Sunday, April 21, 2019

REVIEW: 'Barry' - Barry Learns Whether People Are Capable of Change While Sally Deals with Her Ex in 'What?!'

HBO's Barry - Episode 2.04 "What?!"

Barry's patience is put to the test when a figure from Sally's past arrives in LA. Gene gets a pleasant surprise and encourages Barry to believe that change is possible.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO's Barry.

"What?!" was written by Duffy Boudreau and directed by Liza Johnson

Barry desperately needs to believe that change is possible. He seeks that validation in every single action he takes. He is willing to forge a new bond with Fuches despite kicking him out of his life previously. He tells Sally that it's perfectly fine to present as the person she wants to be in the acting class instead of who she actually is. It's not until his sit down with Gene that Barry gets the clarity that change is possible. That gives him the hope that he won't be a piece of shit for the rest of his life. It's just in doing so that the narrative may force him to be the exact same as he has always been. That conflict has offered a nice push-pull dynamic throughout this season so far. It's moving at a brisk pace when it comes to some of the big plot developments. Barry finally confesses to killing Moss here. Sally's abusive ex-husband, Sam, is only in town for a day but causes lots of chaos. And Loach's true motivations are revealed as to why he has been hunting down Barry so vigorously as of late. All of them are surprising moments that are happening at the halfway point of the season. That's shocking but shows that this show has such a strong command over pacing and just how valuable each section of the show should be. It all fundamentally revolves around Barry's inner turmoil to be defined by more than being a killer. He is still training the Chechens to be assassins just like him. There continues to be only one guy who is even good with a gun. He pushes him hard because he sees that as the brutal way to form him in his own likeness. That too is bound to create lots of complications where the Chechens could go from appreciating him to seeing him as a threat to their operation. Hank may not support that sudden turn. But it wouldn't be surprising if his sentiment towards Barry isn't wildly accepted for the foreseeable future. Barry just wants to act. And yet, he is creatively blocked because of how traumatic his past military service actually is. There is more of a willingness to talk about those experiences and have them understood by the civilians in the class. Gene can just say they were actions taken during war. As such, they aren't as horrifying as they would be in regular society. Of course, that's not true at all. It's the easy justification for terrible behavior. Barry doesn't want to be that person any more. But it's also the only way for him to get this inner turmoil off his chest to someone who can still have compassion for him. He can't talk about being a hitman without him suddenly facing legal consequences and all of his friends seeing him differently. He only reaches out to Gene because he has no where else to go. He was ready to kill Sam. He only stopped because Sally also happened to be there. He didn't know that. That may prove that this impulse still exists for Barry. He may still act upon it. When he has time to think about everything, he may stop from going through with the action. In the heat of the moment though, he may fundamentally be a cold-hearted killer.

That is exemplified in the truth of what happened to Albert in the war. Gene was willing to listen to Barry's story of the first man he killed with the compassion that allowed him to stay and lead the class. That was the moment that he decided not to let tragedy define him moving forward. And now, Gene only believes that change is possible because his son, Leo, is making a slight effort to be in his father's life despite how horrible Gene was as a parent. Gene may not deserve that. Everyone in Leo's life is saying it's a terrible idea. And yet, he still delivers strawberries. That puts Gene in the right headspace to listen to Barry's horrifying story of killing an innocent person because he believes he was somehow involved with Albert getting shot. It's the action that led to him being discharged from the army. He may have been celebrated and cheered during his first kills. His fellow soldiers were more than willing to see those individuals as their enemies during this war. In this context though, it doesn't matter that they are being stormed with bullets. They understand that this nearby civilian had nothing to do with Albert's death. Barry didn't make that connection and opened fire. That's terrifying. Fuches pulled enough strings to ensure Barry didn't deal with too many consequences. That led to the start of their partnership. Barry still believes that could be personally beneficial to him now too. He views Fuches as the only person he can talk to about his life. He doesn't have a resource like Sally does about her history. Of course, Sally's story isn't exactly what happened either. In reality, she left Sam during the middle of the night while he was asleep. She is still more than willing to be polite and decent to him as well. He comes all the way to Los Angeles to control her and what she says. He has moved on with a completely different life. He has a wife and a kid. And yet, he is still an aggressive personality who believes he is entitled to everything going on in Sally's life. He doesn't believe she deserves freedom. To him, she is making a big deal about nothing. He has such a demeaning view towards women. They are things to be marked. That's his view on the world. He thinks Sally telling this story will somehow have lasting implications for him. It won't. It's just a simple performance in an acting class. That's not going to go viral with Sam being tarnished in his local community. And yet, he still pulls Sally into his world. She may be more aware of the abusive patterns he demonstrates in order to control her. And yet, she still goes to his hotel room and consoles him upon learning his father is sick. That story may not even be true. It may just be a tactic used to control her to get her to stop with the play. She stands firm in some instances but not all because she still doesn't quite know how to be a strong women when her life is so complicated. Meanwhile, the show is proving that everyone has their own personal motivations that can distort reality. The season presented Loach as wanting justice for Moss like everyone else at the precinct. Instead, he has been going after Barry to hire him for a job. To him, that is more important than making sure the man who killed his partner when she came close to discovering the truth faces repercussions for his actions.