Review by Camden Ferrell
Years ago, most people probably associated Bill Hader with the many characters he played on SNL or his roles in movies like Superbad and Trainwreck. However, if there is one thing he has done that will be his lasting legacy, it is his brilliant work on Barry, a show that highlights his ability to masterfully act, write, and direct. Season 4, the show’s final one, is arriving on HBO imminently, and Hader and co. don’t plan on going out with a whimper. The final season of this show is an ambitious departure from previous seasons while still finding a way to push the limits of its bleakness and comedy.
After the shocking events of the season three finale, we see Barry adjusting to the new status quo he finds himself in. Relationships have been broken, ties have been severed, and Barry finds himself fighting internally as much as externally. Without giving too much away about this season, all of our favorite characters find themselves in unfamiliar places, physically and emotionally. The last three seasons have not been easy for these characters to say the least, and this season focuses on its consequences and builds up to what should be a satisfying conclusion to the story.
The writers this season trust its audience wholeheartedly with a narrative that feels different than previous seasons. Less straightforward but equally captivating, the writing subverts expectations and remains as creative as ever. It may not be nearly as funny or thrilling as previous installments, but it’s still some of the best writing on television today. Even when it doesn’t work fully, you have to admire its ambition and boldness with what it does with the story.
One thing that has been consistent throughout the series has been the quality of its acting, and it continues beautifully here. Hader, Henry Winkler, Sarah Goldberg, Stephen Root, and Anthony Carrigan all return in full force. There are less obvious “awards show” moments, but this season sees our actors balancing their more explosive moments with expert subtlety. Its performances are not as flashy as other seasons, but the acting is still just as good.
As mentioned before, one thing I admire about this new batch of episodes is its ambition. I can’t say I was thrilled at first with this change, but it grew on me very quickly. I do think this is one of the few shows that benefits from watching episodes back-to-back. I feel like this new season doesn’t work on a week-to-week basis as well as other seasons, but it doesn’t change the fact that you don’t get as much bang for your buck anywhere else on television. I think that a certain flexibility and open-mindedness is needed from the viewers in certain episodes just because of how subversive it can be at times. The show is still a masterclass in almost every field, but audiences should enter this new season with the understanding that this will be different than before.
Barry is another brilliant piece of television ending this year, but it is going out on its own terms. Hader and everyone else involved has given their all this season, and viewers are going to be excited to dive back into this darkly hilarious world. I’d argue it’s the bleakest the show has ever been, and I can’t say it’s my favorite season, but it’s still something fans are going to absolutely love. This is a tricky show to pull off, and they have proven they can do it one last time.
The first two episodes of Barry season 4 premiere on April 16 on HBO with new episodes releasing every subsequent week. Seven of eight episodes have been reviewed.