[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 3 finale of Barry, “starting now.”]
It has always been a tricky thing, calling Barry a comedy, but the show may have left that word behind for good. The third season of the Emmy-winning HBO series has been awfully focused on consequences — or, more importantly, the ripple effects of a person’s actions in life, especially when those actions involve the death of another. And while we’ve been seeing those ripple effects all season long, primarily in the form of people trying to kill Barry (Bill Hader) as revenge for his past crimes, things really do come full circle in the season finale.
Breaking it down, the narrative’s a relatively simple one, wrapping up key storylines across the season. Gene’s (Henry Winkler) career prospects are looking good, with plans to expand upon his master class with a “live theater at the movies” theatrical event — but Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom), father of Gene’s beloved Janice, reminds him that Janice’s death deserves vengeance. NoHo Hank manages to not just escape his prison cell, but free his lover Cristobal (Michael Irby). Sally (Sarah Goldberg) comes to Barry hoping to get her own revenge on former assistant Natalie (D’Arcy Carden), but instead discovers some true ugliness inside herself.
And Barry, after disposing of yet another body (this time, though, it wasn’t his kill) comes face to face with Agent Albert Nguyen (James Hiroyuki Liao), who gets to confront the man who saved his life but has taken so many others. “I know evil Barry, and you’re not evil. But this has to stop. All of it’s got to stop. You hear me? Starting now.”
Albert walks away from a seemingly broken Barry, who calls Sally on his return from the desert to arrange for them to run away together, not knowing that Sally’s already got her own plans. (Her cold response to Barry’s declaration of love: “Oh, you do?”, followed by a hangup.)
In a way, the finale was a microcosm of something that’s been happening all season long: the idea of repetition, something Gene Cousineau would of course be very familiar with as an acting teacher. Repetition, after all, is the cornerstone of the famous Meisner technique, developed by acting instructor Sanford Meisner starting in the 1940s. Here’s how Backstage described this classic drill:
Meisner’s repetition exercise (which he called “the Word Repetition Game”) requires an actor to sit across from their scene partner and make an observation about them. The scene partner then repeats the observation back. This exercise aims to create a connection between the actors by ensuring that they are actively listening to one another. Meisner described it as a ping-pong game that becomes the foundation for emotional connection…The Meisner repetition exercise then grows into an entire scene of naturalistic, improvised dialogue.