Barry Reveals His Big Plan For Forgiveness In An Uncomfortable New Episode

Last week's season 3 premiere of HBO's black comedy "Barry" left us on a particularly precarious cliffhanger. Our eponymous Barry Berkman (Bill Hader), known by some as a guy named Barry Block with some surprising acting chops, and by others as a particularly fierce hitman, was holding his old acting teacher Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) at gunpoint, because the latter had failed at taking Barry down for having murdered his girlfriend at the end of season 1. But Barry, as effective a killer as he is, doesn't want to kill Gene and thinks he's figured out a way to earn forgiveness. So the good news was, Gene lives! ... Hopefully, right? The larger question, though, is: what does Barry think can possibly earn forgiveness, even if Gene's likely going to fake it just so he can survive his old student's inherently violent ways?

The opening minute of "limonada" confirms that Gene is indeed alive, as we watch Barry get some lunch at a local fast-food place and bring it to the trunk of his car, where he's left Gene. (A fun/dark little detail is that Barry made Gene pay for the lunch, as we see the hitman give Gene some change back before shutting the trunk and crowing about "big plans".) "limonada" also doesn't wait very long to reveal what Barry has up his sleeve. After the traditional title card, we head into Hollywood as Katie (Elsie Fisher), the actress starring as the daughter of Sally's character on her show "Joplin" marvels at how Sally (Sarah Goldberg) is able to wear so many hats, from acting to showrunning to writing. Before Sally can explain her process, Barry arrives unannounced and unveils his master plan: "You cast Gene in your show!" Barry leads up to this by saying Gene is still pretty heartsick at the death of his girlfriend, which would be an awkward enough lead-in. Of course, stepping back from Barry's manic state of mind, it's fairly obvious that getting Gene's career back on track is ... well, probably not enough to earn genuine forgiveness.

But it would be one thing if Barry's plan was just goofy. Sally explains that while she sympathizes with Barry, when she separately floated Cousineau as a possible cast member for "Joplin," the casting team said no: "The direct quote was, 'life's too short.'" And although she's technically the boss of the show, she trusts the casting team. Barry, pushed beyond a regular point of desperation, proceeds to both hit himself in the face and scream at Sally, claiming she doesn't care about Gene and that "if I don't do this, I don't live!" There's an interesting meta aspect to a scene like this, in which the creator, writer, and star of a TV show is shouted at by a character played by ... the creator, writer, and star of a real TV show. (As with last week's episode, Hader co-wrote with Alec Berg, and directed this one.) More importantly, this scene is an important reminder of a) how effective Bill Hader is as an actor, and b) how incredibly nasty a character Barry can be. 

Big plans

As much as Barry Berkman can sometimes be the most likable character in a scene, it's often only because he is surrounded by worse characters. Here, he's just a manic, angry, childish, and violent man who throws a tantrum because he doesn't get what he wants, the way he wants it, when he wants it. No matter how clear it is that Barry is wracked by guilt, the implication being that he might as well kill himself if he can't get Gene to forgive him, the behavior here is intensely disturbing. And again, it's brought to life very effectively by Hader, who can turn on a dime in showing emotion. It is notable that this whole tantrum doesn't happen in a vacuum: Sally's scene partner Katie is there and is obviously, understandably shaken by it, which seems like the kind of thing this show will not forget.

Barry, meanwhile, is focused on his plan (even though Gene is still stuck in the trunk of his car, and begging to be let out). With Plan A out the window, he heads to Plan B, visiting real-life casting director Allison Jones. Jones points out that everyone on her team was baffled that, at the end of last season, Barry flaked on a big audition with director Jay Roach. Barry has even less success with Plan B, sadly: as soon as he mentions his teacher's name, she interrupts: "Gene Cousineau is a f**king a**hole, and I won't have anything to do with him." Yet just as Barry has fallen into success before, he does so again: his supposedly intense "not-present, Joaquin Phoenix" vibe lands him a late-day audition on a procedural called "Laws of Humanity," resulting in Barry nodding but rolling his eyes exhaustedly.

NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) is having a better day, as his boyfriend/fellow mobster Cristobal (Michael Irby) calls to see if he's free to hang out. But as soon as Cristobal hangs up, outside his house in Calabasas, he's shocked to be greeted by a series of black SUVs, holding a cadre of Bolivian gangsters led by his father-in-law Fernando (Miguel Sandoval). Cristobal learns — as do we — that his offscreen wife Elena misses her husband, their kids miss their dad, and the Bolivians want revenge on the Chechens for last season's violence. "Blood for blood," Fernando almost jovially states, though Cristobal is obviously less enthused about the cavalry arriving or the possibility of going back home. 

It's a pattern

Back in the world of "Joplin," life imitates art imitating life, as the show Sally wrote to exorcise her demons about her past with an abusive husband is distracted by her currently abusive boyfriend. While Sally tries to compartmentalize the experience of being pinned up against the wall by Barry, Katie struggles to make the same choice. Off camera, she learns that while the young female writer who witnessed Barry's tirade was equally unnerved, there's not much that can be done about it since Barry doesn't work on the show and he didn't technically hit her or specifically threaten her with violence. It's a grim scene for how quickly, and how emphatically, we witness women in the industry try and force themselves to move past abuse that isn't perhaps quite as terrible as possible.

