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Series / Barry

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Barry Berkman: Do you think I'm a bad person, Mr. Cousineau?
Gene Cousineau: I think you are deeply... human.
— "What?!" (S2E4)

Barry is an HBO dark comedy-drama series, created by Bill Hader and Alec Berg.

Hader stars as Barry Berkman, a veteran of the Afghanistan war who now works as a hitman. Increasingly unhappy with his job, Barry suffers from depression and a lack of sleep as he struggles with the guilt caused by his lifestyle and his actions during his military service. His depression isn't 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 uses his newfound passion as an outlet for his past deeds, all while attempting to leave his violent past behind him.

Stephen Root plays Fuches, Barry's shady "uncle" and his handler in criminal affairs, who is none too thrilled about Barry pursuing a new career and continually drags Barry into crime against his wishes. Henry Winkler plays Gene Cousineau, the teacher of Barry's acting class and his mentor. Sarah Goldberg plays Sally Reed, a member of the class and a struggling actress who becomes Barry's love interest.

The show debuted in March 2018 with a format of eight episodes that run for roughly a half hour. Its fourth and final season premiered in 2023.


  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The final season features an eight-year time jump, which puts it a few years ahead of its airing year of 2023. Everyone still dresses and acts like it's Present Day, while in-universe ads suggest that motion billboards are the norm, the Amazon Rainforest is gone and AI is beginning to write entire films.
  • Achilles in His Tent: Pretty much the entire premise of the show is Barry attempting to leave his job as a professional hitman behind to pursue his passion for acting, only to get sucked back into the business, either to clear his name or to perform dirty work for the Chechens, Fuches, Detective John Loach in Season 2, etc.
  • 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 Cristóbal manages to hear his own name and realizes that Fuches is talking to them.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Barry's struggle with anxiety in a profession for which he has natural talent throughout the series was inspired by Bill Hader's eight-year stint on Saturday Night Live from 2005 to 2013.
    • In Episode 2-1 Sasha insists she'd never play an Australian. Kirby Howell-Baptiste did just that on The Good Place.
    • Hank mentions Yoshinoya Beef Bowl to Barry in Season 2, referencing a particularly famous moment on Saturday Night Live wherein then-writer John Mulaney made a rare physical appearance to make Bill Hader break character by randomly whispering "my girlfriend works at Yoshinoya Beef Bowl" in the latter's ear during a Stefon segment; something Hader still finds funny to this day.
  • Adaptational Badass: In season 4 when Gene tells his story about Barry threatening him and his family to a reporter, Gene tells the story like he was not afraid of Barry and was completely in control despite the fact it was the exact opposite of what actually happened. This ends up backfiring on Gene, however, as owing to various unfortunate twists of events, people begin to suspect that he had more of a hand in Barry's crimes than he actually did.
  • Affably Evil: A running theme in the series is that hardened gangsters and killers will turn out to be real softies in terms of their personality.
    • 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 Cristóbal Sifuentes 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."
    • Cristóbal's father-in-law, Fernando, is the head of the main branch of the Bolivian mob and also a polite and considerate family man and Benevolent Boss whose only regret about aborting his operation to massacre his Chechen rivals is that his hitmen were so excited to do it. He decides to break the news softly to them by taking them out to lunch first.
    • The Raven's crew all oo and ah like a tour group when being shown the various amenities of their new digs. Later, they all have a very polite discussion about how best to spare the boss's female relations from the sight of violence during their ongoing gang war.
  • all lowercase letters: Initially used for the episodes "ronny/lily" and "berkman > block" in Season 2, it becomes used for every episode in Seasons 3 and 4.
  • All Part of the Show: Barry forces Gene to accept his gift of a small role on his show. Gene tries to not make waves, but snaps during filming, punching Barry and telling him to stay away from his family. The producers are impressed with what they think is a powerful improvised performance.
  • Almighty Janitor: In season 3, the person Sally is venting all of her insecurities to is revealed to be a slack-jawed baker, who offers her some advice. Then it turns out that people are lined up around the block to seek his advice while buying his beignets. He's apparently a local sage. Later, Hank and Barry seek him out as well.
  • Anti-Climax: The final confrontations of the series.
    • The last firefight: Barry buys several guns to rescue Sally and John from Hank and prays for redemption because he knows that he is walking into certain death. Before he can actually get there, Hank and Fuches turn on one another and after a very brief exchange of bullets and explosives, everyone except for Fuches, Sally, and John is dead. And then Fuches decides to leave rather than seek revenge on Barry.
    • Barry rolls up to the home of Cousineau, his once-father figure whose life he has inadvertently help ruin. Before Barry can get a word in to him, Cousineau shoots him dead.
    • To drive these home, the in-universe film dramatizing these events actionizes and dramatizes both events: the film's Barry now daringly and singlehandedly rescues Sally and John from Hank's compound; Barry and Cousineau get a dramatic final conversation before the latter gives the former a Multiple Gunshot Death.
  • Arc Words: "Starting... now"
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In season 2, Fuches says he does not need Barry. Barry then responds by saying what does he have without him. Fuches is unable to respond to that question.
  • Artistic License – Religion: The Chechen gangsters have Christian tattoos, most notably the Virgin Mary one on Hank's chest. This would make sense if they were from most regions of Russia, but Chechnya is about 99% Muslim.
  • 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' main characters.
  • As Himself:
    • Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents) appears as himself in "The Audition", in which he is the director giving Barry an audition for what sounds like an awful surfer movie.
    • Joe Mantegna pops up in Season 3 as himself, an old enemy of Cousineau back in the day who wants to make amends when he hears about the good things Cousineau is doing for veterans (that is, Barry).
    • In "It Takes a Psycho", Sian Heder (Coda) appears as the director of the deeply silly fantasy movie that Sally's acting student is starring in. Heder's embarrassed about it.
  • Backhanded Apology: Against the advice of her agent, Sally issues a public apology for her viral screaming rant, but it mostly consists of excuses and only makes things worse.
  • Badass Family: The Proxin family from "ronny/lily" consists of a tenacious taekwondo master father who keeps fighting even after getting shot in the face and having his trachea broken (all while experiencing the side effects of having just smoked a joint) and a daughter capable of such superhuman (and scary) feats of physical spectacle that Barry questions if she's even of this earth. Both of them give Barry the fight of his life.
