah Goldberg) in the new version of her play based on her abusive boyfriend.
Despite being such a mess the episode was quite funny at times, the dark irony of Gene congratulating Barry on a performance that was so good only because of Janice’s death was bleakly amusing, Hank as ever was great value and the bizarre thank you ceremony he gave Barry made me laugh, Stephen Root’s always superb at physical comedy so it was amusing to see him mess about and cause himself misery, and Gene got the best lines of the episode when reassuring Barry “Of course I will. I’ll always be there for you. As long as I’m out of here in seven minutes” and then rushing off as “I am so late for my escape room”.
Without the events of episode 5 it would have been a reasonably likeable episode, but after such a bizarre and unusual piece of television it felt like a far lesser work, and when you throw in the lack of repercussions, an oddly hollow one. I’ve had my doubts before, after killing Janice I was concerned that it’d be difficult to find Barry sympathetic ever again, so I hope I’m wrong, I hope it’s a plot strand they return to at a later date, but if they don’t it’ll be a huge misstep and will make the series feel far less believable, and that’s a major issue given how much time they’ve spent making it such a thing.
Our review of Barry Season 2 Episode 1.