Barry Season 3 Review: Bill Hader's Extremely Dark Comedy Remains One Of The Best Shows Around Right Now

Can Barry ever really be forgiven for the horrible things he's done? It's a question that arises early in season 3 of "Barry," the consistently great, increasingly bleak dark comedy from creators Alec Berg and Bill Hader. What started with a simple, seemingly goofy premise — a hitman moves to Hollywood and becomes an actor! — quickly transformed into a brilliant, disturbing, existential series boasting cinematic filmmaking and a revelatory performance from Hader. The actor, previously known primarily from his work on "Saturday Night Live," has gone to some dark, dark places for "Barry," and season 3 has the series in its darkest period yet. That might sound like hyperbole, but anyone who saw the jaw-dropping season 2 finale likely guessed things were going to be unpleasant come season 3. 

Season 2 concluded with Hader's Barry Berkman, aka Barry Block, on a rampage, murdering a group of Chechens, many of whom he had actually become friendly with. The Chechens weren't Barry's initial target — he was gunning for Fuches (Stephen Root), his surrogate father and hitman handler who had betrayed him. Fuches got away unscathed, and the Chechens got caught in the crossfire. After several instances of deception, Fuches had finally incurred Barry's wrath after he showed Barry's new surrogate father figure, his acting teacher Gene Cousineau (the always-welcome Henry Winkler), the body of Gene's girlfriend, Detective Janice Moss. Barry killed Moss when she discovered his true nature and hid the body. Seeing his dead lover's rotting corpse was likely bad enough for poor Gene, but just to drive the knife in further, Fuches whispered in Gene's ear that Barry was the one who killed her.

You might think season 3 would pick up immediately following such shocking revelations. Instead, we check in with the characters after a certain amount of time has passed. Fuches is in hiding, Gene is emotionally broken, and Barry is trying to make it on his own. Easier said than done: he's not having much luck finding high-paying hitman work. Worse: he's slowly coming undone mentally. We've seen Barry unhinged before (he seemed legitimately insane during that season 2 finale), but he looks downright doomed and damned this time; his eyes hollow and weary, his face consistently covered in stubble. And the question remains: can he ever be forgiven? According to his former friend, Chechen gangster NoHo Hank (show-stealer Anthony Carrigan), forgiveness has to be earned. 

But how can Barry even begin to earn forgiveness after all the lives he's taken and ruined? As the season unfolds, it becomes more and more clear that Barry might not even know what forgiveness is. Meanwhile, Gene wants some forgiveness of his own — he's not a killer like Barry, but he's made plenty of people miserable over the years. And unlike Barry, he might actually feel real regret and long for penance. Barry, meanwhile, just wants people to like him. And that becomes easier said than done the more unwell he becomes. 

The darkest season yet

As season 3 unfolds, it becomes abundantly clear that "Barry" remains one of the best shows around right now. Not only is the plotting compelling, the characters fascinating, and the overall pacing phenomenal (those short episodes go a long way), but the direction is cinematic in ways that put other modern shows to shame. The first two episodes are helmed by Hader, who continues to prove that he's not just a great actor, he's a great filmmaker to boot. Hader gives us multiple long-takes, wide angles, and close-ups that seemed designed to give us extreme anxiety. Later in the season, Hader directs a freeway chase scene that puts most modern action movies to shame. I'm sure a combination of approaches were used here, including green screen work. But the chase is handled in such a clear, effective manner that it feels real, and had me holding my breath. Hader also stages a dizzying traveling one-shot that follows Barry's girlfriend Sally (Sarah Goldberg) as she moves around a massive set, giving orders and looking over details, interacting with several different characters along the way. 

Sally is very, very busy — working on a TV series called "Joplin." She handles seemingly every aspect of the show — writing, directing, and starring, all in a frantic manner that feels inherently exhausting. She's finally arrived in Hollywood, but she doesn't seem particularly thrilled about it. If anything, she seems on the verge of collapse. Can she keep up this pace? And do she and Barry even have anything in common anymore, if they even did to begin with? Barry is still out there trying to make it as an actor, but his increasingly bizarre behavior threatens to blow everything up. 

"Barry" remains funny — there's a joke involving Rip Torn that's one of the funniest things the show has ever done, and Carrigan is consistently hilarious as the always-smiling Hank — but the series has entered a phase so dark, so disturbing, so unsettling that it might throw viewers for a loop. I am reminded of the equally-great "Better Call Saul," which seemed like it was going to be a comedy about an absurd figure and turned out to be a dark, anxiety-inducing drama with occasional moments of levity. 

We've had to wait a considerable amount of time for "Barry" season 3 —the season 2 finale came all the way back in 2019, and the pandemic delayed things since then. I am happy to say the wait has been worth it, as the show has grown even more confident and more fascinating. But I do wonder how viewers will take to Barry himself at this point. Hader's acting work remains strong, and he nails how tormented and damaged Barry really is. But any semblance of likability seems to be quickly fading. It's easy to sort of like Barry just because Hader himself is so inherently likable. But the decisions the character makes in the six episodes from this season provided to critics are downright scary and alarming, to the point where we've long crossed beyond the point of no return. Forgiveness has to be earned, but for Barry the character, it seems increasingly unlikely. 

"Barry" season 3 premieres on April 24, 2022, on HBO and HBO Max.