  • 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 Moss, he's talking about his wife, and he wanted Barry's taped confession as leverage to get Barry to kill her new boyfriend.
    • 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 has total alopecia, as does his actor, Anthony Carrigan. It never affects the plot and goes unremarked upon.
  • Bathos: The series mixes serious, dark drama with the absurd, often rapidly switching between them. One particular example when Noho Hank confronts Barry about the hit on the Burmese Mafia. Hank drops his Affably Evil personality to deliver an actually menacing speech in which he still manages to describe himself as "a super-relaxed guy" and warn Barry, "Don't fuck with me. It's not polite," before driving away with chirpy pop music playing on his stereo.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Barry spends season 3 with a beard representing his deteriorating mental state.
  • 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.
    • Played totally straight in the Season 3 finale as Hank, after being terrified by hearing his friends being mauled and eaten by a panther, escapes his captivity by gunning down the panther and several Bolivians, including Cristóbal's wife Elena. The look on his face after he's reunited with a traumatised Cristóbal suggests that he's no longer going to be so squeamish about personally killing anyone after that.
  • Big "WHAT?!": The episode "What?!" saves its Title Drop for the end of its final scene.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The show is an HBO production. A subplot in the fourth season sees Warner Bros. (HBO's parent company) attempt a drama film based around Barry and Cousineau's relationship, which is derided by everybody as exploitative and disrespectful.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Barry finally finds his redemption in the form of getting shot by Gene, which ends up securing his reputation as a sympathetic hero in the public consciousness. Cousineau is blamed for all of Barry's crimes and spends the rest of his life in prison. Sally and John are free and living normal lives. Sally has achieved some small measure of peace by directing high school theater, but she still hasn't quite gotten over her self-centeredness. John is growing up without a father but is comforted by the lionization of his father in the media, even though it's wrong. Fuches—the guy who brought Barry onto his horrible path in the first place—remains at large.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Each main character ranges from being either a flawed but ultimately well meaning person, to a downright murderous psychopath.
  • Black Comedy: A sitcom about a hitman trying to give up his past and 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.
  • Bland-Name Product: Fuches, being held by NoHo Hank's fellow gangsters in Chechnya, is eating a breakfast cereal called "Flaky Critters" in the third season premiere.
  • Book Ends: Season 3's first episode has Gene beg to be spared by Barry when he drives Gene out to be killed by a tree where there'll be no witnesses. The final episode has Barry suddenly approached by Albert who threatens to kill him and Barry begs to not be killed by Albert by that same tree.
  • Brawn Hilda: The female leader of the Burmese mafia. Hank frequently references her "watermelon-sized head."
  • Brick Joke: In season 2, the Chechen Akhmal gets shot in his left shoulder by Barry when he and NoHo Hank try to assassinate Barry. In season 3, when the Bolivians raid the Chechen compound, Akhmal gets shot again in the exact same spot.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Gene's career comeback in Season 3 brings him back in contact with the many people he's hurt:
    • Gene meets a producer:
      Producer: I was a P.A. on Murder, She Wrote? You attacked me?
      Gene: I need more.
      Producer: You threw hot tea in my face because your omelette had chives.
      Gene: Was I playing a priest?
    • Later, Gene tries to apologize for his past behavior to an ex and is rejected because he actually had her blackballed from the industry, a fact made worse by the fact that he's hurt so many people that he doesn't even remember doing it.
  • The Cameo:
  • Carnival of Killers: VERY briefly used in "a nice meal" when Hank hires the F.U.B.Ks (Four Ultimate Badass Killers), consisting of a knife fighter, an explosives expert, an ex-Special Forces operative, and a sharpshooter. Hank sends them to take care of Fuches... who promptly sends their boxed heads back to Hank's office.
  • Cassandra Truth: In Season 3, Mitch the beignet guy gives surprisingly good advice to Sally, Hank, and Barry, but all three ignore it and it lands them all in hot water.
    • He tells Sally to acknowledge her worth and not settle for unfulfilling work, but she stays with BanShe as a writer for The New Medusas at the advice of her agent in order to maintain good relations. When she sees Natalie as a showrunner across the hall she snaps, sending her career downhill in the process.
    • He tells Hank not to chase after Cristóbal since his dishonesty and infidelity are major red flags. Hank goes to Bolivia anyway and ends up captured and imprisoned by the Sifuentes family.
    • He tells Barry to be cautious in wanting to meet with old Marine friends at a dinner that Sharon (Chris's wife) plans, saying that they could have changed for the worse; he advises a Zoom session first to test the waters. Barry goes anyway and realizes that the dinner was a ploy for Sharon to poison him, avenging his murder of Chris.
  • 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.
  • Casting Gag: In the Series Finale Epilogue, a teenaged John is now played Jaeden Martell, Bill Hadler's co-star from It: Chapter Two.
  • 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.
    • A major one in Season 3. In the premiere, Cousineau prepares a gun he received as a gift to use to threaten Barry into going to the police for Janice's murder, only for the gun to fall apart just when he's readying it. The gun returns in the finale, where Cousineau now claims to be using it to prepare to kill Jim Moss. Barry, who was already annoyed with Cousineau for having the gun in the first place, takes it and tries to use it to kill Moss himself... only to learn too late it was all a ploy to put him in a compromising position and get him arrested.
    • So subtle that it may double as Fridge Logic: In the Season 3 finale, Barry hears an intruder and gets a knife, then probably drops it. Later at the same spot, the knife makes a sudden and fateful appearance.
    • In a literal example, the snub nose revolver that Rip Torn gifted Cousineau, first mentioned in the Season 2 premiere, is the weapon that he ultimately uses to kill Barry.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: The beignets store owner, who dispenses advice along with his delicious baked goods.
  • Colorblind Casting: In-Universe, Sally plays Macbeth for their staging of the play.
  • Comedic Work, Serious Scene:
    • The show is a comedy at heart, but it still has plenty of examples, such as the end of Season 1, in which Barry kills Moss to stop her from exposing his secret.
    • Season Two is much more serious and has a climax of a gun rampage massacre that kills dozens of people.
  • Completely Unnecessary Translator: When Barry start's training Hank's men in season 2 they bring a translator along, but it's quickly revealed they're all fluent in English as well.
