Arts and EntertainmentTelevision

Barry’s season 2 premiere and the “endless rolling crisis”

Hey, how come no one told me Barry was back?

I’d seen the previews but they hadn’t come with a return date. Turns out Barry returned to HBO this Sunday. If you read my weekly reviews, or saw its placement on my year-end TV list at friend of the site The Solute, or read my conversation with friend of your author / eventual contributor wallflower at friend of the site The Solute, you know what a fan I was of this show and its tragedy of a desperate man.

Well, we’re back with season two, and it doesn’t miss a beat, combining both setup of the new season with the fallout of the previous season and the same sense of urgency in the plotting that made the show so great.

We pick up not too long after the events of season one. I forget where the epilogue placed us in the troupe’s production of The Front Page, but “The Show Must Go On, Probably?” (it seems the “Chapter” conceit has been dropped) places us the night before opening night. Gene has been so distraught since Janice disappeared that he hasn’t been showing up to rehearsals; everyone but Barry wants to cancel the production, but he insists it should go on, because– as he lets slip– “If we cancel this show, then what was the point?” (Sally catches this and is perturbed, even though she doesn’t know it means murdering Janice.) He convinces himself he can be the director despite his lack of experience (and lack of suitability); everyone’s willing to give it a try, but they’re all of course worried.

Barry tries to convince Gene to return to the production, only to come by Gene’s house on the day Moss’ old partner Detective Loach and a few other cops come by to tell him they are, essentially if not technically, closing the investigation. They’re convinced the Chechens took Moss, and with her body and her car disappeared from Gene’s cabin, there’s really no physical leads left anymore. Gene is distraught, and Barry is, of course, hilariously incapable of giving him what he needs.

That is, until Gene shows up the next night to the theater and cancels the show, much to the relief of the cast. But then he announces the class is over, too, and he’s done with teaching. Barry tries to encourage him: “Mr. Cousineau, but teaching is your life!” and Gene hits back hard: “Janice was my life.” In Barry’s attempt to preserve the life he’s built for himself, he’s destroyed the life of someone close to him. (And, uh, also the life of the person he murdered.)

Barry tries to encourage Gene to talk about his feelings. Gene: “Why don’t you talk about the war, Mr. Human Icebox? Why don’t you tell us about the first man you killed? Because that’s what it would be like for me to talk about Janice.” And Barry, once again only when pushed to the limits, to the place where he might lose the life he wants, finally reaches down into himself and talks about his first kill. (Of course, Gene encourages a few of the other students to act it out, and it’s nothing like the actual story, something Barry doesn’t tell them.) Barry’s willingness to open up convinces Gene to keep going.

Gene’s not the only one who finds Barry’s capabilities necessary this episode. Our cold open shows another hitman going on a job; he’s much less capable than Barry, actually missing the second guy with his first shotgun blast, failing to open the safe he was tasked to open, then accidentally shooting himself in the leg trying to blow the lock off the safe. We cut to a hotel and see he’s Fuches’ new man; this guy’s sheer incompetence would tell us everything we need to know about how low Fuches has sank, except that the new hitman also leads the cops directly to Fuches’ door. Fuches is busted, though we do get a hilarious scene of him in an interrogation room refusing to provide a DNA sample. “I love my country, I love my judicial system.”

And the third example of someone who needs Barry’s capabilities and professionalism is, of course, NoHo Hank. Hank has been running the Chechen gang in L.A. and has cultivated a very profitable partnership with the Bolivians (and friendship with their leader Cristobal)… but the home office is unhappy (as indicated by their use of Hank’s preferred bullet-by-DHL messaging) with the fact that he’s let Goran’s murder go unavenged. Hank is also feeling squeezed by Cristobal’s attempt to strike a deal with the Burmese gang (and in particular threatened by their leader Esther), so rather than rat out Barry, he tries to kill two birds with one stone by visiting Barry at work (Sasha has gotten him a job) and convincing Barry to kill Esther for him. Barry, of course, blows him off and calls him a fucking idiot.

Then Hank shows up at the end of the episode, outside Barry’s acting class, to spell out very clear what he needs from Barry and what the consequences are if he doesn’t do it. “I’m not asking you do to this hit, I’m telling you.” It’s a marvelous performance by Anthony Carrigan, the highlight of the episode, where he shows the depth that while Hank is a nice and friendly guy, he knows what is required of him to lead in the criminal underworld and is more than capable of doing it. “I’m relaxed, okay? I’m a super relaxed guy. But now, I’m the boss, and you really disrespected me. So you’re doing this, because if you do not, I tell Goran’s family who really killed him. And this place, and all your friends, they go bye-bye. Do you believe me now? You still think I’m a fucking idiot?”

Just when Barry thought he was out, they pull him back in again.

Oh, also, Fuches doesn’t even think of the possibility that the cops are going to take his DNA off the soda can he just drank. So they match the DNA to the tooth found in Goran Pazar’s garage, and Loach picks up on it, finds Fuches is from Cleveland, and pokes around and… guess who else is. Looks like Barry’s not clear in Moss’ death yet after all.

We’ve already got a lot of balls in the air for season two. Let’s see how Barry extricates himself from the mess he’s made.


  • Welcome back; this show comes at a time in my life where regular writeups will be tricky for me, but I’m going to do my best.
  • I knew Fuches’ first name was “Monroe” from material surrounding the show; I didn’t know if we’d heard it on camera before this episode, though.
  • Barry’s compartmentalization of Janice’s murder is a necessary part of his job, but it leads to hilarious tone-deafness at the theater when nobody is excited for the show. “Come on, guys. Who died? …Oh, right.”
  • Similarly, he proves incapable of giving Gene what he needs when he visits, after Gene monologues about a gun under his bed and his suicidal thoughts. “You wanted to kiss a gun?” “Suicide, Barry.” “Oh.”
  • I did want to preserve Gene’s anecdote because it’s great (and typical Gene with its name-dropping) but it stands better on its own. “In my bedroom, under the bed, there’s a mahogany box, and in that box is a pearl-handle .38 Special, screen-used from the movie Flashpoint, given to me by my former roommate, Rip Torn. Do you know how many times today I actually thought about going in there and loading it and giving it one last kiss?”
  • Gene’s essential Gene-ness comes through when he cancels the show: “Now, I cannot give you a refund, but I can give you a voucher for my book or any other Gene M. Cousineau merch that we sell in the box office.”
  • Great work by Bill Hader in his monologue about his first kill; we get what actually happened in flashback, but we can see how Barry disappears into a faraway time and place to recount it, an experience anyone with PTSD will surely be familiar with.
  • Also fascinating: Barry doesn’t break down after his first kill, and nobody treats the life he took as sacred. Indeed, he takes out three people from 700 yards, and his entire platoon celebrates what a stone-cold killer he is. Indeed, we see for the first time that Barry found acceptance in killing.
  • Sally barely factors into the episode; while Fuches, Gene, and Hank are demonstrating and/or getting the various things they need from Barry, Sally isn’t getting anything from him at all right now. This episode felt packed already, but I’m curious as to where their relationship is at this point.
  • “You remember when I got you the job here, yeah? And you got all excited because you thought Lululemon was a candy store?”
  • That damn Facebook account has come back to haunt Barry again.
  • Of course I’m not going to let this writeup go without a picture of NoHo Hank in his disguise.