Barry represents the brilliance of what Alec Berg and Bill Hader do: they offer a few hours of television that is unexpected, unpredictable, and unlike anything else around.
This Barry Season 2 Episode 8 recap for the episode titled “berkman/block” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Director Alec Berg and Bill Hader had me chewing my fingernails for more than a week as I have been waiting to see how Barry gets Gene out of this mess in tonight’s episode, titled, “berkman/block”. I had little hope of this since a preview of next week’s Barry came on right after “The Audition” episode, so I have been waiting on a miracle. Barry was shown in a police station, calling Fuches, and leaving him a message that he is coming for him. My biggest worry was put to rest a few short minutes ago: Henry Winkler’s Gene Cousineau was not sacrificed like a pawn as a way to move the series’ titular character back into his hitman ways. Unfortunately for Gene, they think that he killed his love, Janice. They don’t believe there is a man named Goulet (who Fuches was impersonating), who whispered something in Gene’s ear before he ran off.
Last week No-Ho Hank was able to escape Cristobal and Esther’s bomb-fire party but at the expense of losing the respect of his Barry-trained Chechen mercenaries. In an act of comic desperation, he suspects he has lost his men’s respect. Hank’s leadership style seems to be a variation of Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin and wants to find out where they have gone so he can lead them. He calls his BFF Barry to tell them he should be trusted, and that Hank beat him in an arm wrestling match. He even comments, “There is a suspiciously low level of eye contact going on.” Unfortunately, he is right, as all eyes are on Maybreck (Nikita Bogolyubov), as he has been moving up the company ladder.
Sally has the audition of her life coming up in a 400-seat theatre that will be filled with industry leaders; will she be able to land a project of her dreams with her high passion, low talent classmates? Sally pulls Barry inside the theatre and gleefully shows her boyfriend that, “Everybody has dropped their competitive grief bullshit, and they’re delivering honest and real work.” Seconds later, Sally shows her truth again, as the cracks of her positive self-help book persona begin to give way, and she screams at Barry that, “… there’s a lot of ******* seats! Move on!”
The class performs their scenes, getting to a truth they hadn’t reached in two seasons. When Sally gets to her scene, she smacks Barry right before to get him in the right mindset; which is ironic since she is now abusing him the way she was abused, in an act to control him like her abusive boyfriend, Sam, did to her. When they take the stage, Sally abandons her “truth” and fights back against what really happened to her, telling the lie she lived for many years. She not only sold out her class, she sold out her profession as an artist, but now the industry pundits are clamoring to work for her. Sally, though, realizes now she has gotten this opportunity by not being brave enough to be as altruistic as she thinks she is.
Then we have Fuches, who after meeting up with Hank, call Barry from the Chechen home base. He tells him, “All you have to do is turn yourself in. Give it all up for him (Gene). Yeah? Not so altruistic now, are you, ************?” What is apparent is that Fuches needs a Gene in his own life to get to his own truth. He then picks the worst possible people to confide in, confronting Cristobal and Esther, who I expected to shoot him right in the head. Of course, the brilliance of Barry is the unexpected, as he brokers a peace deal between Hank, Cristobal, and Esther that brings the real love story back into the fold: Hank is Cristobal’s “little papita” (this is where I did a literal spit-take). Fuches is clearly the Dr. Phil of bat-**** crazy sociopaths.
We then enter the jungle, as Barry has had enough. He gets a text from his not-BFF Hank, who tells him don’t worry, Fuches is there, and has handled it. Barry summons his inner John Wick (or did John Wick summon his inner Barry Berkman?) and enters the monastery with guns blazing. So much so you would think that Berg and Hader need to wipe the slate clean and kill any actors up for contract renewal next season for their own raises. Hader and Berg have finally gotten Barry back to what he does best: Killing people.
As Barry walks in to break up the Chechen-Columbian-Burmese mixer, Esther immediately recognizes the “White boy Lululemon tracksuit,” so Barry puts a bullet in her head. She’s done. So are half of Cristobal’s team, as he runs out the back, while No-Ho Hank hides behind some Buddhist statues. Fuches tricks my boy Akmhal (Troy Caylak) to whisk him away because he is Barry’s mentor. Barry is nothing but democratic as he then finds a couple of leftover Burmese hired hands to put down. Then, as Maybreck waits kneeling in a room waiting for whoever is coming, Barry opens the door, and for a split second, he lowers his gun, excited to see his hitman professor. Big mistake. Berkman blows his head off, and we realize that’s one way to save some money next season because Batir has just entered the room. He finds the pristine Chechen bullet Hank gave him to shoot Esther in the very first episode placed on her lifeless body.
The season ends with Barry looking down at his now deceased prized pupil, Maybreck, and walks into a pitch-black dark hallway. Meanwhile, Gene is put to bed by his son, after being released because Barry planted the pin that Hank gave him, which translates to a Chechen message, “The debt has been paid.” As he thinks about his moments with Janice, he slowly comes out of his comatose state, and realizes Goulet whispered something to him before he ran off: “Barry Berkman did this.”
What we learned in season 2 of Barry is that this show is exceptionally written and plotted, and superbly acted. As the season went on, I was fascinated by the use of Gene as the good defacto therapist, and Fuches, who is the evil one. They both represent which will is pulling Barry to their side. I was taken back by the growth of Bill Hader this season, as he reached some very dark places. Meanwhile, the comic chemistry Anthony Carrigan has with Cristobal, or frankly everyone has been on full display in his breakout season. Even more surprising has been the last three-episode arc of Stephen Root’s Fuches, who can switch off natural comic relief for bone-chilling soullessness. With Sarah Goldberg all but guaranteed an Emmy win for her monologue in “The Audition,” I am hoping for Carrigan and Root to land supporting nominations as well.
Barry might not have been as good as the first season, but it follows up still the best show on television. Last year Barry walked into the light after ending any chance of love Gene had and ends this season walking back into the darkness where he belongs. After watching thousands of movies and episodes of television, you can always pinpoint exactly where the plot turns and where it is going to take you. Barry represents the brilliance of what Alec Berg and Bill Hader do: they offer a few hours of television that is unexpected, unpredictable, and unlike anything else out there.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.