Fandom is often a volatile thing, but there’s a clear consensus on socials right now that the latest episode of Barry, the black comedy drama on HBO Max, will never see fans recover.
Most of the ire, praise, and requests for therapy are directed at lead and showrunner Bill Hader, who plays the eponymous Barry, depressed hitman and aspiring actor – with fans posting of their shock and disbelief after the fourth episode of Barry season 4 aired.
bill hader expect an invoice from my therapist #Barry #BarryHBO pic.twitter.com/Ic9aXxE9rMMay 1, 2023
Since Barry’s first season launched back in 2018, it’s always been a curious show – treading the line between a hitman’s expected violence and a cheeky critique of Hollywood’s ruthless meat grinder for talent, aided by the talents of Bill Hader, of Saturday Night Live fame. But the latest episode takes this to new heights, for both cameo appearances and some particularly heartbreaking dis-appearances.
Warning: spoilers for Barry season 4 follow.
Murder cinematic universe
The past few episodes of Barry have been an emotional rollercoaster, as an imprisoned Barry navigates past associates, current friends, and FBI agents in a bid to move into a new chapter in his life.
His willingness to deal with the FBI for witness protection causes NoHo Hank and Cristobal to put a hit on him. But the pair of romantically-involved assassins then find themselves torn apart by the former’s desire for a crime empire and the other’s desire for legitimacy. Hank engineers a way to get rid of several rival gangsters at once, tricking them with plans of a sand import business before collectively taking them out. Cristobal is very nearly killed in quicksand, but our brief relief at his survival is cut short by the Chechens, who take him out for good.
Henry Winkler’s Gene, in a moment of panic, shoots his own son while mistaking him for Barry. The episode then closes with Barry fleeing with Sally, and a scene several years later that seemingly shows them settled with a child.
Between the end of a fledgling hitman romance, the suddenly heightened brutality, and the glimpse of a distant future (eight years, exactly) beyond the chaos of the past episode, this is a piece of television that completely up-ended expectations of what Barry as a show could or would do. Somehow in the mix are director Guillermo del Toro, who plays an assassin handler; Fred Armisen, a hitman-podcaster; and even Oscar-winning CODA director Sian Heder, playing herself, with maximum star power underlining the horrors at play.
Al Griffin, TechRadar’s Senior Home Entertainment Editor (and Barry fan), says it’s “shocking mainly because it's an incredibly violent episode, even for a show with a regularly high body count. Also, two very sympathetic characters meet their doom: Gene's son, whom Gene accidentally shoots, thinking he is Barry, and Cristobal. It's left unclear whether Gene's son actually dies, but Cristobal's death following the massacre of their sand business partners was almost too much in a show already crammed with carnage. It's hard to imagine where the show can go from here.”
Thankfully, we won’t need to imagine for long, with another episode planned for release on May 7. Pray we’ll be prepared this time around.