There's nothing like a good cold open. Some cold opens — you know, the opening scene of an episode of TV before the title card — are just brilliantly funny, while others are surprising or terrifying or propulsive. And others are just plain shocking. Enter the cold open of "710N", the sixth episode of the third season of HBO's "Barry." In last week's episode, Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root) continued his attempt to recruit people to his vengeance army pointing towards Barry Berkman (Bill Hader). His latest group of recruits were the siblings of the now-dead ex-Marine Taylor (Dale Pavinski), with whom Barry had worked on a failed mission in the first season. Fuches spun a lie that Barry owed Taylor nearly two thousand dollars for a hot tub in the desert. (We know that Taylor may have desired this ridiculous way to relax, but Barry didn't give him any money.) This week's episode begins in the same desert, as Fuches shows them where Taylor wanted to put the hot tub. As crafty as Fuches is, though, he is apparently not smart enough for the trio of motorbikers. Yes, they know where Barry lives now. And yes, they are fine to kill him. But first ... well, they shoot Fuches in the upper chest.
Like I said: there's nothing like a good cold open.
After the title card, Fuches is the topic of conversation at the LAPD, as Detective Mae Dunn (Sarah Burns) informs FBI agent Albert Nguyen (James Hiroyuki Liao) that the head of the Bolivians was found in the house explosion from two episodes ago. Albert assumes correctly that NoHo Hank was behind the bombing (even if he didn't literally plant the bomb), but the LAPD chief is convinced it's gotta be this mysterious guy the Raven (aka Fuches). "Look at his jacket. It's leather, and it's cool," he says as Albert alights upon the idea that whoever took out the monastery full of goons last season was probably ex-military. Which ... well, there are only so many people in this story who fit that description.
One person who did fit that description but died along with Taylor in season one was another of Barry's cohorts, Chris (Chris Marquette). We next see Albert visiting Chris' wife Sharon (Karen David), who mentions that Barry was taking acting classes the last time she saw him. Albert acts innocent here (since we know he's fully aware of Barry's acting-class connection), laughing at the idea of the "human ice machine" being an actor. Sharon seems otherwise unaware of Barry's whereabouts, but thinks they should all get together soon. For now ... well, let's put a pin in this scene.
Nothing Like A Good Beignet
In a very good, but very LA running gag (or the start of one), we next see Sally (Sarah Goldberg) spilling her emotional guts to a random guy who works at a beignet shop that has a massive line about a mile long. (I ... assume this is a real place in LA, yes?) Though he tells her she shouldn't work with BanShe again, Sally's agent says they should meet with the team again as there's another project they like her for.
Barry, meanwhile, is woken up in his makeshift bedroom back in the bachelor pad, called by Sharon. Considering that she's the wife of the ex-Marine he killed back in season one (as heartbroken as he was to do so), Barry wakes up right quick, with Sharon inviting him to a dinner that night for other vets, as part of a charity event. Barry's on board, though he makes the end of the call awkward by inadvertently ending it with a "Love you." Of course, we might wonder why it is that Sharon's invite to Barry sounds ... a bit different than what she suggested to Albert in the previous scene. Again: let's put a pin in that.
Meanwhile, let's jump back to where we started in the cold open. Now, on one hand, Fuches getting shot was a big shock. But much in the same way that it's hard to imagine Barry dying in this series before the very last scene, it's kind of hard to see Fuches going out so quickly and randomly. So it's not super-surprising that his prone body is visited upon by a mysterious shadowy figure, who picks him up and puts him in the bed of a truck, where Fuches is roused somewhat. Yes, he's still alive. And though he's puzzled, he's also been nursed back to health by a kindly family, made up of a taciturn cowboy, his wife, and their beautiful young daughter. (To whom Fuches says, as he did to the beautiful Chechen woman in the first episode of the seasons, "Holy smokes!")
