Monday, June 13, 2022

REVIEW: 'Barry' - Sally and Gene Make Devastating Choices That Shape What Accountability Looks Like for Barry in 'Starting Now'

HBO's Barry - Episode 3.08 "Starting Now"

What the hell is that?!

"Starting Now" was written by Alec Berg & Bill Hader and directed by Bill Hader

Once Barry decided to become a hitman, everyone around him would become infected with that aspect of his life. No one could escape it. He has tried to carefully balance the many facets of his existence. They always informed each other. That was inescapable. The audience had the benefit of seeing it all mold together. Many of the characters didn't have that perspective. It's even elusive for Barry. It dawns on him at the start of this finale though. On the purgatory beach, he was previously haunted by the figures he already killed. At the top of this episode, he sees Sally and Gene there as well. They aren't dead. Nor are they killed during the events of the finale. However, Barry's influence has corroded them to the point where they make the same lethal decisions he does. It's all in the name of self-preservation. Barry's at a completely different point in that journey than his loved ones. They have started down it as well. That can't be denied. Plus, Barry is powerless to stop any of it from coming to fruition. He has been able to do so much because the local police is so incompetent. The only thing they can do with Fuches is lock him up. Even then, he embraces the myth of what he has become as the Raven. He already did his work. He can sit back and see the rewards of his efforts. Of course, vengeance means different things to different people. Everyone expects it to be a personal burden. They carry it themselves because they doubt anyone else can have the capacity to feel these extreme emotions to the same extent. It takes a true tactician to recognize the threat from Barry and respond with an appropriate show of force. That's the fate that finally comes for him. It comes from the most impersonal of places as well. Sure, it's absolutely terrifying when Gene is subjected to interrogation from Jim Moss. He professes his love for Janice over and over again. He doesn't want to believe he is protecting Barry. He's done exactly that by letting him go free despite being guilty of this crime. Jim can't allow that to happen. He needs justice for his daughter's death. He has already proven himself as a friend of the police. He delivered Fuches to them. He does the exactly same thing with Barry. No one should have expected him to carry out this personal burden by himself. He can capture Barry without having to play by the same rules. He exists as his own entity.

Barry gets lost in himself. He knows so many people are furious with him. However, he also sees the transformational nature of being forced to sit in the truth for a minute. Sally was furious with Barry for how violent he became towards her and how casual he treated intimidating others. Now, she wants to exploit those qualities to her own benefit. Meanwhile, Gene once wanted to kill Barry for what he did to Janice. He grew to accept the payoff given and the ability to completely reinvent his career. These personal developments were massive. And yet, they could never escape the tainted darkness that made it all happen in the first place. That's always present through their proximity to Barry. They could even spend time far away from him. His influence was still felt. That was a result of seasons already spent with him. They were changed by this experience. That informed their actions even when they strived for personal autonomy once more. Sally was furious over the cancellation of her show and what she was reduced to at work. She strived so hard to achieve that recognition. It was gone just as quickly and she was subjected to public humiliation. Her anger fueled her to depend on Barry for his specific skillset. She wanted Natalie to suffer. She could suddenly tolerate this behavior because she needed to exact vengeance. Instead, she killed the criminal who came to target Barry. That was the choice she had to make. Barry wasn't coming to save her in time. It was a battle for survival. It's something Barry takes personal responsibility over. This all happened because of him. Sally doesn't know the many layers of this confrontation. Instead, she simply flees to Joplin in the hopes of being able to get away with it. Meanwhile, Gene can't avoid surrendering the truth to Jim. He must do so. He even has to lead Barry into a trap. He can't enjoy the spoils of his career without addressing the cost of making it a reality. He has to betray Barry in order to continue enjoying his success. That proves how little he has actually changed. He's still a selfish man willing to advance his own happiness at the expense of others. He feels bad about exploiting Barry in this way. That shows how noble he truly is. He was also forced into this position by someone who refused to ever change or be accountable for his actions.

Albert pleads with Barry for answers as to why he committed to this life. He's enraged over Barry killing Chris. He needs to know what it took to corrupt Barry in this way. His former friend may simply be broken. People took advantage of that. However, Barry always operates with the belief this life could implode at any time. As such, he always has to be aware of his surroundings and willing to kill to cover up the truth. Albert doesn't force that choice onto Barry. It's not a dual to see who can kill the other first. Instead, Albert leads with the truth and demands better of Barry in the future. This life has to stop now. He can't continue down this path. However, Barry is too far gone. All it takes is one call to pull him right back into the lethal action. Jim doesn't even have to be a mastermind to lure Barry into his trap. Barry is simply so emotional and clouded with bad judgment. He's not doing this in the name of something greater either. One could argue that he doesn't want Gene to die. That feels like the inevitable outcome should Barry not intervene. He has to save the man who saved him at the start of the series. That's not the scope of this confrontation though. It can't be perceived as that simple. With Hank and Cristobal, it can be. It's a battle for Hank to escape a literal monster. It's only upon doing the impossible that he can reunite with the love of his life. Cristobal may be a shell of who he once was because he endured torture at the hand of his wife to erase his true sexuality. It's absolutely horrifying and brutal. Hank can be perceived as the hero. He fought to save Cristobal. He did so at the expense of so much that once carried importance. Now, Cristobal is all that matters. That's in contrast to how Barry operates. He reacts simply in the name of preserving himself. One threat isn't more distinct than all the others. Barry was forced to juggle a lot this season. The chaos was unavoidable. He survived so many brushes with death. He's ultimately arrested. Trying to kill Jim seems like an easy case to prove that will ensure he spends plenty of time in jail. It creates a precarious narrative for the show to figure out heading into the next season. It serves one version of justice and accountability. That's true for Barry. So much still lingers out there for the other characters who have now gone past the point of no return when it comes to their own corruption.