Barry Season 4 Episode 5 review: A huge swing

Bill Hader in Barry Season 4HBO

Barry Season 4 Episode 5 is eerily still, like a firework with a silent fuse; it may seem like a depressing epilogue, but the stage has just been set for a nail-biting conclusion.

On the see-saw of humor and chilling violence and drama, Bill Hader has placed Season 4 firmly in the dust of the latter, echoing the third season’s descent into darkness. Laughs are few and far between, almost always punctuated by a moment of horror or immense sadness: Fuches seeing himself as the Charlie to Barry’s Rain Man, NoHo Hank dancing in the sand with his staff before condemning them to a nightmarish death in a silo.

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The show’s critics may miss the levity, but Barry’s momentum was always downward; everything catches up to everyone, always, and even in the face of safety and security, they’re their own worst enemy: Gene talking to Vanity Fair, NoHo Hank bowing to the mob, Sally’s hubris getting in the way of an incredible job offer.

Episode 4 ended with a real head-scratcher, seemingly catching up with Barry and Sally in that recurring endless field, alone in a house with their son John. Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?

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Spoilers for Barry to follow…

Barry Season 4 Episode 5: No, this isn’t a joke

Since the start of Season 4, Barry’s headspace has been caught between his incomprehensible present – how could anyone betray a pathological killer? – and dreamlike past, finding comfort in an enormous, empty area of land. When the last episode dropped us in this same place, you’d be forgiven for presuming it was all make-believe – but it isn’t.

We’re more than a few years in the future, and Barry and Sally are in hiding with new identities: Clark and Emily. Barry doesn’t do anything: he consumes as much Abraham Lincoln media as possible (he even calls him “our pal, Abe” to the family), drinks beer, and takes long walks with John, nattering about “honoring” and protecting each other.

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The episode begins with Barry taking John to apologize to Travis, the boy he fought in the closing moments of the previous installment. Even when he says sorry, both the boy and his dad tell them that it’s weird he’d never heard of Call of Duty (let’s be real, if you found a kid who didn’t know what those games were, you’d think they were a bit strange), but Barry says they don’t play video games. The whole interaction clearly rubs Barry and his son the wrong way, especially how they react to John’s cringy endnote: “I hope we can meet together next time in harmony.”

John is struggling to manage his anger. He wants to punch the boy even after apologizing. “That’s called insecurity,” Barry tells him, saying how he wants him to grow and be a better person. “Your dad used to get mad a lot,” he adds, but he overcame it. It’s all good advice, in essence, but it’s hard to look past what we know: each attempt to “break good” has given way to the bad.

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Sally gives the performance of another lifetime

There is nothing behind Sarah Goldberg’s eyes in this episode, bar the odd flicker of despair. She is simply not there for the most part, a living fraud who’s lost sight of who she was. Each day, she wears a brown wig and works as a waitress in a southern diner; smoking in the bathroom with her colleague, dealing with not-so-subtle sexual advances from another co-worker.

As she walks out to the car, sunlight can be seen on the fringes of the horizon, mostly smothered by a massive, end-times cloud. She downs a bottle of vodka with Barry on the phone, holding his oblivious voice by her waist as she guzzles. Back at home, John struggles to cut into a barely-cooked pot pie, while Barry talks endlessly about the “pragmatism, optimism, and compromise” of Lincoln, a conversation Sally half-acknowledges in a drunken blur. “That’s a real success story… he’s on a penny,” she mutters.

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While John tries to sleep, he overhears Barry calling Sally by her real name and berating her for getting drunk. “You drink beer,” she says. “Yeah… but I know when to stop,” he responds. Barry is clearly at ease with his new life, preserved with a fierceness that rarely rears its head, but Sally is beyond sad. At night, they sit apart in the living room on their respective laptops, and she constantly watches clips of Natalie’s (D’Arcy Carden) Just Desserts, a “generation-defining sitcom.”

Barry and Sally are broken

The basic, all-American structure is there: the white picket fence, Barry’s tucked-in plaid shirt, kids playing baseball – but there’s a layer of unease all over it. For starters, they attend church virtually, watching sermons while huddled around a laptop. It’s imperative they remain as hidden as possible, so when John befriends a young boy who wants to teach him how to play baseball, Barry shows him videos of Little League players dying on the pitch. That night, he comes into their room crying, but Barry doesn’t wake up – he’s still the most important person in his life, and Sally and John are just in his orbit.

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Bill Hader after the time jump in Barry Season 4 Episode 5HBO

Sally doesn’t seem to feel even vaguely maternal, and whether it’s boredom or insanity setting in, she indulges Bevel, her co-worker who masturbates over her. When he tells her about his brother shooting someone in a bank robbery, she says it’s “hot” and calls him a “bad boy”, so he asks her to remove her shoe and sock and places her foot on his penis. It’s not a dom/sub dynamic – he’s a plaything to her, an unwitting stress ball. She coaxes him into the bathroom under the impression he’ll be getting a blowjob, instead strangling him and scaring him half to death, especially when he pulls off her wig. “I won’t tell anyone,” he promises. “I know,” she says, coldly, as if that was ever an option.

It’s a terrifying scene. Goldberg’s performance has never been this raw; Sally is completely broken, a shadow of herself – maybe that goodness is still there somewhere, but her soul isn’t, that’s for sure.

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Back at home, Barry decides to tell John about his past as a Marine in tales of false modesty and terror through the lens of his own heroism. Why? It’s certainly not to put his son at ease, nor is it something Sally has asked for. One suspects he’s just in desperate need of affection, attention, or the briefest actual interest in what he’s saying. That said, it works, strengthening the bond between them while Sally sits alone.

That same night, a mysterious chap rocks the door. Barry immediately arms himself and steps outside while Sally and John sleep in the bathtub. In a haunting shot, Barry stares out to the pitch-black void, hearing the faint sounds of giggling and scuppering – but he doesn’t go anywhere. He stands guard like a good soldier all night, condemned to paranoia and duty.

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Barry comes to the movies

We’re suddenly back in Los Angeles. Billboards for Mega Girls 4 (starring Kristen, who’s now a proper movie star) and Larry Chowder, The Magical Boy light up the Warner Bros set an executive walks back to the office. Apparently, somebody wants to talk to the boss: Gene Cousineau, who’s been missing, presumed dead for years since Barry’s escape. She doesn’t believe him at first, but he says: “If you’re planning what I think you’re planning, you’re gonna want to talk to me.”

Later that night, Sally is watching an interview with Natalie – apparently, the president quoted her show in the State of the Union address, ha! – when she gets a “Barry Berkman alert.” She cries out his name and shows Barry an article: Gene has agreed to consult on the upcoming biopic about Barry. “I’m gonna have to kill Cousineau,” he says, and as the episode cuts to black, ominous music plays over the credits – this is his encore, and we’ll be surprised if anyone makes it out alive.

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Barry Season 4 Episode 5 review score: 4/5

Barry’s trajectory may prove to be divisive with Episode 5, but for our money, it’s a big what-the-f*ck swing executed perfectly – even with all this dread, we’ve never been so excited for next week.

Barry Season 4 Episodes 1-5 are streaming on HBO now. Check out the rest of our coverage below:

Barry Season 4 cast | Episodes 1 & 2 review | Episode 3 review | Episode 4 reviewWhat 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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