(Episodes viewed for review: 1-7)
Bill Hader is widely known for his comedy sketches as voice roles, but people are yet to recognize his creative excellence. He created Barry along with Alec Berg, a dark comedy in which he also stars, writes and directs. Barry has gone under the radar for several years. It premiered in 2018 to positive reception and we were introduced to the hitman-turned-actor Barry Berkman (played by Hader). Bill Hader won back-to-back Emmys for Outstanding lead actor in a comedy series for his performance in both season 1 and season 2 of the show. Since then, Barry has become a critical darling and an underrated gem.
5 years after premiering, the HBO original is finally coming to an end. Bill Hader took the responsibility of directing all 8 episodes himself this time. Season 3 ended on a cliffhanger with Barry getting caught by the authorities in a trap set by his acting teacher Gene Cousineau (played by Henry Winkler), who had become a father figure for him. We start the season with him in prison, as he finds himself in yet another impossible situation. Barry has been consistently perfecting the dark comedy tone in its previous seasons, but this season is arguably the darkest it’s ever been, with humorous moments sprinkled around.
Right from the start of the season, there is a feeling that all of Barry’s relationships are falling apart as Sally (played by Sarah Goldberg) leaves him, Mr. Cousineau betrays him, and he is definitely not on good terms with Fuches (played by Stephen Root) and Noho Hank (played by Anthony Carrigan). The writers do a very good job in utilizing all the layers of the complex yet compelling characters that they have created and make sure to engage the viewers and keep them interested. The story often goes into very dark places in this season and it can also be very emotional. The morality aspect that the story deals with is also sublime, as arguably all characters in this show are grey.
The direction has always been one of the highlights of the show, but this season takes it to another level. Bill Hader had complete authority in this department this season and he flourishes with creative camera work and some breathtaking shots. He seamlessly captures exactly what the character is feeling and creates an impactful narrative. The editing also ensures that the pacing is consistent and void of any unnecessary fat. Throughout the season, I was in complete awe of how this season has been shot and put together.
The performances are absolutely stunning, from the entire cast. Hader and Root were the standouts for me this season, but everyone has moments where they steal their scenes. It also significantly lifts the emotional scenes when you have such a talented cast in front of the camera. You won’t see many comedy series with a better ensemble than Barry. The season also gives us a deeper look into what these characters are capable of when their backs are against the wall. It may be a dark comedy, but this season feels more like a harrowing tragedy. The twists are also unpredictable and the constant tension building has set things up nicely for a rollercoaster of a finale.
Barry season four is as captivating, agonizing and emotional as ever with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. It is supremely shot, written and performed. This season raises the bar of storytelling from the three previous seasons which were fantastic themselves. This show is an absolutely high-quality experience, with each scene meant to be savored. The stage is set for it to cement is place as one of the greatest shows of the century.
Barry will premiere on HBO on April 16, with subsequent episodes airing weekly till the finale on May 28.