Outside of what was once called Plants!, NoHo Hank drives by to see the aftermath and the wide array of cops investigating, half-laughing and half-crying as he says, "I'm so f**ked. Everything is so f**ked!" Which ... well, yes. Correct. Sorry, Hank. So where does he go to explain his pain? Why, the beignet shop with the laid-back worker, doing his own version of therapeutic help again. This guy does correctly note that Cristobal failed to point out his whole "being married and having kids" thing, but when he offers to NoHo Hank to possibly turn the shop into a franchise — because Hank "seems rad" — our favorite Chechen backs out.
Dodging A Bullet
Things continue to look up for Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), though. He's woken up at his bedside by his agent Tom (Fred Melamed), with good news: a big-time producer, so impressed by the story about Gene and Barry, wants to offer the acting teacher his own streaming masterclass show that could even be played in movie theaters. Gene's on board, but with one condition: as a way to make good with his ex Annie (Laura San Giacomo), he wants her to direct the show. And he's willing to give her ... well, the entire offer (which is at least $400,000). Though Annie is initially uninterested, when Gene offers her the whole kit and kaboodle, it's a tempting thing to consider.
Back with Fuches, he's getting out of bed and learning that he's ... uh, not really that far out of town. "There's a Starbucks right over that hill," the young woman whose father saved him points out. But before he can learn too much more about this strange culture that's just 20 miles outside of Los Angeles, he's called by Jim Moss, the father of the late Detective Moss, who is yet another person Fuches called to recruit for his vengeance army. But when Jim says he wants to meet, Fuches passes. Could it be he's finally renouncing his claim on revenge on Barry? Well ... let's put a pin in this too.
Speaking of Barry, he's still trying to make good with Sally, by loudly dictating via his iPhone an apology text in the middle of a department store, with lots of people looking at him oddly as he explains his bad behavior. We hear the rest of the apology text courtesy of Sally, in the BanShe waiting area, as it devolves into the iPhone getting a mix of AutoCorrect typos and a store clerk telling Barry to keep it down. "Jesus Christ, you dodged a bullet," her agent says, and that is a big ol' bingo.
This season of "Barry" has been (intentionally) less funny than previous seasons, but no less excellent. When the show leans into its industry satire, it works very well, demonstrated by the next scene at BanShe. Sally and her agent are greeted by Morgan, played by the always hilarious "SNL" alum Vanessa Bayer. Morgan wants Sally to join "The New Medusas," the show that not only replaced "Joplin" on the streaming site's homepage, but is also about three hairdressers who have snakes for hair and turn men into stone. (Another great show!) "Right now, the show is 'eh,' but we think you can make it 'Hmm!'" Morgan says, leading to a great bit of facial comedy from both Bayer and Jessy Hodges to boil down into sounds what type of talent Sally has. And yet, even though Sally is encouraged by her agent to take the job, it's a writers-room gig. A bit of a step-down.
Putting It Behind You
Fuches, back at the ranch, acknowledges he used to be in some bad business. "I'm trying to put it behind me," he says, before finding out that the cowboy's daughter likes him and wants to be his girlfriend. (Fuches is a lucky, lucky man.) All's over, right? Right? Uh, well, no. Fuches notices in the truck a copy of Variety (of course) with the story about Gene and Barry. And that sets him off, muttering about it as a sign from God, and so he commandeers the truck and drives away. Oh, and he calls back Jim Moss (who we now see is played by character actor Robert Wisdom), saying he does have information about who killed Janice. Uh-oh.
But there is a more pressing uh-oh, as we see next: Taylor's motorbike siblings have located Barry's new bachelor pad (with one of them watching Nick and Jermaine doing a spoken-word recording of sorts), and are on the hunt. Barry, for the moment, is nowhere near: he's at Beignets by Mitch, talking to the man himself (of course), who wisely notes that Barry should "tread lightly" because of how long it's been since he saw all of his pals. "People change, man." After leaving the beignet shop, Barry starts heading over to Sharon's house but is quickly surrounded by the bikers.
