A dark comedy about a former war veteran turned assassin for hire finding a new calling in theatre acting.
That premise alone makes a person laugh. The idea sounds ridiculous but it compels the mind to wonder all the dark things that may arise from it. And Season 1 in this regard strikes true. It has a healthy balance of assassinations that make you laugh like a fart at a funeral, and acting scenes that make you cringe like…well acting scenes might.
While the story in itself is not very exciting, the characters are a great study in themselves. From Barry (Bill Hader) who after countless murders is questioning his place in life, his morality, and the possibility of redemption; to NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) who is more suited to hotel management than running the Chechen Mafia. Even the acting coach, Gene Cousineau (Henry Wrinkler), a parody of burnt out actors who have become acting coaches, often serves as an insightful and sincere mentor, rounding out what would otherwise have been a two note character.
Thus, what on the surface looks like a simple parody of acting classes in LA, actors, and to some extent even mafia culture (is that what it’s called? Mafia culture?); soon reveals a deeper exploration of issues, including PTSD and abuse.
Season 2 of the show is definitely darker with fewer laughs as it delves deep into Barry and Sally’s (Sarah Goldberg) individual pasts. However, by bringing this depth, the show opens itself up to bigger plots and the laughs that it does deliver (eventually) feel more real.
Its shortcomings include Sally’s character who despite her complexity, often feels exasperatingly selfish. Her indecisiveness, while genuine, gets tedious at times though this could just be my impatience with indecisiveness in general.
The show also fails to set up stakes early enough in the plot, affecting the overall pacing of the seasons. Lastly, the show beats around the same issue too often. While Barry’s morality is interesting, his wants and needs stay the same making him seem like a cat in the matrix caught in a loop.
I would suggest that going forward, the show take some brave steps and commit to a direction for the characters and then take it from there as retreading the same ground over two seasons gets tired very quickly affecting the positive impact these refreshing characters bring.