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Barry is an HBO comedy-drama series, debuting in 2018, created by Bill Hader and Alex Berg.

Hader plays Barry, a veteran of the Afghanistan war who now works as a hit man. He is clearly being stressed out by the job of murdering people, suffering from depression and lack of sleep. His depression is not helped when he's sent out to Los Angeles for a job and he finds out that his latest target isn't the usual criminal dirtbag, but rather a fitness instructor who's having an affair with the wife of a Mafiya kingpin. Barry follows the fitness instructor around and winds up tailing him to—an acting class. Barry is bit by the acting bug, and decides to change his life.

Stephen Root plays Fuches, Barry's uncle and his agent in criminal affairs, who is none too thrilled about Barry pursuing a new career. Henry Winkler plays Cousineau, the teacher of Barry's acting class, and Sarah Goldberg plays Sally Reed, a member of the class.

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Tropes:

  • Acoustic License: Parodied in "berkman > block," where Fuches tries to deliver a dramatic speech to a group of Bolivians who have surrounded his building, but they're too far away to even realize that he's talking to them. They ponder whether he's on a bluetooth phone call until Cristobal manages to hear his own name and realizes that Fuches is talking to them.
  • Actor Allusion: In Episode 2-1 Sasha insists she'd never play an Australian. Kirby Howell-Baptiste did just that on The Good Place.
  • Affably Evil:
    • NoHo Hank is a ruthless member in the Chechen mob who speaks casually about murder. However, he's also perpetually chipper, friendly and helpful. Several characters comment on how polite he is. He admits in "The Audition" that his true calling was customer service.
    • The Bolivian crime boss Cristobal Sifuente is a ruthless kingpin, but he's also a very polite and genial man who quotes self-help books. Several characters call him a "super-cool guy."
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  • Ambiguously Gay: NoHo Hank loves fashion, is never seen with a romantic partner or even being interested in any women, and shows a lot of affection for two different men. Cristobal is also extremely exuberant. When he and Hank embrace in "berkman > block," Cristobal starts raising his leg up Hank's thigh.
  • Ascended Extra: NoHo Hank was just supposed to be a bit part and die in the pilot, but the writers decided to spare him, and he quickly became one of the series' stand-out characters.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": All of the students in the acting class are terrible, ranging from stilted to hack, which is why they're taking acting classes from a third-rate hack like Cousineau. Sally is the only one who ever shows any talent, and even she runs hot and cold. The truly awful Shakespeare class in "Do Your Job" is a standout.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • After getting Barry's taped admission for killing his partner, Det. Loach holds Barry at gunpoint and starts ranting, near tears, about what it's like to have some motherfucker take someone he loves. Barry tries to apologize for killing Moss but Loach isn't talking about Barry, he's talking about the man who stole his wife, and he wanted Barry's taped confession for leverage to get Barry to kill him.
    • In "berkman > block," once again Barry has become traumatized before a big scene, which always causes him to deliver a fantastic performance. This time, it's Sally's big opportunity to impress Hollywood bigwigs in the audience, so you'd expect that he's going to upstage her. Instead, Sally throws out the script and steps all over his part, forcing him to leave the stage with barely a line uttered.
  • Bald of Evil: NoHo Hank, who doesn't even have eyebrows. His actor Anthony Carrigan has total alopecia, which prevents his body from growing any hair.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Subverted when the Affably Evil NoHo Hank believes that Barry has screwed him over, he drops his friendliness and says seriously, "Don't fuck with me Barry... it's not polite." He then thoroughly bungles his assassination attempt on Barry and immediately makes up with him.
  • Big "WHAT?!": The episode "What?!" saves its Title Drop for the end of its final scene.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Season 1 ends on this. Barry finally manages to find a peaceful life with Sally by his side. However, he did so after killing his best friend Chris and is forced to kill Detective Moss (who is dating Barry's and Sally's acting coach Gene) after she finds out about his involvement with Ryan Madison.
  • Black Comedy: A sitcom about a hit man trying to make it as an actor. In one episode, Hank sends Barry a text that says "KILL PACO!", and then confetti rains down in Barry's phone.
  • Brawn Hilda: The female leader of the Burmese mafia. Hank frequently references her "watermelon-sized head."
