You are going to hear a lot of people complaining about the Game of Thrones finale for a while. However, you are going to hear very few complaints about the season two finale of HBO’s Barry. That’s not just because less people watched it, though that is certainly true. It’s because Bill Hader and Alec Berg knocked it out of the park not just with the final, brutal, unsparing episode of the second season, but on the season as a whole.
“Bill Hader is a hitman who takes an acting class” reads like a silly premise, mostly because we remember Hader from many goofy roles. You imagine Stefon covering his mouth as Hader laughs on SNL. Barry has a lot on its mind, though. It can be silly, extremely so, even in its violence. In an instantly iconic episode of TV earlier this season, Barry finds himself in knockdown, drag-out fights with a middle-aged stoner who also happens to be a tae kwan do champion, and also his semi-feral daughter. And yet there’s a slapstick aspect to it.
There is human in the season two finale, but less than in most episodes. We are reminded that, at its core, this is a show about a guy who used to be a hitman. He knows how to kill people. He’s an expert with a gun. And nobody how much Barry talks about changing, when push comes to shove he turns to violence. That was true at the end of the first season, when Barry kills a police detective, and the girlfriend of his acting mentor Gene Cousineau, to avoid paying for his crimes. It’s even more true in the finale here.
Thanks to the manipulation of Barry’s mentor Fuches, oozing menace due to a bravura performance by Stephen Root, Gene (Henry Winkler showing us he is so much more than a sitcom star) ends up taking the fall for his girlfriend’s death. This infuriates Barry, and when Barry is furious, bad things go down.