‘Barry’ Season 2 Recap: The Refresher You Need Before Season 3

Bill Hader’s assassin-turned-aspiring actor returns to HBO on April 24

barry season 2 bill hader
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Warning: Major spoilers ahead for “Barry” Seasons 1 and 2

We last saw Barry Berkman (or Block, depending on who you ask) in the midst of a rage blackout, gunning down criminals in pursuit of the man who betrayed his most terrible secret.

If the details are a little hazy, that might be because it’s been three years since the Emmy-winning series “Barry” was on air. Co-created by Alec Berg and Bill Hader – who also wrote and directed several episodes – the dramedy chronicles the life of Barry (Hader), a depressed veteran and hitman who discovers a passion for acting when he takes a class to get eyes on his latest mark. But extricating himself from the criminal world is harder than he realized, and the deeper he gets invested in his new life, the more complicated burying his past becomes.

Season 2 took place in the aftermath of the murder of Detective Janice Moss (Paula Newsome), who also happened to be the girlfriend of Barry’s acting teacher and mentor Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler). Barry was forced to kill her when she pieced together that he assassinated Ryan Madison (Tyler Jacob Moore), the actor he was hired to kill in Season 1. Barry’s attempts to tie up loose ends with his crime handler Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root) and Chechen mob boss NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) only lead to more unfinished business. It also becomes more difficult to keep his double lives separate due to his relationships with Gene and aspiring actress Sally (Sarah Goldberg). All the while, the police are circling in and the bodies piling up. 

Just like Barry himself, Season 3 lurks just around the corner. For those planning to watch the season premiere on April 24, here’s a quick refresher on last season’s events.

Fuches Flip-Flops

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Fuches makes a living arranging hit jobs for Barry, so he’ll do whatever it takes to keep him working, even against Barry’s wishes. But after Barry saves him from the Chechens near the end of Season 1, he doesn’t have much ammunition. His first attempt to replace Barry ends in catastrophe when the police gun down his new assassin. While being interrogated at the police station, Fuches plays innocent – but the DNA he leaves on a soda can matches a tooth found at the garage where the Chechens were holding him hostage. When Detective Loach (John Pirruccello) learns that Fuches is from Cleveland – just like Barry – he starts to put two and two together. His partner Janice Moss is missing, and she’s the one who had theorized that Barry might have been the one who murdered acting student Ryan Madison.

Fooled not by Fuches’ weak cover story, Loach makes him a deal: immunity from the whole Chechen mess in exchange for helping him catch Barry. In Episode 2, Fuches ambushes Barry at home while wearing a wire and tries to get him to confess to murdering Janice. Barry instantly senses that Fuches is acting shifty, and tells him to stop contacting him, putting Fuches and Loach back to square one.

A Criminal Love Triangle

Thanks to Barry killing Goran (Glenn Fleshler) in Season 1, NoHo Hank is the new head of the Chechen crime family. His bromance with Colombian mob boss Cristobal (Michael Irby) is going swimmingly – until Esther (Patricia Fa’asua) comes along. The head of the Burmese crime family is tough competition: not only can she drive a knife through her hand without flinching, but she also commands an army of equally skilled criminals and a monastery fit for sneaking drugs into the country. To his dismay, Hank is forced to work with her.

Then, a glimmer of hope arrives in the form of a special bullet from the Chechens. The bosses back home think the Bolivians killed Goran and that Hank is now working with them. Hank sees an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, by shooting Esther with the bullet and pinning Goran’s murder on her. All he needs now is a hitman, AKA Barry, the guy who actually killed Goran.

Barry has no interest in helping Hank with his ridiculous plan (how is he supposed to retrieve the bullet after shooting Esther with it?) but he has no choice. Not only did Hank warn him before Goran tried to kill him; he also knows that Barry killed Goran, and could easily take that information to the Chechens. Barry begrudgingly agrees.

The Show Must Go On

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At the top of the season, a despondent Gene announces that he is shutting down the acting class. Barry gets him to change his mind by telling the story of the first time he killed someone in Afghanistan. Inspired, Gene instructs the class to write and perform a short piece that captures their “truth.” Barry does not want to tell his Marine story, as it’s later revealed that the killing was actually a happy moment for him, and he doesn’t want to lie. At first, Gene agrees to let him change the story to the first time they met, but then goes back to insisting he perform the Afghanistan piece.

Esther’s Reign Continues

At Burmese headquarters, Barry is about to pull the trigger on Esther. Suddenly, he has a flashback to being a sniper in Afghanistan, followed by a flashback of Sally saying she’d never again be with a violent man. He finds himself unable to go through with the job.

On his way out, the Burmese family tries to shoot him down and he crashes his car.

Writer’s Block

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Barry pays the price for the botched Esther job when he and Sally are working side by side on their performance pieces. Unbeknownst to Sally, several bullets whiz past him into the wall. He follows the sniper up onto the roof to find Hank and one of his men, who he shoots in the shoulder. Hank tells Barry to just kill him so he doesn’t have to go back to Chechnya, but Barry can’t do it. He offers instead to train Hank’s lackluster soldiers so that they can kill Esther themselves, clearing Barry’s debt to Hank. To Hank’s delight, Barry slowly begins training his men.

Around this time, Barry learns that Sally had an abusive ex named Sam (Joe Massingill). She wants her performance piece to revolve around the night she stood up for herself and finally left him, but her friend remembers the story differently. In reality, she helped Sally sneak her things out of their home in the middle of the night without confronting him.

