‘Barry’s’ tense finale reignites the ‘Is this really a comedy?’ debate


The following contains spoilers about the “Barry” season finale.

(CNN)Let the “Barry” debate begin again, as the show’s dazzling, cliffhanging and violent third-season finale seemed poised to trigger the inevitable argument: Is star producer Bill Hader’s show really a comedy?

For Emmy classification purposes, that ship has sailed, with “Barry” having earned awards in the past for Hader and Henry Winkler as the title character’s acting coach, Gene Cousineau. But the twisty and fairly shocking finish — which included a brutal fight and the shootout from hell — should only stoke the questions about whether this HBO series basically defies simple classification. (Like CNN, HBO is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.)

The finale featured Barry’s girlfriend, Sally (Sarah Goldberg), saving herself from a brutal attack, stabbing her attacker before pounding him to death. The aftermath forced a stunned Barry to intervene (he wasn’t much help during the battle) in order to dispose of the body, telling her he was responsible, not her.

    That segued to NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan), who escaped from a wild scene in which he was held in a dungeon before being reunited with his boyfriend, who was being subjected to shock therapy and torture.

      The closing twists came fast and furiously, with Sally boarding a plane for Missouri and Barry appearing at first to escape justice yet again, before law enforcement finally closed in on him, in what appeared to be a trap sprung with Cousineau’s help. That followed a riveting exchange between Cousineau and the father of his late girlfriend, Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom), which underscored just how visceral the show can be.

        Directed by Hader (who co-wrote the episode with series co-creator Alec Berg), the “Barry” finale captured everything that has made the show one of the most buzzworthy on TV, and how it occupies a niche where the “comedy” label has at least as much to do with the 30-minute length of the episodes as the content.

          By concluding with Barry in custody, the season finale seemingly closed certain doors regarding where the series goes — and how long it might reasonably run — while throwing open some others.

            “Barry” also served notice, if there were any lingering doubt, that this season would be back in the awards conversation in a big way. And if that means further discussion and even grumbling as to whether a series this dark and edgy is somewhat out of place among more conventional comedies, unlike most of the challenges that the protagonist faced throughout this season, consider that a high-class problem.