At the end of Barry’s penultimate episode, no one is safe. Sally (Sarah Goldberg) and her son John (Zachary Golinger) are being held at gunpoint by NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan), who’s put a target on his own back after attempting to blow up Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root) and his men, who themselves are still in danger. Barry (Bill Hader), who is in Los Angeles for the sole purpose of killing Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), just narrowly escaped a grizzly, tortuous death by the hand of Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom). And then of course there are the countless innocent bystanders who at any moment could get wrapped up in a number of impending violent acts.
If this season (and really the entire series) of Barry has been any indication, the finale will be a bloodbath. Even though Hader has shown very little mercy when it comes to killing off innocents and beloved characters — it’s going to take a while to forgive him for what he did to Crístobal (Michael Irby) — it’s unlikely that everyone will die. (Or at least we hope not, otherwise Hader will start receiving our therapy bills directly.) So who is most likely to make it out of the Barry finale alive?
Hader has promised the ending will be “satisfying,” but what that means to him and what that means to the audience could be two entirely different things. Is it more fulfilling overall to make sure the most violent among the characters get what’s coming to them? If that’s the case, then Hank, Barry, and Fuches are in trouble. Hank and Fuches have been the most openly evil throughout — Hank’s willingness to turn on his lover took that cold-heartedness to a new level, and without Fuches, there’s a high likelihood that Barry wouldn’t have ended up where he is now. But when it comes to pure body count, Barry has the most to answer for. That became even more clear throughout Season 3 as the loved ones of his victims came after him one by one. Those reminders could very well have been teeing up Barry’s ultimate demise.
Then again, maybe it’s too obvious to let the bad guys off that easily. What might be the most karmically satisfying is for Barry’s character to lose the people he loves most, Sally and John. Season 3’s accounting of all the lives Barry’s killings have altered could be leading to an “eye for an eye” moment. This particular form of punishment for Barry would be especially poignant now that he’s looking to the Bible for justification of his actions.
Of course, it is important to remember that technically, Barry is the protagonist. When considering every possibility it’s also important to wonder, what would most satisfy him? Well, he set out to kill Gene in Season 4, Episode 6 “The Wizard.” Fulfilling that desire and then returning to the life he built for himself with his wife and child may be, in Barry’s mind, a happy ending. If he takes out Hank and Fuches in the process, even better. Then all his ties to his former life are gone. But it seems unlikely that Hader would let Barry off the hook that easily — even if he is the one pulling the trigger on his intended targets, some other sacrifice will need to be made (see above). Happy endings don’t really exist on this show — they either turn out to be fantasies or have some very threatening strings attached.
Almost every possible scenario leaves Sally stuck in a nightmare. Whether or not she ends up dead herself, at this point there’s a chance that Sally will kill again. Ever since the time jump, Sally’s behaved as though she believes she has nothing to live for and therefore is unencumbered by consequences — not even her son’s survival seems to motivate her to call out for help when Hank has her tied up. Maybe she’ll take out Hank just to feel alive. Maybe she’s the one who will ultimately end Barry’s life out of pure frustration.
From the very beginning, Hader seemed unconcerned by what would most please viewers. Over the course of its run, and in the final season especially, Barry has become his singular vision. With each passing episode, he’s delivered some truly unpredictable twists and traumatic turns. So, who might die? It feels somewhat unproductive to spend too much time trying to decipher what could possibly be Hader’s grand design, knowing he hasn’t set out to confirm any theories. Barry has succeeded because it’s been equally surprising and reliable. The narrative and characters themselves are fairly straightforward, and it’s clear Hader’s not trying to dupe anyone with a late-season reveal or elaborate theory. Instead the elements of surprise come from these characters (and the actors who play them), who have now proven themselves to be capable of anything, whether it be a well-timed comedic moment, a violent outburst, or a self-destructive life decision. Figuring out what each person might do next is what kept the series consistently compelling.
Trying to get into Hader’s head to predict Barry’s ending means trying to get into the head of each of the characters he created — it’s an impossible task. But knowing how volatile each of them can be, we should prepare to be emotionally devastated by the finale, one way or another.
The Barry series finale airs Sunday at 10:30 PM ET on HBO and streams on Max at the same time. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.