[Editor’s note: This piece contains spoilers for the current season of Barry.]
Barry polished off its very funny and dark penultimate episode with one hell of a cliffhanger, as NoHo Hank kidnaps Sally and John and gives our titular hitman-turned-actor-turned-bleeding-out-dad a ring. So … how will this inventive, expertly directed show play out in the finale? We asked A.V. Club staffers for their thoughts on that question. Read on for their predictions. And be sure look for Matt Schimkowitz’s recap of the series finale, “wow,” on May 28.
Predicting what will happen on Barry is sometimes impossible, but I think the finale will either feature him miraculously and inexplicably getting everything he wants—Warner Bros. decides to make the Barry Berkman movie with him as the star, maybe he and Cousineau are reunited, and everyone but Barry is just kind of rattled by the realization that the entertainment industry is the biggest monster of all—or Barry dies/surrenders in some way that lets everyone else off the hook, like Walter White or Saul Goodman.
But I think the former might be the better of the two options, even if it wouldn’t be a Big Finale Thing. It was a weird misstep to give Barry and Sally a son, since it means that anything that happens to them is dark and sad instead of dark and funny, and this was never the kind of show where I wanted to see the horrific and realistic consequences of Barry’s ill-conceived actions. I want to see criminals debating the best way to keep their boss’ girlfriend from seeing and hearing it when they behead FUBKs. If there’s some tragic death, I don’t think it’s going to be the poignant sendoff it would be in another show, so I’m hoping Bill Hader and the rest of the team do something more clever with this ending.
As Sam said, guessing how Barry might end feels like a fool’s errand, especially after the ambitious midway pivot of the final season. I’m excited we get to try anyway. Bill Hader’s creative risks have paid off enormously because the HBO comedy is going out with a banger—an often desolate, darkly funny banger that’s kept us on our toes throughout.
So how might it all crumble in the end? My immediate thought is that Barry Berkman has to die or spend his entire life in prison. How else will there be any justice? But that seems almost like an easy way out, and Barry has proven it’s not the show to do that. As much as I want to see it happen, it probably won’t. The last episode is bound to give us a highly anticipated Barry and Noho Hank reunion (the two haven’t shared screen space in season four at all) now that Hank’s got Sally and John. It means Barry has to make tough choices and (probably) more kills before the curtains close.
Ultimately, I do believe he’ll get away with it all and take his family with him. Barry gains the new life he wanted when he began “acting,” and Sally achieves the fame she desperately desired. The question remains: At what cost? Maybe Hank’s death—nothing would hit harder than the series’ most beloved character biting the dust. Gene is poised to go down for Janice’s murder, and I think his downfall will be quite the tragedy. His greed and short-term thinking landed him in a terrible spot, and now he’ll be the one to pay for sins he didn’t commit.
Regardless of how it shakes out, I am expecting Barry to subvert my expectations. I’ll be strapped in for what’s hopefully going to be a bleak, excellent goodbye.
Given that this season has been a spelunking expedition into the depths of despair, I’m not expecting the show to end with Barry and Sally riding off into the sunset. If I squint, I can see a Taxi Driver-esque, “Barry’s crimes actually make him a hero” ending that people will debate for years, but rub my eyes and hope I’m mistaken. Anyway, prediction: Barry dies! It really feels like the show has always been building to this, so I’m resigned to say goodbye to him. However, the one I’m concerned about is John. For the last few weeks, the show has teased his death through various set pieces and jokes about the demise of him or other children—Barry’s YouTube suggestions must be truly abhorrent considering all the Little League baseball injuries and presidential fails he’s watching. I half expect Barry to be directly responsible for John’s death, making Cousineau shooting his son another bit of foreshadowing. Really bleak stuff, but that’s Barry. I do hope that Barry and NoHo Hank patch things up. They were such good-time bros for a while.
Ultimately, I expect the show to surprise me and generally hate when I can accurately guess what’s going to happen. Here’s hoping the show lives up to the last 31 episodes and shocks us one last time.
Bill Hader is too clever to give us the expected, so I can’t predict the ending of Barry with any kind of certainty. There are some setups and arcs that I hope will be paid off in the finale though. I don’t see any kind of redemption for Barry; he’s a monster. He was lionized for it in the Marines, and that helped him create a false image of himself as a good guy. Hollywood operates in a similar way in this show, so it would be neat if Hader hit that theme one more time.
That being said, I think Barry needs to be forced to accept the darkness in his soul before it’s all over. Maybe that means he doesn’t survive. It would be fitting. To some extent, all of the characters are the heroes of their own story—Sally, Hank, Fuches, Gene … they’ve all worn masks that hide their true nature. There has to be a reckoning coming. I’m also very worried about John. Hader has said that the point of the time jump was to give Barry and Sally a son, so I think he’s going to be important. We might be leading up to a conclusion that makes a statement about cycles of violence and how they’re perpetuated. But whatever happens, I know it’s going to be wild.