“Barry”, eulogy for a serial killer

Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) in the “Barry” series, created by Bill Hader and Alec Berg.


Barry Berkman, who died on May 28, 2023, in the middle of the last episode of the series to which he had given his first name, never did anything to excite compassion or empathy. However, his disappearance leaves a great void in the nights from Sunday to Monday, on Sunday evenings of the American subscribers to HBO that barry shared with Succession.

Five years ago, randomly spinning in Los Angeles, Barry Berkman (Bill Hader), hitman, veteran of the war in Iraq, was seized with an irrepressible vocation, at the sight of a course of drama given by an old actor, Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler). Barry was going to become an actor, get out of his sociopathic killer skin to join the cohort of the living.

There was material for a black comedy there, and it is moreover the turn that the first season of Barry, pretending to envisage redemption through artistic work. After all Bill Hader, member emeritus of the troupe of saturday night live from 2005 to 2013, in which he distinguished himself by his talents as an imitator, then a sympathetic actor alongside Amy Schumer in Crazy Amy (2015), by Judd Apatow, was as surely of the comic register as his partner or his director.

Without ever completely losing this dimension, the series has plunged, throughout its four seasons, into a moral and aesthetic labyrinth, the output of which has taken the form of a conclusion of dizzying accuracy, in this episode of May 28. Bill Hader, who created the series with Alec Berg and directed the eight episodes that led to the death of his creature, seized on a Hollywood cliché, not only to dismantle the mechanisms that preside over its serial reproduction but to dissect the pleasure the masses take in his spectacle.

During a meeting at Canneséries, Joey Soloway, creator of Transparent (2014-2019), evoked, only to regret it, the prevalence of this cliché, which he baptized “WGWG”white guy with gun –, which seems to us to fit perfectly with Barry Berkman, a white dude.

The price to pay

Before we met him, Barry practiced his profession in places – we talk about Sioux City or Saint Paul in the first episode – where the killers are just that: employees of the crime. Arrived in California, the worker becomes a character. Its value is no longer measured only by its work force (as destructive as it is) but by the brilliance of its image.

In reality, Bill Hader is a top notch actor. In the series, Barry Berkman is content to be himself, to draw on his inexhaustible stock of crimes to compose characters that thrill his teacher, his classmates, and soon Hollywood himself.

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