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Barry's Series Finale Answers A Season Long Question

Contains spoilers for "Barry" Season 4 finale, "Wow"

Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) was never a hero. When "Barry" Season 1 begins, it may seem that he's Monroe Fuches' (Stephen Root) unwilling pawn who's too ravaged by his PTSD to stand up for himself, but things aren't quite as simple as that. Complex as he may be, Barry is far from a good guy. He's a genuine, mostly remorseless killer who's perfectly willing to murder his friend Chris Lucado (Chris Marquette) to keep his secrets, and who was quite unstable even during his military days. 

One of "Barry's" most crucial building blocks has always been reputation. A lot of the show's bloodshed and suspense comes from the various factions' attempts to appear as powerful as possible, and Barry's own story revolves heavily around his own need to make his acting associates think he's an honest citizen. In "Barry" Season 4, the stakes for reputation and legacy are higher than ever after Barry goes to prison and becomes a fugitive. With Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) meddling with his upcoming biopic, he has a massive mountain to climb if he wants to stop the world from remembering him as a villain. 

"Wow" finally solves the season-long riddle of Barry's ultimate legacy in a shocking manner that befits the show's twisty nature: Barry's name is cleared and the public remembers him as a tragic hero figure, but this rather unjust redemption comes at the cost of his own life.  

Barry's death makes him the hero of the story

After immediate survival, Barry's primary concerns in "Barry" Season 4 have indeed been about reputation, both when it comes to the impending biopic and the way his son John (Zachary Golinger and Jaeden Martell) sees him. Of course, with the odds stacked against him, it's very unclear if he'd been able to accomplish his mission to maintain a positive legacy with his own actions. However, his death proves to be the turning point in his story. 

It's oddly fitting that Gene is the one who guns Barry down. For much of the show, the acting coach has been separated from actively violent events, though they do impact him profoundly. However, the Gene we see after the eight-year time skip is a disheveled and wounded man who's out to protect his beloved Janice's (Paula Newsome) legacy and undermine Barry — which makes him an antagonist in the context of the show, regardless of his motivations. 

The story comes to a head in the penultimate Season 4 episode "A Nice Meal," with the authorities believing that Gene manipulated Barry all along. By "Wow," Barry feels that Gene taking the fall means that he's off the leash for good. Of course, this isn't the case, and after Sally (Sarah Goldberg) leaves with John, Barry ultimately decides to own up to his crimes and confirm Gene's innocence ... at which point Gene shoots him, earning a life sentence for himself and a burial with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery for Barry. 

In killing Barry, Gene inadvertently fulfills the assassin's mission by freezing the status quo into the "Barry is the hero, Gene is the bad guy" situation, which is also how the biopic "The Mask Collector" depicts things. It's a thoroughly unfair, yet extremely "Barry" conclusion to the story — and Barry himself probably wouldn't mind the end result, considering the last thing we see is the smile on young John's face as he watches the movie about his dad.