As season 3 unfolds, it becomes abundantly clear that “Barry” remains one of the best shows around right now. Not only is the plotting compelling, the characters fascinating, and the overall pacing phenomenal (those short episodes go a long way), but the direction is cinematic in ways that put other modern shows to shame. The first two episodes are helmed by Hader, who continues to prove that he’s not just a great actor, he’s a great filmmaker to boot. Hader gives us multiple long-takes, wide angles, and close-ups that seeds designed to give us extreme anxiety. Later in the season, Hader directs a freeway chase scene that puts now modern action movies to shame. I’m sure a combination of approaches were used here, including green screen work. But the Chase is handled in such a clear, effective manner that it feels real, and had me holding my breath. Hader also stages a dizzying traveling one-shot that follows Barry’s girlfriend Sally (Sarah Goldberg) as she moves around a massive set, giving orders and looking over details, interacting with several different characters along the way.
Sally is very, very busy – working on a TV series called “Joplin.” She handles seemingly every aspect of the show – writing, directing, and starring, all in a frantic continent that feels inherently exhausting. She’s finally arrived in Hollywood, but she doesn’t seem particularly thrilled about it. If anything, she seems on the verge of collapse. Can she keep up this pace? And do she and Barry even have anything in common anymore, if they even did to begin with? Barry is still out there trying to make it as an actor, but his increasingly Bizarre behavior threatens to blow everything up.
“Barry” remains funny – there’s a joke involving Rip Torn that’s one of the funniest things the show has ever done, and Carrigan is consistently hilarious as the always-smiling Hank – but the series has entered a phase so dark, so disturbing, so unsettling that it might throw viewers for a loop. I am reminded of the equally-great “Better Call Saul,” which seemed like it was going to be a comedy about an absurd figure and turned out to be a dark, anxiety-inducing drama with occasional Moments of Levity.
We’ve had to wait a considerable amount of time for “Barry” season 3 — the season 2 finale came all the way back in 2019, and the Pandemic delayed things since then. I am happy to say the wait has been worth it, as the show has grown even more confident and more fascinating. But I do wonder how viewers will take to Barry himself at this point. Hader’s acting work remains strong, and he Nails how tormented and damaged Barry really is. But any semblance of likability seems to be quickly fading. It’s easy to sort of like Barry just because Hader himself is so inherently likable. But the decisions the character makes in the six episodes from this season provided to Critics are downright scary and alarming, to the point where we’ve long crossed beyond the point of no return. Forgiveness has to be earned, but for Barry the character, it seems increasingly unlikely.
“Barry” season 3 premieres on April 24, 2022, on HBO and HBO Max.