Ranking the Barry Seasons

Jerome Cusson and Kevin Ford have been our point people for covering Barry on the website. Make sure you check out their coverage!

Jerome and Kevin Present: Barry (Season 1)

Jerome and Kevin Present: Barry (Season 2)

Jerome and Kevin Present: Barry (Season 3)

4. Season 4: Fake television show

The journey of Barry feels much more about the journey of Bill Hader as an artist than anything else. The first season was a solid half-hour comedy-ish that established a vaguely unique tone and sensibility that successfully leaned on the absurd to find moments of levity in an objectively bleak world. The ending was such a shocker in the best way, but I wrote after seeing it that I was not sure how well they would be able to follow-up on it. Hader, instead of just trying to find a way to revert to the comfortable status quo. Instead, he has found new ways to push himself visual, narratively, and (somewhat) thematically.

And that commitment to not settling has explained both the successes and failures of the show.

Making art is hard and finding your voice is hard, and Hader is at the beginning at what is hopefully a fruitful journey. I am however not sure if he has much to say to be perfectly honest.

This final season is clearly his fully realized vision with him directing all the episodes and leaving his already distinct mark on every minute of the show. Simply being unique in it of itself does not a great artist make. He closed out his first big authored work in a fitting way: on his own terms. Unfortunately, it was just a show that progressively left me more and more cold overall even if Hader objectively got more confident in what he wanted to do. Fundamentally, this final and incredibly ambitious season of television was a reminder that I simply do not care about these people or the ideas that Hader was most consumed by.


3. Season 2: No More Fun and Games

Season 2 had the unenviable task of trying to replicate the relatively whacky tone of the first season right after Barry killed Janice Moss. The killing of Janice Moss was one of those holy shit moments that was both earned and important and then pinned the show into a corner. Barry in this season became a show of moments that stood out and could be fun (very similar to Atlanta) but could also be equal parts frustrating and unsatisfying due to the disjointed feeling. It was still an enjoyable show during this batch of episodes but something felt undeniably off on first watch.


2. Season 3: Breaking Good

Season 3 was the first season of Barry where it clicked for me that it was doing (to be reductive) bizarro Breaking Bad. Barry comes into the show objectively a net negative for humanity who desperately wants to believe that that he is good and that he will be successful at being a good person. The show repeatedly points out though that Barry’s sins will always come back to haunt him in a way that he can never escape unless he just gives up trying to keep himself out of prison or alive in general. It is in this season though where Barry (and Barry) mostly realizes that there is no redemption coming for Barry. He has taken too many lives, and the whole season has “end is nigh” vibes. So it’s natural that Barry finally cannot escape and ends the season in handcuffs. This was a far more satisfying season of tv than season 2 though a part of me will always wonder if this show would not have been better off being tonally more like the majority of season one.


1. Season 1Surprise, Motherfucker

The key to the season is the final sequence. They do the opposite of Dexter season 2. Barry had to make a choice. The choice was not taken away from him. Watching a television show about a sympathetic killer is all fun and games until the show reaches that point where the killer has to make the choice to kill someone likable. And not just likable, but someone the audience was invested in. Preferably someone who caught the killer. When Janice Moss catches Barry, Barry has to choose prison or killing someone he cannot justify in any way but for his own selfish reasons. Barry makes the selfish choice. It’s a shocking moment, and a tremendous sign-off for the first season.

The question would then become could the show find a way to follow up on that? (Narrator’s Voice: “They couldn’t.”)




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