Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Barry tries (and fails) to take charge of his life

Bill Hader and Sarah Goldberg in Barry
Bill Hader and Sarah Goldberg in Barry
Image: John P. Johnson (HBO)

For the past three episodes, Barry has tried to run from his past, but, predictably, his past keeps catching up to him. He tried to wiggle his way out of killing Ryan Madison only to end up in a position where he kills a car full of Chechens. He tried to leave the hitman business behind only to be forced to kill Paco, the Chechens’ informant into the Bolivian gang, because Fuches’ life was in danger. But after Barry killed Paco, it seems like all the loose ends had been tied up. The Chechens let Fuches go, Fuches returns to Ohio, and Barry stays in Los Angeles where he’ll continue to take Gene’s class and explore his new relationship with Sally. Maybe Barry and Sally will fall in love. Maybe they’ll get married one day. Maybe they’ll buy a giant house and host a big cook out and invite all their friends. Maybe Jon Hamm will be there and ask to take a shit in one of their five guest rooms.


Of course, Barry couldn’t foresee Fuches making a deal with the Chechen mob to help raid a Bolivian stash house, but even if he could, it’s not clear he would stand up for his beliefs. When Barry performs Alec Baldwin’s monologue from Glengarry Glen Ross for class, he hilariously misinterprets the tone of the speech and offers a genial, encouraging interpretation of the famous scene. This prompts Gene to read Barry the riot act about his passive approach to the craft, correctly diagnosing that he’s deferential to everyone else on stage, rendering him effectively invisible. This makes sense considering a good hitman should be neither seen nor heard, but it’s not a great approach to acting, let alone life. “Barry, do you ever ask for what you need?” Gene barks at him. “Or do you just quietly feel shame at your own desires while sadly doing the bidding of others?”

By the end of class, Barry is motivated to confront Fuches and tells him that he’s done working with him. He buys a new outfit from J. Crew (straight off the mannequin) and a new MacBook Pro for Sally because he noticed her laptop screen was cracked. He heads to Natalie’s house party with a newfound confidence, believing that he has finally left his old life behind and that he’s free to pursue his own dreams.

Obviously, this backfires, but it’s interesting to see how Barry’s attempts to regain control over his life clashes with the desires of others. First, there’s Fuches, who has a vested financial interest in continuing to manipulate and threaten Barry to keep working for him. Fuches shows up to Natalie’s party uninvited to gently blackmail Barry into taking the stash house job or else he’ll inform his acting class about his “real life.” Though it’s unclear if the rest of the class would believe such a story, or whether the reveal would also put Fuches in danger, it scares Barry enough to take the job. Just a mere mention of Barry’s hitman life places him back into that shameful corner from which he had just escaped.

Then, there’s Sally, who isn’t remotely prepared for Barry’s forward, overbearing behavior when he arrives at Natalie’s party. Sally views Barry as just a fun fling, a different sort of guy who doesn’t really fit into the typical L.A. actor mold, but Barry reads their situation completely differently. After they slept together, he thinks they’re in a relationship and proceeds accordingly. He believes that she wants a take-charge guy, someone who would notice a cracked laptop screen in the first place, and molds himself into that person in just one afternoon.

Obviously, Sally wants none of that, especially after the day she’s had. In the morning, Sally was ready to take on her audition for medic Dr. Adrina Borowitz, hoping to finally secure representation from her would-be-agent Mike, but when she runs lines with him, he sexually propositions her. When she politely rejects his advances, Mike drops her completely, and Sally only finds out right before her audition. So when she arrives at Natalie’s party and Barry presents a new laptop to her, she reads it as a transaction rather than a gift. After all, who buys an expensive laptop for someone right after they slept together?


Things get worse when Barry gets drunk and invites his old Marine buddy Chris Lucado (Christopher Marquette), who brings along two burly, aggressive friends Taylor (Dale Pavinski) and Vaughn (Marcus Brown). While Taylor and Vaughn play-fight with each other in Natalie’s home, Barry drunkenly confronts Natalie’s “famous” friend Zach Burrows (Ross Philips), whose recent claim to fame is a performance capture role as Pinocchio, when he begins talking with Sally. This sends her off the deep end and she eventually leaves the party with Zach. By trying to assert himself and go after what he desires, Barry has fallen deeper into his old life and alienated the one person who tried to connect with him.

Meanwhile, Detective Janice Moss has found herself tangled deeper in her investigation when she accidentally agrees to a dinner with Gene Cousineau. Gene might be a towering figure in his class, someone who receives ovations upon entering the room, but in the real world, he’s just a guy who once hung around Judd Hirsch and continues to audition for the role of “Man in Back of Line.” But even though he’s a struggling actor well past his prime, he has enough natural charisma to convince Moss to stay for dinner after he tells her the very little he knows about Ryan Madison. Winkler and Newsome have spectacular chemistry in their scenes together, and their aggro-flirtatious banter brings a sweet edge to a mostly offhanded series. The Barry story this week might have been a little too stale (despite its solid foundation, it’s still a “guy oversteps in a new relationship” plot), but the Cousineau-Moss subplot saves the episode from being too bland.


By the end, Taylor has discovered Barry’s stash house materials and wants in on the job, and Moss’ team has finally recovered the lipstick camera footage. Though it’s just a blurry image, she rightfully deduces that “if this was some guy you knew, you’d recognize him.” As Barry looks for a way to outrun his past, it looks like the LAPD might catch him before he has a chance.

Stray observations

  • The funniest part of Barry’s Glengarry monologue is when he cheerfully chuckles before delivering, “You son of a bitch” as if he’s rubbing the head of a delightful scamp.
  • Natalie and Zach Burrows met in a “special anonymous group for people with…problems,” just in case you were wondering.
  • Sally calls Barry trying to gift her a laptop a “weird Tony Soprano move,” which is pretty dead on, come to think of it.
  • “The reservation will be under ‘Neil Patrick Harris.’ I find I get a better table that way.”
  • “So I guess I have technically had my first audition, but it was just in North Hollywood, in this guy’s apartment, and he was like, ‘Dance,’ and so I was like, ‘What is this gonna be on,’ and he said, ‘The Internet.’”
  • “God, it must have been such a challenge to become a wooden boy who then becomes a real boy. I love playing transformative roles like that.”

Vikram Murthi is a freelance writer and critic currently based out of Brooklyn.