This week’s episode of Barry begins with the title card minus the ’70s horns we’re accustomed to hearing with it. Not even a cold open scene before it. That’s the first clue we’re in for something different.
We get birds chirping, the establishing shot of a house, and it’s reminiscent of Twin Peaks Season 3 Part 1 when we’re forced to watch every detail of Sam changing data cards on cameras near a glass box. Over the course of this episode we’re literally watching every moment that Barry experiences between what I assume is late afternoon and later that evening. In this Barry episode, we’ve officially reached Lynchian levels of real-time uncompressed scenes.
On the plus side, it’s easier to write about with fewer scenes, but on the minus side we get zero interaction with anyone not in Barry’s sight line. Which means no NoHo Hank. And no Gene, Sally or theater classmates. Unlike the clockwork-precise character development in the season up to now, this episode is intentionally not balanced. So yes, this is an intentional change, but was it successful?
In the short term, I’d say no because we’re stuck worrying about whether our comedy is going to show our main character killing a kid. Even if the kid is made out to be straight from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The only jokes are about Ronny being Rasputin-level indestructible, and his daughter Lily being superhuman in a kung-fu flick way. As Barry describes in one of the first times I finally smile, “I don’t think she’s of this world.” She’s a feral animal when she’s not acting sad and worried like a lost kid, and I assume this polarity is thematically relevant in addition to being what’s supposed to be funny. As is the fact that even Ronny’s troubled breathing is a cue that the man is yet again not dead. Not a crushed windpipe. Not a bullet from Detective Loach. The man is a taekwondo Wile E. Coyote.
To break up the scenes, Barry passes out after getting beat up and stabbed. He dreams of being in the desert, and while his fellow soldiers are running to their wives and girlfriends, we see Barry finding Fuches, who nods to him in a particular way to follow him into the life of a hitman that got Barry into his current predicament. We know he followed Fuches then, but the episode ends in the grocery store parking lot with Fuches giving Barry the same nod to get in the car. If Barry follows Fuches again, he’s going back into his secret life. And Barry would learn essentially nothing. Or at least not enough.
This episode, dreams and waking life alike, is Barry in the desert, being tempted to follow Fuches into a troublesome life. Barry was put into this day’s events by Detective Loach, who arranged for Barry to kill Ronny in return for making Barry’s past deeds go away.
Barry admirably makes it through this episode without killing anyone, though he did break Ronny’s windpipe in pseudo-self-defense. He did break into Ronny’s house, but he laid his cards out on the table and tried to come up with a peaceful solution. But Barry had a choice not to go into the house in the first place, and when he did, he got hurt bad.
He also had the choice to leave when Ronny’s daughter came home, but instead he stayed and tried to give the daughter the same “disappear to Chicago” plan he gave Ronny, and he gets stabbed.
Fuches had empathy for Barry the whole episode, especially when he thought Barry killed a kid, yet he argued to sew Barry’s wounds himself instead of going to an emergency room, and he turned right back around to finish the job when he learned Barry didn’t kill the kid. He knew there was still a job to do. That got his cheek chewed off.
Later on at the grocery store, Detective Loach shoots Ronny down and gets all he ever wanted. Except then he takes his eyes off the unkillable man and goes after Barry. Loach went back on his word by doing this, and drops comedically fast to his death when Ronny kicks him. This wouldn’t have happened if Loach wasn’t selfish and just arrested Barry for the crime he got caught for. Instead he set in motion the events that would get himself killed.
I understand how this is thematically relevant, sure, but this is not the framework for how I hoped the unconscionably underused John Pirruccello would leave this show. I had dreams he was going to turn Barry into a double agent to try to take down Hank next season. His death here was practically an afterthought with all the theme afoot.
Is this episode too much a departure from the norm of Barry episodes? Possibly. I assume this is a pivot point where Barry makes a choice that will change his trajectory. This will hopefully become an important moment that proves he’s not going to do hitman jobs anymore.
This was possibly Barry’s last job, but whether it’s in a “starting now” way or a real way is up for grabs. Considering this event was shown to us in every detail (at least when Barry wasn’t passed out), I’d say this is showing us a real change. Or at least a genuine pivot point on the way to the change.
What Barry Season 2 does with the next three episodes will tell if this departure experiment was worth it from a story perspective, but right now I’m not entirely thrilled with an episode where the whole time you’re not sure if we’re going to see a kid (however feral or superhuman) be killed on camera. However the story arc goes for Barry, that is an official misstep in my book. I’d wager the show can still recover from that, but it’s a tough left turn going into the desert when all you want to see are all of the characters that keep this show in balance.