Through its first three seasons, Barry has delighted in the inconsistencies we all hold within ourselves. Amid that complexity, the show has vigorously interrogated one question at its center, “Are we defined by things we’ve done?” Barry episode 1, “Yikes,” kicks off the show’s fourth and final season while seeming to finally lean toward an answer.
The premise of the show—a traumatized hit man finds self discovery in a Hollywood acting class—is equal parts absurd and profound. Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) is a gentle, fragile man-child and a cold-blooded killer. Fuches (Stephen Root) is Barry’s manipulative abuser and his caring father-figure. NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) is a dangerous gangster with the naivety of a boy.
*Warning: Spoilers ahead for season four Barry episode 1*
Season three leaves off with Barry’s arrest at the hands of his mentor and acting coach, Mr. Cousineau (Henry Winkler). Season four picks up sometime within the next 24 hours, with Berkman being led to his jail cell while a starstruck prison guard watches the press conference about his arrest on TV. (Put a pin in that guard.)
His first call is to Mr. Cousineau. With heartbreaking confusion, Barry wonders why Cousineau would lay a trap for him, a person he loves. With one line, Mr. Cousineau announces that the feeling is not mutual. “Hey, Barry? I got you.”
When there’s nowhere else to run
Barry is left to languish and reflect on the decisions he’s made which have brought him to this point. It brings to mind an aptly-named song from an even more aptly-named band: “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers.
His second phone call, this time with Sally (Sarah Goldberg)—now back in Joplin—goes even worse than his conversation with Cousineau. Sally is herself coming to terms with having taken a life, though justifiably in her case. Realizing her ex-boyfriend is arrested for a different murder is much needed comedic relief in a fairly heavy episode.
Truly alone for the first time since the series launched, Barry descends into a fit of self-loathing, coming face-to-face with himself in a bathroom mirror. It’s a truly gripping bit of acting from Bill Hader, who also wrote and directed the episode (Hader directs every episode of the final season).
And so, we get back to that central question. For three seasons, Barry has compartmentalized his actions from who he believes himself to be. He’s naively believed that he could free himself of his past without ever really being held accountable for it. By the end of this episode, he’s been disabused of that notion. Are we defined by the things we’ve done? Yes.
The starstruck guard from the opening minute of the season attempts to offer him some comfort. “You did a bad thing, but you’re not a bad person.” Before this episode, that was pretty much Barry’s credo. Not anymore. Barry lays into the guard’s premise, testifying against himself. “I’m a cop-killer. I killed a cop. And if I saw you on the street, I’d kill you. I’d kill your kids.”
Another head aches, another heart breaks
What follows is one of the most brilliant pieces of filmmaking in the show’s history. We see the guard go from empathetic to dead-eyed. We see him draw out his baton. We see Hader’s face as the camera slowly pulls in until it occupies the entire frame. As the viewer, we brace for the blow like a car accident we see coming but can’t avoid.
Everything goes silent and the blood begins pouring down his face. Throughout its run, Barry has been a masterclass in all forms of on-screen violence, from the visceral to the hilariously surreal. This was perhaps its most elegant.
Barry blacks out, cutting to a flashback of him as a boy. When he comes to, we see the aftermath across his battered face as a remorseful Fuches holds him and apologizes for his part in who Barry has become.
Is there room for one more son?
As Barry enters its home stretch, all cards are on the table. Everyone in Barry’s life now knows he is a murderer, and most of them have judged him accordingly. Back to the central question: one of the key principles of being defined by our actions is that we exist in a constant state of self-definition until we die. As Din Djarin might put it, “our songs are not yet written.” Despite his past, there is still time for Barry to balance his ledger and find his redemption, or die trying. Perhaps literally.
“While everyone’s lost, the battle is won, with all these things that I’ve done.”
Barry episode 1 is now streaming on HBO Max. Stay tuned to the Agents of Fandom for weekly reviews of Barry’s final season.
'Barry' Episode 1 Review: ‘Yikes’ is an Intense Look in the Mirror'Barry' Episode 1 Review: ‘Yikes’ is an Intense Look in the Mirror
- Top-notch acting, especially from Hader, Goldberg, and Root.
- Some of the best directing in the entire series.
- Masterfully balances its tone.
- Laugh out loud funny at exactly the right moment.