  • Computer Equals Monitor: In season 4, Gene Cousineau and his agent break into a reporter's house to find and destroy the story he's written. His agent is absolutely convinced that he can destroy the reporter's computer by throwing the monitor in his pool, even after Gene tells him the hard drive should be their target.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Hank makes up a persona for Fuches to the police, claiming he's a Chechen assassin called The Raven in order to protect both himself and Barry from prosecution. By Season 4, Fuches has completely embraced The Raven persona and becomes an enormous threat to Hank.
  • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: NoHo Hank hires an elite kill squad called the FUBKs (four ultimate badass killers) to eliminate Fuches and his gang. The FUBKs are swiftly neutralized with minimal, if any, casualties to Fuches' gang, and Hank receives the FUBKs' severed heads in boxes.
  • Cure Your Gays: Cristóbal's wife kidnaps him and tries to cure his gayness with some aversion therapy — that is, electrocuting him while a male stripper dances for him.
  • Darker and Edgier: While Season 1 had its dark moments Season 2 ups the ante with even more darker moments and a high body count. Season 3 ramps it up even further, with a much more overall serious tone and ending with a finale episode that sees pretty much every single main character almost completely broken by their various experiences throughout the season. By Season 4, while the show still contains comedic moments, the feel of the show is the darkest it has ever been.
  • Determinator: Ronnie Proxin fights through a broken trachea and a gunshot wound to the face until he's finally taken down by a hail of bullets from the police.
  • 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.
  • Dirty Coward: In the Season 2 finale, Hank abandons his men and hides when Barry begins his rampage of revenge.
  • Dissonant Serenity: In "The Rage" Barry hardly reacts while evading outlaw bikers trying to kill while he flees from them through LA, only acting slightly tired at the end as otherwise he looks cheerful.
  • 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.
  • The Dreaded: Hank implies that if Barry does not continue to work for him in season two, he will leak Barry's information to the previously unseen family of Goran back home. Who won't hesitate to liquidate Barry and everyone he cares about. Barry's face is then filled with fear.
  • Driven to Suicide: Stovka, the legendary assassin whom the Chechen Mafia sends over, is tired and broken from his life spent killing. Rather than kill Fuches as he is ordered, he shoots himself.
  • Dueling Works: In-Universe. Sally's autobiographical drama, Joplin, gets moved up by the executives in order to beat a rival streaming show, Pam!. Like Joplin, Pam! stars a pretty white blonde woman, though it appears to be a comedy. Sally is delighted when her show gets rave reviews and Pam! does not, but the streamer cancels Joplin right away due to its algorithm's obtuse metrics, while Pam! carries on.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the first season, Barry's daydreams, such as those of his future life with Sally, are more comedic and resemble a sitcom compared with those in later seasons, which are more surreal and symbolic.
  • 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.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: At the end of Season 3, Barry realizes upon looking Cousineau in the eyes that he set Barry up to be captured by the cops.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Hank and Goran recruit Barry to kill the man who slept with Goran's wife, Barry offers to stab him in the testicles. The Chechen gangsters are disgusted by the thought and wonder who would ever want someone to do that.
  • Everyone Owns a Mac: All the characters prominently use iPhones and Mac laptops.
  • 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.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Barry's old Marine buddy Albert is now an FBI agent investigating the murders Barry committed. In third-season episode "710N" Albert is dismissing the idiot police chief's theories about The Raven, saying "no no, our guy is highly trained, he's probably ex-military—". Then he cuts off mid-sentence as he realizes that Barry, who Albert already knows is related to the case, fits the profile of the suspect.
  • 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.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Fuches smugly tells the cops he doesn't have to give them his DNA. A cop snags his empty soda can, walks out, and slips it into a laboratory bag while Fuches smirks obliviously.
  • Fake Orgasm: Gene Cousineau's book on acting brings up women faking orgasms with incompetent lovers as an example of how people act in their everyday lives.
  • 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. In reaction, Hank yelps, "Oh sweet baby Jesus!"
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the first episode, Hank asks whether Barry has ever been shot and notes that it's "super painful." At the end of the episode, Hank is shot.
    • 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.
    • In another episode of Season 2 while overseeing target practice, Barry harshly yells at Mayrbek to not lose his focus lest he get killed by the enemy. Sure enough, in the Season 2 finale he loses his focus on seeing an enraged Barry (due to being happy seeing him) and is shot dead afterwards.
    • The Cold Open in season 3's first episode, "Forgiving Jeff", has Barry dumbfounded after his client decides not to go through with killing his target, despite having hired Barry to kidnap him, beat him up, drag him to the middle of a desert and standing in an unmarked grave dug for him. He promptly shoots both of them in the head and walks away to his car, angrily saying that 'There's no forgiving Jeff!'. This turns out to foreshadow the theme of the season as a whole, as despite his attempts to turn away from his own life of killing and hurt, the damage Barry has caused won't be forgiven, and he's constantly forced to face the consequences of his actions, culminating in him finally getting arrested by the police for Detective Moss's murder at the season's end.
    • In the Series Finale, before his confrontation with Hank and Fuches, Barry offers a prayer to God promising to sacrifice himself so that he may save his son and redeem himself, only to find out that his son had already been saved by Fuches. Barry does still ultimately sacrifice himself; by getting killed by Gene just as he's decided to turn himself in to exonerate him. In doing so, Barry is redeemed in the public view as a tragic hero who was manipulated in to a life of crime by Gene, while his son gets to live a normal life instead of remaining on the run.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: Season 3 weaves six separate storylines and most of the characters apart from Barry don't get involved in any of the others: Fuches going after Barry via his victims' families, Sally's work life, Barry's mental breakdown and break-up with Sally, Albert showing up as an FBI agent investigating the Chechens, Hank and Cristóbal trying to conceal their relationship and keep the peace between their families, and lastly Gene's career resurrection after he splits off from Barry's breakdown storyline.
  • Freudian Excuse: In season 4 when Sally's mom watches Sally's pilot episode show, she is more bothered about how she will explain the fact Sally (accurately) portrayed her ex as abusive to the neighbors and seems in general more worried about her own image then the fact Sally is clearly distraught by everything going on in her life. It explains a lot of Sally's selfish attitude.