Barry, meanwhile, struggles to keep Gene within his plan, especially since Gene breaks it down pretty accurately: "You're going to hold me hostage until you book me a part?" Though Barry understandably doubts Gene would keep quiet, Gene points out that his own reputation (as Barry has learned so far) is so bad the plan could take a long time to come to fruition. "It's either this or I kill you," Barry states with a catch in his voice. And no matter how impassioned Gene is in trying to guilt Barry, by walking him through how he saw Barry's potential as a good person and his worth as an actor, Barry shuts him out and tries to get him to interpret his big audition scene.

That audition, by the way, seems to go well, even if "Laws of Humanity" seems like a particularly terrible drama, about a law practice intended to "eradicate meanness." Though Barry's effective audition is impressive enough, he tries once more to go straight to the source and convince the casting team to hire Gene for the wordless role of a grieving old man. "Isn't he the guy who brought the loaded gun to the 'Full House' audition?", one of the casting agents asks before Barry launches into what he does best: ape human emotion at the right time, as he all but repeats Gene's own monologue to him, pleading for his life, but using it as a way to sell them on hiring Gene for the show.

At Plants!, the wonderfully named front business for the Chechens, we see Fernando and the Bolivians are wasting no time in trying to get a balance on the bloodshed. But Cristobal was able to give NoHo Hank a warning to escape in time — we see NoHo Hank and his skeleton crew of Chechens on the top floor of a double-decker celebrity tour bus in the Hollywood Hills, far away from Plants!. But later, Cristobal lays it down straight, telling NoHo Hank he has to run away because they're bound to get caught by Fernando's team of soldiers eventually. He may love NoHo Hank (all but saying it), but he ends their relationship to avoid the heartache that's bound to follow.

Two sides of the same coin

Sally is having a hard time focusing on "Joplin," more engaged in making sure that she can have a nice dinner ready for Barry that night than paying attention to the fact, shared by her agent and her assistant (D'Arcy Carden), that a show called "Pam!" arriving at the same time has the same basic idea of a woman escaping an abusive relationship, even though the latter is a comedy. The ensuing scene is, again, effective and very uncomfortable: at home that night, Sally prepares things so Barry can be as happy as possible, from a nice Italian takeout meal to a can of beer to a new part for his video-game controller. When Barry calls to tell her he got the part on "Laws of Humanity," and he succeeded in getting Gene a role too, Sally apologizes for her own behavior earlier (and Barry all but ignores it). So maybe we should feel more spitefully pleased than scared for Barry that as soon as he hangs up the phone, he opens up his trunk and sees that Gene has escaped.

Of course, Gene hasn't gotten too far, running as fast as he can through a residential neighborhood to avoid Barry's gaze. (This leads to another great gag. As we watch from the inside of a house where a woman is breaking up with her shocked partner, a massive amount of vicious dogs run through their backyard to attack Gene offscreen. "You have too many dogs," the woman doing the breaking-up says. "Me?") After Gene runs away from the pack of dogs, he begs a nervous young waitress outside a restaurant for "an Internet taxi", only to find that the driver of said taxi is ... well, Barry. Gene screams and tries to get away, but he needn't worry: a car drives into Barry's outside the restaurant. 

Well ... I should say Gene needn't worry temporarily. When he comes back home, after he tells his son to call the cops, he learns that Barry managed to get out of the accident relatively unscathed and is sitting next to Gene's grandson. Barry tells Gene about the joint bit of good casting news for them on "Laws of Humanity," and that it's time for Gene to enjoy his so-called second chance or else "this one and that one" (as in, Gene's grandson and his son) will be killed. Barry repeats something he told Gene earlier that day: "I love you, Mr. Cousineau. Do you love me?" And so "limonada" ends, with Gene almost robotically telling Barry he loves him too, with hatred and fear intermingled in his eyes.

On one hand, "limonada" feels like a slight comedown from last week's premiere (or perhaps it would have been more appropriate for these two episodes to be released as an hourlong opener). But the installment doubles down heavily on the idea that Barry Berkman is an irreparably damaged figure who is lashing out at the world and hurting those around him. It's easy to see, in a twisted way, that Barry isn't lying when he says he loves Mr. Cousineau; he's a man in desperate need of a surrogate father, and Gene is certainly a much less dangerous one than Monroe Fuches. But Barry is also immensely immature, unable to accept that wanting something doesn't mean he should get it. Yes, Barry got what he wanted from this episode, but he only did so after unknowingly enforcing a pattern in his girlfriend's eyes of domestic abuse, making a public spectacle of himself, and threatening an innocent man and child. Barry Berkman also says he wants forgiveness. But he can't really get it. Right?


- "'The Man Show' doesn't hold up." This line from one of NoHo Hank's fellow Chechens is truer than he knows.

- D'Arcy Carden shouting the word "Pam" is another one of the few but extremely funny laughs in this episode.

- Speaking of Fuches, he's absent from this episode, but with such a short season — eight episodes this time around, as with the first two seasons — it's highly likely we'll see him again. (No pussy-footing around: I've seen the first six episodes of this season. We will see Fuches again.)

- Fernando crowing over the excessive amount of cupholders in his rental SUV is another good laugh, from ever-reliable character actor Miguel Sandoval, recalling his work in the 1995 comedy "Get Shorty." 

- An interesting, but not super-pressing, question: is "Joplin" supposed to be a good show? It's hard to know for sure, especially since Sally puts her own show down a bit when she learns that Barry got cast on "Laws of Humanity." (And considering that "Laws of Humanity" sounds godawful from the brief snippet of dialogue ...)