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Barry is an HBO comedy-drama series, debuting in March 2018, created by Bill Hader and Alec Berg. The series' second season premiered in March 31, 2019. A third season was postponed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but was eventually released in April 2022, and as of this writing a fourth season is in the works.

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.

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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 first season consists of eight episodes, each thirty minutes in length. Along with creating the show, Hader also serves as its main star (in addition to writing and directing many episodes). It was very well-received upon arrival and would ultimately garner many award nominations and wins, including Outstanding Lead and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series at the 69th Annual Emmys for stars Bill Hader and Henry Winkler, respectively.

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Following the success of the first season, a second was ordered by HBO almost immediately. Bill Hader continues to write, direct, and star as everybody's favorite depressed hitman. This season was every bit as well-received as the first, garnering even more critical praise and award nominations; Hader himself would once again take home the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.


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 Cristóbal manages to hear his own name and realizes that Fuches is talking to them.
  • 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.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • 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.
  • 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 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."
  • all lowercase letters: Initially used for the episodes "ronny/lily" and "berkman > block" in Season 2, it becomes used for every episode for Season 3.
  • 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, Barry seeks him out as well.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • As Himself: 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).
  • 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, who doesn't even have eyebrows. His actor Anthony Carrigan has total alopecia, which prevents his body from growing any hair.
  • Beard of Sorrow: In the third season premiere, Barry is unshaven, reflecting his mental deterioration (he's also having hallucinations and is generally a jittery mess).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bookends: 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."
  • 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:
  • 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 Cristobal 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cure Your Gays: Cristobal'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.
  • 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.
  • Downer Ending: The finale of Season 3. Fuches is imprisoned. Sally kills a man in self-defense, and with her professional career ruined and this new trauma in her life, she decides to return to Joplin, without Barry. Hank manages to kill Elena and rescue Cristobal, but his Chechen friends were killed in brutal circumstances, and both are clearly traumatized by what happened. Finally, Gene, with Moss' help, manipulates and tricks Barry so that he is finally unmasked and arrested by the police, just at the moment when Barry had decided to stop killing and run away with Sally. And despite Barry's arrest, the final scene makes it clear that Gene and Moss will continue to grieve over Janice's death. Of course, this can be Bittersweet Ending depending on what the viewer's feelings for the characters are at that exact moment in the plot.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Army 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 and walks out...leaving behind a soda can with his saliva.
  • 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. Hank's reaction says it all:
    Hank: Oh sweet baby Jesus.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 Cristobal 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.
  • 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 as 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: NoHo Hank's rather flamboyant and even a little effeminate, and seems to have something of a crush on Barry. He also starts falling in love with Cristóbal in Season 2. In the finale, he declares his love for Cristóbal. Season 3 shows them as a happy couple, while both are dangerous mobsters.
  • 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 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, "Actually, I told her I was going to see you." It doesn't work.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Season 3.
  • 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 Farmers 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.
  • Insistent Terminology: Barry sure does get called a psycho(path) a lot.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 twice in the chest.
  • 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 after mistreating Natalie when Sally starts to get offers and then cussing her out after she unjustly thinks Natalie stole her idea, gets filmed by Natalie verbally berating her. This only damages Sally's career while Natalie seems to be on the verge of a more promising career.
    • Barry gets some himself in the last few episodes of season 3 from being poison by Chris's widow for his murder of Chris to ultimately getting arrested by the police in the season 3 finale after Janice's father and Gene trick Barry into trying to make a murder attemp of Janice father in front of a bunch of police officers.
  • 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: 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 the second unnamed Marine 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, due to Barry taking a job from them. At least some of them are likely to be ethnic Russians, however, since NoHo Hank wears a Russian Orthodox cross medallion.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 her behavior and instead Sally starts to blame Lindsay also.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer 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.
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • 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]).
  • 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.
  • 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 where the Chechens are hiding to ambush the Burmese 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.
  • Playing Gertrude: 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.
  • Police Are Useless: Zigged-Zagged. In season 1, Detective Moss figures out that Barry is the assassin that committed the various crimes of the season only to be killed by him just minutes after putting everything together. Come season 2, the investigation into her death gets derailed by Loach's illicit activities. Then in season 3, the police buy Noho-Hank's awful assassin theory that Fuches (who he only identifies as "The Raven") is the main culprit of the series' events; that being said, Barry is finally arrested in the season finale for Moss' death.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. When Barry returns to the same casting director in season 3, she laments that they ended up casting two short actors.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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 laptop, 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 that gets tricked into eating his own shit pie.
  • 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.
    • In "forgiving jeff", Gene tries to threaten Barry with an antique revolver he keeps in a box and has apparently never used. It goes about as well as you might expect, with him accidentally dropping the cylinder on the floor when he goes to cock it, leaving him unarmed and easily overpowered by the much more experienced Barry.
    • After Sally gets filmed intensely cussing out Natalie, she loses her acting job. As is the case in real life, when you do something that unprofessional (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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, knowing that it would never be cut. Invoked in Season 3, where almost every episode title is taken out of context from a quote, but usually has little relevance to the actual plot.
    • "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 Cristobal 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 Cristobal, 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."
  • 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, inncluding a person he had gotten blacklisted for decades.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?!
    • 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.
  • 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 Cristobal, 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.
  • 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."
  • Wham Shot: An intense conversation between Barry and Sally ends with the arrival of her abusive ex, Sam. Cue Barry's Death Glare.
  • 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.
  • 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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Barry Meets Sam

Barry realizes that the abusive husband from his girlfriend's play is a real person.

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