I originally planned to begin with a 1,200-word comparative analysis of the morphology of donuts and beignets, how they symbolize distinct narrative modalities in the world of Barry (holes versus puffy centers). But on second thought, let’s simply accept that Barry has moved from sprinkles to powdered sugar on his deep-fried pastries and leave it at that. Why beignets figure so heavily in this episode must remain a mystery. Among many mysteries.
The use of “Beignets By Mitch” as a frivolous fulcrum in “710N” reinforced a Coen Brothers vibe that Barry has had from the beginning: the stoner-ish baker, Mitch (Tom Allen), dispensing pearls of idiot wisdom, his posture and framing frozen and unchanging. French fritters aside, the episode blended Coen-ish deadpan whimsy, Mad Max motor mayhem, and L.A. noir—without quite tipping into the surreal shocks of last season’s unforgettable semi-standalone “ronny/lily.” Instead, we got a loose and zany grab-bag that kept viewers pleasantly disoriented—until a holy-fucking-shit cliffhanger I’m still piecing together.
We’ve all been waiting for one of the principals to snuff it. But that cold open? You’re gonna ice Fuches like that? Fuches (Stephen Root) led Traci (Jolene Van Vugt), motocross star, to the spot where her dead, psycho Marine brother Taylor had envisioned a hot tub: the desolate hills outside L.A. This is where Barry, Taylor, Chris, and Vaughan tried (disastrously) to ambush Cristobal and the Bolivians when they first arrived on a private jet. Traci is accompanied by her biker posse (much less spiffy than The Righteous Gemstones’ Cycle Ninjas), one of whom shoots Fuches point blank in the chest before the gang roars away to find Barry.
Less than a minute in and I have so many questions. Do the bikers go to the address Fuches has given vengeful mourners? If so, did they encounter Sally? Why, precisely, did they shoot Fuches? How did they get the address to Nick and Jermaine’s place, where Barry has been crashing? How would they know that? And above all: Sociopathic, heavily armed motorcyclists are this obsessed about $1,700 that Fuches said Barry owed Taylor (whom Traci barely cares about) for a hot tub?
Let us pause, take a breath, and admire the monumental stupidity of the motivations in this episode of Barry. Much is arrant nonsense, but it makes for fun watching.
Albert (James Hiroyuki Liao) is still suffering the foolishness of Chief Krauss (Gary Kraus) and Detective Dunn (Sarah Burns)—but not gladly. The three connect the bombing of the Bolivians’ house (Barry’s handiwork) to the subsequent raid on the plant nursery run by the Chechen mob. So, Albert reasons, NoHo Hank was indeed the one who bombed the Bolivians. But Kraus is sticking to his theory that “The Raven” did it. “How do we know Rumpelstiltskin over here isn’t some kind of badass?” he protests, pointing at the photo of Fuches. “I mean, look at his jacket. It’s leather, and it’s cool.”
I’m really digging Liao’s gruff but sensitive work as the FBI agent who doesn’t know (yet) he’s hunting a fellow ex-Marine. But the shadow that darkens his face when he says the guy who shot up the monastery (season 2) must be “ex-military”—that’s the moment you know he’s flashing on Barry. In the next scene, Albert meets with Sharon (Karen David), the widow of Chris (whom Barry killed in season one), and he asks if she’s seen Barry lately. Sharon offers to get the vets back together. Albert can’t believe that Barry’s taking acting class. “The human ice machine?” he marvels with a laugh. Sharon calls Barry and invites him to a get-together of vets. That evening. Barry jumps at the chance to join a community that his violent past hasn’t poisoned.
The interwoven timelines in this episode left me scratching my head. Fuches had clearly been hanging out with Traci and her gang, close to L.A., pushing them closer to revenge. They shoot him. Then Fuches is rescued by the kindly Latinx farming family. He needs time to recover—weeks, at least. Fuches sees the newspaper article about Barry and Cousineau. He’s triggered by rage and steals his savior’s truck, phoning Jim Moss (Robert Ray Wisdom), father of Detective Janice Moss, to activate another revenge agent. And at some point, Fuches got to Sharon, which we realize at the very end of the episode when she drugs Barry through a beignet he brought, and snarls at him, “Die, motherfucker.”