  • Full-Name Basis: Barry always refers to Jay Roach as "Jay Roach." He also runs the two names together, so he might think that it's a single name: Jayroach.
  • The Fundamentalist: Bill Burr makes a cameo in "the wizard" as a fire-and-brimstone preacher and podcast host who goes off on a tangent about how murder is not a sin and how it justifies him having beaten a man to death over an insult, for which he served prison time.
    Pastor Nick St. Angelo: Now the Bible is full of righteous and justified killings. Most of them are my favorite part of the book.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • While Barry is taking a phone call on the patio, Chechen goons barge into the room, beat the living hell out of Fuches, and capture 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 word bubble saying something.
    • Gene, running away from Barry, goes into the yard of a house. Nearby inside, two women are arguing about their relationship while we see around a dozen dogs of all sizes go after Gene. To top it off, one woman tells the other she's leaving her because she has way too many dogs (neither notices what's going on).
  • Funny Foreigner: The foreignness of the Chechens is frequently played for comedy.
  • Gaslighting: Barry casually offers to drive a powerful woman who mistreated Sally insane by doing things such as switching her dog for another and taking pictures of her while asleep he'd send later. She reacts realistically in horror and orders him to get away from her.
  • Gayngster: Increasingly implied with NoHo Hank through season 1 through his rather flamboyant and even a little effeminate mannerisms combined with his obsequious behavior toward Barry. In season 2, he falls in love with Cristóbal, who returns his affections. By season 3, they're a full-fledged couple.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In the Season 2 finale, 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 husband. 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 and Cousineau are both extremely jealous of Barry for landing auditions and roles with almost no effort. Sally at least admits to it.
  • 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 such a thing.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: Much of the series is premised on the idea that some people never really change, and the only way to deal with them is to stop giving them chances and cut them out.
    Gene: I pray that human beings can change their nature, because if we can’t, then you and I are in deep trouble.
    • This is the entire crux of Barry's character. He professes that he wants to change and make amends for his sins, but he always slips back into crime out of self-gain. Several characters point-blank give him a chance to do the right thing and stop everything, but he never does. In particular, Albert would've saved the city a lot of bloodshed had he simply shot Barry in season 3 instead of trying to give him another chance out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, Cousineau would've done the same had he simply reported Barry (or at least stopped talking to him) after learning about his first murder in season 2, ditto Sally in season 3 (instead she chooses to marry him), and even Fuches could've gotten better outcomes for both himself and everyone else had he just ratted on Barry to the FBI in season 4 instead of trying to "befriend" him again.
    • Downplayed with Sally; while at the end of the series she's developed in some ways, like not needing romantic relationships to validate herself and being able to act as a teacher rather than being nonfunctional outside of acting, she's still largely not any better of a person. Her relationship with her own son seems more cordial than anything, with her still never telling him she loves him and only bothering to pay attention to him when he compliments her acting. There's also no indication that she repaired any of the bridges she burned in LA or, most importantly, that she's ever going to tell the world the truth about Barry and Gene.
    • A similar story with Gene. In spite of spending two seasons trying to make amends for being a horrible friend and father, and risking his life to get justice and honor the memory of the love of his life, he ultimately throws all of that away in season 4 when another shot at fame is offered to him. It's one of the main catalysts for the series' Downer Ending.
    • Hank is an Affably Evil Punch-Clock Villain who genuinely loves his boyfriend, friends, and family, seemingly making him perfect for a Heel–Face Turn. While he does attempt this, by season 4 he admits that deep down he always really wanted to be a big gangster and turns down a golden opportunity to go legit in favor of doubling down on the criminal life. This is also partly motivated by fear of what his former associates would do to him and Cristóbal if he left, but he both makes it clear he enjoys the prestige his mob brings and never even considers the idea of just turning himself in, much like Barry. Ultimately his final acts are kidnapping an innocent kid (albeit reluctantly) to save his own skin before dying in a gang shootout, amidst what would've been his legitimate business.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Barry is repeatedly handed free auditions and acting gigs without trying, much to the annoyance and envy of Cousineau and Sally.
  • 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, "Actually, I told her I was going to see you." It doesn't work.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: In the final episode Barry heads to Cousineau's house in search for Sally and John, only to be told by Tom that they aren't there and of Gene being now blamed for Barry's crimes. Barry seems to accept this, telling Tom to call the police so he can turn himself in, only to be unceremoniously shot in the head by Gene.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: Parodied. Barry becomes a devout Christian after escaping from prison and running away with Sally to start a family. Yet everything we see from him suggests he cherry picks from his faith to support what he wants to do anyway, including murder, and dismisses any suggestion he take responsibility for his past crimes by claiming that he doesn't think it's 'God's plan' for him.
  • He Knows Too Much: Inevitably, a couple instances in the show occur where Barry has to murder unwilling witnesses to his acts. Notable examples include his old friend and Marine partner Chris and detective Janice Moss in Season 1.
  • Hellish L.A.: The series is set in Los Angeles and just about every single character is a scumbag of some kind, showing the dark side of both the entertainment industry and the criminal underground of the city.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The movie made about Barry's life postmortem makes him far more sympathetic (and less unstable) than the mass murderer he was in reality. Ostensibly to make the story more marketable, he becomes a straight-up thriller/action hero. He's merely a traumatized vet instead of a war criminal who's only not in jail even pre-LA by means of vague string-pulling on the part of his dad's criminal friend, his career as a hitman between getting discharged and taking up acting is completely excised, and his murder of Janice is pinned on Cousineau. His other victims, like Chris, are simply never mentioned. Crosses over with Historical Badass Upgrade, as Film Barry is shown cutting a swathe through armed criminals with automatic weapons to rescue his family, while the real Barry (mentally and physically disheveled) merely arrived to find all the criminals had killed each other before he got there. Because Gene killed Barry before he could confess everything, no one will ever know the truth about what happened.
  • Hollywood Beauty Standards: Sian Heder goes from an indie filmmaker telling personal stories to directing an action blockbuster tentpole whose cast is comprised of "models in Halloween costumes".
  • Hollywood Healing:
    • In spite of receiving abysmal Worst Aid for his stab wound in "ronny/lily," Barry seems none the worse for wear in the very next episode, or even later the same night at the the convenience store, for that matter, even despite passing out from blood loss several times throughout the episode.
