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‘Barry’ jumps into a strange new world, adding another twist to its legacy

<i>Merrick Morton/HBO</i><br/>Bill Hader in HBO's
Merrick Morton/HBO
Bill Hader in HBO's "Barry."

By Brian Lowry, CNN

Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers about the fifth episode of “Barry’s” fourth season, “Tricky Legacies.”

So yeah, that cryptic ending to the fourth episode of “Barry’s” final season? As it turns out, a lot can happen in eight years, as the series jumped into a strange, new world.

HBO’s dark comedy did, indeed, take a giant leap into the future, one that finds Barry (Bill Hader) and his now-partner Sally (Sarah Goldberg) living off the grid in the middle of nowhere, having embraced religion while hiding out in a house surrounded by pastel nothingness.

Seemingly bored out of her mind, the only acting Sally now gets to do involves working as a waitress named Emily at the local diner, taking out her hostility on a fellow employee who harbored salacious fantasies about her. As for Barry (a.k.a. Clark), he’s home-schooling their young son, while opening up just enough to begin sharing some stories about his days as a Marine.

“Barry” has always taken chances, but this time-flip at the midway point reflected one of its most daring yet, stranding its main character and the woman who ran away with him in a life of domestic drudgery. Enough time has passed that the awful Marvel-like movie on which Sally was serving as an acting coach has spawned three sequels, as evidenced by a “Megagirls 4” billboard featuring her former student.

Still, “Barry” saved what promises to be its most significant wrinkle for the end, offering a path back to reconnect the characters, as acting coach Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) emerged after being missing and presumed dead for eight years. Why? Because he got wind of the fact that Warner Bros. (like HBO and CNN, part of Warner Bros. Discovery, so you know, synergy) was working on a movie about his former student Barry Berkman, and as usual found himself unable to resist the siren call of Hollywood.

Seeing his name and picture in the newspaper, Barry had an instant and ominous reaction: “I’m gonna have to kill Cousineau.” Which is where things stand, for now.

“Barry” hasn’t quite been killing it this season, at least, not as unabashedly as it had in the past. The time jump felt understandably disorienting, especially given the fantasy sequences in which the program has indulged along the way.

Those flourishes, however, and especially this latest batch of them, reinforced that there’s nothing quite like this very dark comedy in terms of sheer unpredictability. Barry’s final line thus offered not just an opportunity to go tie up loose ends, but further evidence, if any was needed, that while such narrative gambles are indeed tricky, they’re a fundamental part of this show’s legacy.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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