If there were a best dressed list for fictional assassins, it would be dominated by the likes of Killing Eve's Villanelle (Jodie Colmer) and Keanu Reeves' John Wick, both as well known for their killer threads as they are for, well, killing. One name that might not spring to mind in this game of deadly sartorial excellence is Barry Berkman (Bill Hader), whose non-descript neutrals are likely far more practical than Villanelle's memorable designer ensembles.
But while Barry's closet may more closely resemble our own, when it comes to character development, Barry's costume department is up there with the best of them.
In last night's Season 3 premiere — titled "forgiving jeff" — it's clear that some of the show's characters are soaring in their careers while others are fumbling, and the costume design reflects these changes. Chrisi Karvonides-Dushenko takes over from designer Audrey Fisher this season in depicting the surprising intersection between Hollywood and organized crime. Here's what the different looks in last night's season premiere say about each of the show's major characters as we pick back up with them:
His military background might help explain why Barry's clothing is made up of staple pieces that avoid daring shades. Hoodies, t-shirts, dark jeans, button-downs (typically worn open), and henleys ensure a second thought isn't required when choosing an outfit. He's the kind of guy who can pop into Uniqlo and stock up his entire wardrobe without stepping foot in the changing room. Fuss-free, comfortable, and anonymous is his clothing goal.
These simple looks tick both the hitman and jobbing actor boxes while also being ideal for playing video games on the sofa. They may not be all that interesting to look at, but that's by design: Barry doesn't want anyone's gaze to linger. In the premiere, he is spiraling, and the jobs he's finding on the dark web's "Hitman Marketplace" are far from fulfilling. Still, from looking at him, the only clues to his frazzled frame of mind are his unkempt stubble that's tipping into beard territory and the crumpled state of his attire. Even non-descript neutrals need some love and these clothes can only hold Barry together for so long.
"I'm embracing my life," NoHo Hank tells Barry when the assassin stops by unannounced to beg for a job. Hank isn't inclined to help the man who killed a lot of his buddies and framed him for murder. He also doesn't want to impact his new domestic bliss with Cristobal (Michael Irby). Hank's dream of a 50/50 split with the Bolivian gangster has tipped into romance, which is first revealed when he strips off his peach and baby blue knit polo to join his boyfriend in the shower. This garish shirt is very much from his signature school of tight tops; no one brightens up the screen quite like NoHo Hank.
Part of his style charm lies in the disarming quality that taps into his playful wonder, which sometimes makes you forget how dangerous his world is. The police interrogation highlights his ability to spin a semi-believable story even when there are incriminating surveillance photos — which offer a reminder of Hank's no socks policy with loafers. Nevertheless, with Barry skulking in the corner of his garden, it is unlikely that anything will remain settled. So, enjoy the lovely image of a happy Hank in an OAS octopus-print robe for as long as you can.
Sally (Sarah Goldberg) has created Joplin, which is a show based on her abusive relationship and she's also the star. On the surface, it would seem that all of her dreams have come true, but Barry isn't too far removed from her ex and red flags keep revealing themselves. The chill Cali boho floral and ‘70s style jeans aesthetic is Sally's way of pretending that everything is picture-perfect, but away from the set, her life is far from rosy.
The clothes she wears on Joplin aren't that far removed from her everyday look (with a few extra frills added here and there), and costume designer Karvonides-Dushenko subtly blurs the lines between Sally's real and imagined lives. One particularly fun touch is the orange Joplin crew jacket that denotes her behind-the-scenes role in the show she created. As she walks through the soundstage answering questions and standing her ground ("Just find me anything that isn't blue" she exclaims about a dress option) things are clearly happening for her. Sally is also the kind of character who wants to buy into the whole Girlboss angle, but Barry is far more nuanced than to tap directly into this notion.
It looks like Mr. C's days are numbered when he tells Barry he knows who killed Janice. It's been six months since Barry murdered the detective, and several people have been accused of the crime. Gene's name has been cleared (as has Barry's), but he's now plagued with the knowledge that Barry did it. He confronts his former protégé at the studio and his green jacket has a hint of the military to it even if his prop gun is far from effective against the assassin. This garment is a sly nod to Barry's profession and when the men sit opposite each other it provides a visual tether to the olive shirt his former student wears.
Unlike Barry, Gene isn't afraid of color and his purple check shirt pops against the rural isolated spot Barry has brought him to. Purple means death and mourning in some cultures and power in others — both hit the big Barry themes. "Then fucking earn it" is Gene's response when Barry mentions forgiveness and in this moment the acting teacher takes some of his power back.
There isn't much to say about Fuches' (Stephen Root) attire while he's squirreled away in Chechnya eating Critters cereal and getting milk directly from a goat. The white tank and lack of any overshirt is a sign of how his time away from LA is going, although he does put on a leather jacket when milking the goat.
The introduction of Eighth Grade's Elsie Fisher as Sally's on-screen daughter is brief but revealing — even if she's in her character Chloe's costume. Katie is praised for her talent and it's suggested that she outshines Sally, which isn't ideal for the Joplin creator. Although she isn't seen wearing clothing that reflects her personal taste in the premiere, be on the lookout for a pinstripe suit that briefly appears in the trailer, which gives shades of George Harrison in the Get Back docuseries
On top of her youthful denim overalls and cardigan is a crew jacket in gunmetal grey, and she seems far more comfortable than Sally with having her makeup touched up. She's impressed that Barry brought Sally flowers, although this scene takes on a haunting quality when Barry imagines blood pouring from his girlfriend's head. Katie in her cute dungarees is kept in the frame, which adds to the disturbing tableau. Some of its costumes may paint a blissful image, but this season promises to be Barry's darkest yet.
New episodes of Barry premiere Sunday nights at 10:00 PM ET on HBO and HBO Max.
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Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina.