When you think of the lives that Barry has ruined, a few main victims come to mind. In the main cast, there’s Gene, the teacher whose girlfriend Barry murdered, and Sally, the girlfriend whose worst fear was ending up with another violent man. Even Fuches has been made a victim by Barry on multiple occasions, even if he was the one who got Barry into this game in the first place. And then there are all the other loved ones of Barry’s victims: Jim Moss, Chris’s wife, and everyone else from the revenge army Fuches put together last season. Because these are flawed, complex people, some of them only have themselves to blame for their misfortunes — but Barry has made it much more difficult for them to heal and move on.
One character whose relationship with Barry I rarely think of, though, is NoHo Hank, even though they’ve interacted so often throughout the series. Maybe it’s because while they’ve been on largely good terms, they’re not one of the show’s core relationships. But Barry has fucked Hank over before: He killed most of Hank’s buddies during the monastery shooting and tried to frame him for Janice’s murder. That was why Hank reminded him that “forgiveness is something that has to be earned” at the start of season three — and sure enough, Barry did manage to briefly earn Hank’s gratitude by saving Cristobal’s life.
This is a season all about accountability, though, so it makes sense to return to this relationship and reflect on how Barry has failed to be the dependable friend Hank wanted him to be. After learning about Barry’s cooperation with the feds, he and Cristobal are moving forward with organizing a hit. It turns out the mysterious Toro is director Guillermo del Toro, whose deadpan deliveries work perfectly for this show. He assures Hank that the hit will be done by two podcasting brothers later that day.
“You’re Charming” is structured around the hit, with most of the half-hour deriving its tension from the dramatic irony of us knowing what Barry doesn’t. We see him go through with the deal, spilling the beans about Hank and Cristobal’s “crime utopia” and fully assuming everything will work out for him, including Sally’s cooperation. Fuches even tries to save Barry’s life from his separate cell block, though his warnings about something going down in special housing get ignored.
This episode has two major culminations: the relationship-based character climax and the action-packed plot climax. The former is the phone call between Barry and Hank, which pays off over three seasons of primarily lighthearted, occasionally threatening conversations. It’s surprisingly cathartic to hear Hank lay into Barry, especially because, for a second, it looked like he might soften toward him and even consider calling off the hit. But Barry’s request for Gene’s death is quickly shut down by Hank, who tells him, “I’ve been nothing but loving and good friend to you, and all you do is you take, and you take, and you take.” This may be a high-stakes crime story, but it’s also coming down to a friend breakup.
But the cliffhanger is what is likely to stick the most for the next week, as we itch for an answer to the episode-ending question of “Where the hell is Berkman?” Even without warning, Barry can easily spot a fellow hitman, especially one with the panicked demeanor of a podcaster-turned-killer (Fred Armisen, in the second shocking cameo of the episode). He interrupts a rundown from Agent James Curtis (an underused Dan Bakkedahl) about witness protection to point out the killer, who promptly blows his own finger off before he can get anywhere near his target. From there, everything happens fast: The second gunman, hidden in the ceiling, takes out all the remaining agents, but Barry manages to grab a gun and shoot him off his perch. The whole sequence leaves Barry alone and armed, freeing him to escape.
If this is already the end of Barry’s jail stay, it feels a tad rushed. But I’m as excited as ever to see what the next five episodes hold, especially because this latest turn leaves many possibilities open. Barry has serious beef with Hank now, and he’s even more furious with Gene, who continues to provide the only official record of their story. From Barry’s perspective, he already apologized for the ways he hurt Gene — killing his girlfriend, kidnapping him, threatening his family — yet Gene continues to ungratefully twist the story as he sees fit.
It’s not entirely wrong, of course. At first, Gene and his agent Tom (a returning Fred Melamed, always hilarious) try to cover up the meeting with Lon O’Neil, breaking into his house in the middle of the day to throw his hard drive in the pool. But when Jim confronts him about the meeting, Gene admits it himself: He exaggerated his story because of stage fever.
If there’s a character who’s on the periphery this week, it’s Sally, who has donned a pair of glasses and taken on an acting class to teach Gene’s techniques. At first, it seems like this is the perfect group of students for it: Most of them know that she’s the “entitled cunt girl,” but they agree it shouldn’t disqualify her from offering her wisdom. The way Sally spins it, they can use the same anger and ugliness she let loose in that elevator for their own performances. It can be good to get in touch with the “ugliest versions of ourselves.”
Sally seemingly proves her point with a classic Gene trick: viciously denigrating a student who’s half-assing it in order to push her into a passionate performance. Accurately pegging Kristen as an actress who booked a big job off her looks and charm despite her lack of acting ability, Sally totally eviscerates her: “You’re not an artist, just a perfect pair of tits.” Kristen understandably gets upset, but it lets her unlock something real that eluded her before. Still, the best moment of this scene is how it ends: with the class roundly rejecting Sally’s style, calling it out as abusive. “Just because it was done to you does not mean you need to do it to us,” one student says.
In a sense, Sally is carrying on a cycle of abuse by replicating some of the tasteless and brutal teaching methods Gene used on her. On a deeper level, though, that accusation from Sally’s student must make her think back to the two separate partners who abused her. Sally’s relationship with anger and violence is completely scrambled now; for years she understood herself as a survivor, which has blinded her to how much pain she inflicts on others. She’s starting to see that now, especially with a murder under her belt. That act of violence is easily justified by self-defense, but it was clear even then that some part of Sally wanted to do it.
As she and now Hank have shown us, anybody can be pushed into hurting someone else and perhaps even enjoy it. Maybe that’s what makes Barry so evil, even as he becomes more and more of a supporting character in his own series. It’s not just that he kills people; it’s that he ruins even the ones who survive. He’s a corrupting force, infecting everyone he sees with his black soul. And his victims aren’t just the Sallys and Genes and Jims. They’re people like Hank, who just wanted a friend, but instead got someone who only ever cared about himself.
• “I’ve had many cases like this, but I can’t talk about them.” “Because they’re classified?” “No. They’re really disturbing, and I just don’t like thinking about them.”
• The highlight of the del Toro scene is the conversation about Hank’s main grievance with Los Amigos Gadget: It’s a show that reviews quirky gadgets (like a jacket that cooks s’mores), but because it’s a podcast, you can’t see the actual gadgets. Toro takes it personally, pointing out that they include YouTube links to see the visuals.
• And the other funniest moment of the episode: Right after Gene tells Tom about his one-man show performance, Hader cuts to a wide shot of Tom crashing his car. The timing is what makes it perfect.
• Jim does make sure Lon won’t be speaking normally for a while, let alone reporting on Barry. Whatever he does to Lon in that garage, it leaves him dirty and traumatized and missing his phone, laptop, and ID. He can even speak German fluently now, a final joke that might be a little too absurd for the scene. But it’s fun to finally see Patrick Fischler really let loose.
• Okay, I always wondered if Batir was still alive, since he was basically the one Chechen buddy we didn’t see killed. But his arrival brings bad news: The new Chechen contingent moving in might finally force Hank to make a choice between his elders and Cristobal — a decision he barely managed to avoid last season.
• “Why don’t you enjoy hell, you murdering, self-centered, lying, fucking narcissistic piece of shit?”