This article contains spoilers through Season 1 of Barry.
How can the central character in Barry, played by Bill Hader with rubberized expressivity and mournful longing, be evil? He’s a gentle, attentive boyfriend. A reliable friend. He agonizes over questions of morality. He works part-time at Lululemon, the ne plus ultra of basic side hustles. Even his name is virtually the most banal, nondescript moniker you could summon. The joke of the HBO series is encapsulated in its title—someone named Barry should be a bowling-league president or a Comcast installation expert, not a stone-cold assassin.
And yet. “Am I evil?” Barry asks Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan) in the second episode of Barry’s sophomore season, which debuted on Sunday. “Am I, like, an evil person?”
“Oh my God, I mean absolutely,” Hank replies, brimming over with enthusiasm and affirmation. “Do I not tell you that enough?”
The first season of Barry, a spectacular dark comedy created by Hader and Alec Berg, was focused mostly on a single, specific question: Can someone who has murdered many, many people decide to turn over a new leaf? Is a person as essentially sympathetic as Barry, with his aching loneliness and yearning for community, a Ferdinand the Bull in hit-man form, doomed by his past or capable of redemption? But at the end of the first season (spoilers ahead), Barry made a decision that tilted the balance irrevocably. Confronted with the knowledge that his mentor’s girlfriend, Janice, a detective investigating several murders, had pieced together that Barry was responsible for them, Barry killed her. Then he got back into bed with his girlfriend, Sally (Sarah Goldberg), and hit the reset button on his conscience, again. “Starting now,” he whispered.