Let’s game this out. If the biker gang shot Fuches and went straight to find Barry in L.A., how much time elapsed until they found Barry in his car and chased him up interstate 710N? Enough for Fuches to recover from his wound, drive to L.A., poison Sharon’s mind, so she drugs Barry via the beignet? And where does Albert fit into this chronology? When he meets with Sharon, has she already met Fuches, and so is planning her revenge? If so, why would she agree to involve Albert and other vets? More to the point, how did Fuches even know that Barry killed Chris? He wasn’t there, and Barry would never have confessed it.
Each episode of Barry, baroquely plotted and dependent on wild coincidence and improbable synchronies, requires suspension of disbelief, but this one felt especially WTF in its juggling of time and space. Take the way Traci and her squad found Barry. They just…kind of…found him. And then we get that kickass chase sequence. The sheer random stupidity of it, the cartoonish quality, was part of the joy. You could argue that since Traci and her goons discovered receipts from Beignets By Mitch at Jermaine and Nick’s place (where Barry is crashing), they drove there, and since Barry was leaving (after picking up a bag of beignets for Sharon’s party), that’s how they found him in his car? Again, grotesquely dumb motivations and stupefying serendipity ruled.
As for Sally and Cousineau, things are going better for them than for Barry. Sally (Sarah Goldberg) and Lindsay (Jessy Hodges) attend a meeting with BanShe executive Morgan Dawn-Cherry (SNL alum Vanessa Bayer) that devolves into sub-verbal grunts and whines and mugging as they try to communicate how the network wants Sally to show-doctor The New Medusas. Cousineau (Henry Winkler) got an offer to star in a new TV series. He goes straight to Annie Eisner (Laura San Giacomo), a stage director and ex-lover whose career he destroyed. Cousineau, clearly serious about making amends for past misdeeds, offers Annie all the profits for the new TV show, if she directs.
These subplots pale in comparison to the insanely cool highway chase that Barry gets into with the motocross maniacs, which culminates in a shootout at Kleintop’s Used Cars, where a valiant salesman (Bob Turton) with marital problems saves his customers by blowing away Traci, who had driven her bike atop the building and begun strafing (again, why?!?) the crowd. Barry calmly walks away with his bag of beignets, humming a song, on his way to a party where he will be poisoned by the wife of a man he killed. Next time, cupcakes?
- The utter Los Angelosity of Duffy Boudreau’s dialogue is impressive: “I used to be a baker at this kickass churro shop in Eagle Rock,” Mitch drawls. “It was cushy as fuck. I coulda rode that shit forever. But I knew I had to level up to beignets.”
- Nick’s vocal foleys for Jermaine’s story are gloriously awful.
- Barry’s loud dictated email to Sally in a clothing store goes off the rails: “This looks nice and it’s forty percent off. Anyway, I don’t think I’m going to do acting anymore. I found a new community with my Marine friends. I’m trying to move forward by going into the past like Marty McFly LOL. Sir you’re talking too loud. Shit I’m sorry just please be quacky shame Jonas Brothers ha ha fresh. Sally I understand if you do not want to talk to me again I will five you spaceship riddle teeth in the sunshine.”
- For the moment when Fuches recovers with the farming family, David Wingo writes wonderful mock-pompous music with inspirational strings and Copland-like open chords.
- Barry’s self-soothing song goes, “You’re my buddy, you’re my friend.” Far as I can tell, it’s “It’s You” from Xavier Riddle And The Secret Museum.
- Stunt Coordinator Wade Allen deserves extra beignets for his ace work on the chase scene, with bikers crashing through windshields, slamming into and flying over cars, and whooshing between long lines of traffic.
- Variety headline about Cousineau and Barry: “Former Toxic-Manchild Helps Save Vet’s Life Through Acting”