  • The Cameo:
  • Casting Couch: Sally's prospective agent makes a pass at her, and it becomes clear that she would have had to sleep with him for representation. The day after she rejects him, he drops her as a client.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Season 2 finale has one that also doubles as a wham line. At the beginning of the episode, Fuches appears to lean in towards Gene's head and say something to him while he's staring at Janice's body before he runs off to avoid the cops. Gene is too grief stricken at the time to fully process it, but as he's winding down on his bed at the end of the episode, he catapults upward and says "Oh my God" as it comes back to him: "Barry Berkman did this." Cut to credits.
  • Colorblind Casting: In-Universe, Sally plays Macbeth for their staging of the play.
  • Cross-Cast Role:
    • In-Universe, Sally insists on playing Macbeth instead of Lady Macbeth for Cousineau's Shakespeare festival.
    • Presumably also the case with her and Barry's production of The Front Page, taking a cue from the Gender Flip film adaptation His Girl Friday.
  • Determinator: Ronnie Proxin fights through a broken trachea and gunshot to the face until he's finally taken down by a hail of bullets.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Barry's (rather appropriate) reaction at the end of episode 2.04 when Loach reveals that instead of arresting Barry for confessing to Moss's murder, he wants to blackmail Barry into murdering the man Loach's wife left him for.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You:
    • A heartbreaking example in the season 1 finale. Barry knows he has a gun stashed behind a tree, and that he will win the ensuing shootout against Janice, but of course can't tell her this, so he instead begs her to just let him go. She doesn't. Bang.
    • Played for comedy in 2.05, when Barry tries to talk his victim into running away rather than being killed, which understandably spooks the guy... who just happens to be a Taekwondo master and proceeds to wipe the floor with Barry.
  • Downer Ending: Season 2 arguably ends on this. Sally finally gets the recognition she wanted but at the cost of lying about her true encounter with her abusive ex-husband (and she doesn't look happy about it). Barry is now utterly broken by him pointlessly killing all the Bolivian and Chechan mob members (sans Hank and Cristobal) because he wanted to kill Fuches (who got away) and Gene now knows that Barry is the one who really killed Janice because of Fuches (which was the entire reason why Barry killed all the mob members in the first place).
  • Driven to Suicide: Stovka, the legendary assassin whom the Chechen Mafia sends over, is tired of his life spent killing. Rather than kill Fuches, he shoots himself.
  • Edgy Backwards Chair-Sitting: Subverted in the first episode when Fuches tries to do this while telling Barry that he can't be a hit man and an actor. He finds that the hotel room chair has arms that are too high, so he has to reverse the chair and sit normally.
  • Enhance Button: Discussed. When Detective Moss brings the blurry picture (of Barry) to the class, they tell her that she should just use the Enhance Button like on CSI. The detective has to explain that the Enhance Button isn't real.
  • Exact Words: Sally suggests Barry go talk to his Marine corps buddies, but Barry tells her they aren't really talking to him anymore. They sure aren't, because they're dead.
  • Extreme Doormat: In spite of being a former Marine, combat veteran and hired killer, Barry is a complete pushover. He let Fuches push him into becoming an assassin and has to struggle to defy him when he wants to quit. It's discussed when Gene angrily tells Barry that he's incapable of even pretending to be someone with balls.
  • Five-Finger Fillet: Subverted in episode 2-1. When Esther of the Burmese crime gang busts out the knife and puts her hand on the table palm down, Hank rolls his eyes, anticipating the Five-Finger Fillet cliche. Esther then proceeds to instead stab her own hand.
  • Foreshadowing: There's a lot of talk in the first two episodes of Season 2 about how Sally escaped from an ugly abusive marriage to a guy named Sam. Sure enough, Sam shows up at the end of episode 2-2.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • While Barry is taking a phone call on the patio, Chechen goons barge in the room and beat hell out of Fuches behind him.
    • In the Bolivian stash house, a door has a sign printed on it saying to keep the door closed to keep out cats.
    • Goran's garage has a bunch of family brick-a-brack, which includes a life-sized cutout of smiling Goran dressed as a superhero, with a world bubble saying something.
  • Gone Horribly Right: At the acting class's big recital in front of major Hollywood bigwigs, Sally impulsively throws out the script based on her life and delivers the tirade she lied about giving to her abusive boyfriend. Afterwards, she's ashamed that she delivered trite wish fulfillment instead of emotional honesty, but she's quickly surrounded by audience members who say they loved her performance, putting her in an awkward position.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Sally admits to being extremely jealous of Barry for landing an audition for a major role with almost no effort.