    • Fuches gets shot in the shoulder in one episode and gets rudimentary treatment in a dirty log cabin and heals without any issues at all.
  • Hope Spot:
    • In the finale for season 1, Barry has killed off Goran and the Chechens loyal to him, Hank is starting an optimistic business partnership/friendship with Cristóbal, Barry and Sally are together and improving in their acting and Gene and Janice are also together. It seems like smooth sailing, up until Janice hears about Barry's monologue from Gene and she realizes that Barry is the murderer she's been hunting all season.
    • Sally starts a writing job at BanShe after her show has been cancelled by the algorithm and while it's not entirely what wants, she's still getting to work in Hollywood and has the respect of her peers in the writing room. Things seem to be on the upswing for her, up until she sees that Natalie has a show at BanShe now and Sally decides to go nuclear on her over it.
    • In the series finale, Barry finally decides to turn himself in so Cousineau can avoid going to prison. He doesn't even get to the phone before Cousineau shoots him in the head.
  • I Can't Hear You: 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.
  • 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 episodes don't have a theme at first, but halfway through the season they switch to an all lowercase letters theme, which continues through all of Seasons 3 and 4.
  • 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, then when Barry acts confused Cousineau assumes the "monologue" was improvised and is impressed enough at the "acting" to let him in.
  • Ignored Epiphany: After Fuches gets shot he is nursed back to health on a farm run by some Mexican-Americans. They're friendly and inviting, the Farmer's Daughter is good-looking and interested in him, and Fuches decides to stay there and leave his quest for revenge behind. But all it takes is one look at the newspaper story about Barry and Cousineau to send him back off to destroy Barry.
  • The Illegible: Detective Loach tries to write out prompts for Fuches to say when speaking to Barry, but his handwriting is illegible. They argue about his scribbles after the call.
  • Imagine Spot:
    • Barry starts having fantasies about becoming a rich and successful actor, living in a huge mansion with his wife Sally and their children.
    • 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.
    • Played with in the first season finale. Since we're already used to seeing Barry's imagine spots, the creators deliberately framed the idyllic picnic at Gene's house as a distant, unlikely happy ending — Barry is committed to his life as an actor, he's got Gene's professional respect, and he's together with Sally. The staging becomes more realistic as Janice gradually unravels the clues to Barry's true nature, leading to their tragic final confrontation.
    • NoHo Hank has a self-serving dream of appearing on a roundtable talk show as a "Smarter Person" and telling off Thomas Friedman.
  • Insistent Terminology: Barry sure does get called a psycho(path) a lot.
  • 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 tours 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."
  • I Owe You My Life: Albert catches Barry in the act but ultimately decides to let Barry go in repayment for Barry saving his life in Afghanistan.
  • 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.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: In Season 4, Fuches is beaten for information on who did the hit and where Barry escaped to. He doesn't know, so it's pointless.
  • 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Fuches, who survives the final shootout between his gang and Hank's men, helps reunite Barry with John, then vanishes into the shadows without a word.
  • 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 twice in the chest.
    • The remaining members the Chechen mob (excluding Hank) get this in the Season 3 finale "starting now" get this as they're mauled to death by a panther while a terrified Hank (and the audience) is forced to listen from a neighbouring cell.
  • Killing in Self-Defense: Sally kills one of the biker gang members in the Season 3 finale. While it was definitely self-defense, as he was strangling her (and had come to the apartment to kill Barry), she's emotionally traumatized by the experience.
  • 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.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Loach blackmails Barry to kill Ronnie and is ultimately killed by Ronnie when Ronnie and Barry were fighting in a supermarket. This was also after he was about to double cross Barry.
    • Sally through out most of season 3 during her seemly upraising career path treats Natalie like dirt and as her lackey. This accumulates with Sally after her show doesn't get picked up, cussing out Natalie after Sally unjustly thinks Natalie stole her idea. However when Sally was verbally insulting her, she didn't realize Natalie was recording the whole thing. This leads to Sally losing her acting job she was hired for and even getting dropped from her talent agency where as Natalie's acting career seems to be on the rise.
    • Barry gets some himself in the last few episodes of season 3, from being poisoned by Chris's widow for his murder of Chris, to ultimately being arrested by the police in the season 3 finale after Janice's father and Gene trick Barry into trying to murder Janice's father in front of a hidden bunch of police officers.
  • 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.
    • In "limonada", Sally questions one of the staff writers on the realism of the dialogue, claiming a character wouldn't make a perfectly worded argument. The staff writer responds, "I would disagree with that assumption. Her naiveté is a direct result of the history of subjugation of women by a draconian patriarchy." Sally decides not to press it.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Spoken word-for-word by Taylor as he abandons Barry's plan and barges through the Bolivian stash house with guns blazing in "Do Your Job," although it surprisingly works out in their favor. This behavior of Taylor's comes to its logical conclusion in episode 6. When he recklessly drives straight at the Bolivians in the airstrip as Cristóbal arrives they shoot him and Vaughn dead as soon as they get close enough, causing the car to flip end-over-end.
  • 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 in the series. Interestingly, it seems that the mob is at least predominantly Christian and ethnically Russian, given that none of them display the trappings of Islam, and Hank wears a Russian Orthodox cross.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Sally manages to get a blow in on her attacker, leaving him shouting angrily and annoyed about how she got him in the eye. She actually stuck a knife all the way into his head, and the blood from the internal injury is leaking out of his eye.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: After murdering Chris, Barry puts the gun in his hand to make it look like a suicide.
  • 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.
    • In-Universe. In the season 2 finale Sally slaps Barry in an attempt to invoke this. It works, but then his angry, malevolent mood is snapped right out of him when she changes the script on the fly during their scene.
  • 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. This ends up backfiring on him, as the accordion player ends up tipping off Cristóbal, the Bolivians, and Burmese to their attempted coup.
  • Mood Whiplash: This happens often, considering the series deals with simultaneously with the very funny, low-stakes world of amateur acting and the brutal criminal underworld of LA.
  • Murder By Proxy: After Barry murders Detective Janice Moss to keep his past as a hitman secret, her partner Loach spends Season 2 digging up evidence on Barry so he can avenge her death... Just kidding. Turns out he wants to blackmail Barry into killing his soon-to-be-ex-wife's new lover out of petty jealousy. And Loach doesn't mention that he plans to kill Barry himself once the deed is done.
