Barry Season 4 Review: The Final Season Goes Out With A Bang

Has there ever really been a show like "Barry"? On paper, "Barry" is a half-hour comedy about a hitman who gets bit by the acting bug. Sounds fun, right? Wrong. Well, sort of. Despite its comedic setup, it's probably not even fair to call "Barry" a comedy anymore. Alec Berg and Bill Hader's series started off somewhat light (or as light as a show with frequent murders could be) before descending into a remarkable, almost suffocating darkness. As "Barry" enters its fourth and final season, things have grown increasingly bleak. And if the bleakness doesn't get you, the feverish levels of anxiety will do the trick. 

And yet, despite all this, "Barry" is funny. But it's also so much more than the comedy it began as. It's a show about horribly flawed individuals navigating an increasingly dangerous world. When this final season goes for comedy, it's very funny. But the pervasive bleakness is always there, and there's a thick, inky darkness hovering over everything. I don't just mean in a visual sense — although Hader, who directs the entire final season himself, is adept at embracing dark, ominous spaces that create a tiny pit of dread in our stomachs. But there's also an atmospheric darkness; a smothering sense of menace and unease that hovers above everything like the world's biggest storm cloud. 

Hader has proven himself to be an incredible director, and he helms each episode in this final season (I've seen 7 out of the 8 episodes) with a deft touch. Dream sequences unfold in a way that smashes up against reality, keeping everything slightly off-kilter. And perfectly mundane moments — like characters sitting in an interrogation room — are rendered surreal but cramped spaces and behavior that seems somehow off. The characters here are both realistic and outlandish, and Hader and company find the perfect balance between the two. It recalls some of the best work of the Coen Brothers — a pitch-blackness soaked through with macabre humor. 

It's like a mash-up of "No Country For Old Men" and "The Big Lebowski," with a little "Fargo" thrown in for good measure. None of that is to say that "Barry" is cribbing from others. While Hader is clearly inspired by other filmmakers — all great filmmakers are — he makes "Barry" uniquely his own, and with this final season, he dials up the tension and shock factor to the point where nearly every episode will have you buzzing by the time the credits roll. There's electricity running through these episodes; the type of electricity that makes the hairs on the back of your neck prickle up as you try to react to it all 

'Are you mad at me?'

When we last left Barry Berkman, aka Barry Block (Bill Hader), he had just been apprehended after being tricked by his acting mentor Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler). Gene was working with Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom), father of Janice Moss, Gene's cop girlfriend who was murdered by Barry after she discovered his true nature. When season 4 picks up, Barry is in prison, and he seems completely caught off-guard by this development. He has a hard time believing Gene tricked him, and even calls up his acting teacher to tell him he loves him, as well as to ask: "Are you mad at me?" 

Gene's reply, before hanging up: "I got you."

Meanwhile, Sally (Sarah Goldberg), Barry's girlfriend, has fled Los Angeles to go back home after learning the truth about Barry (and witnessing him kill someone). Sally's career is all but destroyed not — and not just because she's associated with a known murderer. She's also torpedoed herself by snapping at her former assistant — an outburst that was recorded on film, only to then quickly go viral online. 

Then there are the other characters in Barry's orbit. Chechen gangster NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and his lover, Bolivian mobster Cristobal (Michael Irby) are living together in Santa Fe, and the possibility of these former criminals suddenly going legit arises. Meanwhile, Barry's old mentor/father figure Fuches (Stephen Root) is also incarcerated — and he just happens to be locked up in the same place as Barry. Will Barry reconcile with his former father figure now that his newer option, Gene, has betrayed him? I won't say. In fact, I won't say anything else about what happens this season, because part of the fun is being shocked by the twists and turns and completely surprising story beats Hader and company throw at us as this final season unfolds. 

Shocked and speechless

While I'm engrossed in the characters and plotlines of "Barry," what continues to astound me about the show is its unique, almost indescribable tone. I can't think of another show on the air right now that so perfectly blends the horrific with the humorous. Barry's dreams and fantasy sequences have the perfect mood of surreal unreality; absurdity mixed with menace. Barry's mind is a damaged, dangerous place, and Hader isn't afraid to take us there. 

And yet, despite the horrible things Barry does, we can't help but sympathize thanks to Hader's wounded performance. In many respects, Barry seems almost entirely clueless about the damage he causes wherever he goes. Or perhaps he's in complete denial; he's the hero of his own specific story, and as far as he's concerned, he's trying his best. In Barry's warped mind, saying you're sorry for murdering someone is tantamount to complete absolution. 

There's really never been anything like "Barry" on TV, and while I'll be sad to see the show go, I'm thrilled Hader and Berg realized that the story has gone as far as it can. It's time for Barry's final curtain call, and the results will leave you shocked and speechless on multiple occasions.

"Barry" season 4 premieres April 16, 2023.