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‘Barry’ 4×05 review: Honest Abe

By May 9, 2023No Comments6 min read
Sarah Goldberg in Season 4, Episode 5 of HBO's Barry

Time jumps are bold. They work only if you’ve garnered complete trust from your audience. In Barry‘s “tricky legacies,” the fifth episode of Season 4, an eight year time jump creates a whole new ballgame for this final season, and it’s easy to follow Barry, Sally, and the rest into the future when Bill Hader is behind the camera. While the first half of the season provided an adrenaline-fueled ramp up, prison life and Sally’s search for meaning wasn’t sustainable for a full eight episodes. In the future, Hader has so many new avenues to explore with Barry, Sally, Gene, Hank, Fuches, and now John, Barry and Sally’s son. 

World’s best dad

We reconvene with Barry and Sally as Clark and Emily, and their sad, lonely existence with each other. Sally’s an alcoholic working at a diner, consumed every night with watching Natalie’s success on TV. Barry’s so obsessed with religion that I liked him better as a serial killer. Their house in the middle of nowhere, in a wide and empty desert, isolates their son John from other kids, while his father tells him lies about his life, baseball, and arbitrarily chooses which texts of scripture he’s going to use to justify his actions. 

It’s an interesting place to take Barry. Like his desire to become an actor, this religious path feels just as much like he’s trying to convince himself he’s a good person as acting did. If acting was a way to tap into his humanity, then religion is a guidebook he can pick and choose from to fit his good person view of himself. The sermon they listen to tells them to not focus on the lions, but on God. The past is the past; as long as you worship God, you’ll be forgiven. Or so Barry now believes.

Abe Lincoln is a running theme throughout “tricky legacies.” Considering Lincoln’s “Honest Abe” moniker, Barry’s interest in Lincoln throughout the episode is telling. At first, he focused on Lincoln’s successes and general sense of character. But then he stumbles onto a Youtube video that talks about Lincoln’s racist history, as well as the messed up things other heroic figures of history did. Barry calls it “tricky legacies.” 

In this new life, Barry sees himself as the hero. He regales his son with tales of war, retelling the story of when he saved Albert. When his son asks if he got revenge on the people who hurt his friend, Barry tells him of course not. He was focused on saving Albert. Lincoln’s considered an American hero, but as Barry learns throughout the episode, he also did some really bad shit. So did Barry. But look, he’s got a wife and a son. He’s living the American Dream. He’s got this. If Honest Abe’s legacy can be that messy, then Barry can tell his son anything he wants because he’s living a different truth now.

Sally, you’re a star

For Sally, life has become a monotonous cycle of diner work, alcohol, watching ‘Just Desserts,’ and listening to Barry ramble about random things. She puts a brunette wig on top of her blonde hair, heavy makeup, and steps into the role of her new life. When another employee at the diner hits on her, Sally goes along with it in a disaffected sort of way. Bevel seems like the kind of guy Sally would take up with back in the day, a Sam-lite if you will.

Their encounter in the bathroom starts off like any affair but soon turns violent as Sally begins choking Bevel. The scene is our reminder of Sally’s past, when she didn’t stand up to Sam, and her present, as a killer still haunted by the one life she took. Bevel pulls off her brunette wig as he struggles against her, revealing to us the Sally that’s still there, no matter how much she tries to hide behind a new role. 

In prison, Barry’s halluncinations always took place in a desert, contrasting his existence in a prison cell. Now, Barry has built himself the life he’s always wanted with Sally and John. In the desert, they’re surrounded by freedom. But it’s only the illusion of freedom. This is apparent largely through John when he can’t really connect with a local kid named Travis, who knows Call of Duty and baseball. Barry denies John a new comforter, citing God’s plan to only ever give you what you need. John is perceptive, and knows his life isn’t normal, but the promise of love and security from a parent is powerful. I hope this kid gets the revenge he deserves. 

Though Sally and Barry are distant with each other throughout the episode, they’re finally on the same page when there’s a knock at their door late at night. They’re prepared for this. No one should be knocking this late, unless someone’s found them. Barry faces the darkness in front of him while Sally and John hide in the bathtub. Barry can recite his lines of religious dogma all he wants but when it comes time to defend his family, he’s got the gun ready, standing guard against the past. When Bill Hader finally directs a horror movie, we’ll cite this episode and last week’s episode as great examples for why this is the genre for him. 

The facade of their life is easily shed the moment Coussineau reappears. When he hears rumors of Warner Brothers making a Gene Coussineau biopic, Gene comes out of hiding after eight years (a headline on Rolling Stone appears to be proof that Leo is still alive) to cash in. The second the news hits the internet, Barry’s true nature reveals itself again. “I’m gonna have to kill Coussineau,” he says. He’s back. He never left. 

I love the repeated use of the line “I have to kill”/”We have to kill” throughout Barry. It suggests an exasperated comfort towards killing. It’s just what Hank and Barry have to do. It’s ultimately who they are. In their minds, there is no other choice. 

Stray Thoughts

This is the first episode where I was depressed more than I laughed. But there are still some really hilarious moments. 

As a midwesterner, I really appreciated, and may have squealed in delight, at the inclusion of QuickTrip in this episode.

Megagirls obviously just another victim of the sequal and IP industrial complex. Write some original movies!!

Since we’re now eight years in the future, I’ve been thinking about Albert, especially since Barry brought him up again. Albert let him go at the end of Season 3 shortly before Barry was arrested. Did Albert face any fallout from that? What does he think about Barry’s arrest and escape? Hope he’s doing okay.

“I hope we can be together next time in harmony.” 

“Look at what God gave us.”

“Does your mom wear hair on top of her own hair?”

“I’m gonna have to kill Coussineau.” 

Feature image courtesy of Merrick Morton/HBO

The final season of Barry airs new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. Central on HBO and HBO Max.

  • 'Barry' 4x05 - 9/10
Katey Stoetzel

Katey is co-founder and tv editor for InBetweenDrafts. She hosts the “House of the Dragon After Show” and "Between TV" podcasts and can be read in various other places like Inverse and Screen Speck. She wishes desperately the binge model of tv watching would die, but still gets mad when she runs out of episodes of tv to watch.

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