  • Never My Fault: Sally after getting filmed verbally cussing out Natalie, gives a video apology-except it is less of a sincere apology and more of her basically trying to pin the fault on Natalie. This only makes it worse for Sally, who despite her agent Lindsay trying to warn her about doing the apology still does not want to take responsibility for this poor decision. Sally then immediately blames the poor feedback from her "apology" on Lindsay despite as previously mentioned Lindsay telling her not to do the video.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer for season one makes the series look less dark that it actually is, partly because Bill Hader and Henry Winkler are both known for comedic rather than dramatic roles. The trailer for season four on the other hand barely looks like a trailer for a comedy.
  • Noodle Incident: To some people in Hollywood, Gene is known as "the guy who brought a loaded gun to his Full House audition".
  • Not So Above It All: In the beginning of season 3, where Barry purposes a plan to Sally to commit psychological warfare on a executive as a means of helping her, Sally is rightfully horrified and even breaks up with Barry because of it. However, later on in the season after Natalie films Sally's profanity laced rant directed at her which gets Sally dropped by her talent agency, Sally actually ask Barry to perform that plan on Natalie.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: After Janice figures out who Barry is, he desperately tries to pull this. It doesn't work.
  • Oblivious to Hints: When he's forced to kill Ronny, Barry instead wants to help him get out of town. He follows Ronny into his room which is packed with trophies and even medals to show the man is a martial arts master...and yet Barry is still taken by surprise when the guy kicks him.
  • Offing the Offspring:
    • Julie accidentally shoots her son Kyle in the abdomen when they're about to ambush Barry. Downplayed as it's left ambiguous as to whether Kyle died.
    • Gene, hiding out in a cabin, shoots his own son Leo when he approaches the cabin, assuming him to be Barry. Leo survives, but it ruins their already rocky relationship.
  • One-Man Army: Barry takes on the entire assembled Bolivian, Burmese, and Chechen 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.
    • In "forgiving jeff", Sally's first appearance is walking through multiple sets of Joplin answering questions from the crew about various nitpicks all while memorizing her lines in a sequence that spans several minutes.
  • One-Word Title: Barry.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Akhmal's "50-50 with Cristóbal" dance after taking a bullet from Barry to the shoulder. Downplayed in that this dance, the lezginka, is usually done at breakneck speed (examples: [1], [2]).
  • Overly-Long Gag: When Cristóbal leaves Hank, the camera holds on Hank's forlorn expression while he hear Cristóbal offscreen as he walks a loooong way to his car, gets in, starts it up, turns on chirpy pop music, and finally drives away.
  • Overly-Nervous Flop Sweat: In "candy asses" the camera zooms in on the sweat breaking out on top of Cousineau's bald forehead, as he lies to Jim Moss about how Barry wasn't the one who killed Janice.
  • 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 and 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 at one point they conjecture that he's simply talking to someone using a Bluetooth headset.
  • Police Are Useless: While the detectives in the LAPD are competent, the police chief is a buffoon. He lets his press briefing get derailed by a discussion of Akira Kurosawa, completely swallows Hank's fairy tale about "the Raven," seems more interested in coming up with cool logos for task forces than doing his job, and asks to be called "Big Cat."
  • Police Brutality: Two examples in Season 4.
    • Barry is beaten after mouthing off to a guard who's a "fan" of his in prisonnote .
    • Later on Fuchs gets beaten by guards at the warden's order after Barry escapes to get information from him.
  • 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!"
    • Characters frequently drink from Pepsi cans with the label facing the camera.
  • Professional Killer: Barry.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Discussed and lampshaded. In episode 3-2 Sally, talking with her co-writer on her new show, thinks that the dialogue is too formal and that the characters need to talk with more realistic speech. Her co-writer disagrees, saying "Her naiveté is a direct result of the history of subjugation of women by a draconian patriarchy."
  • 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."
  • Rejected Apology: Gene tries to apologize to all the people he hurt in the industry. One person, an ex he had blackballed from the industry after their breakup, does not forgive him.
  • Retcon: In season one, Cousineau auditions for a bit part and says he's self-managed. In season three, it's established that he's had the same agent for 30 years. Of course, given how egotistical he is, it's entirely possible Gene claimed he's self-managed to make himself look good. It's also not uncommon for performers to audition for smaller roles without going through their manager to avoid paying them a commission.
  • 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.
    • In the season 3 finale, as Barry is being arrested, he turns and stares in horror. The camera cuts to a shot of the police approaching him, only to separate and reveal Gene coldly staring at Barry, revealing that he tricked Barry into getting arrested.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: In-Universe. Sally yells furiously at Natalie after finding out she now runs her own show after Sally's was cancelled. Natalie uploads the footage online and Sally loses her job as a writer at BanShe.
  • Room 101: Jim Moss's garage is presented as a place where he physically and/or psychologically tortures the characters, from interrogating Gene and getting him to trap Barry, to doing enough to Lon O'Neil that he's visibly roughed up and only able to communicate in German and psychologically torturing Barry and almost ready to harm him before he spills about giving Gene $250k stolen from the Chechens.
  • Running Gag:
    • Cousineau rolling his eyes in reaction to the hammy overacting of his students.
    • 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. When Barry returns to the same casting director in season 3, she laments that they ended up casting two short actors.
    • Cousineau and Sally reacting with barely restrained envy when hearing that Barry got an audition or role without any real effort.
    • In season 3, Fuches keeps getting stranded in a remote area and tempted to leave the life of crime behind by a beautiful local woman. He exclaims, "Holy smokes!" when he first lays eyes on each lady.
    • Starting in Season 2 and continuing in Season 3, Akhmal gets shot in the shoulder several times, often immediately shouting "Ah, fuck you!" to his assailant in response.
  • Screwed by the Network: In-Universe, Sally's show gets dropped by its streaming platform and canceled within hours of debuting despite great reviews. When she demands an explanation, the executive blames everything on "the algorithm" because the show wasn't "hitting the right taste clusters."
