“Barry” isn’t a comedy anymore. But it turned out to be a better show.

This article contains spoilers through an epilogue Barry season 3.

The First Murder Sunday Night The devastating finale of Season 3 of Barry, the HBO series about a lukewarm killer, happens silently. Barry (played by Bill Hader) watches in horror from outside a makeshift sound stage as Sally (Sarah Goldberg), his former acting classmate and ex-girlfriend, ravings about the man trying to strangle her after she gets in the way of his attempt to kill Barry. It’s an impressive sight, one that clearly highlights how much Barry failed to protect those around him – not from outside threats but from the massacre perpetrated by Barry himself.

For black comedy, this scene is also remarkably devoid of anything like jokes. the first show two seasons He finds a consistent sense of humor in juxtaposing Barry’s miserable life as a low-rent hitman with the camp acting classes he stumbles upon on his assignment. Although Barry didn’t take the murder lightly, per se, the show drew a lot of comedy out of the set surrounding its sullen protagonist, with Barry straining to pantomime the sun around him. But season three saw a stark shift toward the show’s darker motives, as well as a move away from relying on Barry to be his emotional center. He brought about this transformation Barry A better show—and a more suspenseful one than if it stuck to the vanity of a hitman.

Hader Barry has always embodied the paradoxes of the phrase black comedy: It turns wood and turns into exhausting exertion, dizzy and serious. In seasons 1 and 2, his attempts to adapt to gritty millennium plays show Hader’s impressively resilient and sturdy face. Likewise, his dealings with the Chechen mob and his former fellow Marines, one of whom merrily watches pornography on his living room TV, are in full view of visitors. Meanwhile, Barry could be eerily empty, the cold and manipulative executioner we’re just beginning to understand in his full capacity for violence.

But as the show progresses, this emptiness can sometimes seem so prominent that it leaves little room for the inner lives of the other characters. In the first two seasons, Sally, his co-star turned girlfriend, mostly embodied the silly, self-absorbed Hollywood culture that at first seemed very foreign to Barry. NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) was the show’s most reliable comedian as a devious Chechen crime leader. Barry’s former acting mentor, Gene Cousino (Henry Winkler), started the series as an unfamiliar coach making up for his faltering career.

In season three, the show sheds light on the lives of these supporting characters – and the pain they feel in their relationships with Barry -. By doubling down on the protagonist’s corruption and stripping him of any boyish, charming shell, the series stops searching for the vulnerability under his facade and commits to focusing on the dangerousness of Barry. It’s his strongest season yet to star in Hader, who veers between lupine frenzy and existential hibernation. But it also takes an extraordinary risk: it makes us stop sympathizing with the protagonist altogether. By the time a victim’s widow attempts to poison Barry, it’s hard not to wish she had succeeded (only because it could lead to the first death documented by Begnett).

Barry’s steep decline not only makes him incapable of redemption. It also seeps into the lives of all the people closest to them and all their loved ones. The show wisely deepens the story lines of its supporting characters, all of whom suffer the consequences of Barry’s violence – or his empowerment.

Sally starts the season on high: Joplin, the series it created and stars in, has garnered rave reviews (“We got 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes!” I cried in disbelief at the show’s premiere). But as her career prospects dwindle, her lack of self-awareness turns into something more sinister and complex. young actor in Joplin Barry witnesses verbally attacking Sally and expressing concern to Sally on the night of the premiere. Sally stood outside the gilded space and broke up with Barry. Since then, the series shows the lingering effect of Barry’s anger and revenge on Sally’s life. She herself is slowly getting comfortable with the violence as the season progresses, whether it’s against people in the industry she thinks they got wrong or more than she deserves. In the end, she descends into an almost Lady Macbeth-like whirlpool that culminates in her fleeing Los Angeles after brutally killing the man who tried to strangle her to death. It feels like a response to an abuse scene in which Sally acted in class with Barry back in season one, but her former impotence has been replaced with a new focus and agency.

Meanwhile, Season 3 finds NoHo Hank in the midst of a powerful and compelling romance. In one of the season’s first reminders that violence is spreading far beyond its intended targets, a bomb nearly kills NoHo’s lover, his former rival in the Bolivian gang, Cristobal Cifuentes (Michael Erbe), along with the targets he hired Hank Barry to kill. When NoHo sees the condition Cristobal is in, he panics and then immediately pulls him into a protective embrace. His relationship with Cristobal is sweet and funny – they’ve been saved as “Luke” and “Lorelai” in each other’s phone – but it’s also treated with real cuteness.

Then there’s Gene, who leads his arc for most of season three. At one point, Barry’s obsession threatens Jane and his family. Immediately afterwards, Barry confesses his love for Jane and insists that Jane do the same, the still fresh promise of violence hanging in the air. The close-up on Winkler’s face at this moment is heartbreaking; His fear filled the frame. By the end of the season, it’s clear that forgiving Jane is what Barry wants more than anything, and Jane eventually refuses to give it to him. In a pivotal moment at the end, Winkler, seen again up close, manages to telegraph not only his fear but Barry’s betrayal as well. Here, Jin is the one with the power – and he carries the show emotionally. It’s a profound reflection on a season that focuses less on spotlighting the protagonist than on exploring, with careful attention, the impact of his brutality on those around him.