July 18, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Barry “Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, And Keep Going”

Season One, Episode Seven

There’s a nice running gag in this episode where multiple characters all remark, when a certain self-help book is mentioned, that it’s a really good one.  I mean, it helped that Bolivian drug lord!  He’s really nice.  He even would have shared the stash house if Goran had just asked.

Oh, there’s still a gang war on its way, but he didn’t seem too angry about anything.

But for now, I think it’s worth pointing out the elephant in the room:  Barry is not a good man.  Sure, he wants to be.  He has moments where he tries, like when he told his Marine Corps buddy Chris to get out of the car before Taylor took off to that ill-fated bumrush in the previous episode.  That didn’t work because Taylor is an idiot who thought Gene’s advice book for actors applied to whatever the hell he was doing, but Barry tried.

The thing is, Barry also failed.  I know a series like this is maybe trying to make Barry sympathetic, and he’s killed a couple people onscreen so far.  The fact that, by the end of the episode, he has also killed Chris because he knows the guy can’t keep it together after the two barely escaped, and that he did so knowing Chris had a wife and kid at home, changes things.  Yes, that tortures Barry, but it also gives him the push he needs to actually deliver a good performance of his single line for Sally’s Macbeth scene, a line that goes well enough to push Sally to do better and get some attention from a talent scout.  And yes, Barry is tortured in a manner that, well, makes him look like either a lunatic or a man deep in guilt or both.  He shot his friend and walked away without a second thought until much later when he had to do a single line of a play that, up until then, he hadn’t been able to really pull off.

I’m not sure anyone in Gene’s class would qualify as a good actor, but Barry is a bad one even by the standards of his classmates most of the time.

But if this show is asking whether or not a man like Barry can be redeemed, that’s a tricky question in the best of circumstances.  Barry is a hitman.  He’s killed many people.  He’s lonely.  His social skills are nearly nonexistent.  He wouldn’t know what to do with a normal life if he somehow was able to get one.  But at the least, until this point, his kills have been of people connected to organized crime or something along those lines.  His original target for his trip to L.A., Ryan, was something of an innocent that Barry was growing to maybe like, but Ryan was killed by NoHo Hank and some other guys, men Barry then mostly killed himself.  It’s one thing on a TV show to kill a criminal or a bad guy or something along those lines.  It’s another thing to kill someone who just wandered into this mess by mistake like Chris did.

In many ways, this is like when Tony Soprano took his childhood pal played by Robert Patrick gambling then slapped him around to get the money Patrick’s character owed him.  The audience may have grown to like Tony.  He has a certain charm about him even as we know he’s a violent mob boss.  But it’s when he takes it out on someone somewhat innocent, a man who Tony knew had a gambling problem and took gambling anyway, a man who seems somewhat befuddled that Tony would hurt him, then it reminds everyone what sort of monster Tony is.  When Patrick’s David asks Tony why in a later episode, Tony says something about how he can’t really change his nature, a major theme to the series, but it’s hard to watch David sink lower and lower because of his supposed friend Tony.  And Tony doesn’t always go after people he is purportedly friends with given his other childhood pal Artie is never part of the business and Dr. Melfi never gets sucked in beyond her role as Tony’s therapist.  It’s when characters like Tony Soprano or Barry Berkman do things that are really wrong that the audience remembers what sort of person has been the lead character on the show, and for all that Barry is incredibly funny, it is also a show about a murderer.

The difference so far is Barry feels guilt for his actions unlike Tony Soprano, and he may have a chance of becoming a better man…though I doubt he will become that better man.