Recommended: Barry Season 3 on HBO
What's new and what's changed?
After the emotional and physical carnage that came at the end of Season 2, Barry (Bill Hader) is totally adrift. He's picking up hitman jobs from the dark web, but compared to Fuches (Stephen Root) his clients are bozos. And since Mr. Cousineau (Henry Winkler) has been implicated in Janice's death, he's closed his acting studio for good. That means Barry doesn't have any father figures or emotional outlets to guide him in his attempts to become a better person, and it's making him restless.
He's still dating Sally (Sarah Goldberg), but after her blockbuster performance in last season's acting class showcase, she's now running a prestige drama based on her life. She's mostly using Barry as a prop in her career, and even NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) won't give him the time of day, since Barry was responsible for wiping out his crew.
Soon enough, Barry decides to force people to pay attention to him. He assumes this will result in warm hugs, acting gigs, and total forgiveness from the people he's hurt, but that's not how it goes. Not even a little bit.
Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?
It turns out the first two seasons were just a warm-up. Although Barry was already a surreal, hilarious nightmare unlike anything else on TV, Season 3 deepens everything that worked so well.
Consider how Barry himself has changed. Stripped of so many things he cares about, he's legitimately scary, threatening the people he's supposed to love most in scenes that don't play like jokes. We've always known he's a killer, of course, but his desperation to rebuild what he's lost has peeled off the veneer of social acceptability that previoulsy made him seem kind of goofy and sweet.
At the same time, this is still a comedy. As Barry's mania intensifies, so does the surreal humor that balances the show's darkness. At one point he tries to blow up a bomb using a detonation app that doesn't work, so he gets stuck on a call with a chipper customer service rep. In another, a person running away from him is also chased by a ludicrous number of dogs. We learn that all the dogs are owned by the same woman, who is breaking up with her girlfriend over her pet hoarding at the exact moment her puppies are on the run.
It's funny to see 30 dogs on the loose, but it's even funnier because the show adds the detail about their owner. The entire season excels at this kind of humor on the margins. Whenever someone checks a text, their earlier messages are inevitably insane. Whenever a background character speaks, they're always mentioning something like a terrible date who ordered milk with his dinner. Gags like these are messages through the screen, telling us that everything in the show is there for a reason. It's exhilarating to be treated like a viewer who's smart enough to follow along.
Similarly, we're trusted to follow characters who evolve in ways that Barry can't. Even though she's still a platinum-level narcissist, Sally is also acknowledging her lifetime of abusive relationships in constructive and moving ways. Even though he's still oblivious to his own dorkiness, NoHo Hank is also in a new romantic relationship that proves the depth of his compassion.
And in the season's biggest evolution, Mr. Cousineau realizes just how selfish he's been for his entire life. Driven by his girlfriend's murder (and the Season 2 revelation that Barry was involved), he delves into remorse, and Winkler's performance sells it.
Still, things never get too heavy. Mr. Cousineau's regret is palpable, but it also sets up one of the best jokes of the season, about the time he brought a gun to an audition for Full House.
Pairs well with
TOPICS: Barry, HBO, Alec Berg, Anthony Carrigan, Bill Hader, Bill Hader, D'Arcy Carden, Henry Winkler, Sarah Burns, Sarah Goldberg, Stephen Root