‘Barry’ is the Best Show on Television (Season 3 Edition)

There was a turn in the most recent episode, “all the sauces”,  that exemplified one of the best qualities of this show – it does something each episode that totally takes me by surprise. Yeah there’s spoilers, don’t read this shit otherwise, just watch the show. Sally breaking up with Barry at the end was that moment for me this past week. I simply didn’t see that coming that quickly. I thought they would build toward that over the rest of the season, and with a looming shootout coming at their apartment, I figured Hader and company would keep her there so she gets wrapped up in the shootout and maybe finds the truth about Barry because of that. Because that’s what you would expect from any show, right? Barry has never been afraid to just get right to a point that any other show would milk as long as possible. I didn’t expect last season to end with Gene finding out that Barry killed Janice. And I didn’t expect Gene to do something about it as quickly as this season’s premiere episode. And by never being afraid to just get right to it, they find themselves continually making the best creative and narrative decisions you can find on television. Like in seasons past, Barry is the best show on television right now and I’m writing something to tell you why.

Bill Hader and fellow showrunner Alec Berg have split directing duties in this first half of the season, and the show exudes a confidence in its own decisions rarely seen. They prefer to let scenes unfold in long, unbroken takes and break shots up as little as necessary. I was immensely pleased to see Hader is going to do the Sam Esmail thing and just direct every episode of season 4. The evidence that this is the best move is overwhelming. He directed last season’s “ronny/lily” – one of the best episodes of television I’ve ever seen – and the first two episodes of this season with some bravura one-take sequences that have me just wanting more. He’s lapping feature filmmakers in ambition and control in 30 minute episodes. This dude is ready to direct.

No show currently has more control of its own tone like Barry does. It can go from being absolutely cold and intense to being one of the funniest things you’ve ever seen, and oftentimes in the same scene. For example, it’s great that in a show that’s already at Breaking Bad Season 4 levels of intensity that it still finds room for pure slapstick humor like the gag in “limonada” where an endless score of dogs runs past the camera to maul Gene trying to hop a fence, while in the foreground of the shot two lesbians break up over the amount of dogs one of them has. This is while he’s running for his life from Barry after he’s escaped from his car trunk. It’s moments like this that make the show special. 

The new additions to the cast have been fantastic. Fred Melamed is a fantastic bit of stunt casting as Cousineau’s agent, a gag of him reciting every insult ever leveled at Gene in his career is hysterical. Elsie Fisher has really delivered in their scenes, it’s always great to watch them. Everybody else is just humming right along with excellence. Noho Hank continues to be one of the greatest characters ever put on television. If you know, you know. 

The main thrust of season 2 (and much of the show of course) is Barry trying to convince himself that he deserves to get away with what he’s done and start fresh. In season 3 so far, the main thrust has evolved into Barry trying to convince himself he’s not the villain of this story. His refusal to believe that everything is out of his control is a battle that Hader portrays incredibly. This show surprises me every single episode, and we’ve got four more this season that I’m sure are going to surprise me. This is the best show on television right now.

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