I saw a headline on another website that says Barry “spins its wheels” this week, which is an absurd thing to say about an episode where Hank tries to kill Barry, but I can see where it’s coming from: The episode seems to sidestep some of the conflicts brought about previously by taking them in unexpected directions, although I think the show does so fairly.
Hank is dreaming about Esther being dead (and is probably jubilant enough to tip off his involvement to Cristobal) when Cristobal reveals she is alive and that the Burmese will be staying with them until they’re assured she’s safe. (The Chechens get the storage unit.) Hank responds to Barry’s failure by deciding to kill him.
It’s one of the funniest, darkest scenes of the episode, as it comes on the heels of Barry and Sally trying to write their scenes for class. They’re each revisiting the darkness of their origins– Barry first with his first kill, then to a mysterious incident in Korengal where he saved a fellow soldier’s life, but something dark and fucked-up happened that necessitated a cover-up. Barry still doesn’t want to think of himself as a killer, so he’s trying to tell a story of himself as a hero.
Meanwhile, Sally is trying to write about the night she left her abusive ex-husband, so she gets on the phone with an old friend. We see Sally, as much as Barry, is trying to create her own narrative of being a bad-ass who delivered a good quip and then left, but as her friend Kate reminds her, they really gathered some of her things and snuck out in the middle of the night while Sam was passed out. Intellectually, I have some sympathy for Sally here, because I can only speculate as to how much her courage to walk away comes from crafting this narrative for herself, but personally… well, it’s of a piece with Sally as a bullshitter, and I can’t stand bullshitters, but at least this episode was more sympathetic and funny in that regard. (And, after all, Sally was a victim, whereas Barry is a fucking murderer.)
Because Hank shows up with one of his gang members and takes several shots at Barry while he’s in his bedroom. Barry realizes what’s going on and sneaks out behind Sally– who’s having a bubbly conversation with Kate about how she totally knows Wilmer Valderrama, and doesn’t even notice Barry– who, of course, successfully gets the drop on Hank and his incompetent sniper. We then get a pretty funny scene between the two– although Hank decides to man up and accept his fate, Barry can’t bring himself to kill him, so to repay him for botching the hit, he offers to train Hank’s men. (They’re really bad.)
The dark comedy of the juxtaposition is hit twice here: Once between Sally’s conversation and Barry’s confrontation of his would-be killers, and again between Sally’s conversation and what she tells Barry the conversation was. (And of course, Barry is lying in the opposite direction, playing off having just survived an attempt on his life as frustration with his script.)
Sally suggests it would be good for Barry to have someone to talk to who understands his experiences. Like those other Marines. (Barry: “They don’t talk anymore.”) And it’s just then– hilariously, when Barry is filling in at Lululemon for Sasha faking sick– that Fuches shows up, this time trying to bully Barry back into submission and into letting it slip he killed Janice.
But Barry approaches Fuches differently. He misses him. He needs someone to talk to. About the old days. Fuches and Barry seem to reconnect, much to Loach’s mild disgust. They start talking about Korengal, which is when Fuches reminds Barry that there’s a lot there he can’t talk about, and he ought to just tell the class a heroic story. “They don’t want honest, they want entertainment.”
Of course, that’s exactly the opposite of what Gene is trying to impart on Barry, and so Barry’s scene is a disaster. He actually gives the speech from Braveheart, inexplicably expecting no one to have seen it. Gene tells him, “You have got to get in touch with your inherent darkness.” So he assigns Barry to play Sally’s abusive ex-husband, which calls for choking her onstage.
He can’t do it. He can’t bring himself to do it even when Sally is purposely trying to goad him into it and set him off. Instead, he screams at them to fuck off and walks out of the theater, with Sally following him.
And then he runs into Sam.
And that’s where the episode ends.
And I’d be shocked if Sam lives through the next one.
STRAY BULLET POINTS
- I need to know how that order of operations in the title is supposed to work.
- Noho Hank (ahem, “North Hollywood Henry”) gets to live out a dream of mine in the cold open: Telling Thomas Friedman to his face “You are a bad writer and nobody likes you.”
- “Cristobal, what’s up? Did something happen to Esther? — Holy shit. I guess not, because here she is.” Oh, Hank is bad at covering his feelings. One more: “At the monastery? …I imagine? Wow, what a dirtbag would attack you at a holy place and fail? …Thankfully.”
- The scene of Barry training Hank’s men is pretty great, from the unnecessary interpreter to the one kid showing an actual aptitude for sniping, and in particular Barry’s reactions to that. Some pride for finding a pupil? Trepidation for whether he’s training the next generation to kill?
- Meanwhile, Gene visits his son Leo again and tries to give him the cabin, which quickly reveals itself to be “offer to let him stay at the cabin and be its caretaker,” and the conversation continues to devolve until Leo spits out: “I don’t want the cabin where your girlfriend was murdered! That’s sick!” While it seems like Gene is certainly working through his loss, it’s not clear to me if he’s trying to reconnect an old relationship to make up for losing one, or if he is trying to get rid of something with such a painful memory attached to it.
- The actor who was supposed to play Sam misses why Gene assigned Barry to the role. “Don’t think I can play straight? I played straight for 22 damn years, okay?”
- “So you thought you would plagiarize Mel Gibson. I’m Jewish! What the fuck, Barry?”
- Fuck it: While I thought the header photo was most appropriate for the episode, I can’t not include these two HBO photos of NoHo Hank: first in full PBS roundtable mode, second leading his men to their training. I call that one “Commando Hank.”