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On Barry, the Truth Does Not Set Anyone Free

Sally's hometown visit proves that in her world, there's no reward for honesty.
  • Michael Dempsey, Sarah Goldberg, and Romy Rosemont in Barry (Photo: Merrick Morton/HBO)
    Michael Dempsey, Sarah Goldberg, and Romy Rosemont in Barry (Photo: Merrick Morton/HBO)

    [Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for Barry Season 4, Episodes 1 and 2, “yikes” and “bestest place on earth.” ]

    When we last saw Sally (Sarah Goldberg) in the Barry Season 3 finale, she had just killed a man. Her act of violence may have started as self-defense, but when she beat an intruder to death it revealed a dark truth about what she is capable of. In that moment she still wasn’t aware of what her boyfriend Barry (Bill Hader) had been up to this whole time — it had been just as easy for her ignore the signs of his violence and secrecy as it was to put on a front and only show the world the parts of her she thinks it want to see.

    In the Barry Season 4 premiere, “yikes,” Sally confronts the truths she’s been avoiding, but it doesn’t exactly pay off. On the way to visit her parents, she comes face to face with the man she murdered. It’s just in her head, but it’s a chilling reminder that this incident won’t be as easy to shove down. When she lands in her hometown, she’s pummeled with messages about Barry’s arrest. This too will be difficult to avoid — whether Sally likes it or not, she’s publicly tied to Barry. While in the car with her mom (Romy Rosemont), she breaks down, sharing what’s going on with no filter, and is met with apathy and annoyance. There’s not much comfort waiting for Sally at her parents’ house. Her childhood room is now a shrine filled with her dad’s (Michael Dempsey) hunting trophies. She’s not only been displaced from a space where she was once allowed to be her most genuine self, out of the sight of others, but is reminded of how, in this moment, her life is defined by death.

    Sally’s reminded of her greatest failure when her parents insist on watching her semi-autobiographical series Joplin, and are quick to point out the factual inaccuracies while simultaneously shaming her for using the real name of her abusive ex-boyfriend. It leaves Sally at an impasse: living as a capital-A actor has been fruitless, but there’s no incentive for living her life authentically either. The home she grew up in should be the place she feels the most comfortable and safe to drop the façade, but doing so doesn’t make her feel any more in touch with herself. It’s no wonder she’s dedicated her life to acting and becoming as many different people as she can.

    When she visits Barry in jail in Episode 2, “bestest place on earth,” she lets her guard down for just a moment and says exactly what she’s thinking: “I feel safe with you.” It’s an honest thought that, immediately after saying it, Sally realizes she doesn’t want to be true. What does it say about her or how she’ll have to live her life from now on when the person who makes her feel safest is behind bars for murder?

    That revelation leads her to return to her second home, Gene Cousineau’s (Henry Winkler) acting studio. She confronts Gene about the secret he kept about Barry, but Sally soon realizes it might not have even mattered if she knew the truth. She ignored Barry’s red flags because he treated her like a star, allowing her to pretend to be whoever she wanted.

    Sally is left at a crossroads, and like so many other Barry characters before (and likely after) her, she’s starting over. She doesn’t want to be Sally, the failed actor known for a viral outburst. And now she sees she doesn’t have the support to be Sally the person, dealing with an onslaught of traumatic events. Her identity is up in the air, and all returning to her roots proves is that there’s no benefit to embracing honesty.

    Barry airs on HBO Sundays at 10:00 PM ET. 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. 

    TOPICS: Barry, HBO, Bill Hader, Henry Winkler, Sarah Goldberg