Season 3, episode 4 “all the way”
Half way through barryIn the third season, it looks like Bill Hader and Alec Berg wrap up the storylines that unfolded in the first half and bring in some new ones. Of course, there’s no reason to doubt that the two halves will come crashing together. The long arc of the series has been the impossibility of murder and showbiz to peacefully coexist as one person, i.e. the conflict between personal and professional integrity. At the end of “all the sauces”, Sally breaks up with Barry, Fernando and the Bolivians get blown up in their Airbnb, NoHo Hank and Cristobal reunite, and Gene Cousineau is freed by Barry, given a bag of money and his explosive cameo on The laws of humanity could have revived his career.
Where can we go from here? Revenge, idiot. Fuches (Stephen Root) returned from the mountains of Chechnya and began to set the stage for chaos. He shows up at the home of the widow (Annabeth Gish) of one of Barry’s victims years ago. Using his “Kenneth Goulet, Private Investigator” cover, Fuches tells the woman and her adult son that Barry is the killer, and the police let him get away. Later, Fuches tries the same technique on Ryan’s father, Cousineau’s theater student who got beaten up by the Chechens in the first season. It’s a devilishly simple plan: outsource revenge to the family of Barry’s victims. Imagine a crowd of grief-stricken amateur assassins shooting Barry. We have to credit Fuches’ Chechen girlfriend from the last episode; she inadvertently gave him the idea of a “Vengeance Army panther thing.”
Back in Los Angeles, Cousineau (Henry Winkler) is terrified that after hitting Barry on the set of laws of humanity, he is a dead man. It’s morning and Leo (Andrew Leeds) is confused to see his dad’s bags packed. They have to leave LA now, a panicked Cousineau says, then picks up his suitcases, only to have the bottom rip open and clothes and a few coins spill out. (A nod to I think you should leave‘s Coffin Flop?) Then Cousineau’s agent Tom (Fred Melamed) comes to his door to tell his client that the studio loved what he did on set, how he gave the sad character of the old man a touch of pathos. Cousineau, eager to escape, takes Tom to a store to buy more luggage.
At the store, they meet Joe Mantegna, who stops to congratulate Cousineau (breaking his own injunction against the man) for “what you’ve done for that vet”. Mantegna refers to a recent Variety story about how Cousineau gave Barry purpose in life. “You didn’t make Knott’s Berry Farm do this to piss me off, did you?” asks an incredulous Cousineau. The sitcomy-to-jokes-per-second ratio is noticeably high in this episode, and the proliferation of cameos – Melamed, Mantegna – suggests that, for now, the world of barry goes from the terror of crime to the maniacal triviality of show business.
Speaking of which, Sally (Sarah Goldberg) nervously prepares for the opening night of Joplin. She prepares a speech, Natalie (D’Arcy Carden) writing down her thoughts as Sally tries on a succession of dresses behind a curtain. Natalie, who happily took the shit out of Sally as a bubbly, dumb assistant, gets a good breakout moment as she riffs on Sally’s cocky opening for her speech. While dictating, Sally humbly brags about being the writer-director-producer-star of Joplin not for fame, but for a little girl from Joplin… who Natalie loosely associates with a girl named Abigail but everyone calls her “Thweetie”, because her grandmother had a lisp and she grew up in a shut up and didn’t see TV until she was fourteen…” and Sally comes out of the dressing room to quickly stop him.
Barry has accepted Fernando de Hank’s hit job, which involves laying the “dark web bomb” bought by Batir under the Bolivian Airbnb. After Hank sets Barry up with a detonator app, a dodgy Barry retrieves the bomb, which has been visibly placed in the middle of an empty parking lot. The bomb is a cartoonish but cute comedy: a whirring, clickable, invisible gadget in a nondescript cardboard box.
The meat of the episode cuts between Barry’s mundane but frustrating attempt to blow up the Bolivians (the detonator app has bugs) with Sally arriving at the Joplin first feast and reap the fruits of fame, such as they are. Barry places the bomb under the Bolivians’ Airbnb, but it doesn’t explode, so he calls customer service in a fog of irritated boredom. In the background, Cristobal, who was supposed to be at Pilates when the bomb went off, is seen returning. Cristobal is confronted by Fernando, who discovered his texts with Hank. Fernando gives him a choice: get shot or shoot Hank in front of Fernando. Cristobal escapes just before Barry turns his wifi back on and the bomb goes off. (Even though this is essentially a visual gag, let’s reiterate: Barry just blew up a fucking house. Something tells me Mae Dunn will be back next episode.) Making his getaway, Barry finds Cristobal on the street, in shock with ripped and burnt clothes. He returns Cristobal to Hank. Afterwards, Barry brings the bag of money for doing the job to Cousineau, telling him he won’t see him again. Then, finally, Barry goes to the Joplin screening, which of course he missed.
