Season 4 of ​'Barry' Is More Epilogue Than Final Chapter

Created by Alec Berg and Bill Hader

Starring Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg, Henry Winkler, Stephen Root, Anthony Carrigan, Robert Wisdom, Michael Irby

Photo: Merrick Morton / HBO

BY Rachel HoPublished Apr 17, 2023

It's extraordinary how Bill Hader went from the impression guy on Saturday Night Live to a legit auteur director to be reckoned with. Watch any one Hader's interviews online (which I have spent many hours happily doing) dating years back, and it's clear that he's always been a cinephile just waiting for his moment. 

After leaving SNL in 2013, Hader took on a few film roles (like the excellent Skeleton Twins, where he showed off a dramatic side we hadn't yet seen) and created the mockumentary series Documentary Now! alongside fellow SNL alumni Fred Armisen and Seth Meyers. But it wasn't until Barry debuted in 2018 that Hader's prowess as an actor, director and writer really came to the fore. Three seasons, countless award nominations (including two Emmy wins for Hader) and all the critical praise later, we finally come to the end of Barry Berkman's story.

When we left Barry (Hader) at the end of Season 3, Barry's work as a hitman had finally — and inevitably — caught up to him. He found himself caught in a trap set by his former acting teacher, Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), and Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom), the father of Detective Janice Moss, who Barry murdered back in Season 1. The final season picks up immediately following Barry's arrest and deals with the fallout of his capture as it relates to each of the supporting characters.

Season 3 catapulted Barry into the land of "prestige television," due in large part to Hader's direction and writing, with the show doubling down on its dark humour and producing some truly enthralling setpieces. Where the penultimate season landed punch after punch, the final season feels more subdued; I'd go so far as to argue that the entire show can be seen as a trilogy, with Season 4 serving as its epilogue. 

This is not to say that Season 4 doesn't perfectly execute what it aims to deliver; it's simply that what it delivers is noticeably different to previous seasons. While there are still thrilling moments of action, they take a backseat to the emotional beats that have always existed within the show — primary among them is the constant grappling with Barry being the world's most affable serial killer. 

The series has never shied away from what a monster Barry is, but it has also never been subtle in giving the character an almost child-like demeanour that, with Hader's comedic abilities, generates a lot of sympathy and love for the hitman. This intriguing dynamic is at the centre of the show's farewell, playing with audience's innate understanding that Barry should get his comeuppance and our inexplicable desire to want him to be okay. 

As with the previous three seasons, the entire of cast of Barry is terrific. From the beginning, this show was perfectly cast, and as the series progressed, each character was given depth and an interesting arc, and each actor was generously afforded the opportunity to individually shine. Sarah Goldberg continues her thankless job of delivering a stunning performance as the divisive Sally Reid, and Anthony Carrigan scores big laughs as NoHo Hank. But it's the veterans of comedy that shine the brightest. 

Aided by some compelling writing, Winkler's turn as Gene should stand next to the Fonz as the actor's greatest work. His ability to bring seriousness to the ridiculous elevates Gene to a place that still feels fresh. Stephen Root's Monroe Funches, Barry's former mentor and boss, is given the most to do in this season, capitalizing on Funches's menace coupled with Root's flailing comedic stylings. Both Root and Winkler continue to remind viewers that, for all the shiny new comedic talents out there, their longevity has been well-earned. 

Critics were provided with the first seven episodes of the season's eight-episode run. As with the previous season, each episode comes in around 30 minutes, and Hader should be commended for this restraint. While we all would love to have more Barry to dig into, keeping the season and episodes lean, the excess that we would normally see in a show's final season is left on the cutting room floor. 

With the ending of any television series, there always exists the inevitable twists in the plot that feel a bit precious and convenient, and even a show as clever as Barry isn't immune to that. But Hader gives Barry and gang the send off they deserve — albeit in a much quieter fashion than fans of the show may be expecting.

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