Cougar critique: “Barry”


“Barry” has the makings of a modern classic, a black comedy exploring deeper themes of morality, growth, trauma and the cyclical nature of violence. All actors involved are on their ‘A game,’ making the comedic moments irresistibly funny and and emotional scenes devastating. Graphic by: Hugh Murphy

Miles Newman and Hugh Murphy

HBO Max hit series, “Barry,” is entering its final season as one of the best shows on television

“Barry,” the widely acclaimed series on HBO Max, has started its fourth and final season. HBO released the first two episodes of season four on April 16, with the first episode reaching 710,000 viewers, the highest for the show since the finale of season two. 

The show was created and predominantly written by Bill Hader, a Saturday Night Live alum, who stars as the titular character. Henry Winkler has won three Emmys himself, playing Gene Cousineau, a failed actor turned acting coach.

The series follows Barry Berkman, an honorably discharged Marine turned hitman under the guidance of his father’s friend Fuches, played by Stephen Root. While following a target in Los Angeles, Berkman stumbles into an acting class led by Cousineu. Berkman becomes captivated by the art of acting and attends the class while simultaneously carrying out his hitman work. While attending the class, he meets Sally Reid, an aspiring actress who becomes Berkman’s perpetual love interest. His relationship with Reid, acting and murdering for compensation, is an impossible juggling act for Berkman, and his dysfunctional life weighs on his mental health and eventually affects his loved ones. 

Cooper Conrad ‘23 said, “I think Barry is a highly relatable character, aside from the whole hitman part. He is someone who is trying desperately to fit in and become a better person, but his previous actions keep catching up to him.”

Berkman’s main clientele is the Chechen mafia. Namely, a Chechen named NoHo Hank, played by Anthony Carrigan. Hank is a comic relief character with a depth rarely seen in the stereotype. He develops unexpected love interests and has his own plot line while coinciding with Berkman’s plot line simultaneously. Each character has singular plot lines that all coordinate with Berkman’s moral descent, each character’s journey exploring a unique facet of the modern human experience. 

The preceding seasons of “Barry” brought mass acclaim to the series, leading it to reach a prestigious 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and earning 50 television awards and 160 nominations. Graphic by: Miles Newman

Morality is a major theme in “Barry.” In a Scorsesian fashion, we as viewers simultaneously root for Berkman yet are appalled with his actions, echoing Travis Bickle of “Taxi Driver” or Henry Hill of “Goodfellas.” Berkman makes us question our own morality at times. His actions deserve personal disenfranchisement. However, his choices almost warrant understanding, which makes him difficult to hate. We, as viewers, pity Berkman. His choices are made out of desperation to stay afloat, and these choices catch up to him, and he only falls deeper into the depravity that he has created yet cannot escape from.

“Barry” also questions the ability of people to change. Every character in the show has something they are running from, a past that haunts their present and a facet of their life that they desperately want to change. The success of this change teeters back and forth throughout the show; with every triumph comes a downfall waiting around the corner. 

Liam Clemow ‘23 said, “ I want the show to continue, as it is one of my favorite shows right now, but I think four seasons is good so they don’t overdo it.”

Conrad said, “I think that the show coming to an end in season four is bittersweet. Obviously you want one of your favorite shows to continue forever, but it’s better to end when it’s good and not put a blemish on the legacy of the show by making more poor and dry seasons.”

As “Barry” enters its final season, there are many loose threads to explore and get wrapped up in the story of this world. The first three seasons have been absolutely fantastic, and it will be hard to see such a great show end its time on the air, but it is good that Hader and the other staff involved get to end the show on their own terms, not by cancellation or a repetitive dragging out that eventually kills everything that the show originally stood for. The finale will be bittersweet, a hopefully satisfying conclusion to the story, yet also the end of one of the brightest spots on current television.