Whew. That was a real tour de force. Barry gets real in more than one way this episode; it’s mostly Barry getting real, in fact, starting with a series of events triggered by the arrival in Los Angeles of Sally’s ex, Sam.
Barry knows Sam was abusive and violent and so the conversation after he shows up is largely white noise. Sam claims he’s just in town passing through for some work thing in San Diego, but as one might suspect of an abuser, it’s all bullshit; he got tipped off to Sally’s play and decided to take the time to investigate it himself.
Sally gets real this episode, too: While rehearsing her scene, Barry notes that the woman she’s described doesn’t match the one who was more accommodating to Sam when he showed up unannounced. This prompts Sally to get real with him, after a breakdown: She admits there was never any triumphant moment on her part; she snuck out in the middle of the night; she blames herself for not being stronger. Barry is supportive but, as people are wont to do, gives the exact wrong advice because it furthers his point of view, telling her it’s okay to tell the story of who she wants to be rather than of what happened. (Which is, of course, what Barry wants to do himself.)
Then Barry catches Sam watching Sally rehearse at the theater and chases him off. He’s angry enough about it that he heads back to his apartment to get a gun and take care of Sam once and for all. Except he shows up at the hotel right at the same time Sam has manipulated Sally into coming over and getting her alone… and in a crazy intense moment, where we don’t know what will happen, Barry walks in with his gun trained right as Sally is confronting Sam and leaving, somehow slipping away without being noticed (or firing a bullet into one of them).
Barry calls Fuches to talk about Loach is trying to use Fuches to entrap Barry, but Fuches has had a change of heart and tries to send Barry away without giving away what he’s doing. So Barry calls Gene, who’s feeling better after his son has reached out to him (even brought him some strawberries), and is much more willing to take Barry in and listen to his story.
Then Barry, after some coaxing, unburdens himself of what happened in Korengal, creating what ends up being the emotional pivot of the episode. Barry killed an innocent civilian simply because he mistook him for the guy who shot Albert. This got Barry sent to a psychiatric hospital in Germany, and “a family friend” (presumably Fuches) pulled some strings to get him discharged and cover it up. Gene takes it all in, and eventually, gives Barry what he needs to hear: You’re not a bad person; you did a bad thing, but one thing does not define you. “I think you’re deeply human.”
And also tells him not to tell another human being. Especially not anyone in the class. “They’ll shit themselves. I mean, they’re children.”
In another funny moment, Fuches is trying to sneak out of the hotel room Loach has kept him in, when Barry shows up outside. He comes up to talk to Fuches as they head back in– Fuches drops his suitcase, another funny comic moment (I wonder what was inside that broke)– and he unburdens himself once more about how he told Gene about Korengal and Gene has given him what he needs, the advice to accept that part of himself without letting it define him. Fuches is trying to get Barry to shut up, but he won’t, and then he says “even the things I don’t like about myself, like killing Moss.”
Heart-stopping moment. Loach emerges. Fuches stammers an apology. (Stephen Root is so great here.) And Loach explains to Barry he’s got him on tape, and he’s fucked. And then he starts psyching himself up… which makes it seem like he’s just going to shoot Barry, which leads Barry to tell him not to do anything stupid. (And Fuches to try from the bathroom.)
But then Loach gets real.
He didn’t track down Moss’ killer for justice. He did it to get leverage on a hitman so he could have him murder his ex-wife’s lover.
It tracks– the frequent complaining about his ex-wife (and the quinceañera store– a great way of illustrating an important detail by a plot gag) and the insistence to his new partner on dealing with this case alone foreshadow the twist while seeming at the time to be details not relevant or indicative of something else.
Once again, Barry’s going to have to kill if he wants to live free.
STRAY BULLET POINTS
- One of the funniest moments of the episode was Barry not even bothering to hide his gun when he gets it from his apartment, knowing his roommates are too wrapped up in their VR video game to notice.
- I didn’t mention our one scene with the Chechens, where Barry is still angry about Sam, completely ignores NoHo Hank’s complaints about the soft-serve, and fires a round right behind the kid (you know, the only one with any talent) to serve as a warning to take his training seriously.
- Sally’s friend really should have known better than to repeat what she told him.
- The dynamic between Sally and Sam, particularly when they’re alone, is terrific, a powerful, real portrait of how abusers operate and how their victims can be conditioned into accepting it.
- That said, in a weird, ironic fashion, Sam has a point that the story isn’t true, and Sally would have better ground to stand on (and certainly wouldn’t fear reprisal from a lawyer) if she told the story the way it actually happened. What Sally really needed to hear from Barry was that it was brave and strong to leave at all, speech or no speech.
- Of course Gene is going to bill Barry for their time together, and of course he has a separate loan-out for that purpose.
- That said, Gene is really warm and paternal here; I always got the sense that for all his narcissism and his ability to squeeze a buck out of everything, he really does have keen insight into what his students need and tries to give it to them.
- Darkly funny, and expertly precise timing with the scene of Barry arriving to Sam’s hotel room.
- I shouldn’t have read Vikram Murthi’s review at the AV Club in the middle of working on this because I feel like my analysis pales in comparison. Apologies for being tired and burnt out, everybody. Should I set up a Patreon or something to gauge how much these (and my other) reviews (and writing) are wanted?