Throughout season one of HBO’s Barry, Sarah Goldberg’s character, Sally, is set up as the love interest to Bill Hader’s hitman-wannabe-actor, Barry. In season two, she becomes much more than this, as her history with domestic violence is explored. Bill Hader and Alex Berg usually are responsible for writing and directing the show; however, in this episode, they step back to allow for a female voice, Liza Johnson. Johnson at the helm of this episode gives a different perspective on violence towards women and its aftermath.
In an effort to access her vulnerability, Sally seeks to perform a piece about her abusive relationship, reenacting the night she left her violent ex-husband, Sam. In the piece, she writes about confronting Sam before leaving him. In reality, she left in the middle of the night with a friend, without saying a word.
Sally views her past and present actions as weak. She expresses her distaste for playing weak women as an actress because she sees herself as a weak woman. Barry practices something similar. He wants to be an actor to escape the reality of his violent nature.
The episode begins with Sam coming back into Sally’s life unannounced. Much to the surprise and confusion of Barry, she invites Sam to dinner. While clearly shaken, throughout the dinner she is polite, and kindly thanks Sam for picking up the check.
Barry is cold and cutting with Sam in this scene and the irony of this interaction is hard to avoid. Barry is indignant towards Sam because of his violent behavior towards Sally; however, Barry is a killer, who later in the episode goes after Sam with murderous intent. This episode shines a light on both the victims of violence and those who perpetrate it. Johnson shows this relationship by cross cutting between Barry’s pursuit of Sam and Sam’s explosive reaction to Sally’s defiance at his hotel.
Barry plays with the question of redemption all season. In this episode, Johnson highlights audience hypocrisy towards the idea. By juxtaposing Barry with Sam in this episode, it draws attention to what we see as acceptable violence, what we view as inherently evil, and where that intersects.