‘Barry’ 1×08 Review: Starting Now

The thing about writing a brilliant episode is that it’s hard to follow up on it. Barry’s seventh hour had proven to be one of the best episodes television has ever delivered, so the stakes were high and the expectations were even higher going into the show’s season finale. And “Chapter Eight: Know Your Truth” may not have been on the same writing and acting level as the episode before it, but it sure as hell delivered a mighty good finale. One that will keep us hooked, one that will have us desperately needing the much appreciated season two that Alec Berg and Bill Hader are already working on.

There is no better word to describe this than “intense”.

Last night, Barry finally crossed the line. And in the exact moment when we all thought he was done for good, when he was living the dream life he’d been searching for for the past seven episodes, he becomes, in one word, irredeemable.

And we were all rooting for you, man.

BARRY’S ALIVE

It’s hard to navigate the emotional turmoil the last ten minutes of this episode sunk us all in. We’re floating in a sea of disappointment and pity and there doesn’t seem to be a wooden plank we can somehow hold onto Titanic style. We’ve been trusting Barry for an entire season. We knew —know— there was and still is good in him. We know he cares desperately and with an intensity that’s hard to top.

That’s why when the Chechens are about to kill Fuches right after he betrays Barry, we knew he was going to show up to save him. Because it has been made crystal clear to us that Barry cares about Fuches a lot despite punching him in the face twice and declaring he wants out of the hitman life. He’s finally learned to differentiate between caring about someone and actually following that person’s orders without hesitating one bit. We know he’s changed, at least in that sense.

But we also know he is not the best decision maker in the world, and he screws up his life choices constantly.

Man, we decided to stan the wrong guy.

We knew we were rooting for the loser. Since the Pilot, Berg and Hader have continuously stressed through the episodes and through Barry’s actions that despite them being motivated by his longing to become better, he is constantly going to be stuck in the worst case scenario. Even after everything he goes through, he is incapable of escaping his life.

Source: HBO.

The worst part is that, with every clue they gave us about how close Barry was to being unable to step back, we wanted him to succeed even more.

If you’re able to toy with the audience’s emotions with such ease in such a complexly magnificent way, you have to win an Emmy. You have to win every award out there.

But enough about campaigning —for now, anyway. Despite it’s slow start focused on characters we don’t particularly like too much like Goran and hell, even Fuches, the second half of the episode is textbook season finale. It’s exactly what a season finale is supposed to be able to convey without falling into the easy writing traps or the predictable tricks that will definitely force you to watch the next season. It was filled with emotional stakes and character development, but, even better, it culminated in a traumatizing cliffhanger that poses a lot of questions, yes, but oddly enough, they’re not questions about the narrative.

They’re questions about character. And for a show named literally after its protagonist, it’s genuinely the best way to go.




But the truly enviable effort about “Chapter Eight” was its uncanny ability to keep you tense even when everything seemed to be going perfectly fine for our characters. In fact, it was precisely that idea, the fact that they were living the blissful life without a care in the world, happily lip-synching to cheesy tunes, what immediately ticked us off about the eerily tense ambiance that was about to dawn on us. For the first five minutes, we thought it was yet another of Barry’s dreams. But then it went on and on and we realized this is what his life had become. We understood he’d finally made it and was happy.

But for seven episodes and a half, these writers have worked their asses off to make us understand that no such future is allowed for Barry, so something had to be wrong. And just like that, after an entire season, we were in Barry’s spot. We were only comfortable when we were in danger.

Seriously, it’s mind-boggling when you think about it. Instead of being relaxed in a calm, seemingly harmless scenario, we were uncomfortable, we were on alert, we were waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So was Barry, actually. He’s been this way ever since we met him. Comfortable when they’re firing at him, uncomfortable when he’s drinking wine with his girlfriend.

Source: HBO.

Those moments of tender heaven-like scenes had us at the edge of our seat. What’s the catch? Where is the disruption? How and when is this beautiful life going to be ruined?

The terrible thing is that we were waiting for someone —an external third party, perhaps the Bolivians or what’s left of the Chechens— to come in and shoot at everyone and ruin their by-the-lake paradise when actually, we should’ve been worried about Barry ruining everything on his own. We were so caught up in enjoying a truly happy Barry for the first time, that we were completely fooled. And, come on, have we have learned nothing from this show?

Barry is his worst enemy. He can’t seem to catch a break because he somehow always manages to sabotage his own life.

Listen, we were all shouting at him not to shoot Detective Moss despite not seeing another way out. Because we knew if he went there he wouldn’t be able to come back. And when he showed up not carrying a gun, we legitimately thought he was going to find another way out of there that wasn’t murder.

Again, have we learned nothing from this show?

Barry shoots, Moss dies, he goes back and takes a shower, and promises, for the third time this episode, that he’s done with this life “starting now”.

He promises for the third time this episode, that he’s done. Starting now.

For the third time this episode. 

See where they’re going with this?

YOU WANT TO DO A COMEDY WITH ME?

It doesn’t look like a comedy is what Barry’s going to get going onto season two. Bill Hader has promised the new season “will be darker somehow” and given Barry’s ultimate assassination right before the credits rolled, it seems like we can finally declare him to be way too deep in his own shit. If there was no end in sight in the show’s first episodes, there is definitely no end in sight now.

But you want to know what the true worst thing about this idea is? It’s the fact that, come season two episode one, we will still be rooting for this loser to succeed somehow. If we were celebrating when Detective Moss’s squad finally came to the wrongful conclusion, you can be sure as hell we’re going to believe in Barry’s sorry ass as long as we’re given the tiniest sliver of hope about this character’s caring side.

Source: HBO.

Bill Hader plays that incredibly well. The scene between Barry and Moss, when he’s trying to convince her to let him go, truly shows that Barry’s a desperate man trying his best, motivated by how much he cares. We tried to rebut Moss’s claims about his assassin tendencies even when they were painstakingly evident because we had personally seen Barry murder dozens in cold blood, and yet we were still excusing him.

What does that say about us, huh?

More importantly, what does that say about the writing? It proves that these writers are clever and astute enough to keep us invested for another season, and then some.

“Know Your Truth” proved that. And it also proved that Barry has finally understood his truth —the fact that he is a danger onto himself not because of his hitman past, but because he is still resorting to violence and murder to settle his debts and correct the errors of his ways.

And so far, it doesn’t look like he will be able to understand that next season, either.

Whatever the case, we will continue to reunite with these characters and their rather strange theater-therapy sessions next year, whenever HBO decides to air it.

In the meantime, we can always start officially campaigning —see how I brought that back?— for the show and Bill Hader to win their much deserved awards.

Not to call anyone out, but, you know, they’re both amazing. And they deserve to be recognized for it.

Barry is renewed for a second season on HBO.




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