At the acting class, Barry is dismayed that Sally and Gene want him to play Sam. They try to push him to get into character, but Barry storms out of the room. Outside, who should they run into but Sam himself! 

Confession Time

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Sam takes Sally and Barry out to dinner, where the former couple plays nice with each other and Barry struggles to contain his rage. Afterwards, Sally confesses the truth about how their relationship ended.

Back in rehearsal, Barry spies Sam watching Sally practice and chases him out. His rage intensifies when Sam insults Sally before driving off. But Sally is unaware of all this, and agrees to meet Sam at his hotel so he can give her a “gift” before he leaves town. After buttering her up with flattery, Sam flips out about Sally’s piece and tries to bully her into not performing it. On her way out, Sally is almost accidentally shot by Barry, who has come to the hotel to kill Sam.

Wallowing in self-hatred, Barry seeks comfort from Gene. He confesses to him what actually happened in Afghanistan, which is that he killed an innocent civilian whom he mistook for the man who shot his fellow soldier, and was honorably discharged after his superiors called in a favor. While Gene advises Barry to keep this to himself, he also tells him that this one terrible moment doesn’t define him. Barry feels renewed with hope. Overjoyed, he heads to Fuches’ hotel to share the good news. (Earlier, they had reconciled when he had gone to Fuches for advice about the performance piece). Fuches, still wearing a wire, tries to get Barry to shut up. He doesn’t succeed, and Barry confesses to murdering Janice.

It seems like it’s all over when Detective Loach storms in – until he makes a surprising offer. If Barry assassinates Ronny Proxin (Daniel Bernhardt), the man Loach’s wife left him for, then Barry’s name will be cleared.

The Karate Kid

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Barry spends most of Episode 5 fighting Ronnie Proxin and his feral daughter Lily (Jessie Giacomazzi). Not wanting to kill him, Barry offers to leave Ronnie alone if he skips town for a year or two. At first, Ronnie seems to agree, but then he uses his martial arts skills to fight back against Barry. His daughter Lily is just as skilled, and considerably more unhinged. She stabs Barry a few times, and Fuches drives Barry to get stitching materials at a drugstore. There, he runs into Ronnie. The police end up shooting Ronnie, but not before he kills Loach. Barry narrowly escapes, and realizes that he’s never going to get away from Fuches as long as they remain on good terms. 

Plans Hatched…

It seems like Barry and Fuches are right back where they started, as Barry tells him that he wants out once and for all. This time, Fuches isn’t going to let him get away. Now that he knows Barry killed Janice, he can wield that information against him. Fuches then does some detective work near Gene’s cabin, looking for concrete evidence of Barry’s crime. He stumbles upon Janice’s car, where her body is stashed inside the trunk.

Meanwhile, Barry finishes training the Chechens and Hank gives him a pin that says “The debt has been repaid” in Russian. With Gene’s blessing, he helps Sally rewrite her scene to reflect what actually happened, and he taps into his war experiences to get into character as Sam.

…And Foiled

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Nobody’s plans go accordingly. One of Hank’s men sells him out to Cristobal and Esther, and they throw him and his men onto a bus doused in gasoline. The most skilled of the Chechens, Mayrbek (Nikita Bogolyubov) helps them escape, and replaces Hank as the de facto leader of the mob. 

Sally, who has been frustrated with her slow-moving acting career, finally gets an audition for a leading role. However, when she learns that the show is more or less a revenge porn, she turns it down. Her envy and frustration balloon when Barry is offered to read for a lead role with a director.

Right before Barry’s audition, he gets a call from Gene. Fuches, posing as a private investigator, has come to him promising new information about Janice. Barry races over to the cabin to try to stop Fuches, but it’s too late. He leads Gene to Janice’ car and uses Gene’s phone to call the cops out of his earshot. Pretending to be Gene, Fuches confesses to murdering Janice and threatens suicide. He’s about to shoot Gene when he hears sirens and flees the scene.

The Final Showdown

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The police take Gene into custody and question Barry about how he arrived at the scene so quickly. Barry says he just followed the sound of sobbing, which only cements Gene as the primary suspect. 

The Chechens inform Hank that they’re sending someone to replace him. Barry refuses his plea for help. Fuches provides a solution by telling Hank he needs an army; in exchange, he brokers a peaceful reunion between Hank and Cristobal. Needless to say, Esther is not happy about this.

It’s the night of the acting class’ showcase, and chaos abounds: Sally is flipping out and Gene, under arrest for Janice’s murder, is nowhere to be found. Barry is on the brink of losing his mind. During the scene with Sally, she improvises and he walks off. To Sally’s shock, her performance is extremely well-received. 

Out of nowhere, Gene is cleared of the murder. It turns out that Barry planted the Chechen pin he got from Hank at the crime scene, and the police bought it. Then, Barry gets a text from Hank: Fuches has shown up at the warehouse.

Hell hath no fury like a Barry scorned, and the hitman proves it by shooting Esther and everyone else standing in his path to Fuches. In his dissociative state, he shoots Mayrbek, who unwittingly helped Fuches hide. Barry snaps out of it and finds that Fuches has escaped.

The final episode ends by circling back to two events from earlier in the season. A Chechen boss finds that Esther was killed with the special bullet, meaning that Barry repaid the debt to Hank after all, and that Hank is absolved of blame for Goran’s death. In the final scene, Gene wakes up in the middle of the night, remembering what Fuches whispered to him while standing over Janice’s body: “Barry Berkman did this.”

“Barry” Season 3 airs Sundays on HBO and HBO Max, starting April 24.