This post is in collaboration with Behold! A Mythical Creature!
Let me say that again: Watch the HBO show BARRY.
We doubt you just went ahead and did that, so let us put it this way. Barry is about Barry Berkman, a former marine-turned-assassin that stumbles into an LA acting class after following a target there and, wouldn’t ya know, the boy loves it!
If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, we got some reasons why you should watch and… sorry in advance if we get too passionate.
[This post is spoiler-free! Be careful going onto YouTube to watch videos because a lot a very spoilery but we’ve added some videos below for your curiosity]
I mean it’s a hitman that takes acting classes, how perfect, warming to my dark-comedy cockles! No, this hitman isn’t strutting around in a suit with circular glasses; he looks like an Everyman which is kind of what hitmen should actually dress like.
Also, the fact that he is this focused and efficient hitman (Barry Birkman) but when he’s in acting class he’s just this big, uncomfortable dork that doesn’t know what to do with his hands during a scene (Barry Block) is just *chef’s kiss*.
I am also a broth kinda person but kind of related-
Bill – and I cannot stress this enough– Hader
Oh, Christ.. Jesus CHRIST we love Bill Hader, just thinking about him makes us turn into Sue (listen, it’s a mere coincidence that Bill is in this sketch). Thinking of him as just a former SNL cast-member or Stefon is such a huge disservice to his talent and you will see not only how incredibly rounded he is as an actor with comedic timing and serious depth, but how good he is with each of the co-creator, writer and director hats.
One of the most cited examples of his dramatic talent (which also is one of our favourite scenes) is from season one, ep. 7, “Loud, Fast, and Keep Going.” It would be a spoiler to post the video but the picture above is from a scene. The whole episode is so good, with Barry having had to make an extremely tough decision and the consequences of his actions starting to set in, haunting him once he’s about to go on stage.
I can’t find a video that isn’t full of spoilers so please settle for the season one trailer:
The Supporting Characters
The supporting characters are so colourful, so flawed, but man are they entertaining. we can’t not talk about my favourite (I’m pretty sure he’s everyone’s favourite), NoHo Hank. An adorably expressive, K-pop-loving, fashionable Chechnian mafia lieutenant that constantly swings from wanting to be Barry’s BFF to killing him for one reason or another. He’s funny but he’s also naive and like many characters in this show, self-serving, although he takes a lot of Barry’s flack when trying to bide for his friendship.
We also have Barry’s two mentors, Fuches and Cousineau, both acting as the little devil and angel on his shoulders respectively. Fuches, a family friend who pulled Barry into the life of a hitman and wants to keep it that way, and Cousineau, his acting teacher who helps him flesh out his emotions and his ‘human’ side. Both men are incredibly flawed but have redeeming qualities which keep Barry constantly in between the two and thus, conflicting versions of himself; the person he is vs the person he wants to be.
Lastly, there’s Sally, Barry’s love interest and fellow classmate. She’s serious about her aspirations that – like the rest of the supporting characters – dip into the self-absorbing territory. Yet at the same time, she’s someone who is attempting to shelter the vulnerable parts of herself in a “smart, strong woman” shell that we’re all supposed to proudly have, even if we don’t. She’s morally strong, yet needs to be needed, professionally speaking She is easily the most talked–about character (dare I say, controversial?) with many people not liking her. I know I have found her unbearable at times but only because she’s reminded me of herself; career-focused, blind to others and their needs, vulnerable, and trying so hard to be strong. It’s elements that make all of these characters so real and drives the story forward.
It Deals with Complex Topics
Just because Barry is a dark-comedy doesn’t mean it shies away from complex topics. We see Barry dealing with depression and symptoms of PTSD, and what happens to people who are disjointed from their emotions. It also illustrates Sally’s domestic abuse story in a realistic way and what narrative she wants to show others (conveying your truth is such a big message in the series that there’s a plot arc where Cousineau actually tasks the class in finding “their truth”). These topics are done in such a nuanced, balanced way where it makes an impact without being constantly spoon-fed to you, and the drama has a weight that’s felt.
Quality over Quantity
So far there are only two seasons of Barry (with season three postponed because of COVID) with each being eight episodes and – are you ready for this? – thirty minutes each. Do you know how happy that makes us? Sure, there’s a lot of shows with fifty-minute episodes that might have a run of ten to twenty episodes and that is so damn overwhelming to get into. More importantly, though, it’s about the actual substance. Yes, I enjoy [put any show I’m currently watching right here] but man I feel so damn exhausted after an episode and felt antsy, itching for the remote to skip a few minutes here and there.
Barry doesn’t waste any time but it also doesn’t skimp on storytelling, visually or dialogue-wise. We realised that anything can happen ten seconds, let alone thirty minutes, so obviously, they’re doing something right.
The Writing and Cinematography
If you love clever little plot threads, easter eggs and get a hard-on for cinematography, symbolism and colour theory in film like I do, hooo boy you’re in for a treat. There are throwbacks to Bill’s lines from his movies and SNL (see Yoshinoya Beef Bowl above and Hot Rod) and subtle (and sometimes, like above, not so subtle) uses of colour used in scenes. It’s even inspired it’s a Tumblr account, Barry HBO Theories. This blog fricken awesome and yes it’s spoilery, but let me link you to this gifset made by Barrysberkman. It’s made me think about other little plot threads and imagery we didn’t notice on first viewing but it’s made us appreciate it so much more. Are we all looking into it too much? Doubtful since everything is so well thought out and Bill is known to be a cinephile.
The Acting Scene
As people who are still newbies in the acting scene, it’s nice to see a character from the ‘outside’ coming into it as well, even better when the character isn’t, shall we say, “emotionally available”. Alec and Bill actually went to real acting classes in LA to get an authentic look into the modern classes and the wild exercises. Thankfully, I personally haven’t been in a class like that but in a place like LA where everyone is ready to crawl over their dying mother for any part, it’s interesting to see what people are prepared to do for it.
It also highlights the common challenge women face when in meetings and auditions especially in the smaller circles, talking and reflecting experiences in your life and all the other little things that are highlighted perfectly in this scene by Sally-
It’s So Damn Funny and Entertaining
Hot damn is it so easy to watch, we easily cruised through the two seasons in two nights; if it wasn’t midnight when we finished season one, we would have gone straight into season two. It’s a great show for a range of audiences, especially if you’re like me and are too exhausted with dramas with a big cast of characters we can never remember and a convoluted storyline that I know has given me shot-out nerves. Trust us though when we say that it doesn’t skimp on storytelling or doesn’t give you a balance of drama and comedy. The above still is from a season two episode called “Ronny/Lily” which is so damn good that it’s been nominated and won multiple awards including Bill winning Director’s Guild of America Award for this very episode, thankyouverymuch.
Well, we hoped that us flailing over Barry has given you even a bit of curiosity at watching the show, and if not… we’re just going to have to kill you.