‘Barry’ Season 4 Ending, Explained: Why Is John Happy With Barry’s Martyrdom?


Well, Barry has finally come to an end, and what an exhilarating, funny, gut-wrenching, and poetic journey it has been. So, before going into what happened in the final episode, how well it wraps up all the story arcs, and what that ending probably means, let us take a moment to applaud the team of the show. Everyone from Alec Berg to Elizabeth Sarnoff, the writers, the cinematographers, the editors, the set designers, the insanely talented cast, and of course, Bill Hader, have genuinely done a brilliant job. They’ve taken what sounded like a great elevator pitch (a hitman who wants to act) but felt too impractical to pull off and turned it into such a moving portrait about grief, guilt, religion, violence, and the attempt to recontextualize it all through art. Like every great show, Barry coming to an end will leave an insatiable void in the medium of episodic storytelling. But we can be thankful for the fact that the showrunners have been able to end it on their terms and have paved the way for the entire cast and crew’s bright future.

Spoilers Alert

The Lead Up To The Season Finale Of ‘Barry’

The first season of Barry was about him finding his purpose in life after living a life of violence, only to be drawn further into the muck. The second season saw Berkman trying to maintain this new reality that he had forged with blood and failing because Fuches’ lust for vengeance superseded Berkman’s urge to move on with life. The third season found Berkman in a completely broken state, unable to reckon with everything that he had done in his life and searching for some messed-up definition of redemption. And although in the fourth season, we hear Berkman talk about redemption again, his final lap is all about paying for his sins, metaphorically and literally.

Despite being the absolute scum of the earth, Fuches gave Barry the opportunity to walk out of jail as a free man who had served time for his crimes. Yes, you can say that Hank had similar intentions, as he wanted to give him true freedom too. But we’ve got to admit that Fuches’ idea was better. However, Barry’s weird obsession with having a family and living a conventional life—something that he had dreamed about since Season 1—practically pushed him and everyone around him down a path of utter suffering. It was both frustrating and sad to watch Sally go through what she did because of Barry. There wasn’t any love between them by the end. She never processed her trauma, and she latched on to the only person she thought was capable of understanding her. Instead of doing anything synonymous with that, Berkman turned her into a sentient flower vase who could be a mother to their child, John.

As someone who is against the idea of couples having or adopting kids despite being the most emotionally unstable individuals on the planet, John’s whole story broke me. Seeing Barry and Sally inflict their poor upbringings on a kid who didn’t consent to being born into this cruel and horrible world was quite triggering. But I am pretty sure that that was the whole point of his character, and the showrunners wanted to speak to all the parents in the world and ask them to introspect. They want to say that this society, where guns are sold alongside soft toys, religious extremism is considered the norm, and education is seen as an unnecessary facet of life because there aren’t any jobs, cannot be conducive for a child to grow up in, and yet here we are procreating and making things worse.

Then there’s Gene Cousineau, who might have been the worst of them all. The reason why I say that is because while everyone felt some kind of emotion at some point in their journeys, Gene probably didn’t feel anything. Of course, he expressed himself in various ways. But it always seemed like an act, as if he was always under the impression that he was being recorded by a camera. That’s the only way to explain his decision to use the death of the love of his life to gain popularity. The only thing that Gene Cousineau ever loved was the spotlight, and despite getting multiple chances to correct his outlook, he didn’t change. Hank’s love for Cristobal contrasted perfectly with Gene’s “love.” The way he reacted to Cristobal’s death (which involved both altering his reality and dedicating his life to Cristobal) showed that he felt remorse for seeking romance in his cruel line of work. It was doomed from the start, but kudos to him for trying.

Who Made It Through The Showdown Between Hank, Fuches, and Barry?

The final episode of Barry Season 4 (and the last episode of Barry in general) opens with Hanks telling Fuches that he is holding Sally and John hostage and that he wants him to come there so that he can put an end to Berkman. Hanks knows that Fuches hates Barry’s guts because Barry betrayed him in jail. Hank also knows that Fuches hates his guts because he tried to kill him for calling him a hypocrite. Hank hates Barry’s guts because he almost ratted him out to the FBI. Now, Hank calling Fuches can be seen as him choosing to live in Los Angeles with Fuches instead of Barry. But I think he was hoping that Barry, Fuches, and Fuches’ army were going to kill each other in a gunfight over Sally and John, and he was going to live happily ever after. That said, Hank shares a poignant moment with Sally as he perfectly describes what Barry means to the both of them, i.e., a last hope of getting out of one’s predicament.

