Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 10, 2018)
With HBO’s Barry, we get a comedy with a dark edge. This DVD includes all of Season One’s eight episodes. The plot synopses come straight from the series’ website.
Make Your Mark: “Midwestern contract killer Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) gets hit with the acting bug while on a job in LA.”
That’s a tremendously “high concept” idea for a series, but if “Mark” acts as an indicator, Barry can make it work. The episode mixes black comedy with laconic mockery to launch the show well.
Use It: “Cousineau (Henry Winkler) tells the class Ryan Madison (Tyler Jacob Moore) is dead and implores them to use their pain in their acting. Sally (Sarah Goldberg) convinces the group to hold a memorial scene night for Ryan, but Barry is distracted by a text from Fuches (Stephen Root). The Chechens want the two of them dead.”
The laughs keep coming with the solid “Use It”. The addition of various police investigators brings a good twist and the plots deepen in a satisfying manner to make this another fine episode.
Make the Unsafe Choice: “Barry fulfills an obligation, and comforts Sally after an audition gone awry. The Chechens welcome a hitman legend (Larry Hankin).”
With “Choice”, Barry fires on all cylinders. It accelerates various character and narrative elements while it also provides fine comedy to boot. This turns into the best episode to date.
Commit… to YOU: “Barry finds that extricating himself from Fuches and winning Sally's affections is more difficult than he thought.”
“Commit” goes a little more dramatic than usual, mainly as Barry deals with disappointments. We still find plenty of comedy – especially via Gene’s “date” with Detective Moss (Paula Newsome) - and “Commit” advances S1 in a satisfying manner.
Do Your Job: “Barry looks to hit the reset button with Sally, but a scene from Macbeth triggers a reaction that pushes them farther apart.”
As S1 progresses, it manages to feel more dramatic, probably a factor in Hader’s Emmy win. While I kind of miss the more overt comedy that carried “Choice”, I can’t really complain with the result, and “Job” manages to become another solid show that moves things along well.
Listen With Your Ears, React With Your Face: “Barry tries to fly solo at a remote airstrip, but Taylor (Dale Pavinski) still wants in.”
For a show about a serial killer, Barry largely avoided violence – until now, as “Ears” brings a heavier action orientation than usual. It mixes the same form of drama and comedy seen in recent shows to bring a good exploration of its topics.
Loud, Fast and Keep Going: “A deadly shootout threatens Barry's timely participation in Sally's big stage moment.”
As noted, Barry became darker and more somber as it went, but it also continued to find ways to toss out solid comedic moments. The manner in which it balances the two works very well, and Barry’s descent into his inner world adds depth to this show.
Know Your Truth: “Barry vows to give up his life of crime. Moss closes in on an arrest.”
As expected, “Truth” wraps up S1 in a satisfying manner. Along with effective drama, it accentuates comedy better than any episode in a while, and it ties up the overall season narrative nicely.
And we got a good season. Barry presents a potentially “wacky” concept in a way that doesn’t shoot for cheap, easy laughs. It develops characters and becomes an engaging experience.