- Creator: Alec Berg and Bill Hader
- Starring: Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg, Stephen Root, Henry Winkler, Anthony Carrigan
Old habits die hard, and this seems to be the theme not only of Barry overall but in this week’s episode in particular. The lingering question after “Forgiving Jeff” was how Barry would handle the fallout of Gene discovering his true nature. Turns out, he’s gone off the deep end in a way we haven’t seen from him before, and the results are concerning, to say the least. And Barry’s not the only one who’s reverting back to old, bad habits.
It appears that Barry’s grand plan to get Gene back in his good graces is to find him an acting role. It’s a sweet gesture at its center, since Gene never got the acting break he felt he deserved. And nobody believes in Gene more than Barry, which is evident whenever anyone with a Hollywood connection implies throughout this episode. Gene’s long-standing reputation as someone that nobody likes working with still permeates with casting directors, as Sally tells Barry on his first stop. Since Sally has total control over her show, Barry thinks it’s a no-brainer that she can find Gene a part. Unfortunately Sally had already put in a good word for Gene when the show began, and the casting director turned him down. Unable to comprehend what this would mean not only for himself but for Gene, Barry explodes on Sally, violently reacting in front of the cast and crew.
This sets Sally back into her old ways, which were brought front and center last season with her marriage to Sam, and which we presumed were gone for good after she performed her stage piece. It’s hard to pick the most heartbreaking character beat in an episode full of them, but my heart sank a little bit when Sally’s reaction to Barry’s angry meltdown was not to stand up to him, but to revert to her people-pleasing nature instead. Despite my general hang-ups around Barry and Sally’s romantic feelings for each other, I do want to see them both happy. She heads home, and rather than confront Barry in private for embarrassing her in a professional work environment – which she’s worked incredibly hard for – she cooks him a nice spaghetti dinner and gets him a brand new video game controller to fix the broken one. But to add insult to injury, Barry has zero self-awareness to see the damage he’s caused. To some extent this is understandable, since he’s worried about being turned in and going to jail for the rest of his life at any minute, but he can’t even bother to say ‘I love you’ before hanging up the phone. That hurts.
Unfortunately the biggest blow to Sally in “limonada” comes back on the set of her show. Lindsay (Jessy Hodges) reveals that another network has ordered a show with a similar premise to Sally’s, albeit from a schlockier, more light-hearted angle (in an episode packed to the brim with great sight gags, the oversized martini in the show’s poster was an excellent touch). The show thankfully doesn’t hammer this home, but to see Sally’s work – something so personal that came from a vulnerable place – so trivialized by the Hollywood machine is a real gut punch.
I always love when the show broadens its scope and satirizes the process of being discovered in the movie/TV business, and this week’s episode has some great bits. Barry returns to the casting director of Swimming Instructors, the Jay Roach project he had auditioned for last season (more great line work from Hader as his eternal confusion over Roach’s name) and continues to fail upwards by being a tall, handsome white guy and getting an audition for a big TV role. Another understated bit, delivered greatly by Sarah Goldberg: when Barry breaks the news to Sally, she’s overjoyed for him, proclaiming it a real show, perhaps telling on herself and her own series.
Also on the lighter side this time around, we’re given more time to NoHo Hank and his evolving situation with the Bolivians. While neither episode this year so far has highlighted Anthony Carrigan’s incredibly deep comedic gifts, I’ll never complain about devoting more screen time to Hank and his misguided shenanigans. The beginning of the episode sees Cristobal’s (Michael Irby) father arrive in LA expressing his desire for Cristobal to return home. I have no idea what Berg and Hader’s long-term goal is for Hank and the Chechens, as they seem to be drifting further and further from Barry so far this year, but whatever unfolds, we’ll at least get more fantastic line readings from Carrigan.
“limonada” doesn’t end on a cliffhanger in the same way most episodes of the show do, but they do show Barry reaching a truly dark, almost irredeemable place. This didn’t click for me until recently, but it’s become almost inevitable to compare Barry’s arc to Walter White’s throughout Breaking Bad. The key difference between the two is that, while Walter never turned away from his calling to a life of crime, Barry has consistently tried his best to be a good person. One of the most heartbreaking moments in season 2 was when Barry asked those he loved if he was a good person. After this week, he may be done asking that question out loud.
Barry will air new episodes on HBO Sundays at 10pm