This Sunday, HBO’s dark comedy Barry returns for its third season. Three years ago, Season Two ended with star Bill Hader, who plays veteran-turned-hired assassin with acting ambitions Barry… Wait, what exactly happened at the end? I know I saw it, and enjoyed it, but I can’t for the life of me remember what happened in Season Two at all. There’s not a single chance of me separating the events of the first season from the second, either. I think some people died?
The point is, while I’m looking forward to the new season, I have absolutely no idea what I’ll be getting into when I watch the first episode. Three years is simply too long to wait between seasons, and I won’t apologize for being unprepared.
Barry is one of many recent shows to return after an exceptionally long hiatus. The second season of Russian Doll premiered on Netflix today, three years after airing, and FX’s Atlanta is currently in the midst of its third season, with four years having passed since the end of Season Two. All of these shows are excellent — 97 percent and above ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, if you care about that kind of thing — but are they so excellent as to watch them twice? In all honesty, who has time for that?
In a pre-streaming world, I would have paid a bit extra on my cable bill for access to HBO. On Sunday, they would play a Barry marathon of the previous two seasons to help viewers like me catch up before the premiere. With hours of Ridiculousness and Daddy’s Home 2 as my other TV-watching options, I would naturally choose Barry instead.
But this isn’t a pre-streaming world. Not even close. Instead of luxuriating in the brainless decision-making of cable, I’m instead bullied by a minimum of eight streaming services, each of which have thousands of movies and shows to choose from. With so many options, I couldn’t possibly spare the time to re-watch a show I consider to be very good, but not a familiar comfort.
Obviously, I’m quite aware of the mitigating circumstances that may have slowed production of Barry. I remain sympathetic but unmoved. The rest of us had to keep working, Bill! I don’t see why you couldn’t do the same! Just about every reality show kept pushing. So did other HBO series like Euphoria, The Righteous Gemstones and Succession (all of which were delayed, but nevertheless came out much sooner). HBO even made and released new shows like White Lotus.
In any case, yes, I will be tuning in to the new season of Barry — likely at the leisurely pace Hader and the gang seem to have employed in producing it — and I will undoubtedly be completely lost. I trust my ability to string together the narrative based on context clues, but I won’t worry much about it, either way. If they wanted me to stay at the edge of my seat with the “cliffhanger” I keep seeing mentioned in other coverage of the show, they would have released the season sooner.
Sorry, Barry, but I’ll basically be going into this blind. In the streaming age, there’s just no time for a catch-up re-watch. Maybe I can squeeze in a few minutes to read some summaries, instead.