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • Lindsay pulls this when Sally not only ignores her advice to not post an apology video over her confrontation with Natalie, but proceeds to lash out at Lindsay for not helping her. This all flies in the face of the fact that Lindsay is practically the only person who has been willing to give Sally a chance and has fought for her to get jobs after years in Hollywood.
    • Sally pulls this on Barry in the season 3 finale: she's just killed a man in self defense and her career is in tatters. Barry thinks they have a future running away from LA together, but Sally is actually running home to Joplin, Missouri.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Sally remembers escaping her abusive husband by screaming a pithy one-liner at him and storming out. Sally finally admits to herself and Barry an episode later that that's not what happened — in reality, her husband started crying and she held him until he felt better, then snuck out in the middle of the night.
  • 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.
  • Series Fauxnale: Season 3 feels like a Downer Ending series finale as Barry’s work as a hit man is uncovered and he is captured by the police after being set up by Gene Cousineau, while Fuches is also arrested. Sally return to Joplin to get away from Barry after experiencing new trauma and seeing her professional career tarnished. Hank manages to rescue Cristóbal from the Bolivians but both are traumatized during their captivity and will try to move on together. Despite Barry's arrest, both Gene and Moss will continue to grieve over Janice's death.
  • 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.
    • When Barry tries to gift Sally a new laptop to replace her cracked one, she is taken aback by the rather expensive gesture, calling it "a weird-ass Tony Soprano move."
    • 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.
    • The password for Hank's bomb is "$uddenly$eymour1985," referencing the song from Little Shop of Horrors.
    • The students in Sally's acting class all picked famous movie quotes as their monologues, which include references to Steel Magnolias, Fight Club, Rudy, and Sunset Boulevard.
  • 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.
  • Shown Their Work: NoHo Hank's and Akhmal's "50-50 with Cristóbal" dance is the lezginka, a traditional dance of the people of the Caucasus (Chechens included).
  • Show Within a Show:
    • Sally creates a semi-autobiographical series called Joplin that receives universal acclaim from critics. Despite the acclaim, the network cancels the series within hours of release, which begins Sally's Start of Darkness.
    • Natalie creates a sitcom called Just Desserts, which she created to cater to the network's algorithm as much as possible. She succeeded, and the show is still running eight years later.
    • The series ends with footage from The Mask Collector, which is a highly inaccurate dramatization of Barry's life.
  • 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."
  • The Snack Is More Interesting:
    • In "710N", Sally and Lindsay have a somewhat serious conversation about whether they should keep working with BanShe after they cancelled Sally's show. This is undercut by the fact that Lindsay is obsessing over and scarfing down one of the beignets Sally bought from Mitch.
    • In season 4, a journalist casually snacks on Skittles while interviewing Barry.
  • 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.
  • Stylistic Suck:
    • Almost all the performances and monologues in the acting class suck, especially the ones that the students wrote themselves. A lot of the professional gigs aren't any better, like the one where Barry plays a bully who gets tricked into eating his own shit pie.
    • The Mask Collector, the highly inaccurate movie about Barry in the Grand Finale, is filled with wooden performances, cheesy writing, and ends with poorly staged slo-mo.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • In season 1, one of the students asks Detective Moss why they don't enlarge the photo of the shooter to identify the person. Moss points out that, unlike what they may see in TV shows, that type of technology does not exist.
    • When Barry's military friends attempt a frontal attack on the drug dealers by speeding up their car (while blasting their music no less) they are instantly all shot to death. Drawing such obvious attention to yourself will make you an easy target for a crew of criminals that are heavily armed.
    • After Sally gets filmed intensely cussing out Natalie, she loses her writing job. As is the case in real life, when you do something that unprofessional (especially when you are still an unestablished actor/actress no less) the studio you work for is not going to want you to keep you on board when they can face serious backlash from the public due to that person's behavior. This goes double in season 4 where not only can Sally not get work because of her outburst, but because she dated Barry who everyone now thinks is a serial killer. Even if she didn't know about Barry's secret life, the fact is she still dated him and its another strike to her image, not the least being she publicly thanked him in a speech. Sally by that point is too much of a PR disaster to deal with.
    • During a shootout, a thug holds out a machine gun for a motorcycle-riding comrade to grab on his way past, shouting, "Hand off!" This might make a cool maneuver in an action movie, but the motorcyclist is going way too fast to grab the stationary gun. When he reaches out for it as he passes by, it knocks him off balance and causes him to crash.
    • When Sally becomes an acting teacher, she uses the same method Gene used on her in the first episode of emotionally bullying her student into delivering a line angrily. Unlike the first episode, however, the students call out how abusive this technique is, and all but one of the students (the one Sally bullied) walk out of the class.
    • The final shootout between Fuches's gang and Hank's men isn't a dramatic affair with Pretty Little Headshots and extended action; they're all in a wide space with zero cover and armed with automatic weapons and grenades. The entire battle takes all of half a minute before almost everyone is wounded or dead. Additionally, we see the various effects of a frag grenade exploding in close quarters in grisly detail; one man is blinded, several have lost limbs, and another has his stomach blown open and entrails scattered.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Taylor and Vaughn decide to attack the Bolivians head on when they see them and speed up their car up to charge at them. Despite their skills they are immediately shot to death before they reach them.
  • Take That!:
    • "crazytimesh*tshow" features a huge one towards Netflix and other streaming services (with BanShe as the stand-in) for their reliance on computer algorithms to make programming decisions and how it causes critically acclaimed and promising shows like Joplin to be swiftly canceled when they don't immediately attract a large audience.
    • "it takes a psycho" features one against Disney and the MCU's practice to take smaller, acclaimed indie directors and having them direct big budget superhero movies. The message is delivered via a cameo by Sian Heder, the director of Coda.
      Heder: On CODA, I worked with committed actors to tell a deeply personal story and now I'm working with models in halloween costumes fighting over a blue, glowy thing.
  • 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 fatal mistake of telling Barry about it). He tells them he was stunned and horrified at what he'd done,
    • Subverted: Barry tells a story in class of the first person he killed in Afghanistan. He tells them he felt remorseful (while looking guilty and uncomfortable), and the classmate acting out his story drops to his knees in horror in overly-dramatic fashion. In reality, his fellow marines were deeply impressed at his shooting skills and congratulated him, leaving Barry with an almost childishly-giddy expression, in the moment clearly having disconnected from the reality of having killed someone.
