Barry was without a doubt one of the best comedies of 2018, mixing in great drama, acting, and interesting character development. The Emmy Awards proved that by giving Bill Hader Best Actor in a Comedy Series and Henry Winkler Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. What is fascinating is how it won, and yet at the same time, the awards were taking place while the show was shooting its second season. It was full steam ahead for the show and HBO’s faith in the series should only have grown with those awards. You can instantly tell that from how the new season is adding new layers and a higher budget. Season 2 opens with a murder, but customary of a good dramedy it will surprise you. Surprises abound in this first episode as it resets things while also adding new layers. I won’t spoil a thing here, but I will say this may be one of the strongest second season openers I’ve ever seen.
This episode without a doubt has some of the funniest moments in the series so far. Anthony Carrigan is back as NoHo, possibly the funniest element of season 1, and he continues to be one of the funniest and most dramatic gangsters you’ll ever see. This episode deftly shows us how his role has changed and how he’s still not yet out of hot water even though Barry helped bail him out last season. Bill Hader as Barry has plenty of hilarious moments too, like a scene where he’s trying out a British accent while he works in a clothing store. The first season seemed to be a bit hesitant to give Hader silly things to do since he’s such a brooding and sort of broken man. It appears that sense of humor is lightening up a bit here, making for more funny moments. Stephen Root as Munroe is also incredible in this first episode, playing the somewhat foolish and cocky character very well.
What’s fascinating is how the humor is turned up and yet the drama and pain is not. In a key scene, for instance, Barry recounts his time as a soldier in Iraq. The sequence is incredibly well edited as it takes its time to linger and let the audience see Barry’s emotions. It’s a heavy moment in his life and the weight of what he did isn’t immediately obvious. This pain and hurt he is reminded of is used in a hilarious way in the acting class which leads to a fun plot element sure to be used later. It’s also nice to see moments from his past as a soldier brought in to flesh out the character. Clearly, the budget was raised to afford wartime scenes and it pays off.
This episode also resets things in genuine and believable ways. You’d think Munroe would never appear in the show again after basically trying to kill Barry, but it’s clear attempted murder isn’t such a big deal when you’ve killed as much as Barry. His role seems to be used so as to connect dots from Barry to the final murder that took place in season 1. It makes sense for Munroe to be back. Winkler’s acting teacher Cousineau is integrated well too. His life has been rocked (when we last saw him he may have been the happiest ever) and now he has nothing to live for. He seems to be a loose cannon pushing Barry as if striking out from his own demons.
Alec Berg and Bill Hader wrote one of the strongest second season openers I’ve ever seen. Along with director Hiro Murai, this team has written an evenly paced drama with the right amount of laughs and plenty to look forward to. Season 2 is shaping up to be stronger than the first and then some. If the show sustains this quality the Emmys might need to get even more awards ready for HBO’s hit show.