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'It kind of knocked the wind out of me'
[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Season 4, Episode 4 of Barry. Read at your own risk!]
Barry has had some memorable scenes over the years, and Sunday's episode delivered an emotional punch to the gut that we won't get getting over any time soon. The titular hitman is not the most beloved character on the show, especially at this point. That honor belongs to Hank (Anthony Carrigan), the Chechen mobster with a heart of gold and impeccable fashion sense. After Hank survived being kidnapped by the Bolivians and almost eaten by a panther in Season 3, it seemed like he and Cristobal (Michael Irby) had the world in the palm of their hand.
Alas, their legitimate sand empire with regular company retreats to Dave & Buster's was a mere flash in the pan. In the fourth episode of the final season, titled "It Takes a Psycho," Hank caves to the Chechens and sells out their sand dream, killing all of their new recruits and turning their business into a crime front. The plan is to make him and Cristobal the crime lords they've talked about being, but the problem is that he doesn't run any of his schemes by Cristobal, who has been genuinely invested in their legitimate sand construction business. When Cristobal finds out about Hank's betrayal, he tries to leave him but only makes it a few steps outside their front door before the Chechens have him murdered.
"It kind of knocked the wind out of me, to be honest," Anthony Carrigan told TV Guide. "This show excels when it takes those big risks — when it makes these choices that really go beyond people's expectations."
The moments leading up to Cristobal's murder are some of the most devastating that Barry has ever delivered. Hank and Cristobal are one of the few shining examples of real love on the show. It's heartbreaking to see their relationship crumble in front of your eyes. It gets worse as Hank tries to tell Cristobal that he can't leave. On the surface, Hank seems like a man who has screwed up and is begging for his lover to stay, but his warning is far more literal than anyone realizes until it's too late.
"A big theme in this season is how people are projecting what they want to be as opposed to who they really are. Hank has kind of been projecting this tough guy mob boss," Carrigan explained. "Ultimately, he's just a big squish. When the reality sets in that he played the wrong tactic, it's really sad. You see it reverse pretty immediately in that scene. That's why that scene has so many dimensions to it. It does not pay off to posture in that way, and Hank learns the hard way."
What unfolds is a devastating back and forth between the lovers before tragedy strikes, and it only gets more hurtful as Hank has to reckon with what he's done.
"That scene is one of the best scenes we've ever had in the show. It was really powerful, and I think they are both unbelievably good in that scene," said star and co-creator Bill Hader, who directed the episode. "Hank doesn't think, 'Cristobal is going to leave me.' He thinks, 'I'm being tough. I am not being soft. You wanted to be crime lords, and now we are crime lords. This is what it is.' So when Cristobal says, 'I'm leaving you'... It's just awful. He really blows it."
Hader was the one in the writers' room to originally pitch the idea of killing Cristobal, and he was immediately shut down by the rest of his creative team. As they continued to break Season 4, he insisted that it was what had to be done and slowly got the rest of the team on board. As difficult as the scene was to film, Carrigan also understood why it needed to happen.
"In terms of storytelling, I think it's the right thing to do," Carrigan said. "That being said, [it is] heart-crushing. It's a difficult pill to swallow. As an actor, it was incredibly rewarding to shoot scenes like that and go there, especially with someone like Michael Irby, who is so talented. I absolutely love working with him."
The scene also reflects one of the show's major themes of trying to pretend to be something you're not — and how it all goes wrong.
"[Hank] doesn't want to be soft. It's the thing that Cristobal says to him in Episode 2: 'This is why people think you are soft, because you're still interested in Barry. You keep going back to this guy even after he's f---ed you over. You're soft.' He doesn't want to be soft anymore, and he takes it too far," Hader explained. "If he wasn't soft, if he was a tough guy like he's trying to be, he would tell the Chechens to go f--- themselves. But he's not. He's polite. He's Hank... [but] because he put this thing in motion, the wrong person got it."
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And if you think that losing the love of his life in a misplayed gamble is the worst thing that can happen to Hank, or that this is rock bottom, think again. He has no choice but to continue to play the tough guy role, and that's going to take a toll in more unexpected ways.
"I think he has no choice but to double down and keep going forward. Ultimately, keep building the lie that he is a tough guy and that he did the right thing. It's really sad," Carrigan said. "I think Hank is so sweet, deep down, and has such heart, but that being said, the meat grinder that is Season 4 is going to make it pretty difficult."
No matter what happens, Carrigan is hopeful that fans at home will still hold some understanding in their hearts for Hank and that he won't lose that fan-favorite status by the time the series is done.
"My hope is more that the audience will see Hank's journey and understand it completely and see that it makes sense. He's a flawed human being, but he has tried his hardest, ultimately, to be the best version of himself," said Carrigan. "In a weird way, that is what this show is about: trying to be the best version of yourself but failing miserably at it as well."
Barry Season 4 airs Sundays at 10/9c on HBO.