  • Groin Attack: Barry once stabbed a guy in the testicles, which Fuches urges him to bring up to potential clients. It backfires badly as they're just weirded out and ask who could possibly want him to do it.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Chris very subtly does this to himself in episode 1-7. As Chris is hysterically ranting to Barry about how he has to turn himself in, he says that he told his wife he was going to the gym instead of going to see Barry. Barry does a subtle but visible Double Take as he absorbs this important bit of information. Then, after Chris has his Oh, Crap! moment when he realizes Barry is going to kill him to keep him silent, Chris tries to act casual and play it off, saying that "actually, I told her I was going to see you." It doesn't work.
  • Hollywood Healing: In spite of receiving abysmal Worst Aid for his stab wound in "ronny/lilly," Barry seems none the worse for wear in the very next episode.
  • Hollywood Nerd: The two techies at the LAPD are fat, hairy losers. When the FBI techie is using their computer, one nervously asks him not to click on any open tabs.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: In season 1, each episode's subtitle is a rule of acting that you might learn in a class like the one Barry takes: "Make Your Mark," "Make the Unsafe Choice," and so on. Season 2 episode titles conform to no set theme.
  • Ignored Confession: After Cousineau won't accept him as a student, Barry spills his guts about how he became a hitman and how he needs this. Cousineau assumes he's quoting from something and is impressed enough at the "acting" to let him in.
  • Imagine Spot:
    • Barry starts having fantasies about becoming a rich and successful actor, living in a huge mansion with his wife Sally and their son.
    • There is a brief one in which Barry imagines his role in the play. Everyone is impeccably dressed, and the line reading is clear and exact, albeit bland. Then he arrives at the theater, and we see the actual scene: Barry is all but broken after having killed Chris, but as his line is reporting Lady Macbeth's death, his obvious sorrow is seen as the same sort of 'character acting' that convinced Cousineau to keep Barry in the acting class in the first place.
    • NoHo Hank has a self-serving dream of appearing on a roundtable talk show as a "Smarter Person" and telling off Thomas Friedman.
  • Insult Friendly Fire: The acting class calls Macbeth a monster for killing his king on his wife's orders; Barry, who also kills people on other people's orders, is hurt and offended. Even worse, his attempts to defend Macbeth ends with him blurting out that he's killed people, but everyone thinks he's talking about his time in Afghanistan; Cousineau promises that they'll be more sensitive about his military service, then adds "If you kill outside of war, you’re a fucking psycho. Then you’re irredeemable."
  • It's All About Me: Sally's defining trait is that she's incredibly self-absorbed, causing her to wallow in her own issues in situations where other people's needs should be a priority.
  • Just Following Orders: This is Barry's attempted defense of Macbeth; understandably, it's also his defense for why he himself kills people. He fails to convince the class, or himself.
  • Killed Offscreen: Janice's tragic death at the end of Season 1 finale "Know Your Truth" happens this way. We hear the muffled sound of gunshots, we see some muzzle flashes through Sally's window, that's it. Season 2's "The Truth Has a Ring to It" features a flashback of the incident, this time showing Barry turning the tables on Janice and shooting her in the chest.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: Esther looks very masculine, to the point that Fuches (jokingly or not, it's hard to say) notes "In America, Esther is a woman's name" on meeting her, to Esther's anger.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Sally says that comedy is easy. All you have to do is say your lines fast and loud. Then she says something fast and loud.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Taylor the nutjob actually screams "Leeroy Jenkins!" as he abandons Barry's plan and barges through the Bolivian stash house with guns blazing in "Do Your Job." This behavior of Taylor's comes to its logical conclusion in episode 6. When he tries to storm the Bolivians using reckless, brute force, they easily shoot him as soon as he gets close enough.
  • Little Miss Badass: Almost an entire episode is devoted to Barry and Fuches’ war with Ronny Proxin’s daughter Lily, whose feral fighting skills and near physics-defying jumping have them terrified and questioning if she’s even human.
    Fuches: WHAT ARE YOOOOU?!?!?
  • The Mafiya: The Chechen mob in Los Angeles plays a large role, due to Barry taking a job from them. Other than their accents, however, there's nothing particularly Chechen about them. At least some of them are likely to be ethnic Russians, however, since NoHo Hank wears a Russian Orthodox cross medallion.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: After murdering Chris, Barry puts the gun in his hand to make it look like a suicide.
