Sunday, April 22, 2018

REVIEW: 'Barry' - Barry Struggles with the Morality of His Actions as He Attacks the Stash House in 'Chapter Five: Do Your Job'

HBO's Barry - Episode 1.05 "Chapter Five: Do Your Job"

Barry looks to hit the reset button with Sally, but a scene from Macbeth triggers a reaction that pushes them farther apart. Moss moves to interrogate members of Gene's acting class after a shooting video surfaces. Barry finds himself in a quandary after teaming up with Taylor, a reckless new acquaintance, in a dangerous mission to wipe out a group of Bolivians.

The characters of Barry signed up for Gene's acting class in the hopes of becoming better as actors. They do the sessions in the hopes of honing their craft so that they have the tools required to make it as a big star in the industry they idolize so much. And yet, it's fascinating that Barry hasn't really learned anything of substance in that regard from this class. He initially saw this as a new direction for his life. He became passionate about something other than being a hitman. He saw this as a new opportunity that he should pursue. But he started the season as a bad actor and he is still a bad actor. He just cannot perform in a convincing way - which only proves just how phenomenal Bill Hader is in this role because it's difficult for an actor to pretend that they are a bad actor. That's the show's purpose as well. Barry is learning things about himself through this class. He's not becoming a better actor. He's being forced to look inward and examine the choices that he has made throughout his life. Up to this point, his identity has been as a Marine and a hitman. He willingly entered into this partnership with Fuches because he saw it as a way to still do good in the world. He was continuing to kill bad people who needed to pay for their vicious actions. All of that changed as soon as he came to Hollywood and met Ryan. He forced him to accept that he was just killing anyone for the right price. He didn't actually have morals. He was just following orders without questioning. Meanwhile, this class has forced him to accept that he needs to constantly be pushing the material and making the risky choice in the hopes that it will pay off one day. Gene largely keeps Barry around because of the money. He is more than willing to tease that Barry has potential when he has none. He makes it seem as if Barry is making progress. But the most passionate Barry becomes is when he's arguing with his classmates about the morality of killers like himself. It shows just how simple and complex the central themes of this show can actually be.

The class is now performing works by William Shakespeare. They are doing so in preparation for a big showcase where agents come and have the potential of signing them. Several of the students have done this showcase before. They know the drill. They know they should be excited about Gene posting the cast list. Sally is upset when she isn't cast in the lead in the exact same scene she has played many times before. Barry is still just happy to be a part of this company. He loves having this community to go to and be engaged by his new friends. He has taken ahold of their passion and tried to find it himself even though he knows next to nothing about Hollywood. He isn't obsessed with it like his classmates. He doesn't know how many of these famous pieces of art end. Here, he is performing a scene from MacBeth with Sally and Natalie. Gene pairing the three of them together basically proves that he doesn't think highly of any of them. He doesn't think they have the potential to make it as actors. But it's also convenient because it forces the drama to remain within the acting class now that Sally no longer wants to speak with Barry. They will need to in order to perform well at the showcase. Sally still wants to impress people. But she's also more than fine criticizing Natalie because her first read-through of the scene isn't as good as she perceives her version was. Meanwhile, Barry just wants to dig underneath the themes of this story. It's an easy but important actor trick to connect with the story and understand where every character is coming from. Gene asks the class what the story is about and the students all take about the play as a whole. They should be focusing on this individual scene and not worrying about the overall morality and point of the art.

As such, it leads to a debate where everyone in the class is arguing against Barry about the actions Lady MacBeth takes. They see it as a parable for why all killing is wrong. It's immoral for the orders to be given as well as it being immoral for the people who carry them out. They see it as a simple story where the act of killing another human being makes someone a vile and despicable creature who is beyond redemption. Barry argues that that simply can't be the case because he has killed people before. It seems like a surprise to some of the class because they have completely forgotten that he used to be a Marine. That shows just how self-involved all of them continue to be. Sally is the most apparent in that regard but she's not the only delusional person paying for this class who is only interested in advancing their careers. Barry is forcing them to think about the complex idea of sending people to war knowing that they will be asked to kill people only to receive no appreciation or support when returning home. He wants to believe that he is more than just a killer. He has killed people but that's not what defines who he is as a person. He wants to be Barry Block, an aspirational actor. He wants to continue to receive the support of his fellow actors as they try to pull the best performances out of each other. Instead, Gene mostly brushes all of this away with the tried and true sentiment of it being okay to kill people during times of war. It's perfectly fine and moral for Barry to have been deployed and kill people overseas. It's so impersonal. It offers an easy solution to this debate. The rest of the class can go back to being focused on their own agendas and seeing Barry as the problem. He's not. He was asking them to think about something real and genuine. But again, there was only so far he could push that debate because he's still carrying this huge secret about his life.

