Barry Season 3 Episode 2 picks up at the surprising ending of the premiere, with Barry (Bill Hader) deciding to kidnap Cousineau (Henry Winkler) while trying to find a way to earn forgiveness. In order to do so, he decides he’s going to find work for his his old teacher. He barges in on Sally (Sarah Goldberg), still toiling away on her scripts for Joplin, and demands that she give Cousineau a job on her show. Sally counters by saying her casting team won’t hire him because of his bad reputation in Hollywood. Barry becomes increasingly demanding, to the point that Sally remarks that he seems “a little manic.”
Suddenly, Barry starts beating himself on the head and shouting. This is new: Barry has been committed to not letting his violence spill over into his relationship with Sally, a woman who’s already gone through so much with her ex. It’s a shocking moment, Barry insisting that he won’t live if Sally doesn’t cast Cousineau. It makes no sense with the context Sally has, but illustrates to the audience how Barry’s desperation to absolve himself has become absurd.
It’s a disturbing scene, and one that pushes Barry from a somewhat sympathetic anti-villain into the unhinged villain he’s always been in danger of becoming – especially since the monastery slaughter last season. Hader’s powerful performance might have begun cementing his path to another Emmy nomination, if not win.
Meanwhile, Cristobal (Michael Irby) gets accosted by his father-in-law, arriving from Bolivia. Cristobal’s family misses him, and his father-in-law and his men have come to take the Chechens out so Cristobal can go back home. The Bolivians descend, but Cristobal warns NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan), out touring the city and passing by such famous landmarks as Jimmy Kimmel’s studio, in time. This leads to one of the Chechens uttering one of Barry‘s funniest lines so far: ”The Man Show does not age well.” And that’s a fact.
Barry tries getting Cousineau a job another way, by going to a casting agent who he auditioned for last season. Again, he’s rejected because Cousineau’s a jerk no one wants to work with. Ironically, the casting agent offers Barry an audition instead. And Barry has the bright idea to ask Cousineau if he’ll actually help him prepare for it. It’s another moment illustrating how Barry is increasingly detached from a basic understanding of empathy. When Barry shows up at the audition, he again tries to get Cousineau a job, but one of the casting people points out that Cousineau brought a loaded gun to a Full House audition. So he’s not getting a gig. “Everyone deserves a second chance,” Barry says. “That’s not how it works,” he’s told. Barry insists that Cousineau taught him how to be a better person and saved his life. It’s a sentiment that finally wins Cousineau that second chance.
Back at home, Sally prepares a meal for Barry and buys him a new game console controller. On the phone, she apologizes. “I really want you to be happy,” she says. It’s a difficult moment to watch, one that mirrors her acting vignette from Barry Season 2 when she admitted to apologizing to her ex after he assaulted her. Sally is once again stuck in a cycle of abuse after trying so hard to break out.
After the phone call, Barry realizes Cousineau’s escaped. He’s on the run now, and goes home, begging his son to call the police. But it’s too late. Barry’s there already, sitting on the couch and drinking tea. Barry motions for Cousineau to sit down next to him and they have what is and will probably remain one of the most chilling conversations on television this year. “You’re going to enjoy everything that comes with being given a second chance,” Barry says, “because if you don’t, this one” – he motions to Cousineau’s grandson – “and that one” –Leo– ”go away.” That’s it. Barry’s long past redemption. “I love you, Mr. Cousineau,” he says; “Do you love me?” Cousineau nods. Barry pleads, “Can you say it?” And Cousineau responds, “I love you, Barry.”
While Barry‘s first two seasons preserved some sympathy for its title character, the new season – and certainly Barry Season 3 Episode 2 – doesn’t hesitate to push him far away from the audience’s good graces. This feels like a different Barry from one we’ve seen before. But is it? At the very least, this is an inevitable version of the character. It seemed Barry was committed to maintaining a divide between how he treats of strangers (as a soldier, as a hitman) and how he treats friends. But that division was only ever paper-thin, destined to tear. Without going in this darker direction, the series risked rehashing old stories. Barry made his choice. He chose violence, over and over again, and now there’s nowhere else to run and nothing else to do except continue choosing it.
Overall, this is an excellent episode, further proving Bill Hader is a triple-threat actor/writer/director.