With a strategic intervention by the courageous Katie (Elsie Fisher) at the Joplin first, Sally realizes the obvious: Barry is a violent person and being in a relationship with him will only drag him down. Goldberg, playing a character whose two speeds seem to be self-loathing and self-aggrandizement, does a stellar job in this episode. When she finally steps onto the podium to deliver her speech, she is a quivering ball of ego and terror. She’s all about the art and the message of Joplinbut when the positive reviews of the New York Times happen, things quickly become triumphant. “I just heard we got 98 on Rotten Tomatoes,” she cuts off her speech to the crowd. “Wow! Ninety-eight fucking! The audience roars in approval. Sally breaks down crying and for several seconds can’t speak. This is one of the most raw and revealing roles in Goldberg’s season, playing a person who gets what they want, but isn’t sure they deserve it.
Quick side note for catastrophists who brag that barry peaked in season two and slides from: Tthis one might be grinding the gears to find its way, but that maneuver is part of the game. barry has always been a genre-combustible mashup and stress on the seams is to be expected. No other series packs so many great jokes, rich characters, storylines and kickass action into thirty minutes. Also, the series has a built-in opacity, a Rorschach quality, which I admire.
To explain: At the end of this episode, Barry is really alone. No mentor, no lover, no friends, no career. Slumped, deflated, he turn on your heels and exit the frame. The final scene is the mother and son team that Fuches was attempting at the top. They are preparing to buy a weapon. Fuches gave them Barry’s address. Here’s the thing: do I care if they actually kill Barry? As neat as the character is, as snappy as Hader is in expressing turmoil and damage and even innocence, the character feels – especially with Sally and Cousineau “gone” – like more of a device than a fully dimensional, believable person. I’m not entirely sure that’s a review. This could be a feature, not a bug. Am I stupid for thinking that Barry is the hero? He’s a monster, and we love watching monsters.
You might as well call Sally a narcissistic mediocrity, and Cousineau is a sadistic tyrant. Even so, both of them seem more real and ultimately likable than our protagonist, which is odd. At the same time, I kind of admire Hader and Berg for spinning a series around a number, a plot catalyst, a reflective surface for the audience. Tony Soprano was never going to become the good guy. Barry Block will never win an Emmy. Now his past comes back to haunt him.
- Snaps for writer Jason’s Kim’s rich vocabulary, which provides Tom’s litany of industry epithets for Cousineau: “narcissistic, self-obsessed, petty, unhinged, volatile, toxic, abusive, malignant, un scrub, a dope, a model, a loser, a cock sucker, a dump truck, a stone cold buster…” [a drive to the store later] “…weak sauce, asshole, asshole, assholes, assholes, asshole, asshole. The latter, which ultimately shocked Cousineau, came from Rob Reiner during the 1994 campaign Ghosts of Mississippi hearing.
- What language is the pre-recorded bomb warning in? Enlighten me.
- It’s Fred Melamed’s second round as an enduring agent of temperamental talent, after Lady Dynamite.
- Sally’s stack of one-inch index cards for the Joplin first speech: Gand comfortable.
- Barry’s username for the detonator app is BarryGoesBoom and the password is $uddenly$eymour1985. First, Little Shop of Horrors came out in 1986. Second, do we think Hank is Team Webber or Sondheim?
- Natalie at the premiere with her phone: “The reviews are out! The En Fuego has been lifted! Lindsay: “The embargo has been lifted. Let me see that.”
- Detonator App Service Person on loudspeaker after a huge explosion: “Okay, looks like we made it. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
- Reporter on the red carpet: “You don’t look old enough to have an abused daughter.” Sally: “Oh, thanks for saying that!”
- If Barry Berkman murdered someone close to you, he may be at 10294 Tujunga Ave, Apt 5F N. Hollywood, CA 91606. You better not miss it.