Barry Season 4 Episode 3 review: Bill Hader is a bona fide auteur

Bill Hader as Barry in Season 4HBO

Season 3 Episode 4 of Barry reaffirms the show’s greatest gift: Bill Hader’s evolution not just as a magnetic, deranged leading man, but one of the most exciting talents behind the camera today.

HBO’s Sunday night output has never been as strong as it is right now. Until May 28, viewers can gorge on the two best shows on TV: Succession and Barry back to back, a 100-minute dose of laughs, drama, and trauma that simply cannot be beaten.

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Both are on their curtain-closing seasons, and while the former – a super-rich satire with cyclical stakes that somehow never lose their thrill factor – is already heading out on a high, it’s more of the same, only better. The latter dramedy is a different beast, one defined by its distinct, harrowing lack of definition.

The first two episodes were a statement of intent: Barry has already broken us, and it’s not interested in trying to piece us back together. Shock and awe await.

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Spoilers for Barry to follow…

Barry Season 4 Episode 3 opens with insane cameo

Even in its nascency, Hader’s directing style has clear trademarks: long tracking shots, car-mounted cinematography that centers its subject, and wide spaces that ground and heighten the horror and comic nature of its action (in that order) without ever losing control.

We open on the familiar sight of a man armed with a machine gun on the back of a lorry, calling back to that exceptional Season 3 highway chase. This time, nobody’s ducking from bullets. He’s just a guard protecting the goods: a truck full of premium sand, the beginning of NoHo Hank and Cristobal’s idealistic, kosher empire. But Hank is distracted: the last episode ended with him deciding to kill Barry, so they need to meet with someone capable of pulling off such a hit.

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Enter Toro, played by modern-day cinema master Guillermo del Toro, sporting a snazzy black fedora, a cane, and Bond villain scars. “You have to be afraid of nothing,” he tells the reformed gangsters, confirming that his men will kill Barry that same day. They then amusingly bicker about the killers; more specifically, the impracticality of their ‘Los Amigos Gadgets’ podcast. One has to imagine Del Toro wanted a cameo out of his love for the show – if he likes it, you know it’s high-caliber.

Gene pushes Barry to the edge

Gene is delighted Barry is behind bars – a little too proud, perhaps, as he’s willing to sabotage the strength of the police’s case against him for an extra publicity boost in a tell-all Vanity Fair report. Last week, he made a meal out of his past with his former student, turning a cautionary tale gullibility and terror into a badass triumph over a psychopath.

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It’s already come back to bite him in the arse. Down at the station, the chief (played by Charles Parnell) tells him Barry is working with the feds and dishing all sorts of dirt on international crime syndicates, so much so that he could be released early. “When you’re outside the office, keep your mouth shut,” he says. On the drive home, Gene tells his agent what he did. He crashes his car in aghast anger and they decide to stop the article from coming out.

Gene in Barry Season 4 Episode 3HBO

In prison, the detectives try to get to grips with Hank and Cristobal’s operation. “They’re actually really in love,” Barry says, to which one of them says jealously in an aside: “That must be nice.” All of this information is in aid of getting Barry into the witness protection program, and he’s hoping Sally will join him because “she said I make her feel safe.” He doesn’t repeat that to assure the detectives: his eyes glance into the memory, soothed by the idea of her dormant love.

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Suddenly, he has a visitor: the reporter from Vanity Fair, who wants to give Barry a chance to respond to Gene Cousineau’s accusations. “Would you guys have Julia Roberts on your cover?” he asks, like a child, but he still remains calm – at least at first.

“Well, I apologized for all that,” he says, telling him how he’s got a good thing going with the FBI, but his temper quickly consumes him. “If he keeps running his mouth and telling his story to people… if he’s saying that stuff, it’s gonna f*ck shit up,” he rambles with his eyes wincing on every word, before smashing the phone off the table. “Tell Gene Cousineau to shut his f*cking mouth,” he warns the journalist.

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Sally becomes an “abusive” teacher

Off the back of her chat with Gene, Sally starts her own acting class. Much to her relief, nobody cares about her being the “entitled c*nt girl”, and as she says: “We have to be the ugliest versions of ourselves.” Really, that’s the show’s mission statement for its characters.

Those depths prove too much for her students when she tries to employ the Cousineau method of pulling someone apart like a human string cheese (thanks Succession) to tee them up for an emotionally convincing scene. “That was abusive,” one says. “Well, it’s part of the work,” Sally replies with a self-assured viciousness in her voice. “Just because it was done to you doesn’t mean you need to do it to us,” another responds. After a break, only her first victim remains, and she asks Sally to help her nail a big part.

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Sally in Barry Season 4 Episode 5HBO

This is another blow for Sally; yet again, she’s let herself down with her own arrogance, but Sarah Goldberg plays it with grace and seat-sinking charisma.

Meanwhile, Gene and his agent break into the Vanity Fair reporter’s home. As Hader is wont to do, the scene unfolds in a oner, with the camera slickly floating through the house as windows are smashed and his computer is lobbed into the swimming pool. Yet, by this point in the episode, none of this stuff really matters – he’s already paid a visit to Janice’s dad Jim Moss, who says – in a hilarious, irreverent stroke – “Let’s go have a chat in my garage.”

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Hank finally confronts Barry

Hank has always loved Barry. Not romantically, but he’s always invested in their twisted bond and tried to protect him. He’s had enough, and his disappointment boils to the surface in a terrifying phone call with Barry, who calls him to ask for a “dog catcher” to put down Gene. “Why are you lying to me, Barry? I have been nothing but loving and good friend to you, and all that you do is take,” he says, calmly, unblinkingly, before adding: “Why are you talking to the feds?”

The scene is brilliantly performed, with Hank’s atypical composure lighting Barry’s fuse almost instantly. “I’m not doing shit for you, Barry,” he says with a smile on his face, and Barry goes nuts. “You’re a tough guy now, you think you’re a tough guy?” he blathers violently, but Hank tunes him out. “Why don’t you enjoy hell, you murdering, self-centered, lying, fucking narcissistic piece of sh*t,” he says. I fear this glorious mic-drop will result in something very bad.

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NoHo Hank in Barry Season 4 Episode 3HBO

Then comes the joyous needle drop: Hans Zimmer’s Rain Man score. It only gets better: it plays while Fuches is watching the movie, and he makes a hysterical connection. “That’s us,” he says, but it’s unclear who’s Charlie and who’s Ray. Regardless, he makes a last-minute effort to warn the guards that somebody is coming to kill Barry, but they couldn’t be less interested.

We cut to a room where Barry is meeting the man behind the witness protection program. Between the pleasantries, Barry clocks a sweaty, shifty suit hanging at the back (played by Fred Armisen). “That man’s here to kill me,” he says, and sure enough, moments later, he pulls out an explosive pen… that blows his hand to bits. As he falls to the floor, gripping his bloody stub, suppressed gunfire from the ceiling pew-pews every officer in the room – headshots, too. Barry grabs a gun and kills the hitman. Soon after, as mania takes hold of the prison, the governor asks: “Where the hell is Berkman?” Who knows.

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Barry Season 4 Episode 3 review score: 4/5

A slickly directed, brutal episode that dooms Barry to vengeance, while everyone else has nothing to do but count down the clock.

Barry Season 4 Episode 4 will be available to watch on April 30 in the US and May 1 in the UK. Check out our other coverage below:

Barry Season 4 cast | Episodes 1 & 2 review | What time is Barry out on HBO? | Will there be a Barry Season 5? | How many episodes are there in Barry Season 4?

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