  • Meaningful Name: "Barry" is Celtic for "marksman."
  • Method Acting: In-Universe. Barry is usually pretty terrible when he tries to perform in Cousineau's class, except when some event or trauma from his life as a hitman affects his mood and performance. Then, he's good.
  • Moment Killer: Hank tries to make a touching farewell speech to Barry but is interrupted by one of the other Chechens playing the accordion. He berates him for ruining the moment and can't remember what he was going to say afterward.
  • Not So Different: After Janice figures out who Barry is, he desperately tries to pull this. It doesn't work.
  • One-Man Army: Barry takes on the entire assembled Bolivian, Burmese, and Chechnyan gangsters while he's trying to get Fuches in "berkman > block", methodically killing everyone who stands in his way without getting a scratch from them.
  • The Oner:
    • The crazy fight where Barry and Ronny are throwing each other around Ronny's bedroom in "ronny/lily" is shown in a single three-minute take. It includes a moment where they both careen into the bathroom and disappear from our view, except for where we see the wood in the wall splinter when someone crashes into the other side.
    • In "The Audition," Sally delivers a lengthy monologue in which she veers wildly between insecurity, excitement, envy and support.
  • One-Word Title: Barry.
  • Perspective Flip:
    • The end of episode 1-6, in which Barry and the gang approach the Bolivians in an SUV only to be met with a hail of gunfire, is shown from the perspective of the Bolivians at the beginning of episode 1-7. In this case it underscores just how much of a moron Taylor and his fellow goon were: not only are they easily seen from hundreds of yards away as they approach the airstrip, but the ear-splitting heavy metal from the SUV's stereo gives the Bolivians plenty of warning.
    • In episode 2-8, Fuches exits a building starts delivering a dramatic monologue to the Bolivians who have surrounded the place. When we cut to the Bolivians, however, we see that Acoustic License is very much not in effect. Fuches is so far away that they can barely hear what he's saying and have to wonder if he's even talking to them.
  • Playing Gertrude: In-Universe. In "Make the Unsafe Choice" Sally is pretty upset to find herself auditioning to be the mom of another actress who is the same age.
  • Popcultural Osmosis Failure: In season 2, Barry tries to pass off a monologue from Braveheart as his own work. Turns out a lot of people know it.
  • Product Placement: In season 2, Fuches emerges from a bathroom having changed his outfit, holding an empty Target bag. He remarks, "Pretty good, right? Thirty bucks!"
  • Professional Killer: Barry's job. He murders people for money. And those who find out about what he does too.
  • Reality Ensues: Fuches tries to have a dramatic monologue to the Bolivians as he exits a building they've surrounded, apparently believing that Acoustic License will allow them to hang on his every word, but when we cut to the Bolivians, they're too far away to even realize he's talking to them.
  • Really Gets Around: Sally warns Barry that sleeping with another student in your acting class will get awkward down the line, saying that it's happened to her "a million times."
  • Reveal Shot:
    • The first shot of the first episode is in a hotel room. The toilet flushes and Barry exits. As he walks across the room the camera pans and reveals a dead guy in the bed with a bullet hole in his forehead.
    • In the season 1 finale, Goran's gaping head wound.
  • Running Gag: In "The Audition," people keep referencing Barry's height, as it's apparently one of the few qualifications for the role he's auditioning for.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Sally remembers screaming a pithy one-liner at her abusive husband before leaving him. It clearly didn't happen this way, which Sally finally admits to herself an episode later.
  • Semper Fi: Barry is a Marine veteran of Afghanistan. This informs much of his character, as he came back with PTSD and didn't know what to do with himself. He became a hitman due to Fuches' influence, and the skills he'd been trained in made it quite easy for him. Over time however his PTSD came back, and he questions not only being a hitman but also his Marine service. He often flashes back to his experiences then and they serve as inspiration for acting too.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Sally acts out a scene in a zoo where she encounters an ape pit. Gene asks her what's in the ape pit, and she responds with an emotional "Apes!"
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Barry reveals that he came back from Afghanistan with PTSD and depression, and didn't leave his house for months. Eventually he transitioned to murdering people, but as the job has worn on him, the depression and insomnia have come back.
  • Shout-Out: Due to being set in L.A., there are a lot of references to films. Barry explains that the acting class performs film scenes almost exclusively.
    • When Barry first goes into the acting class, Sally is doing Julianne Moore's pharmacy monologue from Magnolia. ("Don't you call me lady!").
