“It Takes a Psycho ” has been haunting me for two weeks. After Barry escaped the prison at the end of last week’s episode, Episode 4 takes the classic main-character-disappears-for-majority-of-the-runtime trope which allows us to focus on the other characters, namely Cristobal and Hank. And oh, how I wish it didn’t (in a good way.)
With Barry on the run, everyone’s understandably on edge, waiting for him to show up and kill them. Sally helps Kristen with her movie role while trying to take her place; Cristobal and Hank’s sand empire continues to grow (until it doesn’t), and Gene hides up in his mountain cabin, armed with his prop gun from Rip Torn.
Barry has always been dark, but “It Takes a Psycho” gets dark, dark. It’s also the first step of this final season’s pivot toward its end game. Critics who reviewed the show before the season premiered said there was a mid-season twist, and Episode 4 takes us there.
They should have stayed in Santa Fe
This episode belongs to Hank and Cristobal. This criminal couple was arguably the most well-adjusted couple on the show, but something had to eventually give. No one on Barry is a good person (though they try their hardest). For Hank and Cristobal, they found their happy ending together at the beginning of Season 4. It was their choice to turn back to the criminal lifestyle, and it’s because of that choice that I would not categorize this episode as a bury-your-gays moment. There were many times Hank and Cristobal could have avoided Cristobal’s fate, but Batir and the Chechen’s return backed Hank into a corner. Despite this episode’s tragedy, “It Takes a Psycho” contains some top-notch acting from Anthony Carrigan and Michael Irby as well as some thrilling and anxiety-inducing sequences from Bill Hader’s direction.
Those sequences perfectly set up the gut-wrenching end to Cristobal. The first fake out happens when Hank betrays his sand crew. A miscommunication between Hank and Cristobal means Cristobal gets caught in the middle of the deception. He sinks into the sand; Irby’s performance is magnificent as Cristobal calls out for Hank. The long black screen with Cristobal’s panicked pleas is some of the worst moments of television I’ve sat through. Fuck you, Bill Hader.
The second sequence is the true gut wrencher, though it wouldn’t have hit as hard without Cristobal’s survival in the previous scene. The Chechens effectively have Hank and Cristobal under their thumb. Hank’s pleas to Cristobal to stay with him will surely get Carrigan an Emmy nomination if not a win. His increasing panic bleeds through the screen, his love for Cristobal the thing that’s killing them. But the worst part is the Chechen dressed all in white, the same as Cristobal. Because when his blurry form walks back into the house, there’s a split second where we think Cristobal’s changed his mind. Instead, the Chechen tells Hank he’s sorry it had to be this way; Cristobal’s already dead in the driveway. The silent killing makes it worse, and Hader’s patience stretches these revelations into a dreadful build-up, but the end result will always deliver.
Turning fantasy into reality
Season 3 ended with Sally murdering the biker, putting her and Barry on a similar level. It wasn’t surprising that Sally decided to leave with Barry at the end of this episode. After coaching Kristen through her acting while simultaneously trying to take her spot Sally finally realizes she has nowhere to go. It’s an appropriate yet unfortunate trajectory for her character. It’s also really interesting to see Barry step out of the darkness to reveal himself as Sally and him take this next step in their journey to evading the law.
Gene finally gets his Rip Torn gun to work in one of the episode’s darker moments. Gene’s selfishness continues to hurt his family. Accidentally shooting his son is an extreme example of that selfishness, but perhaps it will finally get Gene to change his ways.
The end of Episode 4 seemingly takes us about 10 years into the future. What at first seems like another of Barry’s hallucinations turns out to be Barry and Sally’s son John walking back to their house in the desert. Did Barry just get everything he wanted? Or is this another fantasy of his? It’s certainly a worthy twist to have critics praising a mid-season pivot. But no matter how jaw-dropping this new trajectory seems, this episode belongs to Hank, Cristobal, and Carrigan and Irby.
We’re at the half-way point now. While the start was slow, these past couple of episode have been great. However, considering a potential time jump here, some of these events might end up feeling rushed. Hank and Cristobal’s sand empire did not last long at all, and Sally barely got into the teaching gig before she’s running off with Barry.
Fuches is still in prison but he seems to have the respect he’s always wanted from the other inmates since he refused to give up Hank’s name.
“This is what happens when you hire two guys with a podcast.”
“My last boyfriend was 5’3.”
“And one guy in a Houston Oilers hat, which is confusing.”
Feature image courtesy of Merrick Morton/HBO
Barry Season 4 airs new episodes on HBO every Sunday at 9 p.m. Central.
Barry 4x04 - 8/10