This week’s Barry episode—“The Audition”—was another classic in what’s shaped up to be quite the season already. Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s show could have been a simple palate cleanser for Game of Thrones. It could have settled to be a pleasant dark comedy with amazing improv-style actors, but that wasn’t good enough for this show. This show wanted to be about characters overcoming trauma, and its tone moves between that and its comedy about as well as Twin Peaks ever did. Yeah, I went there. Even with my unsure footing while I watched “ronny/lilly”, I knew the tone was all Twin Peaks Season 3. Last episode and this one give me a tone vibe of Twin Peaks Season 1. The show probably pulls this off because it’s not trying to have that Twin Peaks tone. It’s just being itself. Just like how Sally is learning the benefits of telling her truth. Just like how Barry Berkman wants this to be possible for him.
The titles of Barry episodes have always told us what we need to know about what all the main characters are going through in a given episode, and “The Audition” is no different. Every character goes into a situation that tests them deeply. They want to achieve one thing at the beginning, but they get something completely unexpected as a result.
Sally’s audition is literally for being an actress on a major network TV show but what she gets instead is a 400-seat theater for her true passion project. Rather than be one of three leads in the “revenge porn” of hilariously named Payback Ladies, Sally turns it down. She wants to be an actress, yes, but “not on that show.” Her heart is truly in it for presenting her truth, and that’s what she gets.
I love that her agent, Lindsay (played by Jessy Hodges), is actually in her corner. Despite being part of a patriarchal system, Lindsay really is in it to represent her clients rather than to get her bosses’ way. She believes in Sally enough to get her a theater. Granted, the timetable is tight—tomorrow night!—but that felt organic even while it set the table for maximum drama in next week’s season finale.
Gene’s thematic audition has him planning to piggyback on Barry right into the meeting with a Hollywood director. What he gets instead is some closure to Janice Moss’ death, and possibly the closure for his own life. More on that later, but for now suffice to say Gene’s heart—as shown last week with his dinner for two one—is dying without Janice. For once, he chooses to find a greater truth than pursue his own career.
The pathos of Gene and Sally’s genuine struggles are in direct opposition to Barry’s own audition, which is hysterically goofy how it comes about, just with that ridiculous yoga ball alone! Barry’s audition came about because a) he was supporting Sally, b) Lindsay said Barry was loud, and c) he’s tall. It’s that simple, for some people.
Sarah Goldberg delivers hilarious, genuine truth as Sally in wordy monologue after wordy monologue, proving that Sally is both self-absorbed and a hard worker, yet we also get her being supportive to Barry with his screen test for the role of J.T. even though it makes her crazy that he “skipped five callback steps” to get his meeting, with the implied sentence of “and you just got here” left unsaid. She actually helps Barry with his audition because she’s still happy for him and he could use the help, even while her future is more turbulent than ever.
Henry Winkler pulls out all the stops this week as well. You can feel every one of Gene’s auditions for extras roles with his incredulousness looking at Barry’s sample script. “J.T.’s on every page! They can’t cut that!” I can only imagine how that barely contained frustration made the crew die laughing on filming day. Gene gets over the jealously though, and he helps Barry understand his beyond-pedestrian scenes. “Make the shit pie. Eat the shit pie.” Oh my God!
It’s heartbreaking that Gene got caught up in Fuches’ trap. Fuches’ thematic audition is to prove to Barry that he’s the alpha, and that he’s not out of moves. What he actually gets for his trouble is the role of the season’s Big Bad. Barry’s never going to go back to work with Fuches no matter how complicated the blackmail. Quite the opposite. Fuches probably signed his own death warrant. I’m not sure he went to the cabin to specifically kill Gene, but I know he wanted to irreparably mess up Gene and Barry’s relationship.
If I had to guess, actually killing Gene wasn’t officially on the table until Cousineau talked proudly about Barry like a son. About how Barry had absolutely “no one in his corner” when he came to that class. When Fuches heard how useless he was to Barry, that was it. You could see Stephen Root put all the anger through Fuches’ face, just behind the bare minimum restraint to maintain his cover. Fuches went in to maintain control over Barry and ended the episode knowing he’d lost that. And that he may do something drastic.
That’s a ton of heavy weight to talk about for a half-hour program, and we haven’t even gotten to Hank, played by the always-endearing Anthony Carrigan. Assuming he was going to die in the bus with his men, Hank went on a self-focused monologue that bared his soul while his guys break out of the bus behind him. It paralleled Sally’s earlier monologue where she revealed her jealousy to Barry, but while Sally had eye contact with Barry the whole time, Hank was literally turned away from his guys.
Hank’s thematic audition is to ask forgiveness of his guys and to be the heart of his guys’ operation, but they escape and shoot their way out of their jam while Hank’s still handcuffed to the bus seat. They save him afterwards off camera as if he’s an afterthought. For the baring of his soul, Hank becomes teamless while Barry’s accidental protégé Mayrbek (played by Nikita Bogolyubov) takes control and becomes the leader when he saves the day.
Mayrbek literally killed it in his own audition, shooting the accordion player that sold out the Chechens then walking away with the guys.
Hank’s heart wants bros, not to be the leader. He does not end up with bros, but he does walk away without the role he wasn’t good at. He’s officially unencumbered by his past role. Maybe next season he’ll take some classes. After all, he’s “an optometrist by nature.”
I haven’t mentioned Barry’s thematic audition yet, have I? He went in to his literal audition to get the role of J.T., but instead he was distracted and didn’t care at all about being an actor when he was worried about what Fuches would do to Gene. Barry went in wanting to be an actor, but came out a connected human being, literally running through a forest to save his father figure.
I’m going out on a limb now to make a few predictions, because I want Hank to be happy, and I want Henry Winkler to stay on the show. How can that happen?
Gene’s son came by because Gene “made an effort.” We haven’t seen the son since. In their second scene, they spoke about the cabin. I suspect Gene’s son will happen by Detective Moss’s car just after the credits rolled this episode. He will interrupt before Fuches pulls the trigger, and Gene’s son will probably die, because according to the episode preview info, Barry needs “to get revenge” for something. His old mentor killing his new mentor’s son would fit that bill and we’d get to keep Gene in the show.
As far as Hank goes, I suspect he’d be looking for a place to crash, and he was looking at his phone. And he does have Barry’s number. One plus one…
The only way that won’t happen is if Barry gets a phone call from the movie producers about a role even better than J.T. After all, the room was highly impressed that “he does not give a fuck.” And there’s no better way to complicate a double life than to be filming a high profile movie. Plus, just like Sally being offered the theater she needed after being her authentic self, Barry was his most authentic self in the audition by wanting to protect Gene. In this episode, you get rewarded for that kind of thing. Why shouldn’t it be the same for Barry?