    • Barry and Ryan do a scene from True Romance.
    • Gene gives Barry the monologue by Blake from the film version of Glengarry Glen Ross, which doesn't exist in the stage version.
    • Sally and Barry rehearse a scene from Doubt.
    • The LAPD spokesman claims that Ryan was Playing Both Sides in a mob war, just like the plot of Yojimbo. He then has to answer a dozen of follow-up questions about the film, and then the larger catalog of director Akira Kurosawa.
    • Barry and Sally plan to put on a stage production of The Front Page and take turns playing each lead part, likely referencing the Gender Flip in the play's most famous adaptation, His Girl Friday.
    • In season 2, Barry claims to have delivered a rousing speech in combat, but his acting class immediately identifies it as the speech from Braveheart.
  • Shower of Angst: Barry is in obvious distress after completing a job in premiere episode "Make Your Mark," leaning against the wall of the shower with his eyes closed.
  • Silent Credits: Episode 1-6, "Listen With Your Ears, React With Your Face", does this, after Barry and the Marine guys that he's gotten stuck with are caught in a hail of gunfire from the Bolivians they were supposed to wipe out.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Gene Cousineau pretends to be a big deal to his acting class, lording over his students and spreading around his book on acting, in which he namedrops celebrities shamelessly. However, we later find out that, whatever Gene's career used to be, he now auditions for bit parts like "Man in Back of Line."
  • Sticky Situation: In 2.05, while trying to give Barry some Worst Aid, Fuches manages to literally glue himself to the steering wheel of the car. While they're being chased by a possibly inhuman nine-year-old girl. It's that kind of show.
  • These Hands Have Killed: While Barry is a hardened combat veteran turned hardened hitman, his old buddy Chris is neither (Chris was in logistics in the Marines). He breaks down in episode 1-7 after having to kill one of the Bolivians (and makes the big mistake of telling Barry about it).
  • Title Drop: Discussed in 2.07. When Cousineau reads the script for Barry's audition as one of the leads in a comedy, he's shocked to find that one of Barry's lines features the title of the movie, knowing that it would never be cut.
  • Truth in Television: Bolivia really is one of the shortest nations in the world, second only to Indonesia, with an average male height of 5'3.
  • Verbal Irony:
    • Tons of this at the end of episode 1-7. Sally, ecstatic after Barry's emotional delivery of "My lord, the queen is dead" helps her to launch into a great rendition of the "tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" soliloquy, tells him that "you're a real actor" and that he should do whatever he did to prepare every time he has to act. Barry of course is suffering from Real Life hysterics after murdering his friend Chris.
    • Barry, a hitman who is struggling with his actions and trying to leave a life of crime, is cast opposite Sally to perform a scene from Macbeth. Naturally, we would expect Barry to deliver a soliloquy as Macbeth, Shakespeare's famous killer who is haunted by the murders he committed. Instead, Sally plays Macbeth and Barry plays an incredibly minor character with one line.
  • Villain Protagonist: Barry, who for all his attacks of conscience and his desire for a new career is still a Professional Killer. This is brought home in Episode 1-7 in an excruciating sequence where Barry murders his friend Chris to stop Chris from going to the cops.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Barry in 1-7, after Chris informs him that he's going to the police, and that he didn't tell his wife they were going to meet.
    Barry: Why did you say that? WHY DID YOU SAY THAT?!
  • Wham Line: After showing Gene Janice's dead body. He whispers something in his ear before fleeing. It turned out to be: "Barry Berkman did this". This is capitalized with a shocked Gene waking up from his bed saying: "Oh my God".
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Barry's eyes go dark with rage immediately after meeting Sally's abusive ex-husband. After one argument with him Barry does indeed try to kill him, but backs out at the last second.
  • Worst Aid: Fuches does a piss-poor job of stitching Barry's knife wound. After Barry breaks the stitches, Fuches just slathers super glue all over the open wound.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Barry is incredulous that in 1-3, Hank wants him to hold off on assassinating Paco (who he has the perfect opportunity to shoot) so that the Chechens can do some psychological warfare first.
  • Younger Than They Look: Stovka, the badass assassin brought in by the Chechen mob in "Make the Unsafe Choice"...or rather the formerly badass assassin, as now he's just a gaunt old man with a vacant stare and a cane, played by 78-year-old Larry Hankin. When Fuches asks how old he is, Stovka says "Forty-five."
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