Barry’s Ronny/Lily Episode is Exceptional
Spoilers for Barry Season 2 below. HBO’s Barry, led by SNL alumnus Bill Hader, burst onto the television sphere last year to critical acclaim. It follows Barry, played by Hader, as a lonely hitman who stumbles across an acting class, helmed by Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) with a killing mission, only to end up discovering a passion for acting. Its sophomore season brought even more to the table, adding depth to its layered and troubled set of characters by way of their past. Ronny/lily, the fifth episode of the second season explores the relationship between Barry and Fuches (Stephen Root), who groomed Barry into a hitman following his overseas deployment with the Marines. Barry is ordered to do a hit, but unbeknownst to him, the man in question is Ronny (Daniel Bernhardt), a taekwondo master. Their encounter sets in motion an array of bizarre events. It’s particularly interesting because of the way Hader, who writes and directs, goes about shaping this narrative. We often hear that television is in its second golden age, and episodes like ronny/lily only help to cement that notion. By breaking out of the show’s usual mould and reinventing itself, the episode becomes truly cinematic and profound. It’s unusual because it generously spends time establishing shots and setting its mood, even though it knows it only has half an hour to tell its story. Atlanta’s Teddy Perkins episode also follows similar practice and is worth exploring.
An awkward spate arises when Barry decides to spare his victim Ronny and relaxes into the idea that he should escape with himself and Fuches. Naturally, Barry’s would-be victim isn’t too thrilled by the idea and remembering he is a taekwondo champion, knocks Barry to the ground. All of this takes place in the bedroom of his home which is wired to incrementally fall apart as the struggle goes on. The fight choreography is precise, and the crew knows it, slowly panning across the combat. Barry has a good shot, but isn’t the greatest hitman, and although there are jokes, the show doesn’t glamourise the job. He pursues with anger and spite. Despite being lanky and clumsy, a punch to the throat seals the deal and the taekwondo master is out. His daughter (Jessie Giacomazzi), who has seemingly superhuman endurance arrives home and, in her ailed father's honour, attacks Barry with a knife. She runs away, but not without somersaulting over her neighbour’s fence to escape. Wounded and falling out of consciousness, we fall into a dream sequence where we see an elusive reminiscence of Barry’s arrival home from war. Waiting for him is Fuches. He beckons for him across an expansive desert.
Barry wakes up to a very real and screaming Fuches who wants him to put an end to their child nemesis. He disagrees, saying he won’t kill a child. Time passes and their attempts are still unsuccessful. They find themselves in the parking lot of a vividly lit supermarket. A seemingly invincible Ronny, who is in fact also very much alive is shopping for, I guess, medication. Following more fighting, Barry escapes the growing police presence. Waiting for him outside is Fuches, beckoning with a glance for a partner in crime. A snap. Barry is being berated to get in the car… Hader and the crew of Barry have delivered a brilliant episode. They have covered several of the show’s established themes but have given each apt space to breath. Like the show as a whole, it fittingly juggles comedy and drama. We laugh at Barry’s pathetic hitman skills but pity his circumstances. It paints a portrait of how citizens treat their veterans and addresses the cycle of violence in our culture. Amongst this, we also see a demonic child bite Fuches face, strikes to the jugular and stitching via use of super glue. At its heart, ronny/lily is an overarching portrayal of the ‘friendship’ between Fuches and Barry. It speaks to a brutal discovery of character; the idea that the people with whom you are close, might do more harm than good.