Barry Season 3, Episode 3 Recap & Review: Reckoning Ascendant
Title: “ben mendelsohn”
Air date: May 8, 2022
The short of it: The initial burst of chaos from the opening two episodes settles into a quiet reckoning where faces old and new turn on Barry.
At the end of my review last week, I floated the question of whether or not Barry was now the villain of his own story. Episode three may not answer that question directly, but it takes pains to circle the plot wagons in a way that points us towards Barry’s possible reckoning. If season three so far has been focused on expanding our collective understanding of how characters around Barry are impacted by his increasingly deranged decisions, “ben mendelsohn” steps from consideration to preparation. The result is an episode significantly less fixated on plot than previous season entries. This week, narrative maneuvering and bombast have ceded space to quieter calculation and the promise of explosions, literal and metaphorical, to come.
Up to “ben mendelsohn,” Hank and Barry’s respective storylines have remained broadly detached. That changed this week. However, before delving into the specifics, I have to right a wrong. I have not dedicated column inches to how obsessed I am with Hank and Cristobal’s Shakespearean romance. As lieutenants from warring crime families, Hank and Cristobal began their engagement as enemies, grew into friends, and started this season living together in bliss. The arrival of Cristobal’s boss in “limonada” set off a sequence of events that forced Hank and Cristobal to resort to hushed communications in order to avoid a massacre. It may just be the fact that I want a whole rom-com spin-off dedicated to Hank and Cristobal [call me HBO, I have a pilot idea], but while I understand the plot need to separate them I so miss their on-screen spark.
This brings us up to “ben mendelsohn” where Cristobal has successfully convinced his family to return to Bolivia without murdering Hank and his men. What he doesn’t know though is that Hank’s men, enraged by the Bolivian’s attack on their heroin-fronting-garden store, have bought a “bomb off the dark web.” No matter Hank’s attempts at diffusion, the Chechnians are dead-set on delivering the bomb to Cristobal’s front stoop. With options running out, Hank launches his first Hail Mary. Is that Monroe Fuches’ music?! Yes, yes it is. Hank calls Fuches, ready to “bring him back” to the states from his extended sojourn in the remote Chechnian hills. Surprising everyone, Fuches has taken to the goats and the quiet, going so far as to call it his “slice of heaven.” Yet, Hank’s promise that Barry isn’t even thinking of Fuches borrows in and starts festering. More on that shortly.
With the first big swing nothing but a whiff [embracing the sports metaphors this week], and rolling with one of his men’s note that they need someone “crazy,” Hank calls Barry about placing the bomb. Unfortunately for Hank, Barry is riding high in contrast to the last time they spoke when our twisted frontman was unshaven, bedraggled, and just sad. Barry is about to day-play on a major show, and is beaming with joy that he’s succeeded in getting Gene on in a bit part. From where Barry sits, everything’s breaking his way, and he turns Hank down flatly. Any interest in desperate jobs dissipated. Yet, in keeping with Barry’s consistent incapability to accurately map out where his life is going, he has overlooked a vital vulnerability. His spurned father figures, Fuches and Gene, are both out to watch his blood flow.
For the former, this manifests when he calls Barry directly after telling Hank he wants to stay in Chechnia. The goal is clear: he wants to hear Barry apologize for everything Fuches feels has gone wrong. Fuches, hilariously, goes as far to lie and say he’s “in the hospital” while Barry can clearly hear goats going off in the background. Barry’s refusal to apologize, and his generally dismissive attitude towards Fuches because of his belief that “things are good” between him and Gene (stand by for more) enrages Fuches. Before the call, Fuches was a non-issue. An effectively retired operative who Barry had zero need to worry about. Barry’s antisocial penchant for masterfully misreading those around him weaponizes his former mentor and friend. By the closing moments of “ben mendelsohn,” Fuches has but one fixation; “vengeance.”
Running parallel is Barry’s relationship with Gene, a once beautiful dynamic now gone septic [we’re moving to health metaphors, easier to track]. Barry believes that between getting Gene a part and threatening his family, the man will move on and things will go back to some sort of normal. Continuing his streak as acting MVP this season, Henry Winkler rips Barry apart. In a petrifying exchange, Gene asks Barry “if she suffered,” and the two have a frank conversation about Janet’s death. Every word Winkler speaks and every brutal answer Hader gives, the potent twilight of a man’s morality settles in his eyes. That path reaches the zenith when the two are in their scene, and Gene is supposed to deliver a line about forgiving Barry’s character. He, surprising no one but Barry, does not. Instead, he slaps him, shouts at him, and storms off set.
And so, a cowed and spiraling Barry calls Hank back, agreeing to do the job. His little dream of using acting and fear to stop Gene has gone terminal. Life support well ready to be pulled. Barry has succeeded in setting both his most substantial stand-in father figures on a path to destroy him, and in response has chosen to once again embrace his darkest side by planting a bomb. It’s his Paul Vitti-approved version of hitting a pillow when he’s mad. It also suggests that the coming episodes will feature more of the unhinged Barry we met in the season premiere, something that turns the blood cold when you consider the smallest plotline of the episode.
After a standout episode last week, Sarah Goldberg’s Sally is relegated mostly to satirical relief in the form of going through a hellishly brisk press junket. The storyline is underbaked, and a major weak point in an otherwise strong episode. What it does provide though is further time with Elsie Fisher’s Katie. After witnessing Barry’s outburst in the writer’s room, Katie has held onto the concern that Barry might “do something” to Sally. I’ve wondered so far how Fisher, who gave one of the century’s best performances in Eighth Grade (2018), would factor into the season. This episode sets Katie up on a collision course with Barry, underscored by the otherwise throwaway line about Katie riding with Sally and Barry to the Joplin premiere. Lined up with the Gene and Fuches of it all, there are both back-alley and industry takedowns in the wings. Barry’s reckoning may just be nigh.
Before we let you go, we have officially launched our merch store! Check out all of our amazing apparel when you click here and type in GVN15 at checkout for a 15% discount!
Make sure to check out our podcasts each week including Geek Vibes Live, Top 10 with Tia, Wrestling Geeks Alliance and more! For major deals and money off on Amazon, make sure to use our affiliate link!
Devin McGrath-Conwell holds a B.A. in Film / English from Middlebury College and is currently pursuing an MFA in Screenwriting from Emerson College. His obsessions include all things horror, David Lynch, the darkest of satires, and Billy Joel. Devin’s writing has also appeared in publications such as Filmhounds Magazine, Film Cred, Horror Homeroom, and Cinema Scholars.