    • After killing (in self-defense) the biker gang member in the season 3 finale, Sally is emotionally traumatized, and repeatedly hallucinates seeing him.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: After Barry and Sally hook up for the first time, Barry fails to notice several hints from Sally that he should leave her apartment.
  • Time Skip: A pretty major one happens in "it takes a psycho", after Barry and Sally decide to run away with each other. The next episode, "tricky legacies", is set in Oklahoma and reveals that Barry and Sally have been living together for eight years under false identities, and have had a son. They have a deeply dysfunctional marriage and Sally has become a Lady Drunk.
  • Title Drop:
    • Discussed in 2-7. 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. Brimming with envy, he shouts, "They can't cut that!"
    • "forgiving jeff" is from a quote said by Barry after being told that a client had changed his mind about ordering a hit: "There's no forgiving Jeff!"
    • "limonada" is said by Cristóbal when he asks some neighborhood girls if they're selling lemonade: "Are you girls selling limonada?"
    • "ben mendelsohn" is Sally's answer when asked who she thinks should be the next Spider-Man during a press junket for Joplin.
    • "all the sauces" is taken from a text from Hank to Cristóbal, read by Fernando, wherein he says the Chechens are excited to go to Buffalo Wild Wings to try the sauces there.
    • "crazytimesh*tshow" is said by one of the Chechen elders when the nursery front is raided by the police and the Bolivians: "Batir, this is crazy time shit show."
    • "starting now" is said by Albert once he decides not to kill Barry for his life of crime, pleading with him to turn himself around.
    • "wow" is said by Barry after Gene shoots him.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The bikers gunning for Barry seem to be almost suicidely ignorant of basic physics. One of them tries to block the street with his bike despite the fact that a speeding car will always win that showdown. Another one tries to hand off a machine gun to a compatriot speeding by which naturally results with inertia wrestling the gun from their hands and the biker losing control and crashing.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Fuches spends most of the series as a cowardly lowlife getting his ass kicked, but when he gets out of prison under his new identity as the Raven, he's become a feared gang leader.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Gene in season 3 starts to realize what a difficult, mean person he was in his younger days and makes a genuine effort to make things right with some of the people he wronged, including a person he had gotten blacklisted for decades.
  • 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".
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: As uncomfortable as it gets in "candy asses", and done deliberately by Sally, who stops the elevator to scream "YOU ENTITLED FUCKING CUNT!" at Natalie, after finding out that Natalie basically stole Sally's idea and has her own show.
  • Underage Casting: In-Universe. In "Make the Unsafe Choice" Sally is pretty upset to find herself auditioning for the role of a middle-aged mother across from a former friend who plays the "millennial" lead.
  • 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.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    Barry: Why did you say that> WHY DID YOU SAY THAT?!
    • Barry has another one in Season 3 Episode 8, "starting now", when he is confronted by Albert, who asked him why he has killed so many people, including Chris.
  • 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.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: Zig-Zagged, as it's either played very straight or used for very dark laughs, but Bill Hader has stated that the show never glorifies its violence, with the consequences and aftermath always done in a grounded and often unsettling manner.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Season 3 Episode 8, "starting now": Sally kills one of Barry's attackers and flees to Joplin by herself. Hank breaks out of his cell and rescues Cristóbal, who likely has brain damage. Fuches goes to prison, adopting his (fake) identity as "The Raven". Barry gets arrested for murdering Moss, after being set up by Gene and Jim, Moss' father.
    • Season 4 Episode 4, "it takes a psycho": Barry has escaped from custody. Hank kills his own men in order to spare him and Cristóbal from a raid from the Chechens, only for Cristóbal to reject him and end up getting killed anyway for knowing too much. Gene accidentally shoots his own son Leo out of paranoia, potentially killing him. Sally finds Barry in her own home and immediately decides to run away with him, the show then jumps around a decade later to reveal they now have a son and reside in an area similar to the place from Barry's daydreams.
  • Wham Line:
    Man: Hey Sally.
    Sally: Hey Sam.
    • After showing Gene Janice's dead body, Fuches whispers something in his ear before fleeing (which we don't find out until the very end of Season 2): "Barry Berkman did this."
    • "it takes a psycho":
    Barry: Sally, I know this is crazy, but if I can just stay here-
    Sally: Let's go.
    • "wow":
    Barry: You should call the cops.
    Tom: The cops?
    Barry: I'm gonna turn myself—.
  • Wham Shot:
    • An intense conversation between Barry and Sally ends with the arrival of her abusive ex, Sam. Cue Barry's Death Glare.
    • "it takes a psycho" ends with a troubled young boy walking into an isolated house in the desert where his parents are. At first it seems like another flashback to Barry's childhood only for the parents to be revealed to be Barry and Sally, revealing that the show has jumped ahead several years.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In season 3, this happens with several of Fuches' "panthers" that he manipulates into seeking revenge against Barry, such as Julie and Kyle, the mother and son duo who intend to kill Barry to avenge their husband/father who Barry had been paid to kill. They are about to ambush him when Julie accidentally shoots Kyle in the stomach and frantically drives away with him, and they are never seen again. Similarly, after Sharon Lucado fails to kill Barry by poisoning him in retaliation for murdering her husband Chris, she is never seen again.
    • Andrei and the Chechen Mob vanish from the story after the 8-year Time Skip. It's never established if they're still backing Hank's construction company or if he took revenge on them for killing Cristóbal.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Neither the small town where Barry and Sally run off to after he escapes from prison nor the city where Sally and John move to after Barry’s death are ever named.
  • Worst Aid: In "ronny/lily," 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.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Barry invariably draws the line at children, as shown in episode 2-6. Despite Fuches' insistence, Barry refuses to attempt to kill Lily, even after she nearly-fatally stabs him several times. Fuches soon begins to see why, for a slightly-different reason.
    • By Season 3, as Barry's mental health deteriorates, this has noticeably changed, with Barry threatening to kill Gene's grandson for his own gain.
  • 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." Fuches laughs incredulously in reaction.


Video Example(s):


The F.U.B.K.S.

NoHo Hank hires "four ultimate badass killers" with different specializations to try and kill his enemy Fuches.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / CarnivalOfKillers

Media sources: