I really enjoyed Season 1 of Barry but in my humble opinion, the show never hit its stride until the final two episodes of the season. My biggest question heading into Season 2 was if the show would be able to continue to head down the truly heart-wrenching yet hysterical path Season 1 ended on. The Season 2 premiere was good, although not on the level the previous year ended on but then we got “The Power of No.” The second episode of Barry’s sophomore season showed exactly what this show has the potential to be, and that’s nothing short of “must-see TV.”
While Barry remains the focal point of the narrative, the supporting cast all were the beneficiaries of a massive boost in character depth and plot importance this week. Perhaps the most notable was Detective Loach, played by the criminally underrated John Pirruccello, who is seeking justice for the murder of his partner from last season, Detective Moss. Loach is resisting the attempts of his new partner for help, as tracking down Moss’ killer is deeply personal to him and he’s got his sights set on Barry. Loach travels all the way to Cleveland to interrogate Fuches, showing that Loach has already pieced most of this case together. He needs his smoking gun, and by the end of the episode we learn that he’s got Fuches cooperating with him in an attempt to get a confession from Barry. One of this season’s several main arcs is in play and shows major promise.
Gene is still reeling from Moss’ death as well, and this week, we learned that he had a son he had essentially abandoned to pursue his acting dreams. The murder of Moss has taken the character of Gene from being primarily a comedic vehicle and given him considerably more substance. The visit with his estranged son also drove the narrative forward considerably, when Gene’s son called him out on his acting class being nothing more than a shrine to himself. Gene took those words to heart and returned to his class determined to prove his son wrong.
Sally is a character who can swing from acting class stereotype to emotionally vulnerable at the drop of a dime, and this week we got to see her as both, which is when the character really shines. Sally’s career is taking off more than her classmates’ but that’s not to say it’s taking off as fast as she would like it to. The scene where Sally’s representation showed her the reel of her recent work showed the line that Barry can walk so well, with the clips of her acting and the commentary on Hollywood culture being laugh-out-loud funny yet Sally’s feelings over her career trajectory deeply sad.
Barry can make you laugh, cry and evaluate the path your own life is on all within a matter of minutes better than almost any show in recent memory, and this scene with Sally was a great example of that ability. Later, seeing Gene push Sally to tap into her pain from her pre-acting life makes you root for the character that much more, despite her moments of being a flaky acting class stereotype.
NoHo Hank was also the recipient of additional character depth this week. Hank has mostly been a character used for laughs but in one of this season’s other major story arcs, Hank is tied up in what has all the makings of a turf war between crime families. This week Hank was adamant about his desire to be seen as a legit crime boss, in his instructions to Barry to take out Esther, a rival who is quickly becoming Hank’s partner Cristobal’s new favorite. The writing is on the wall here that Hank is going to pull Barry into this multi-crime family conflict, all while Barry is trying to escape that life, start the life he wants and is also being pursued by Detective Loach, with the help of Barry’s former mentor, Fuches.
Barry himself this week continued down his path of staring down his demons. Last week we saw Barry relive the memory of the first time he killed someone, while stationed in Afghanistan. The memory of that turning point in his life is haunting him, and acting it out in class is only making it worse. (The scene where Sally explained to Barry that the rest of the class was experiencing “competitive guilt” as they acted out absurd painful memories of their own was one of the funniest things I’ve seen on television.)
In the beginning of the episode, we see Barry agree to help Hank take out his new rival Esther, a promise Barry plans to keep. We see that despite trying so hard to live this new life, complete with acting class roommates, Barry still has a stash of weapons built in underneath his bed. While some things are still the same with Barry, his rush of feelings regarding his past caused him to freeze, unable to take out Esther who was in a building filled with criminal monks (another hysterical concept and scene), despite Esther being an easy kill for Barry. The mental images flooded him; the guilt became more intense to the point where he had to flee.
Trouble sat in though, as Barry tried to escape out of the wrong room and wound up being chased out of the house by monks packing serious heat. They shot out Barry’s back window, causing him to crash his getaway car and nearly get caught in the process. The Barry of old would have made the easy kill and not been noticed. The changes he seeks to make within nearly got him killed this week. As much as we wish Barry could leave this life of crime and have the life he wants, he’s now got Esther and her monks most likely after him, Hank who will certainly be upset at Esther not dying and Detective Loach hot on his trail. All of the makings of a great season of television await us.