The Barry Season 4 Premiere References The Show's Most Surreal Moment

This post contains spoilers for the first two episodes of "Barry" season 4.

There's a moment in the season 4 premiere of HBO's "Barry" in which Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) can all but see his own death coming. It happens after he goads a prison guard into beating him with a truncheon. The man wants to see the best in Barry, and after three seasons of our protagonist alienating everyone in his life one murder at a time, this guy is pretty much the only person who does. The corrections officer tries to bond with Barry, giving him some friendly wisdom from his own mother, but Barry's not having it. "I'm a cop killer," he says, eyes frenzied. If he saw the man's family on the street, he claims, he'd kill them.

We've seen every side of Barry by now, and it's hard to believe what he's saying here despite every bad thing we know about the guy. Maybe that's the point: The audience, like the guard, wants to see the best in this man we know from TV. Barry doesn't want that, though, and what he does want becomes clear as time slows down just long enough for us to see some familiar imagery and hear an eerie sound we've heard before. Barry knows death is coming for him, and he's sure an afterlife reckoning will come with it.

Barry brings us back to the beach

When Barry braces himself for the officer's beating, Hader makes two interesting choices as a director. First, he lets us see a trickle of blood fall down Barry's forehead, a visual callback to the point in season 3 when the anxiety-ridden assassin kept imagining gunshot wounds on the foreheads of his loved ones. We also hear an ominous, otherworldly sound, a bit like the reverberating wail of a massive metal object. In the background, the sound of waves crashing contrasts with the inexplicable noise of the unseen presence. Barry shakes with nerves as he hears it, but then goes resolute, and the sound cuts out entirely.

We've never seen the object or being that makes this sound, but we have heard it before, in the seventh episode of season 3. When Barry is poisoned by the relatives of his past victims, he goes nearly catatonic and has a near-death experience (or perhaps a hallucination) that takes place on a cloudy beach. There, Barry stands among a crowd of people who all seem to be waiting for something. At first, he looks genial, unconcerned, but slowly it seems to dawn on him what the assembled group has in common: They're all people he's killed.

At that moment, something happens in the sky. Barry looks upward, and we see his face as he hears that strange metallic hum. The dream-like nonchalance he possessed before fades, and in its last seconds, the scene becomes existentially terrifying. We aren't told any details, but the gist of the moment is clear. There's a reckoning coming for Barry, and he'll be made to face everything he's done in life. Whatever spiritual bus the assembled crowd is waiting for, Barry seems doomed to catch a different one.

'I know where I'm going'

"Barry" hasn't exactly been a religious show up to this point, so fans will be forgiven for assuming this near-death experience is the result of Barry's poisoning and holds no bearing on his future. The first part might be true, but the second part certainly isn't. We see as much when Barry talks to Sally (Sarah Goldberg) in the season 3 finale. He can't act out her sadistic vendetta, he says, "because I know where I'm going after all this." Hader is plaintive in this scene, all of his anger vanished. "When I die, I know where I'm going," he insists, "and I don't want you to go to the same place."

So when Barry hears the whoosh of the beach waves and the alien-like noise in the season 4 episode, he's recalling that ambiguous moment when he was forced to confront an apparently harrowing future. Thinking about it clearly scares Barry, but he's ready to face it, too. In this context, the scene plays out not like Barry at his most unhinged, but his most controlled. He goads the officer in a planned attempt at suicide by cop — not just resigned to his fate, but accepting of it.

This makes the fact that Barry wakes up alive but beaten, with Fuches (Stephen Root) by his side, more depressing than comforting. We've seen Barry the actor, Barry the boyfriend, and Barry the killer over the years, and now we're left with Barry the zombie, forced to keep trudging the earth and convinced there's nothing good left for him afterward. It's a bleak choice, but a bold one, and we'd expect nothing less from Hader's masterpiece.