‘Killing Eve’ & ‘Barry”: When Doing What You’re Good At Means Killing People

Should you do what you love or what you’re good at? HBO’s “Barry” and BBC America’s “Killing Eve” presents both sides of that dilemma, from the perspective of a serial killer and hitman.

Howard Chai

--

(Image via: The Ringer)

Sooner or later in our lifetime, whether life-changing or inconsequential, we inevitably reach a crossroads where what you do comes into conflict with what you love. Should you take a job at a soulless office with cubicles that double as prison cells, but pays well, or spend your days painting, with joy, but consistently struggling to come up with rent? What if you’re really good at that first thing and very mediocre at the latter? What if that first thing is killing people?

Barry, HBO’s new dramedy that aired its season one finale last Sunday, centers on Barry Berkman (Bill Hader), a Marine-turned-hitman-turned-actor. While on a routine hit, Barry follows his target to an acting class, gets mistaken for a new student, and realizes that acting might just be that thing that gives him purpose, something he has been without since his time as a Marine. The thought of being an actor makes Barry smile, even after he realizes his particular set of skills makes him more suited to be a hitman than a stage actor.

Most of the show’s drama, then, arises when these two things are put into conflict, forcing Barry to choose between them. Yet, while that conflict is interesting, the best moments of Barry are moments where killing people, something Barry is comfortable doing and can aptly compartmentalize, but ideally would like to stop, becomes the one thing that can fuel his acting, taking him from a meh actor to okay. It’s not a coincidence that Barry’s two best performances — the monologue he delivers to Gene in the pilot and his line in the class’ performance of Macbeth — are the result of his two lives, as a killer and an actor, coalescing.

Conversely, we have Oksana Astankova, aka Villanelle (Jodie Comer), and Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) of Killing Eve. Eve is…

--

--

Howard Chai

I strive towards a career that ends up leaving me somewhere between Howard Beck and Howard Beale.