Barry: The Power of No
April 8, 2019 8:58 PM - Season 2, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Facing pressure from Noho Hank, Barry struggles to pull off an important hit. After asking the class to mine their personal traumas for an original piece, Gene decides to confront his own past. A visit to her agents leaves Sally disappointed. Fuches tries to evade questions in Cleveland.

Vikram Murthi's review at the AV Club: Barry tries to break the cycle as his past catches up to him
posted by JimBennett (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I’m enjoying this show in spite of the reservations I have that we really don’t need another series that interrogates the inner life of a bad white man doing awful shit, but it really doesn’t help that I’m super creeped out by all the comments on that AV Club review to the tune of “Barry is definitely not evil because he feels super bad about murdering the fuck out of innocent people to preserve his lifestyle!” If that’s the bar we’re rolling with for non-evil then we are so fucked as a society.
posted by invitapriore at 9:27 PM on April 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

i'd like to say right off the bat i really don't think people's opinions on whether a TV character is evil or not has any real bearing on our society as a whole.

i find the whole "is barry evil or not" conversation really boring - i think it's good that the show is engaging in it, but people on the internet get so reductive and polarized that the conversations aren't interesting at all. barry does objectively horrible things, and also yes, he feels bad about those things. but so far we've been led to believe he was manipulated and shaped into the person who commits these atrocities. he wants to change but he doesn't know how to because he has no idea how to be anything else. "good or evil" is so black and white for a show as well written and nuanced as this one is. barry is unwell, and that's what makes him interesting. i suspect the show will have barry decide on a path before the end of the season, but right now the whole debate just feels like people missing the point of the entire show.
posted by JimBennett at 9:57 PM on April 8, 2019 [8 favorites]

You know what Barry reminds me of this season? That about 1 in 4 U.S. military vets under 50 have PTSD. It's almost guaranteed to be a smaller number than older service-era veterans, like the Vietnam and Korean Wars.

And that we really don't want our younger veterans pushed out into the private healthcare sector for medical treatment. That's mainly because civilian physicians aren't trained to identify and deal with service-connected disabilities (like TBIs or airborne chemical exposure). Or treat specific mental health issues that primarily affect combat veterans, for example. These issues have far-reaching, even multigenerational consequences.

I sincerely hope Barry doesn't end with him committing suicide. That would be a terrible message for a small but significant population of the show's viewers.

All that aside, I think it's deftly written and definitely deserves to win an Emmy. It's amazing how strong the performances are, even in what are supposed to be two-dimensional characters. I love seeing Janet from The Good Place shine as a bit player here, and Henry Winkler's always a treat.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2019 [6 favorites]

i find the whole "is barry evil or not" conversation really boring - i think it's good that the show is engaging in it, but people on the internet get so reductive and polarized that the conversations aren't interesting at all.

I totally agree with this, it's absolutely the least interesting thing to be asking about the show. I'm still kind of disturbed by the thinking being marshaled by the people asking it, though.

Anyway, no sense digging into that too much. Am I alone in really loving Sally Reed? I like that the show was very careful from the beginning to avoid a Skylar White situation where the show's tone early on was very much in support of that segment of the viewership who managed to find a woman asking her husband where he's been to be more deplorable than a guy that kills people. I like that her character has moments of being indefensibly shitty without the show telling us that we should dislike her, which lets scenes like her on-stage discussion of her marriage in this episode be as powerful as they are. I wonder if the fact that's she's not a full-on babyface (in the kayfabe sense) actually makes her situation even more of a gut punch, because if you're thinking something like "I'm not sure if I particularly like this person, but that has no bearing on how fucked up it is what's happening to her" then you maybe end up chewing on how unfair her situation is even more than if it were an uncomplicated swell of empathy for a character you unreservedly like.
posted by invitapriore at 10:46 AM on April 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

Yes, invitapriore. It's nice to see everyone's on-the-surface shallow, narcissistic personality BS comes from a much more complicated place than we're initially able to see.

I also really like Sally! And for all Gene's faults, I love his character, too. Even though he's clearly been a self-absorbed prick most of his life, being with Janice made Gene a better person.

I'm a little worried Sally's ex-husband will show up to cause trouble and Barry will shoot him.

That would certainly complicate the "who defines what a good guy is in this context" question even further. Obviously murder is never the answer, but Barry's shown us how richly people reward and encourage him to make bad decisions.

What happens when Barry the murderer gets called a hero for shooting the "right" person after trying to escape his hitman past...
starting... NOW?
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:53 PM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

And for all Gene's faults, I love his character, too. Even though he's clearly been a self-absorbed prick most of his life, being with Janice made Gene a better person.

I'm not sure if it's just something particular to me or if the show handled it differently in a way that I'm not able to articulate, but the aftermath of last season's finale left me with a lasting sense of grief at the horrible outward ripple of pain and suffering caused by violent acts like Barry's (presumed) murder of Janice that I haven't really felt in a lot of media that nominally deals with that. Thinking back on other shows, I think really only The Wire has hit that same level for me. Even The Sopranos, as good as it was, tended to move on pretty quickly from any particular victim's suffering at Tony and company's hands, and maybe that was an intentional choice to reflect Tony's rapacious consumption of the lives around him, but it's a notion that's worth reflecting on and really driving home emotionally and the show (and Winkler, holy shit) really pulls that off.
posted by invitapriore at 6:16 PM on April 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think they're setting detective Loach up for failure in this episode, with his refusal to work with his new partner. Reminds me a bit of Dexter and Sgt. Doakes - he's going to get the goods on Barry, but without backup it's going to be easy for Barry to wriggle out of it. For some reason I was stuck on Loach walking out on Mae, and hoping that she's going to get a little more screen time / involvement the rest of the season/show.

The half-hourish runtime is killing me. Only 33 minutes this episode. Should be a full hour show.

Nice getting to see D'Arcy Carden (Janet) and Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Simone) while The Good Place is in hiatus. Would love to see Stephen Root turn up in The Good Place. Or Henry Winkler!

As the closing credits rolled I realized I knew the song already, it's "Cómo Me Quieres" by Khruangbin. I got all excited, they're fantastic and everybody should give them a listen.
posted by jzb at 4:15 AM on April 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

invitapriore I too was really heartbroken by the way Season 1 ended. It def gave me a real "where the fuck is Wallace" vibe.
posted by Brittanie at 7:19 PM on April 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

Unicorn on the cob I think the entire show is actually *about* PTSD. Sally also has it as a result of her abusive relationship.
posted by Brittanie at 6:40 PM on May 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

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