Wow, what a game-changing season finale for Barry. We’ve seen some people say they can’t fathom how Bill Hader and company manage to dig themselves out of this one. But while the creative team constantly writes themselves into a corner, they haven’t yet failed to figure out how to keep creating jaw-dropping TV. We wouldn’t bet against the HBO series doing the same in season 4.
We would, however, like to offer up a few guesses as to what comes next, defying the very accurate read on the show from co-star Anthony Carrigan, who told us that it is “fan theory proof.” Before we get into it all, though, we do need to warn that the following is going to be filled with spoilers for everything Barry up to this point. We’d also like to briefly talk about what happened and what could have happened in the season finale before we look to the future.
Season 3 Finale Thoughts
The scene in the season 2 finale with Fuches (Stephen Root) whispering into Gene’s (Henry Winkler) ear about Barry (Hader) killing Janice (Paula Newsome) set the stage for a transformative season, upending everything Barry was trying to build and protect. The result was a long-form panic attack spread across this whole season with peaks, valleys, and revelations about Barry’s darker aspects – kidnapping and threatening Gene, losing control of his rage issues with Sally (Sarah Goldberg) – to the people he most wanted to shield from them. This all pushed us to the point where the season 3 finale needed to, once again, break the mold of the show, allowing it to turn into something else. Now Barry is in police custody (ditto Fuches), Gene is burden-free, and both Hank and Sally are dealing with the aftereffects of having killed people.
To me, there were a couple of possible paths for the show heading into the finale. And at times, each felt like a real possibility.
First, Barry could have made a run for it. We saw him commit to this path, but any kind of romanticized Bonnie and Clyde run was undone first by Sally’s decision to leave LA without Barry and then by the cops who picked Barry up with a gun to Janice’s father’s head. It’s all for the best, though. While a total change of setting with a new cast of characters would have made for a bold new direction, it would have eventually felt like a step back into the familiar, something this show seems loathe to do.
Of course, another option would have been to have Barry continue getting away with all of his misdeeds, but that also feels like an ill fit for the soul of this show. There has, at times, seemed as though someone or something was putting a thumb on the scale of fate, allowing Barry to evade capture and consequence. Ronnie getting shot last season and everything that went wrong for the “Rage Panthers” this season are examples of this. But how long can you play that card before the show starts to feel predictable or like Barry is bulletproof? With no stakes, there’s no tension.
The scene with Albert letting him go in the finale made it seem like that might be happening again, but the show was just choreographing the end game and letting Barry bleed out emotionally. Barry getting found out by Albert, one of the last people in his life who doesn’t know that he is some kind of monster has the effect of a spiral slamming into a brick wall. This created a kind of numbness that allowed Gene’s dagger to penetrate more deeply than if Barry hadn’t collapsed, vulnerable, anguished, and physically and emotionally spent in front of Albert before getting the false hope of another second chance to evade consequences. That scene, which may well be a signature moment for this show and Hader’s career, is everything. Gene’s coldly satisfied stare after helping to ensnare Barry is a close second in terms of things that are going to stay in our head until the show comes back. But what does Barry look like in season 4? Here are a few thoughts tied to each main character.
We start with Gene because he might be the most interesting character to consider. He has a real career now and he helped to put Barry in cuffs. What more is there to do? Maybe Gene finds a way to monetize his role in this whole mess, playing himself in a true-crime re-telling of the story. This would be a great way to keep skewering Hollywood (something the show excels at) with Barry’s acting career over and Sally a pariah. It could also be a transition back to the more deliciously tacky side of Cousineau.
Stephen Root played the hell out of Fuches’ whirlwind revenge tour this season, laying the tracks for Barry’s eventual detainment. Still, he’ll be limited in the chaos he can cause in a jail cell, won’t he? The prison system is a small world, though. Maybe Fuches and Barry get reunited in prison, allowing them to further antagonize each other.
While Hank stepped out of character and into Rambo mode to free his lover, Cristobal, it might be hardest to forecast a path for him. That relationship, while storybook compared to the Barry and Sally toxic pairing, is still fat with issues. Is Hank going to be running the Bolivian mob now? Is he going to go into business with Mitch the Beignet Guy? Can both things be true? Either way, I don’t know that it’s Hank’s way to fully process having to shoot his way out of a near-certain death by mauling. The confidence boost from that might lead to some epic moments if Hank embraces his new badass form. At last, he is his own Barry.
Sarah Goldberg does have a new show that she’s developing, but I don’t think Sally’s trip back to Missouri has anything to do with that, nor do I think it has to do with her ex. And I don’t think it’s permanent. The show needed to make a clear statement that Sally was rejecting Barry’s love, and the visual of her getting on that plane was perfect. My guess is Sally be back in LA (or in NY) resurrecting her career in no time. Everyone loves a comeback story and being the girlfriend of a cop killer is definitely something that’ll get Sally some sympathy.
It’s hard to imagine Barry Berkman ever breathes a free breath again, though it’s possible the justice system could be ripe for dissection with Barry becoming some kind of weird cult figure in the midst of a public trial. Doesn’t our fixation with true crime entertainment and the timeliness of trial watching pair nicely with the trajectory of the story? But it really is anyone’s guess how this team moves forward.
I would not be surprised if season 4 is the end of the road for the show. It just seems like we’re quickly approaching a natural stopping point, though I happily acknowledge that Hader could find any number of pathways to explore. This is one of the most inventive, consistently surprising shows in recent memory. Maybe Barry’s time on the beach with all his victims is a breadcrumb leading to an exploration of Barry’s feelings over all he’s done in an afterlife-like setting. Or maybe he gets shivved in his jail cell, covered in his own blood and ignominy. Regardless, I’m comfortable predicting an unhappy ending for Barry based on all the work done to show that he is almost certainly broken beyond repair. The question is, are these other characters damned to the same fate?