Talking about Barry, the man goes back to the gun shop set in a convenience store, thereby creating this haunting image of the personification of violence walking by a mother giving a plush unicorn toy to her daughter. That visual screams and asks Americans why they feel that that’s normal. Jumping from a violent individual to someone who is being accused of violence that he hasn’t committed, we see the D.A. and Jim Moss making a public announcement that Gene Cousineau is responsible for Janice Moss’ death. They are under the impression that Gene was in cahoots with The Raven (Fuches) and the Chechen mob, and he used Barry to kill Janice because she had unearthed that connection. This turn of events seems like what Gene deserves. All this time, he has been able to turn any kind of media attention into a money-making venture. However, since something like this can’t be whitewashed even by him, he’s finished. That said, the D.A. and Jim jumping to such a stupid conclusion sounds like a commentary on the justice and law enforcement systems and the levels of ineptitude they’re capable of crossing.

This is followed by three tear-jerking moments of acceptance. The first one comes from Sally, as she finally opens up about the fact that she has distanced herself from John all this time because her guilt is eating her up from the inside out. She echoes what I said earlier in the article regarding John being an innocent soul who has been pushed into hell for no reason. The second one comes from Fuches, who admits that he has become The Raven after accepting the fact that he wasted too much time pretending to be Barry’s mentor. Why does he say that? It’s because he wants Hank to do the same and put an end to the constant cycle of denial that he’s in. And Hank does come close to acknowledging that he is essentially Cristobal’s killer. However, as soon as John comes into the picture and Fuches starts to see a little Barry in John, the tone of the confession changes and devolves into a full-on shootout. When the smoke clears, we see that Fuches has protected John with his body, and, apart from the two of them and Sally, everyone is dead or on the brink of dying. We get a painterly image of a dead Hank in front of Cristobal’s bronze statue, which is morbid and beautiful.

Fuches delivers John to Barry, who was prepared to go in guns blazing, and then disappears into the dark. I think Fuches is gravely injured and is about to die. He has just performed his last duties as a father figure to Barry because that’s his true nature, and he probably doesn’t want Barry to see him suffer anymore. Speaking of suffering, throughout this whole ordeal, nobody even cares about Sally. She luckily survives the shootout and then keeps calling out for John and Barry. But we never see anyone coming to get her out of there or help her process what she has just witnessed. And although Sally had realized what she had to do next, the one-two punch of no one caring for her and Barry refusing to admit that he’s a murderer motivated her to go on the run with John. Barry assumes that Sally has gone to Gene, but the only thing waiting for him is his death because Gene is under the impression that Barry is the orchestrator of the deaths of his professional career and his personal life. And in typical Barry fashion, Berkman gets shot in the head, with his last words being, “Oh wow.” That’s followed up by yet another painterly image of Cousineau sitting in front of a deceased Barry while Tom Posorro calls for an ambulance.

Why Is John Happy With Barry’s Martyrdom?

The fourth season of Barry had a time jump of eight years to showcase Berkman and Sally’s transition into a Bible-thumping, conservative family. After Berkman’s death, I am assuming that there’s a time jump of around eight to ten years because Zachary Gollinger (who plays the young John) is around 12 years old, and Jaeden Martell (who plays the older John) is 20. By the way, that’s such great casting because Martell does look like Bill Hader and Sarah Goldberg’s son. John is seen attending a theater play arranged by Sally. She has apparently become the acting teacher at the school where John studies. She has developed an aversion to men because she rejects an invitation to go on a date with the AP history teacher. It makes sense. She has been through the worst because of men, and it’s probably a good decision for her to avoid that particular gender for the rest of her life.

That said, I’m not sure Sally has even an ounce of empathy left inside her because of the way she treats John. It’s not shown very explicitly, but the way she doesn’t respond to John saying that he loves her and how she’s only concerned about what he thinks about her play makes me think that she has become a version of Gene. And I’m afraid that Sally and John’s arc is going to mimic that of Gene and Leo’s. It can turn out to be worse because at the end of Barry Season 4, we see John watching the Barry-Gene biopic, titled The Mask Collector, which follows the narrative of Barry being a martyr and Gene being a criminal mastermind. I’m sure I’m saying this for the umpteenth time, but it’s heartbreaking to see someone as good as John spend such an impressionable period of his time watching a literal villain be painted as the victim of a nefarious conspiracy. However, there’s a dark sense of humor coursing through it all because, in this biopic, Gene is British, and Barry is being played by Jim Cummings, of all people!

What’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life is that John seems to be happy to see his father immortalized as a righteous individual, while his mother ignores him and lets him idolize Barry. She apparently doesn’t want her son’s love because she’s happy with the empty accolades and applause she’s receiving from total strangers. Coming from Bill Hader, who has been in the industry for such a long time, it sounds like an appeal to artists to ground themselves in reality instead of having their heads in the clouds due to fame and exposure. Maybe he’s reminding himself that he shouldn’t become someone who is too full of himself because of the praise he’s getting for Barry. Or maybe all four seasons of this darkly humorous show have been all about telling people to take better care of their kids. If we don’t do that, then this toxic cycle of patriarchy, violence, war, and hatred is never going to end, and society is going to implode in front of our very eyes. Anyway, those are just my opinions on Barry, a show that I’ll be extremely thankful for. Please watch the entire series, relish it, and keep an eye on the horizon for what Bill Hader and co. have in store for us next.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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