Plus, no one in the class suspects Barry at all of being the man who killed Ryan. He continues to tell them that he is a killer. He has all of the training to actually kill someone. But everyone just keeps forgetting about that because it isn't important to them. Detective Moss comes to the acting class once more with the evidence collected from the camera in the vehicle. They have a solid picture of the man they believe was responsible for killing Ryan and the Chechens that night. And yet, it's too blurry for anyone to recognize it as Barry. The only clue it gives is that the assailant was over six feet tall. That's all that Moss has to go on right now. As such, she calls the three guys who fulfill that requirement to be interviewed once more. They need to prove that they weren't there that night. They need alibis to prove they didn't commit this crime. Barry and Fuches have already created a system for when this should happen. Barry is able to craft a compelling but simple story. Fuches follows it according. It proves that the two of them can be capable actors when the situation requires it. They act in order to keep this business afloat. They act in order to avoid detection from the police. It's just convenient that Fuches can do voices convincing enough to fool Moss into believing that no one in the acting class committed this crime. And yet, she still has a gut feeling about something being off in this world. She's right to have that feeling because Barry is the culprit of this crime. But she is mostly feeling that way because she is now developing feelings for Gene. She acts on those feelings by the end of the episode as well. That will keep her in this world while possibly doing nothing to actually help her investigation.

And yet, the debate in class forces Barry to question his actions. He is starting to suspect that he is a horrible person because he has killed innocent people not in the middle of a war zone. He too buys into the story that Gene is selling about it being completely okay during war. Barry hasn't abided by that rule in a long time. He was still just following orders stateside whenever Fuches presented a new job to him. And now, he continues to do whatever Fuches and the Chechens ask of him. In fact, Fuches is the one pushing for this dynamic to continue in order to prove that he is still a crafty and capable player in this criminal world. He still wants Barry to take all of the risk. But now, Barry is starting to see the consequences of his actions. To Fuches, it's no big deal that another Marine wants to join Barry in attacking the Bolivian stash house. In fact, it could be very beneficial to have another set of hands and a gun pulling that job off. Fuches has always had so much confidence in Barry's skills. The show has proven why he is an effective hitman too. But Fuches also orders him to kill Taylor as soon as the job is done. That's what Barry really struggles with here. He doesn't want to kill another Marine. That's a line he doesn't want to cross. He wants to believe that he still has morals. He wants to know that there is still good and redemption within him. He needs to believe that he isn't this monster that the world may perceive him to be because he's a killer. Now, the world has the potential of seeing him as an actor. It doesn't. But it could. He is still fantasizing about that life with Sally and starting a family. It's almost completely impossible because he's building that bond up as something that it isn't. But it still brings him comfort when he needs it. Of course, it doesn't keep him from having to make a choice regarding Taylor. He chooses not to kill him. In fact, he brings him in deeper to the official partnership with Fuches. That's dangerous because of how volatile and gun-happy Taylor actually is. It's another problem Barry will have to keep track of. But he also gets to say that he is abiding by a code in his actions. That's beneficial to him right now.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Chapter Five: Do Your Job" was written by Ben Smith and directed by Hiro Murai.
  • This show was billed as a comedy in the early going. It's certainly had its amusing moments but it plays things much more dramatically than one might be expecting. In fact, it's pretty intense to watch as Barry and Taylor storm the stash house expecting to face off with 20 men. It's ominous because it seems empty until a bunch of Bolivian soldiers come out and present as a serious threat that they need to eliminate.
  • Of course, Barry and Taylor are still successful in taking the stash house. Barry feared that it was an impossible job by himself. As such, it's beneficial to have another man covering his back and helping him out. However, it seems like Taylor does most of the hard work because he kills a ton of enemy targets as soon as Barry gets knocked out.
  • Barry tapping into his emotions may be compromising him in the field. He has still been extremely deadly this season so far. But the more he examines about his life and the more the class pushes him to dig deeper, the more he will question his orders and morality of this business. Those thoughts plaguing his mind could really cripple him - like they do here when he sees Taylor screaming into his action hero moment.
  • Is Fuches capable of killing someone? So far, he has been very effective in getting other people to do the job for him. Barry has always been so susceptible to suggestion. Stovka killed himself without much pressure from Fuches. But now, Barry refuses to kill Taylor. That's a problem for Fuches. But if Barry won't do it, then will he have to do it himself? Or will he force one of his new Chechen friends to do so?
  • It's so completely terrifying to see Barry, Fuches, Pazar and NoHo have this meeting about when they should attack the stash house while attending Pazar's daughter's gymnastics class. Fuches goes through the motions of making it seem like he has a son there as well. But he's mostly just convincing Pazar to still go through with the job despite the new pressure from the police. Meanwhile, NoHo believes he's a dead man walking because of the camera from the crime scene.