[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Barry, Season 4 Episode 5, “tricky legacies.”]
There’s nothing like a well-executed time jump, especially one that successfully elevates the stakes for the endgame to come. Now that Barry has leapt forward eight years in its own timeline, there’s so much to uncover about the status quo, but first, in “tricky legacies,” director/co-creator/star Bill Hader focuses in on Barry and Sally, and what life on the run can look like after you’ve spent enough time running in place.
Earlier this season, we’d gotten glimpses of the desolate landscape where Barry grew up via flashbacks to his childhood, which made last week’s reveal all the more surreal — rather than the flat dry horizon signifying a trip back to the past, we find ourselves in the future. Episode 4 only provided us with just a scant few details as to what kind of existence “Clark” and “Emily” have been experiencing, though: a desolate house on the edge of nowhere; a fridge stocked solely with canned beer, white wine in bulk, and a partially-eaten single donut; a little boy with a lot of questions and the innate knowledge that he shouldn’t ask them.
Then Episode 5 dug in deep, revealing so much with such economy. Maybe there were details buried in the production design that revealed whereabouts Barry and Sally have been living beyond “I dunno, the middle somewhere?” but honestly, that’s not essential knowledge. Whether they’re in Texas or Missouri, they’re in a place where it’s easy to get lost. And that’s exactly what they’ve done following Barry’s escape from prison, with Sally wearing “hair on top of her hair” to go to work at a crummy diner, while Barry homeschools their son John via YouTube videos.
Everything about Clark and Emily’s life is remote, in a way — large-scale online shopping brings them most necessities and they attend church on Sundays via online sermon. Even when John somehow manages to make a new friend (after previously getting into a fight with the kid, after Travis made fun of him for not being familiar with Call of Duty), Barry does his best to sever that real-life connection by targeting John’s newfound interest in baseball, scaring him with videos of children getting hurt while playing. As father tells son, his job is to protect him, and in Barry’s world, that means trying to keep things as under control as possible.
Barry’s natural reserve has calcified around him as “Clark”; a degree of tight control that feels like a rubber band about to snap. Meanwhile, Sarah Goldberg’s stunning performance in this episode is a haunting portrait of what it means to be broken, to have surrendered fully to a meaningless life. Watching Sally get ready for work at her vanity table — the careful application of makeup and wig — reveals that at least for some portion of the day, she’s approaching her life in the wilderness like immersive theater; a role she’s playing even in front of her own son, with some liquid assistance as the days stretch on.