“Barry” has taken chances from the get-go, and that’s certainly true for the fourth and final season picking up where the third left off, with the killer actor-turned-wannabe caught. That sets the stage for a darker season that brings out the side of the pack while leaning a little too hard on blurred lines with flights of fancy.
Thanks to Succession, not only will “Barry” be the highest-profile send-off on HBO this spring, but the Emmy-nominated series isn’t cutting its liver either. It’s fair to say, in fact, that while these episodes don’t quite measure up to what’s come before, the less deadly “Barry” is still very good.
Bill Hader’s creator-turned-director-producer-star remains one of TV’s most unpredictable series, and the new season has a strong “Better Call Saul” vibe, stemming from the repercussions of the seemingly inescapable fact that Hader’s Barry just couldn’t keep up. on his counterpart. Double life forever.
The aftermath of his arrest runs on both sides of that equation, from his acting mentor Gene Cosino (played by Henry Winkler, still a hulking mix of ego and neediness) and his girlfriend Sally (Sarah Goldberg) to the con artists’ gallery of petty criminals in his orbit, including Fuches (Stephen Root). and NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan), who improbably finds love during his travels, while somehow turning “Barry” into a four-syllable name.
Barry has always grappled with the discomfort of having a hero kill people, and the issue of sympathy for his namesake becomes particularly acute in these episodes with the character in prison. When Barry asks, “Are you mad at me?” With an almost childlike naiveté, it’s easy to forget, at least momentarily, some of the horrible things he’s done, even if vengeful-minded Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom) can’t.
Hader (who directed every episode) also excels in the darkly comical visual gags, which are augmented in the new season with a few hysterical cameos by actual Hollywood figures, director Guillermo del Toro among them, made even more hilarious by how random they seem.
However, the show’s surreal digressions and drifts into fantasy become more distracting, in a way that feels very precious at times. The saving grace, consistently, is the strength of the actors, even if imprisonment creates barriers to their interaction.
HBO has made most of the season available but not all of it, and the series is effectively keeping audiences guessing where it will end up, and how (or if) its various series will proceed.
The possibility of a happy ending for everyone in “Barry”-Land never seemed to be on the cards, but Hader and co-creator Alec Berg seem determined to get out on their own terms, even though that can be (mostly) well and sporadically frustrating. He is. That’s why it’s hard to get mad at a show that took such strong creative risks, even with a season that wasn’t quite as cold-blooded as it was.
“Barry” premieres its fourth and final season April 14 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Television. Discovery.