Barry’s first three seasons picked up 50 awards and nine Emmys. Now the first three episodes of the fourth and final season are streaming on Showmax, with new episodes coming weekly on Mondays, express from the US. The new season has a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes – the fifth-highest this year.
Barry Berkman (Bill Hader, in a performance that’s won him two Emmys) is a hitman trying to make it as an actor. It’s a tricky combination: killing requires shutting down your emotions and keeping a low profile, whereas acting is all about tapping into your feelings and finding fame. And it’s sometimes hard to tell which is the crazier industry to be in.
“It started out as just a funny idea, but then as you go on, you go deeper with the characters,” says Hader, who is also the show’s co-creator. “The two TV shows that really influenced Barry were The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. The Sopranos in the way that they could go interior with a character, and then Breaking Bad with just the sheer propulsion of the narrative, where with so much of television, I felt like nothing really happened for a long time.”
The eight-part final chapter picks up with Barry’s former acting coach, Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler in an Emmy-winning role), being hailed as a hero following Barry’s arrest.
“[Barry] was caught at the end of season three, and so now he’s a bit of a caged animal,” says Hader. “He doesn’t know how to handle all of this. He’s also in a bit of denial that Cousineau turned him in. With the exception of Cousineau – who’s feeling pretty great about himself – everyone else seems to be in a weird hell.”
By everyone else, he means Noho Hank, Sally and Fuches, played in Emmy-nominated performances by Anthony Carrigan, Sarah Goldberg and Stephen Root respectively.
Season 4 promises a series of shocks – some exciting, some straight-up brutal. “Without giving spoilers away,” Hader says, “what happens structurally in the middle of season four, I did not see it coming, but that was just the best way to show how the rest of the cast has Barry’s disease. They’re all performing, in a way. We all perform and put on a different face at work, at home and all this stuff. Can you be honest and drop the façade or are you better off keeping it up?”
Asked about his own hopes for Barry’s conclusion, Hader says, “I like it when people can understand the deeper meaning – that all these people are very fallible, but hopefully fallible in a way that is on some level recognisable. Not that everybody’s going to shoot somebody, but Barry’s idea of ‘can you change your nature?’… I was very interested in that. It was a question that we posed in the writer’s room. Can all these characters change who they are, and is that possible?”
Hader says bringing the show to a close was, “bittersweet. I directed all the episodes of the season, so I was exhausted. We did seasons three and four back-to-back. I was really tired and looking forward to it being done. But then I love the cast and crew. It was hard to say goodbye to everybody. Each day it was someone’s last day. It was tough… I really love them all.”
Empire Magazine calls the final season, “nerve-shredding, hilarious and emotionally devastating to the very end,” saying, “Season 4 will be remembered as some of the best TV of 2023.” AwardsWatch goes a step further, calling it “truly spectacular… one of the greatest shows of the last century.” And Radio Times says, “If you’re not watching this show, you’re a fool… There’s simply nothing like it.”
Or, as Collider puts it, “At one point in Season 4, Hank amusingly describes his and Cristobal’s romantic partnership as a ‘total unicorn situation,’ and that’s a phrase that could really describe the show itself. There’s really nothing else out there like Barry, and, now that it’s ending, who knows if there ever will be again?”