A Simple Script Problem Led To One Of Barry's Best Moments

Although HBO's dark comedy series "Barry" has always been a little absurd, it hit strange new heights in season 2 with episode 5, "ronny/lily." After being blackmailed by a crooked detective into killing said detective's ex-wife's new boyfriend Ronny (Daniel Bernhardt), Barry (Bill Hader) starts off the episode by breaking into the new boyfriend's house and trying to convince him to go into hiding for a year. Unfortunately for Barry, Ronny just so happens to be a master of Taekwondo. For the first time in the series, Barry's unable to easily take down his target.

Although "Barry" has always had one foot off reality, this episode turns into a full surrealist comedy the moment Ronny's eleven-year-old daughter Lily (Jessie Giacomazzi) shows up. At first we feel dread at the sight of her because it seems like Barry's going to have to kill her too. Or at the very least, we know she's going to be traumatized by the sight of her father's body on the floor. Instead, she fights Barry like she's been preparing for this moment her whole life, proving to be way more of a threat to the hitman than he is to her. Not only that, but she seems strangely inhuman the whole time. She starts the fight by growling at him like a feral animal, and then she lunges at him, flying just a little too far in the air for a normal human to be able to do. 

The otherworldly Lily

Lily gets a few serious stabs in on him with a kitchen knife, then runs off. Later in the episode, they find a distraught Lily sitting alone on a nearby sidewalk, and despite Fuches' (Stephen Root) insistence, Barry refuses to kill her. "I'm not killing a kid," he says. "Plus, I don't think she's of this world." Fuches tries to coax her into their car, but she responds by climbing up a nearby tree like a squirrel, jumping off a branch onto a nearby roof, and perching herself up there like an angry gargoyle. A defeated Fuches returns to the car and concedes to Barry, "Okay, she's not human."

It's at this point that Barry accidentally rips open the shoddily-done stitches Fuches performed on the knife wound on his back, and Fuches comes up with a simple solution: he rubs some super glue on the open wound with his hands. In an episode already filled with squirm-inducing violence, this moment is still a standout. Barry screams in surprise and pain while Fuches callously keeps going. It's one of the funniest moments of the episode, topped only by what comes immediately after.

Once Fuches finishes rubbing the glue, Lily jumps from the roof of the house onto the roof of their car. Fuches panics and slams on the gas, then steps on the brakes. As they're trying to figure out if the girl really did climb onto the roof, she sneaks into the back seat and bites Fuches' face. Barry tells Fuches to push her off him, but he can't. Why? Because his hands are stuck on the steering wheel. That's the moment when we realize the whole super glue scene from earlier wasn't just a funny scene in itself, but the set up for an even gorier punchline.

Writing backwards

The decision to have Fuches glue his hands to the wheel came from Bill Hader himself. As he told the New York Times, the original reason why Fuches didn't move in the original draft was because he was in shock at what was happening. The writers told him, "That doesn't really work," which is a reasonable objection considering how long Lily is biting on Fuches's face before she finally fully chomps down. "So, I thought, what if his hands are stuck to the steering wheel?" Hader explained, "And then we came up with the crazy glue thing."

It's a nice example of how writers of good TV can make one simple change to a script and then effectively follow through on that change's ripple effects. Not only does Fuches' screw-up get part of his face bitten off, but his hands are stuck to the wheel for the rest of the episode. It makes an already desperate situation even more desperate, as Fuches is trapped inside the car and Barry, already severely wounded, is forced to take charge.

After Lily bites Fuches' face, she gets out of the car and lets out a guttural scream. Then she runs off in her blood-soaked clothing, never to be seen or heard from again. In what's already a weird episode, this is the moment where the reality of the show fully breaks, leaving audiences wondering how much of the episode really happened within the show's universe.

Although many of the events in the "Barry" episode don't make objective sense (especially considering how few consequences there are), "ronny/lily" works because it embraces the kind of dream logic that makes some of David Lynch's best films so memorable. A common type of dream people have involves a basic task taking an absurd amount of effort to accomplish, and that's what this episode is — stretched out to thirty minutes.

Why the episode works so well

After all, Barry's a professional assassin who's never struggled with a hit before, yet every moment of this episode features another complication to a task that should've been accomplished in a couple minutes at most. First, Ronny turns out to be a martial arts expert; then his daughter shows up — and she turns out to be a superhuman fighter. Then, Barry's partner-in-crime gets his hands glued to the steering wheel just as said daughter sneaks her way into the back of the car. Finally, when a wounded Barry goes to a nearby supermarket to grab some medical supplies, he runs into Ronny, who is still somehow alive and trying to kill him. It's a bad stress dream played out in full.

And as bizarre as the supernatural daughter plot is, it does make sense in a karmic justice kind of way. The young daughter of the guy Barry was sent to kill should've been a helpless victim in all of this. In another show, Barry would be forced to decide whether to kill her or not, and she'd simply be a plot device used to explore Barry's moral code. Instead, "Barry" takes that choice out of his hands by making her a violent, otherworldly wild card. It sidesteps the expected angst of our protagonist having to kill a child and gives us something way more interesting. 

As we get ready for the season 3 premiere of Barry to come out this Sunday, it's fun to look back at the strangest episode of the last season and what went into making it. The minor hole in the script that led to the glue scene ended up contributing a lot to the increasingly desperate, dream-like feeling of the episode; "ronny/lily" was widely listed as one of the best episodes of not just season 2 of "Barry", but of the entirety of television in 2019, and the glue scene was a big part of the reason why.