Three years is like an eternity in TV time, but that’s how long we’ve been without Barry. As COVID-19 impacted that show’s production schedule but allowed Hader and co-creator Alec Berg more time to polish scripts and chart the season’s trajectory. That extra time feels apparent in the Season 3 premiere, “Forgiving Jeff” (the title of which is stylized in all lower-case as all Barry episodes are), which reestablishes the status quo with our returning characters but also addresses last season’s big cliffhanger.
Season 3 doesn’t immediately show us what Cousineau does with that information but instead allows us to catch up with Barry. Never the picture of perfect mental health, Barry appears to be doing worse than ever. He’s back to working as a hitman, but using unreliable sources like Craigslist and finding that his clients and their targets aren’t as professional as the work he was doing for Fuches and the Chechens. When we see him working on behalf of a jilted husband looking to kill his wife’s lover, he’s barely present, starring dead-eyed, then incredulously when his client “forgives” their mark, Jeff. Having learned something about loose ends, Barry kills them both in an outburst that could be described as a temper tantrum.
“Forgiving Jeff” is a full half-hour that runs the bag of emotions and effectively gets hold of the audience after a three-year hiatus. There’s no telling what Barry has planned or what’s going to happen with Fuches, who’s been living off the grid in the Chechen Mountains. Still, this series moves with such confidence at every turn that I can confidently say that every reveal will be unexpected yet earned. Barry is clearly going for a darker tone this year, and the titular character’s violent past will be rearing its head more often, but it’s admirable that the show can still find ways to deliver out-loud laughs.