“Barry” is the type of show that arrives fully formed from the first episode, effectively conveying a sense that the audience is joining a story already in progress without overwhelming or alienating them. It’s but one of many, many neat tricks that the show manages to pull off in this stellar first season, including making a mass murderer appealing: Sure, a lot of that has to do with Bill Hader’s innate likability and his remarkable ability to move fluidly from comedy to drama (sometimes in the same sentence, really), but without such sharp, incisive character development via the writing, it wouldn’t be enough to redeem him. Redemption is a core arc at the center of the show’s narrative, positing questions like “can people really change” and “how did this person get to this point,” and while it doesn’t literalize its answers, “Barry” gives its audience enough to keep them interested and consistently enthralled. It’s a compelling, occasionally violent character study that has plenty of room for its supporting players as well, in particular an Stephen Root as Barry’s mentor-of-sorts and a priceless, hyper-charismatic Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank, but the undisputed stars of the show are Hader’s superlative performance and his obvious affection for the deeply flawed titular character.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)