[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Barry” Season 4, Episode 6, “The Wizard.”]
Intuitively, “Barry” is in a darker place. Getting there has been a slow-motion process over the show’s whole run, even if it’s intensified in Season 4. Seemingly chipper characters have seen the edges of their personality corroded away. Loved ones have been murdered in matter-of-fact manners. The giant nihilistic cloud that started brewing with the central “Barry” premise — a hired killer confronted with the idea that there might be more to life than ending it —has pretty much engulfed everyone.
This week’s “The Wizard” adds another crushing prospect: In this world, the only cure for wanting revenge is death. Whether by their proximity to Barry (Bill Hader) or some unscratchable itch inside them, each person has something they want to make up for or someone they hold responsible for a simmering grudge. In Season 4, trying to outrun that feeling hasn’t worked. Ignoring it hasn’t worked, either. So now, as the show heads into its literal final hour, our central characters are starting to face the finality of those decisions head-on, by choice or by force.
Let’s start here with Fuches (Stephen Root), who emerges from prison with a very distinct time jump makeover. Hardened by betrayal and serving as an inside man for the new criminal kings of LA, he’s a phoenix and a Raven all at once. Plus, he now knows exactly what he wants. That’s true of the barista who he locks eyes with over his first cup of coffee on the outside, just as it’s clear in the demands he makes of Hank (Anthony Carrigan). Fuches enjoys his fine dining and scenic canyon views, all while planning how to settle scores with Barry for leaving him without an exit plan. (To top it off, his chosen Black Sabbath theme song blasting from the speakers of his convertible gives the episode its title. For a brief moment, Fuches really is the star of the show.)
Barry, meanwhile, has taken it upon himself to not only deliver his own simmering payback but feel justified in doing so. His trip back to LA sees him morality shopping via a handful of podcasts that outline different interpretations of church doctrine. By the time he lands on “hockey goon Father Stu by way of Bill Burr,” it goes beyond soul-searching into what’s clearly a desperate bid for permission.
Dovetailing with last week’s Abraham Lincoln obsession, he’s still engaged in his series-long project of finding people who will tell him he’s a good person. Obviously, wanting to kill Gene is a selfish exercise. But this goes beyond satirizing an infectious Hollywood mindset — not wanting someone else to tell your story — and digs down into a deep sense of regret. Barry is angry that Gene’s reemerged after all these years, more because this big-bearded former teacher of his is threatening the bubble of caution (and ignorance) that he, Sally, and John thought they were safe inside. Gene isn’t just threatening Barry’s anonymity. He’s threatening Barry’s ability to escape the moral and tangible consequences of his actions.
Set up by Hader and episode writer Duffy Boudreau, the tragic irony is that both Barry and Gene do seem to have put in a lot of work to erase their past selves, and it’s only by trying to finish the job that they both end up endangering each other. Gene’s efforts to nip the Warner biopic project in the bud pulls Barry out of hiding and into the open. Barry’s quest to neutralize Gene also puts Leo and Gordon in danger, the main thing Gene was trying to avoid by removing himself from the continent.
Oddly, the one person in all this who experienced the biggest tragedy right before the “Barry” time shift is the one who seemingly has the cushiest life in the future. Hank has fulfilled Cristobal’s last wish and gone legitimate, levying their sand empire into a real estate one named for both of them. (“Nohobal” works as the perfect kind of generic name for a business venture: just distinct enough to be memorable, yet vague enough to also sound like a VC firm or a pharmaceutical product or a rideshare app. It would fit in seamlessly within L.A.’s office park world.) But despite living well, Hank also has a reputation he can’t shake. Fuches, either ignorant or especially good at needling people in the most vulnerable parts of their psyche, brings up Cristobal at their reunion dinner. Hank wants to project the idea that nothing would stand in the way of him keeping control over the city, while not having to be reminded of the biggest piece of proof from his past. In “Barry,” you don’t get to have it both ways. Here, perception is reality.
There’s also an extra layer to Hank’s idiom-stretching in this hazy future. Amid the “place de resistance” and “Look at what the cat brought in!…to the house!” is a sign that Hank’s outer charms can only go so far. With each cheery facade and forced smile, he’s trying to drown the old version of himself that pushed Cristobal away —that killed him. Just like a giant, Adrian Veidt-like statue won’t bring Cristobal back from the dead, continuing a respectable business plan isn’t enough to mask the anger and regret that essentially helped end him. Once Fuches sobers up and realizes that the “NoHo Hourglass” might be Hank’s big vulnerable spot, that could spell big trouble for both of them.
That vicious cycle comes for one and all in “Barry.” Sally, after taking a tiny sliver of power last week and driving one solitary harasser from her workplace, gets her house nearly flipped over for her efforts. The meticulous home invasion sequence is another Season 4 showcase for patience and specificity. Just like horror and comedy make a good double-edged sword, there’s a terror and humor that go hand in hand with someone randomly showing up in your house when you least expect. In a very subtle way, “Barry” is playing both sides of the surprise party/dangerous attacker spectrum in the matter-of-fact way it presents this body-suited ghost. Everything the intruder says as he’s leaving to go ram the house with his car is the acid-laced dessert that this show has been serving.
Sally has sometimes felt out of place in “Barry.” Her fate lines up with so many others in this web, particularly her meteoric rise(s) and fall(s). She’s been written as a volatile character with her own brand of ambition. That’s sometimes shown itself as anger, sometimes as jealousy. Now that all the signs are pointing to dead ends, Sally herself has entered a strong apathetic zone, a tricky spot for any character to be. But this particular brand of Sally melancholy is also the mark of someone who’s just trying to pass the time until the inevitable happens, someone who pursued a life built on performances and has been left inert as a result. If post-time-jump “Barry” is purgatorial, Sally’s the only main character who’s lost faith that anyone is going anywhere any time soon.
Also stuck for now? Barry, in the garage of Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom). Maybe this is the moment he says auf wiedersehen to his own fatal hang-ups. Regardless of the outcome, that last wordless coda to “The Wizard” is another example that “Barry” understands the power of silence, from ditching its theme song to the eerie quiet at the home where Sally, Barry, and John have holed up. When everyone stops talking, it’s easier to hear the consequences.
“Barry” Season 4 airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.