Things have taken a very strange turn in the final few episodes of Barry, Bill Hader’s brilliant HBO dark comedy about a hit man and the ruin he brings in his wake. Spoilers follow.
At the end of Episode 4, Barry has escaped prison and shows up at Sally’s apartment. She says “let’s go” and the next thing we know, we’ve jumped years into the future. Moss, who was staking out Sally’s abode, apparently didn’t catch them absconding. Or so it seems.
All we can say for sure is that things seem very peculiar now. Episode 5 was all about this bizarre new life that Barry and Sally lead. They have a young son, John, who Barry homeschools while a wigged Sally works at a local diner as a waitress. Barry has apparently found Jesus, while Sally has found alcohol. Barry goes by the name Clark now, and wears glasses just like Clark Kent. Sally goes by Emily.
They do their best to keep John isolated and alone, because any contact with the outside world risks him discovering the truth. When Barry discovers a baseball glove in John’s spartanly furnished room, he shows him YouTube videos of kids being hurt and killed by baseballs. It’s horrifying.
In this latest episode, that sense of horror deepens, both in terms of what happens and . . . what only seems to happen.
When Barry leaves to go to LA to kill Gene Cousineau, John and Sally remain behind. John is a mess. He relies almost entirely on his dad for all his basic needs, companionship and emotional support. Five minutes with Sally’s “parenting” makes it pretty clear why. Sally has always been a profoundly selfish character, but in this moment the sheer audacity of her neglect and abuse is astonishing, galling and as despicable a thing as we’ve seen on this show.
John won’t stop crying. When she makes him a badly burnt grilled cheese sandwich, he refuses to eat and she complains “I worked really hard on that” as though botching a simple sandwich is some Herculean task. Since a hug or any kind of effort at all to distract or comfort her son is beyond Sally’s motherly reach, she turns instead to the solution that always works for her: Spiking John’s orange juice with vodka.
We all chuckled at Sally’s sandwich screwup, but there’s nothing funny about drugging a young boy with alcohol just to get him to shut up. Later, as he snores on the couch passed out, she decides she’d rather have it to herself. She tries unsuccessfully to rouse him so he can go nap in his room. Eventually she gives up and lays down in her bedroom instead. She’s woken by the sound of a man’s voice outside telling her he’s going to get her and her kid. We assume immediately that this is Bevel, the man she flirted with, choked and then blamed for the money she stole from the till, getting him fired in the process.
What follows is the most bizarre, frightening, trippy, unreal scene in Barry’s entire run. Sally leaves her room, walking in a daze through the brightly lit house. The camera follows her slowly, peaking around corners as she looks around the house. She locks the door, shuts the window. We keep waiting for her to see someone outside, or for someone to start beating on the door. Instead, we get this:
Sally doesn’t see him at all. She checks on John and then walks toward her room and as she moves, the Shadow Man rushes up silently behind her. We think he’s going in for the kill, but instead shuts the door behind her and disappears. She grabs the handle but she’s locked in somehow. Out in the room, we hear the man shouting—but it’s the voice and lines that the trucker she killed said in the Season 3 finale. She tries to assemble the handgun and for a terrifying moment, you think she’s going to shoot John.
Then something crashes into the house, lifting it off the ground. A truck slams through the wall. The bed slides across the room. You hear crashing all around the house. Then the truck backs up and drives off as Sally watches through a hole in the wall. Out in the living room area, John still lays sleeping but the entire house is a mess. Furniture and debris everywhere.
She calls Barry and leaves a voicemail when he doesn’t pick up. John wakes and hears her using his dad’s real name—a name he doesn’t know.
In LA, Barry drives around listening to Christian podcasts about sin until he finally finds one that endorses murder (the preacher voiced by comedian Bill Burr). Why bother actually adhering to his newfound faith when he can just cherry pick whatever he wants to in order to justify his actions? When he shows up at Gene’s house and moves in to finish what he started, someone reaches out, puts a black bag over Barry’s head and the screen goes black.
When Barry comes to, he looks up and sees Moss staring back at him. He’s been caught.
Or has he? Some people have noted that he’s more clean-shaven than before he was grabbed, and that it’s possible this was a flashback scene and a red herring and that someone else nabbed Barry instead. I don’t buy that, necessarily, given that Barry still looks roughly the same age, weight, etc. and has the same haircut as before. But who knows? Maybe what we’re seeing is Moss waking Barry from the nightmare state he’s induced, and he’s about to reveal that Barry never ran off with Sally, never had a son, and that all of this was just part of Moss’s revenge scheme. It’s far-fetched but . . . .
A pretty vocal part of me wants it to be true.
I just feel so awful for John.
Barry has been so caught up in his moral dilemma over killing and whether he’s a good or evil person that he’s lost sight on what might be a far graver atrocity. Murder isn’t the only sin Barry and Sally have committed. A far worse one might have been bringing a life into this world in the first place, just to make the poor kid’s life a living hell.
John is isolated and lonely, living in a constant state of anxiety. He’s manipulated into not playing sports with the one kid who he spends any time with at all, and doesn’t even have video games to pass the time. His dad is his everything to him—best friend, protector, teacher, spiritual guide—but his dad has been lying and manipulating him his entire life. And his mom is neglectful and detached, so self-absorbed in her misery that she has no interest in her child. It’s heartbreaking to watch. It may be the saddest thing we’ve seen on this show, and that’s why I keep hoping it’s all a nightmare implanted in Barry’s head by Moss.
Honestly, I’m just not sure what to think. This has been a very peculiar season. I think a great deal rests on how it ends. That could either make this final season a brilliant piece of filmmaking or a disappointing dud. Will Bill Hader and co. stick the landing? We have two more episodes to find out.
P.S. The title of the episode is ‘the wizard’ which is the name of the Black Sabbath song playing when Fuches leaves prison. But I wonder if it has another meaning: That Moss is the wizard and he’s cast a spell on Barry, trapping him in this fever dream? It takes a certain degree of magic to make a reporter who doesn’t speak German suddenly only speak German. Surely that could be applied to Barry as well.
What are your thoughts on Barry Season 4 and the time-jump? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook.
Watch my video discussion of this episode below:
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