“I just wanted to be safe.”
“We all do.”
And there it is. After four years, Barry sums itself up in that one quick exchange. Everyone just wants to be safe. Not from the men with guns that are seemingly always coming for someone on this show, but from the consequences of their actions.
Everyone wants absolution for their sins, but no one wants to go to the trouble of making any penance. More than one person tells Barry that the only way out of this — the only way to keep Gene from being blamed for Janice’s murder, and the only way to protect John and Sally from continuing to live a life of tense secrecy — is to turn himself in. But he shrugs it off with, “Yeah… I don’t think that’s what God wants for me.”
He takes his countless improbable escapes from death over the years as a sign that God has preserved him, and maybe even forgiven him. His nakedly self-serving justifications finally somehow quietly cross over a line, to the point where the people around him — and we, the audience — aren’t buying it.
But everyone else crosses the line in the other direction. After kidnapping Sally and her son, Hank takes a moment to sympathize with her. There was a time when he thought Barry cared about him and would protect him too. Hank has given up on Barry to a degree that Sally hasn’t yet, and he’s ready to turn him — and maybe his whole family — over to Fuches. But Fuches can’t resist calling out Hank for killing Cristobal and being in denial about that. Because while Hank didn’t pull the trigger, it was his choices that led to Cristobal’s death, and the deaths of so many other people, and he’s spent the last eight years trying not to acknowledge that fact.
But Fuches’ accusation cuts deep because he comes clean himself. He spent years molding Barry into a killer by telling himself that he himself was a soldier, he was a mentor, he was giving Barry the guidance that he needed. But he finally acknowledges that he was simply acting in his own interest and justifying that to himself.
Sally also comes clean. She tells John about Barry — that they’ve been fugitives, because he has killed people and broke out of prison. But she also — not entirely fairly to herself — confesses that she’s also a murderer “and I deserve whatever’s coming to me.” She reassures John — for the first time — that he’s a good person. But she thinks she’s a bad person and a bad mother. Hard to argue with the latter given what we’ve seen, but she carries so much guilt for a very justifiable murder in self-defense. It puts her in sharp contrast with everyone else on the show, who have killed so many people for so little reason and have invested so deeply in keeping any glimmer of guilty thoughts at bay.
And then there’s Gene Cousineau. It was always going to come back to Barry and Gene in the end, and so it does. We won’t spoil the ending, and we’ll leave it up to you to decide whether either man gets what he deserves. In our opinion, Barry does and Gene doesn’t, but that’s life. Not everything is fair, not everything happens for a good reason, and that’s been clear from the very first episode.
And not every series sticks the landing. This one is by no means bad, but it doesn’t have the every-loose-end-tied-up satisfaction of Breaking Bad or the conceptual brilliance of The Sopranos. And it ends not with Barry himself, but with how the world sees him after the movie about him actually does get made. Some may find the show-within-a-show-about-the-show-itself too meta, and the movie’s take unsatisfying. And some may find it one last terrific dark joke, that when four seasons worth of lies become legend, Hollywood prints the legend.
• Hank gets an affecting final scene, and we would expect no less. Anthony Carrigan brought so much to this show, turning what could have been a simple role playing the heavy into an endlessly entertaining character with remarkable emotional depth. We’ll always have a table waiting for you at the Dave and Buster’s in our hearts, NoHo Hank.
• Bill Hader has said he got into Hollywood wanting to direct, and that his success in comedy was an unexpected detour. Barry was his first time in the director’s chair (he helmed just over half the episodes, including this whole season), and he’s shown a flair for comic timing, staging action, and getting the most out of this already-talented cast. This episode leaves us with so many expertly set-up shots, particularly the last time we see each character. We can’t wait to see what he does next.