Recap: Barry (S4, Ep6) — A Dark Episode Digs for the Root of Barry’s Choices

Perhaps the biggest mystery Barry has to offer is why Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) makes the choices he does. He’s always under the spell of something, and he always seems to make the wrong decision. Season two was about how he was practically fated to fall back into his life of violence and terror, while season three was about how these seemingly fated decisions would come back for him in the end.

“the wizard” tries to get at this idea of mystery, and what makes the episode work is that it holds off on answering for it for most of the episode. Barry doesn’t really make choices—he just follows orders. All the worst decisions Barry has ever made—killing his army friend, killing Hank’s (Anthony Carrigan) friends, trying to kill Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom)—came from something primal inside of him. If someone isn’t telling him what to do, Barry will always give in to his worst aspects—and considering those aspects are usually unpredictable, there doesn’t seem like there’s a clear answer regarding his motives.

Barry spends most of “the wizard” driving to his former acting teacher Gene’s (Henry Winkler) house so he can kill him. This doesn’t necessarily make for an episode where a lot happens with the show’s titular character, which hurts in the long run, making it the season’s weakest episode so far. That doesn’t stop it from being a great half hour, however, and there are interesting things to take away from Barry’s actions—he spends a lot of his screen time cycling through biblical podcasts to help him justify his planned killing of Gene.

Barry’s wife Sally (Sarah Goldberg) calls him out on why he’s really doing this as he leaves—”I think you just wanna do this because Gene turned you in,” she says—and her comment puts his desperation to find justification for killing Gene into a new light. Every time Barry has made an independent decision, it’s led to further disaster, so he would rather put his decision in God’s hands, or at least convince himself that this is what God would want. Religion has never had a big role in Barry up until the last couple of episodes, but the religious guidance Barry seeks in this episode becomes more interesting when compared to his fear that he was going to Hell near the end of the last season. There, he vowed to give up killing (not for the first time), but now he’s using religion as an excuse for murder.

Things aren’t much clearer at home. Sally is stuck taking care of her son John (Zachary Golinger), and judging by how she gives him alcohol to calm him down, isn’t very good at it. The centerpiece of Sally’s storyline is the scene where she checks the house for any signs of danger, missing the man in the black bodysuit hovering behind her. The directing in this sequence is outstanding—the way the man is revealed without any indication that there’s something behind her, the camera slowly following them as the audience waits for Sally to figure out that something is wrong. It plays as straight horror and does so excellently.

The scene is admittedly a bit confusing, and that’s what hurts it somewhat. Barry has never been concerned about sequences that are intentionally perplexing, but they always have a certain answer to their mystery. On one hand, this could actually be happening—the actor in the suit is listed as the same actor from last week who Sally strangled, so this could be him and his criminal brother coming to take revenge. But at the same time, the audio is from the end of season three, where Sally killed the man who was trying to strangle her. It could be literal, or it could be all of the traumas and abuse Sally has suffered through her life manifesting in the form of a psychotic break. I like both answers, but I wish there was some indication as to which was true.

What really props up “the wizard” is getting to see what characters other than Barry and Sally have been up to for the past eight years. Barry’s former handler Fuches (Stephen Root) is finally out of prison, having made a name for himself and formed a far-reaching gang. After starting a family (how quickly he picks up a barista and establishes himself as her daughter’s new father is one of the episode’s best jokes), he goes to collect his money from Hank, now a full-on kingpin and running the “nohobal” company. This subplot adds a great amount of humor to a very dark episode, although things go south when Fuches tanks their deal by insisting Hank was the one who killed his former lover Cristobal, half of the company’s name and who their business is centered around. (I have a theory: is Fuches wearing a wire? He’s always been completely untrustworthy, he seems very insistent on getting Hank to say he killed Cristobal, and it would explain how he got out of prison so fast after his involvement in several murders.)

The episode ends with Barry ready to storm into the house of Gene’s son—Gene has made tenuous amends with him after shooting him—so he can kill his former mentor. The camera follows him like it did Sally, except now he’s the one shrouded in darkness and Gene is his unwitting victim. Everything is set up for Barry to walk in, kill Gene, and leave—and then someone nabs him. He wakes up in the home of Jim Moss, the man who has been hunting him for years and the father of one of his most righteous victims.

Earlier in the episode, Barry watched as Gene’s grandson was dropped off by a school bus and ignored the stop sign attached to it as it drove by. It seems like an insignificant detail, but it’s actually a callback to when Barry tried to kill Moss at the end of season three—as he drove to Moss’s house, he was running several stop signs. The answer Barry was looking for all episode was in front of him the entire time, as if a higher power—maybe God—is urging him to turn around and learn from his mistakes. But the fact that he tried anyway feels like it answers the question of why Barry does what he does. He’ll make the same bad choices over and over because he can’t see any other options. That’s the essence of Barry Berkman.

This episode of Barry is now available on HBO Max.

Sam Layton
Sam Layton

Sam Layton is a Chicago suburb native that's trying his best to make a career out of his (probably unhealthy) habit of watching too much television. When he's not working as the Third Coast Review's current sole TV reviewer, he's making his way through college or, shockingly, watching too much television.