“Barry,” the dark comedy series starring “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Bill Hader, returns March 31 for a second season that dives deeper into the psyche of a hitman attempting to erase his past wrongdoings. The HBO series focuses on the emotional trauma and history that we all carry everyday, despite our best efforts to escape them. However, the series refuses to become a morose rumination by retaining its quick wit and lampooning Hollywood.
The first season of “Barry” ended on a cliffhanger as Detective Janice Moss, played by Paula Newsome, confronted Barry, played by Hader, about his past as a hitman. The audience sees Barry pull out a gun and hear shots ring out, but the fate of Detective Moss is left ambiguous. Season 2 picks up a few days after the shocking finale, showing Barry attempting to settle down in Los Angeles with his fellow actress girlfriend Sally, played by Sarah Goldberg. Although he seems to have his version of a “perfect life,” which consists of taking an overpriced acting class taught by egomaniac Gene Cousineau — played by Henry Winkler — and working at Lululemon, his murderous past continues to haunt and plague him.
While Barry always found comfort in knowing that he only killed villains, the first season saw him murder a close friend to stop him from talking to the police. That betrayal meant he could no longer justify his actions as an undesirable means to a noble end. Barry clearly struggles with this realization, asking, “Am I a bad person?” at one point. Because of this, the first three episodes of the new season explore his military service, where the audience encounters Barry’s transformation into an ice cold killer. These scenes serve to criticize the camaraderie of the armed forces, which enables the cold-blooded murder of potentially innocent civilians.
Barry is not the only character haunted by his past; several other characters are forced to confront their dark histories. Sally struggles with memories of her abusive ex-husband, and Gene decides to reunite with his estranged son while struggling with the disappearance of his girlfriend Detective Moss. The connection with our bygone selves is hilariously parodized in the acting class. After Barry bares his soul by explaining the story of his first kill, the aspiring actors participate in an exercise depicting formative moments in their lives. While all of the performances are terrific, Natalie, portrayed by D’Arcy Carden, shares a memory of eating her twin in utero that is absolutely absurd and wildly funny.
Widely considered a breakout star in the first season, Anthony Carrigan’s Noho Hank continues to shine in the second season. Noho, the goofy Chechnyan gang leader, typically delivers doses of comic relief in these episodes as he tries to build his one-sided friendship with Barry. Hader based the character on an Apple store employee that he interacted with once and initially intended him to be a nice presence to contrast with his mob boss, Hader explained in an interview with The Hoya. However, Anthony Carrigan brought an unbelievable charisma to the table and the writers of “Barry” adapted the character to fit his personality. Despite the near unanimous love for the character, Hader revealed Noho’s character was originally supposed to die in the pilot, but the writers of “Barry” thankfully pushed for him to remain in the show.
The latest season seems to prioritize the characters’ emotional states, while the first season focused more on an engrossing plot. This choice is a natural evolution as viewers become more accustomed to the characters in a television series, according to Hader.
“When you meet somebody, unless they are a very self-absorbed actor, you usually do not get to know someone for a while. The first season was getting to know people and you meet Sally and she seems like this sweet actress that cares, but then you see her turn,” Hader said. “This season it was, ‘I have gotten to know you, I have hung out with you for a year,’ and now these are the kinds of things you would find out about people.”
The cinematic stylings of “Barry” closely resemble “Atlanta,” a comedy starring Donald Glover, mostly due to shared Director Hiro Murai, who directed the first two episodes of this season. Long wide shots framing characters standing in empty parking lots illustrate the emptiness many of us feel as we hide the truly important details of our lives because we feel that they are too scary or strange for others to hear. Frequently, Murai will position Bill Hader’s face in the center of the frame, with his blank expression perfectly characterizing the contract killer.
“Barry” grows darker in its second season as the HBO series explores the way in which our past stays with us and continues to control our actions. Despite the potential for becoming an unbearable gloomy world, the show maintains an extremely quick wit and a satirical manner that skewers the acting industry in which the characters inhabit.