'Barry' Season 4 Review: A Harrowing Curtain Call That's Impossible to Look Away From

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author
By

Apr. 14 2023, Published 3:18 p.m. ET

'Barry' Season 4
Source: HBO

Since the moment Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) stumbled into an acting class to murder one of its students, Barry has established itself as a story about redemption. The HBO series follows the titular Barry Berkman (Bill Hader), a depressed hitman who tries to find a new lease on life as part of the amateur acting scene in Los Angeles (all while crime and violence seek to disrupt his apparent new calling).

More accurately, though, it’s a story about failed redemption.

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It’s about a sad killer and troubled actors who want to redeem themselves but unavoidably make the wrong choices in that effort.

Season 4 exemplifies how difficult the redemptive process can be for Barry, Sally, Gene, and even NoHo Hank and Fuches. Here is a cast of characters who want to do better for themselves, yet keep finding ways to double down on their worst behaviors. As the curtain rises on one more season, violence and heartbreak follow Barry at every turn in the best season of the show to date.

Barry (Bill Hader) dons an orange jumpsuit as he sits in his prison cell in Season 4 of 'Barry'
Source: HBO
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Check out our review of 'Barry' Season 4 on HBO.

The new season of Barry picks up right where the previous one left off. After being lured into an ambush, Barry is apprehended by police and sent to the same prison as his former handler Fuches (Stephen Root). His acting instructor, Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), revels in Barry’s incarceration. Meanwhile, a disgraced Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg) tries to run from her mounting issues. NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and his lover Cristobal (Michael Irby) also try to build a more legitimate life together.

For many of the characters, they’ve reached their limits. Throughout the course of the series, each of them have been pushed to the edge as they lay bare some of their worst and ugliest tendencies for everyone to see. In that sense, the season thus far has been a masterclass showcasing each character in their darkest moments.

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Bill Hader continues to surprise and astonish as Barry, continuing his delicate dance between unhinged killer and a man trying to see the best in people, even when it isn’t there. In following Barry on his swan song, the show features plenty of hilarious moments only to shift into a harrowing introspection of Barry’s cognitive dissonance. Barry agonizes as he tries to deny his sociopathic tendencies, but he sums it up in a well-timed quip that provides much-needed levity in the pits of Barry’s suffering.

Sarah Goldberg as Sally Reed
Source: HBO
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The underrated Sarah Goldberg also makes the most of Sally’s despair. Sally has tried to outrun her true nature for so long and is led to believe that becoming an acting teacher can help her find meaning in her passions again. In her very first lesson, Sarah Goldberg delivers her most explosive performance yet. In one sweeping monologue that blossoms like a slow-motion explosion, Sarah manages to perfectly encapsulate Sally’s worst behavior as a woman who wields her own trauma against others.

The rest of the supporting players certainly aren’t slouches either. Henry Winkler, with a similar background in comedy as Bill Hader, comes out swinging as the ever-pitiable Gene Cousineau who predictably milks his spotlight to his own detriment. And though he’s not necessarily as much a show-stealer as he was in previous seasons, Anthony Carrigan is delightfully dark as NoHo Hank tests the limits of his kindness.

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Each of these stellar performances are magnified by the gravity of the final season. Barry is known for its creative cinematography and snappy writing. Season 4 may not feature the same technical marvels like the previous installments (extended bike chases and seamless fights against martial artists, etc.), but it still somehow manages to pull out all the stops in some of the most haunting moments of the show.

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From flashbacks to a shockingly resonant psychoanalysis on Barry, Season 4 brings each element of its masterful storytelling to a turning point.

It’s a necessary send-off for characters steeped in so much sin and anger, even though it’s difficult to know whether or not they’ll ever find happiness at the end. Barry Berkman has laid everything bare as he sets off to determine what his true nature really is, and as the curtain falls, his last performance is presented very much like a stage play.

A haunting quip. A telling motion. Exit stage left. Spotlight off. Darkness.

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