DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Barry episode “ben mendelsohn” has spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, hit people-turned-actors! Barry‘s third outing boasts powerhouse performances from Henry Winkler and Stephen Root. They both dig deep to unearth the white-hot anger surging beneath their surfaces, primarily concerning Barry. Barry should submit Winkler and Root’s work in “ben mendelsohn” for Emmy consideration.
The episode moves more slowly than usual in some places, but the humor is top-notch. Barry and Fuches’ phone conversation is hysterical, and Sally has excellent moments.
Ready to delve into “ben mendelsohn”? Let’s get to it.
We open with Gene (Winkler), sitting in a makeup chair and prepping for his featured extra role. From the Powers That Be, he learns he’s getting a line, as they were so impressed with Gene’s part in Barry’s redemption. Barry (Bill Hader) orders Gene to thank the producers for their generosity. Barry’s effortless exertion of power is terrifying.
Meanwhile, NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and his right-hand men are at PLANTS! after Fernando’s men shot it up. They demand vengeance against the Bolivians, but Hank fears for Cristobal’s precarious position should they retaliate. He believes it’s high time they implement “The Patsy,” a.k.a. Fuches.
Hank calls Fuches (Root) and informs him that it’s safe to return to LA. Barry’s not mad at him anymore! But Fuches is in goat heaven in Chechnya, especially with his new lady. He refuses to leave.
Next, Sally (Sarah Goldberg) prepares for Joplin‘s big press day. Lindsay (Jessy Hodges) urges her to be real but not “too real.” Sally sits with a flurry of journalists as they each ask her an incredibly vague question before hurriedly fleeing the scene. As someone who’s participated in press junkets, this depiction is accurate as all get-out.
Oh, and Sally answering that Ben Mendelsohn should be the next Spider-Man will always make me laugh. I hope someone told Mendelsohn to watch this episode.
Barry asks Gene to run lines with him. In the scene, Gene’s character forgives Barry’s character, perhaps hitting a little too close to home. Barry gushes about the set they’re on, but Gene abruptly changes the subject, asking if Janice experienced any pain when Barry killed her.
Gene falls down that rabbit hole, one question barreling into another until he realizes that Barry’s monologue about killing people, the one he used to get into Gene’s acting class, was genuinely true. He wonders whether Gene addressing said monologue in front of Janice led to her murder.
Barry urges Gene to change the subject. He’s trying to be a better person. Plus, they both have roles now. How cool is that? Let’s sweep our trauma (and bloody crimes) under the rug! This scene between Winkler and Hader is top-tier. They should show this in acting classes.
Later, Cristobal (Michael Irby) approaches Fernando (Miguel Sandoval) and persuades the latter to abandon his mission to blow the Chechens to kingdom come. Besides, they weren’t at PLANTS! when Fernando’s men descended upon it. It’s all good! Fernando can pack it up and head home.
Fernando reveals Cristobal’s persuasive talents changed his mind. He vows to abandon a potential war with the Chechens—time to hit up Johnny Rockets on the way to the airport.
It can’t be that easy. Something tells me Fernando has a plan up his sleeve.
Meanwhile, Hank learns that his men plan to bomb Cristobal’s home, throwing a wrench in his plan to keep Cristobal safe. Hank convinces them that Fernando is the real threat, not Cristobal. So, they should bomb him instead. Hank sends Barry a text about a potential job. The fact that he prefaces it with, “You still feel like you have no purpose, seeing sh*t, going crazy, etc.?” kills me. I love NoHo Hank with all my heart.
Naturally, Barry declines. Then, he gets a call from Fuches, and the pair catch up. Fuches refuses to reveal his location, and Barry claims he patched things up with Gene. Sure, he murdered Gene’s girlfriend, but Barry essentially revitalized Gene’s dead-in-the-water career, so they’re square. The conversation escalates into argument territory, climaxing with Fuches screaming into the desolate Chechnyan countryside.
Sally takes a break with Katie (Elsie Fisher) in between interviews. My favorite Sally line ever is from this episode, when she asks Katie if “Cake Boss” is “that new Avenger.” Absolutely golden. While Sally resumes her interviews, Katie tells Natalie (D’Arcy Carden) that she’s uncomfortable riding with Barry and Sally to the Joplin premiere. She reveals Barry’s explosive, volatile confrontation with Sally, but Natalie brushes it off, claiming that he yells at everyone. No biggie!
Then, we see Barry and Gene are on set with the Mark-Paul Gosselaar. As a ’90s kid, he’ll always be Zack Morris to me. Anyway, they start filming the scene. Instead of accepting Barry’s character’s apology, Gene slaps Barry, screaming at him to stay away from him and his family. Gene storms off set. Once he’s outside, Gene realizes the gravity of what he did.
One interview asks Katie about Sally and Barry’s relationship, noting that she’s glad Sally seems to be in a healthy relationship. Katie fibs in her response, claiming that he’s a nice guy.
Later, Barry calls Hank, revealing he’ll take the job, a.k.a. he’ll blow up Fernando and his gang. Batir (JB Blanc) questions why Hank wants our titular character to execute this task after the monastery massacre. Batir tried to get rid of Barry, but Hank stopped him. Then, he attempted to take out Cristobal, but, once again, Hank prevented him from doing so. What gives?
Meanwhile, Fuches’ lady love regales him with a 16th-century fable, illustrating how our choices dictate our fate: heaven or hell. But Fuches sees red, declaring he plans to kill Barry. Vengeance is the way!
Hader sells Barry’s belief that he’s “okay” in this episode, showing us a man who’s so entrenched in his trauma, fleeing from the pain he inflicted on Gene for fear he’ll have to reconcile with it. It’s such a far cry from where we saw Barry in the pilot, proving Hader’s creative genius.
“ben mendelsohn” methodically lays the groundwork for the rest of the season, with Fuches potentially embarking on a revenge mission to kill Barry in LA and Gene doing what he can to extricate himself from his dangerous entanglement with Barry.
Sally learns the entertainment business is more “business” than “entertainment” and that her pure vision might be sullied by money-hungry executives and misinterpreted by vainglorious media folks looking for their next twisted byline.
I’m here for the ride. Bring it on!
Do you think we’ll see Barry kill Fernando and his men with the bomb? Will Hank warn Cristobal in time? Will Fuches pursue the path of vengeance? Join me next week while I recap Barry, only on Geek Girl Authority.
Barry streams new episodes every Sunday at 10 pm on HBO and HBO Max.