Cast: Bill Hader, Henry Winkler, Sarah Goldberg, Stephen Root, Glenn Fleshler, Paula Newsome, Anthony Carrigan, Darrell Britt-Gibson, D’Arcy Carden
Barry has two different series embedded inside it: a violent crime drama about contract killing, hits and mobsters one minute, and comedy about a lonely lost guy who accidentally ends up on a stage and likes it.
The first episode opens on a dead guy in a hotel room. His killer emerges from the bathroom, packs up his stuff, and walks out of the room. This is Barry Berkman (Bill Hader), a former military man who is now self-employed as a professional assassin. Along with his handler Fuches (Stephen Root), Barry travels around the country taking care of bad men – or, at least, men he’s told are bad.
That “business” concerns an aspiring actor and personal trainer who has an affair with a mobster’s wife. On his way, Barry found himself in an acting class led by Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler). The thrill of performing, and the attentions of fellow student Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg), made him think acting might offer a more meaningful path than murder.
Barry’s acting friends treat everything like it’s life and death, but they have no idea what life and death really looks like. Perhaps that’s why Barry wants to spend so much time around them. This pushes him to do something he hasn’t in a long time: be human and confront his own feelings.
Hader’s titular hero is emotionally cut off from the world. Barry is living through undiagnosed PTSD by killing people as a hitman. As viewers, we can see his inner pain, but Barry can’t. The protagonist is an army vet, now depressed and unhappy in his work as a hitman based in Cleveland. He is lonely and disillusioned. He makes good money but doesn’t know what to do with it. It’s tough for him to adapt to life after war.
The series works because of that original mix of horror and hilarity, because it is smart and because the characters are convincing, three-dimensional people you end up caring about.
Hader not only serves as the star, co-showrunner, and writer (with with Silicon Valley’s Alec Berg) of the series, but he also directs the first three episodes.
Barry is on Sky Atlantic Thursdays at 10.45pm.
> Mar Martínez