HBO and Sky have been knocking it out of the park in 2023: Succession and The Last of Us have been arguably two of the biggest TV events in years, but for me the best product of this trans-Atlantic partnership is Barry. The fourth and final season, currently streaming on NOW and Sky Go, has me hooked – and you will be too.
Creator and star Bill Hader plays the titular Barry, a former marine turned hitman. Series one starts with Barry joining burnt-out actor Gene M. Cousineau’s acting class (played by the Fonz himself Henry Winkler) to case out a target, but it soon becomes clear that his passion is for the stage and not the world of contract killing.
It may sound like the set-up for a silly sitcom, but what follows is a brilliant and at times beautiful black comedy. The cinematography in seasons 3 and 4 is particularly breathtaking too.
While there are plenty of action sequences, they tend to be brutally quick and effective, and despite being set in Los Angeles, there is little glamorous about Barry’s life. He is trapped in a cocktail of PTSD and family issues, with father figure Monroe Fuches also serving as his hitman handler. Barry consistently states his desire to leave violence behind, but somehow the world keeps forcing him to kill.
The show’s sense of humour ranges from some of the driest out there to full-on farce and it’s amazing how tension can switch to laughter and back again in the space of an episode. A lot of the levity comes in the form of Noho Hank, a soft-hearted Chechen mafia leader way out of his depth who has some of the best lines (and fashion sense) in the show.
It is thanks to the laughs that Barry can also dive into serious topics too. As well as Barry’s suffering of PTSD, there is plenty of commentary on the treatment of veterans in America and Barry’s acting partner (and future girlfriend) Sally has her own struggles with domestic abuse. In fact, the show has such a strong supporting cast that at times in season 4, for a show simply called Barry, the titular character doesn’t even always feature heavily in every episode
Like all the best shows I’m both dreading the finale yet enjoying the ride. With the final few episodes coming out each subsequent Monday, if you start now, maybe you’ll catch up in time for the end. If I were you I would – it'll be a great way to spend many an evening or weekend.