Sunday, May 19, 2019

REVIEW: 'Barry' - Barry and Fuches Face Off with Gene's Fate Hanging in the Balance in 'Berkman > Block'

HBO's Barry - Episode 2.08 "Berkman > Block"

Barry is out for vengeance. Noho Hank faces the looming threat of being sent home. Sally makes a split-second decision on the night of the acting class' big performance. Fuches turns to an unexpected source for help.

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 season finale of HBO's Barry.

"Berkman > Block" was written by Alec Berg & Bill Hader and directed by Bill Hader

This season has been building towards a deadly conclusion. The previous episode ended on a cliffhanger that seemed as if Gene was about to be killed by Fuches. It was only a question of if Barry would get there in time and what he would do to save his new father figure. This finale reveals though that Barry wasn't close at all to getting there in time to save Gene. He saw Fuches running away after he made his fateful decision. That choice was not killing Gene. That is a very telling moment because it shows that Gene advocates for this assassin business but isn't capable of pulling the trigger himself. He views the people with a willingness to kill as absolutely immoral. There are plenty of people like that in the world. He sees them as tough but easy to manipulate. As such, he comes up with a new plan to completely disrupt Barry's life. It also ensures that Gene and Fuches both survive this finale and will continue to have complicated relationships with Barry moving forward. Barry has been so desperate to believe that people are capable of changing. He doesn't want to believe he's the same person who could murder countless people in cold blood. He wants to see himself as a changed man now that he's in Los Angeles and friends with Sally and Gene. And yet, he is still being interviewed by detectives here. He doesn't even offer a believable story for why he was also out there in the woods. The police in this world are absolutely incompetent. There is no questioning that at all. A third detective is now the lead on this case. She too wants to believe in the 911 call where Fuches set Gene up for this murder. It offers an easy explanation for what happened. The police may not have found the car. But now, they have everything handed to them in a neat little bow. The only complication is a Chechen pin that also happens to be on the body. That one piece of evidence is enough for them to completely rethink their idea of what happened. One moment they believe Gene killed Moss and is confessing now because he's racked with guilt. And then, they believe that this was a Chechen hit that targeted Moss because of some information that she discovered. That makes it very precarious as both Fuches and Barry return to the Chechens hoping to get some sense of power in this ever-changing world. But it's all wrapped up in some hugely compelling personal stakes. Sally is looking to Barry for confirmation that telling the truth about her story is the best thing for this showcase. She sees their classmates digging deeper into their truths. As such, there is the hope that the showcase is better than what the rehearsals have been all season long. It's not. It's just further proof that these students have no awareness for what experiences were traumatic and defined who they are today. Even Sally wants to play towards the fantasy. That throws Barry off completely. This isn't the same situation as the first season where Barry surprised everyone and could pull a great performance from his scene partner. Sally improvises and still manages to impress the entire audience. Her career will continue to hit new peaks despite her feeling so defeated afterwards. To her, that's what all of this is about. She believes she has just imploded her career. Instead, she may have done that to her relationship because Barry no longer trusts that he is a good person who has changed.

Barry doesn't even get to talk to Gene when he calls to check in. Instead, Leo answers the phone. He fills Barry in the developments at the station. That too is such a pivotal moment because Barry craves the connection that only a father figure can give. He sought it out from Gene. And now, Gene's actual son is stepping into the role of taking care of his father in his time of need. That's a clear divide that keeps Barry separated from it all. He isn't an impartial observer either who just wishes to care for his loved ones experiencing this trauma. Instead, he wants to keep a lid on things or even tell the truth about what actually happened to Detective Moss. It's in that moment though that he gets the clarity that Gene was right about people being able to change. Barry believes that with so much conviction. And then, the final act reveals that Barry hasn't changed at all. He can still go into a blind rage and just kill the people who stand in his way. He was hired by Hank to kill Esther. He broke into the monastery once and was unable to pull the trigger. And yet, the special bullet Hank wanted to kill Esther ultimately does kill her. The various gangs have mended fences and benefitted from the heroin trade once more. It's because of Fuches' self-preservation skills. He convinces everyone that it's still in their best interests to work together and be friends. However, that doesn't erase the painful actions of the past. Esther knows that Barry is a threat. But the various gangsters continue to just line up and get killed by him. It's such a brutal sequence. Barry is out for revenge against Fuches because he tried to pin a murder on Gene. That is unacceptable to Barry. However, Barry doesn't ultimately succeed in this plot. Sure, he kills a ton of people at the monastery. Most notably are the soldiers he trained out in the desert this season. Hank wanted Barry to return in order for his men to listen to him once more. That didn't work. Of course, Hank survives this entire ordeal and even seems impressive to the boss who has just landed in the city. But Barry doesn't seem to have much if any remorse for his actions. These men are simply standing in his way and protecting a monster. Fuches can certainly use the Chechen army as a shield to protect himself. The Chechens are even hesitant to fire because they love Barry. Barry doesn't reciprocate those feelings though. He's after Fuches and nothing will stop him. Well, nothing does until Fuches makes his grand escape and continues to survive. Fuches even gets the last laugh because he corrupts the relationship between Barry and Gene. It's more than just trying to frame Gene for murdering Moss. It's telling Gene that Barry - his star pupil - was actually responsible for her death. Gene will likely be very receptive to that idea because he knows that Barry is a killer and has gotten away with it in the past. As such, it should be very intriguing to see how all of this shakes up the core relationships in the future.