‘Barry’ S2E8 finale “berkman > block” recap
What do you get when you put Bill Hader (Barry), Sarah Goldberg (Sally), Henry Winkler (Gene), Anthony Carrigan (NoHo Hank), and Stephen Root (Fuches) on a TV show together? Probably some of the best acting seen on television right now.
Barry’s ensemble cast does their best at playing the most monstrous version of their characters. There’s no hero of the piece as such – only a myriad of very real antiheroes who are so self-obsessed they can’t determine right & wrong.
All season two we saw Barry’s characters struggling with the truth. Sally strives to find authenticity in her work and reach a genuine audience. Gene needs to know who killed the love of his life, Detective Janice Moss. NoHo Hank looks for a way to be true to himself while pursuing an unsavory career. Fuches searches for the truth in his relationship with Barry (so he can continue to exploit it).
Barry, meanwhile, seeks a way to lead a truthful and honest life while also confronting his blood-soaked past. In their search for the truth, these characters create situations for themselves in season two which force them to continue telling themselves lies.
Here’s how “berkman > block” showed us that telling the truth isn’t always the path to redemption for our favorite Barry characters.
A bloody descent
If S1’s Barry was a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, S2’s Barry is a man on the verge of an absolute psychotic break. We’ve seen him narrowly escape detection, death, and jail every episode this season. If Barry’s about to snap, you can imagine what it’s doing to his loyal audience.
The S2 finale “berkman > block” gave us the answer to the question we’ve been considering all season long: “Is Barry bad, or just mad?”
Barry has been foregrounding Barry’s mental health for much of S2, courtesy of flashbacks and a big reveal about his time serving for the US military in Afghanistan. We’ve been waiting for Barry to crack all season long; when he broke, he broke bad.
In a blind rage with Fuches that escalated as the episode progressed, Barry found himself in Esther’s monastery, where Hank, Cristobal, and their gangs await a big heroin shipment. Searching for Fuches in a highly gamified sequence resembling an ultraviolent first-person shooter, Barry pops everyone who stands between him and Fuches.
At the end of the episode when Barry leaves the monastery with a bloody mess of corpses in his wake, we realize that Barry Block is dead. Barry Berkman, mentally unstable contract killer, will surely be greeting us in S3.
The lies we tell ourselves
When confronted with revealing the truth of her relationship with ex Sam in front of hundreds of people, Sally chooses to lie. Barry almost snaps, and we’re just about prepared to see him throttle Sally for reals – but he storms off stage instead.
Sally is greeted with rapturous applause and acclaim when leaving the theater as a flash of realization crosses her eyes: in order to get ahead as an actor, she needs to continue perpetuating this lie.
After being accused of the murder of Janice following Fuches’s fake confession call last episode, we see a shellshocked Gene being comforted by his son Leo. After being tucked into bed with the nightmare seemingly over, he remembers exactly what Fuches whispered to him while he at Janice’s corpse in her car’s trunk: “Barry Berkman did this”.
We’re betting Gene will have to live with this truth (and the lies he’ll have to tell around it on his path to vengeance) in S3.
As fucked-up relationships go, Barry and Fuches’s has to be one of the most twisted on TV. Fuches is smarting from the fact that Gene had replaced him as Barry’s father figure and set Gene up for murder in the previous episode. While accepting that truth, he goes all-out to situate himself in a position of power between NoHo Hank and Cristobal, thereby rendering Barry irrelevant.
Fuches originally turned Barry into a raging killer. Things are not looking great for this codependent relationship come S3. Will Fuches tell more lies to protect Barry, or is their bond broken?
Last episode when faced with fiery death, NoHo Hank admitted to himself and his crew that a life of crime wasn’t a good fit for his character – delivering one of the best lines in TV history: “I’m a born optometrist”.
Following the bloody massacre at Esther’s monastery, Hank has to live with the truth that he gave chance after chance to the violent, skilled mercenary who took out his gang. The blood of his team is on NoHo Hank’s hands once again. Will he lie to himself about his role in the slaughter, or will he be hellbent on revenge against Barry?
S2 of Barry was a storytelling treat. Rather than continue with S1’s fish-out-of-water shtick – violent hitman moves to LA and becomes an actor – we saw real growth for Barry throughout S2.
In fact, this growth is almost suffocating, as the stakes continue to elevate for everyone involved in Barry’s double life. Out of all the characters in the show, Barry is the one who most truly revealed his true self by the end of S2. If Barry Block is dead, we’re wondering how the hell Barry Berkman is going to get out of the huge mess he’s made come S3.
Check out all our Barry coverage here.