So, for a couple of weeks, I've been wondering here: when will Barry get an inkling that something is amiss? Up to this point, Barry has no real way of knowing what Fuches is up to, or that Fuches is up to anything. That changes here, in a scene that a) reminds me somewhat of the motorcycle chase at the end of "Raising Arizona", and b) is ... man, I don't know, maybe the best scene of this season. If not the whole show. The chase quickly begins as Barry hears that the bikers got his photo from "Goulet" and that they should probably shoot him. Hader-as-director shows his action-movie chops by avoiding any quick cuts or fast edits. There are three bikers at first, but in an expert shot, we see through Barry's rearview mirror that one of them gets stopped by a truck. The second biker, shooting at Barry directly, gets run into by our antihero as he tries to get free. While that still leaves two bikers alive, Barry is nothing if not coldly industrious: he takes the now-free bike from the guy who he ran into and keeps on driving.
Until they see him on the bike, that is, leading to another and more protracted chase that starts on a surface street but goes straight onto the freeway. What's so effective about this sequence is, again, that Hader avoids any quick cuts. If anything, by largely switching between two angles — either one from behind Barry on the bike, or another with the camera essentially positioned on the opposite angle — Hader ramps up the tension as the motorbikers get closer and closer, until we realize that they have another sibling in a car on the freeway, ready to fire at Barry with a machine gun as needed. He misses, of course, and when he tries to hand the machine gun off to one of the bikers, it only causes the biker to run into a car. So it's down to one of Taylor's siblings. As the bike putters out, Barry gets shot at again, trying to escape into a local car dealership as Taylor's sister drives her bike onto the dealership roof, trying to fire at him from down below. Good news for Barry! Because this is America, the angry car dealer has a gun of his own, and he has a lot better aim, killing Taylor's sibling with two shots. And Barry — in a nice switcheroo during a single shot — is seen walking away, helmet off.
So, phew. He can finally go to Sharon's house! He's first to arrive, and Sharon is, of course, delighted to see those beignets. As he starts to dig into one, Barry starts doing some digging on his phone to figure out who the hell just shot at him. Eventually, he realizes that Taylor's siblings were motocross stars, but just as he's about to put the puzzle pieces together, he notices something on the table. A business card for a Kenneth Goulet. And when he looks up at Sharon, she looks a lot less friendly. "...What did you put in the sauce?" Barry asks. "Die, you motherf**ker", she hisses, as he begins to foam at the mouth and faint. And ... cut to credits.
Well then! As I said at the top, there was a pin to put in the scenes with Sharon. "710N" (which, by the way, represents the freeway on which Barry drives briefly) very carefully chooses to not let us see anything regarding Sharon and Fuches, who obviously visited her. It's a smart move, especially because it's easy to wonder if Sharon was lying through her teeth to Albert at the start of the episode. While this episode ends just as surprisingly as it starts, I have to imagine that just as Fuches can't die at the start of a mid-season episode, the title character can't bite it just yet. (I should note that while I got access to the first six episodes of this season of "Barry" in advance, there are no more screeners available. So I'm not teasing you based on future details, to be clear.)
"710N" is, largely speaking, an excellent episode of television. There's some excellent humor and, as has been the case with many episodes this season, truly incredible suspense. The motorcycle chase being so grounded is what makes it so tense, and the fact that Barry still doesn't really have any idea how much trouble he's in. If there is anything about which I wonder, it's this: yes, the industry satire is very funny, on a show that needs it to leaven the aforementioned tension. But it's been two full episodes since Gene and Barry interacted (good on the latter for being true to his word), and Sally seems more than done with our title character too. Just two episodes remain this season, and it's easy to imagine that most of it will be dealing with Barry and the vengeance army. How will the industry side of the show balance back into the violent side? Will it? I wonder.
"Get the f**k away from me!" shouts Sally's agent to a straggler outside Beignets by Mitch trying to grab a taste. Those beignets must be pretty damn good.
"I had the talk with my daughter." "...And?" Seriously, this beignet shop must be pretty damn good.
Bill Hader's proving to be a great director throughout this season, and one bit I want to specifically call out is the wide shot with Sally and her agent, standing on an outdoor staircase at BanShe, mulling over the "New Medusas" offer. It's not flashy, but a patient shot that presents a familiar enough part of LA in a distinct way. Solid direction and cinematography, the latter by Carl Herse.
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The post Barry Goes On The Road In The Best Episode of the Season appeared first on /Film.