‘BARRY’ IS VERY DARK AND UNCOMFORTABLY GOOD
Who knew Bill Hader could play such an evil man?
The essential qualities that makes HBO’s Barry so incredible, is that it has the perfect mix of comedy and reality. There’s a truth that the show renders that is so thoughtful yet shocking.
The series chronicles the struggles of Barry Berkman (Bill Hader), a marine veteran, turned hit-man who is having a bit of a crisis and change of heart about his occupation. It’s supposed to be a comedy so you would expect to laugh a lot but it gets very dark.
The first episode grabs the quintessential tone of the show, where in it, a man lies dead on his bed with a gun shot to his head. It’s a grotesque, brutal and even a scary scene, but Barry is un-bothered. He cleans up, gathers his things after finishing his job, and casually leaves. The sequence is jarring and strange. It’s then that viewers gain the understanding that the show is going to be grim.
To the unknowing, Barry can seem like a quirky, timid man, but he can actually be very stoic and even crass when he needs to be; given the nature of his job. A bit of that personality, and his ability to swiftly switch into a solider, is emphasized in the start of the show.
Early on, Barrie is assigned to kill Ryan Madison (Tyler Jacob Moore) because of his salacious involvement with a client who he trained. Unfortunately for Ryan though, the client ended up being the wife of Goran Pazer (Glenn Fleshler), a Chechen mob leader who was very jealous and hurt by his wife cheating on him. That’s where things get weirder.
Barry was supposed to kill Ryan as soon as possible but he gets side-tracked after following him into an acting class. His impressionable and passive personality somehow leads him into playing a part as the acting partner of his target.
Fortunately, acting ends up being the escape he needs him to be armoured him with the knowledge and confidence to realize the unethical nature of his job. It legitimizes his belief that he is a good person but not before making many criminal decisions.
The rest of the show serves to display that chasm, between his needs and wants and the reality that he is marked by his job and there’s very little he can do to escape that world.
Even still, the show is entertaining. The supporting characters in the show add comic relief and bring a little bit of lightness to the otherwise heavy show. NoHo Hank; the right-hand man of Goran (Anthony Carrigan) is fantastic and a ray of sunshine in such a dark world. Frustrating characters like Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg); Barry’s girlfriend, Goran, and even Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root); his boss, are written within hilarious contexts in such a way that viewers acquiescence to their disruptive and damaging behaviours.
While the show tells the raw and tragic story that is Barry’s life. He’s likeable because he looks and feigns normalcy in a way that make it almost understandable, given his deep yearning to be considered regular.
Since his feelings, thoughts , and even fantasies are laid bare for the viewers to absorb, his struggles are felt deeply. Yet, his natural instincts when his freedom is on the line is very disturbing and horrific.
Barry is morally compromised and it often makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience. It makes you wonder if he is really as dark as his profession calls for him to be. It triggers moments of doubts and anxious jolts about your stance or possible alignment with Barry. Is he good or bad? Or, he just misunderstood and actually a victim? This tension and internal panic is also sharp within Barry, as he toggles between being a good person while doing bad.
The series hits hard at the traditional depictions of Hit-men, who are often projected to be cool and suave in movies and even TV shows. It’s why everybody at one time or another, has fantasized about being a real-life secret agent, suits, toned body and all.
But the series shows us the unfiltered side of that fantasy; the gross and awful reality of that life that is often romanticized. It also addresses the nuances of the concepts of what a good and bad person is.
It suggests that there’s a lot of grey in the discussion about bad and evil, and proposes the idea that people can display moments of evil and still be essentially good. Or is that all a farce? We may get closer to that answer through Barry. It will be a crushing journey, but you might like it.