Barry began its final season this Sunday with its first two episodes premiering back-to-back, and it’s already off with a bang, earning some of the best reviews of the series’ run (a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 90 on Metacritic) and some of its best ratings, with this season’s first episode being watched by 710,000 viewers – the most the series has seen since the finale of Season 2 in 2019.
Oftentimes, when a show is ending, it can receive a bit of a “finale bump” at that year’s Emmys, with voters taking full advantage of the opportunity to shower it in awards for the last time, as was the case for titles like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Schitt’s Creek, and so on and so forth. This year, we’ve already been fervently discussing how many Emmys the staggeringly sensational final season of Succession will walk away with, but now, let’s turn that attention to HBO’s other hit series we’ll be saying goodbye to at the same time; will Barry – and its creator/star/writer/director Bill Hader – leave September’s ceremony with any farewell Emmys too?
Thus far, Hader has earned 12 nominations for Barry‘s first three seasons (nods for producing, acting, directing, and writing for each season) and won twice – both times in Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, for its first season and its second season. Last year, he was widely predicted to win Lead Actor in a Comedy Series again after the show returned after a three-year hiatus (caused by the coronavirus pandemic) and/or pick up his first Directing for a Comedy Series trophy, but he lost both categories to Ted Lasso (to Jason Sudeikis in the former and MJ Delaney in the latter). The directing snub in particular was quite shocking since his submission, “710N,” was seen as one of the most impressive feats in directing across all of television last season, and he’s won DGA Awards for Outstanding Directing – Comedy Series for all three seasons of Barry thus far and we’ve been waiting for the Emmys to catch up. But alas, it wasn’t to be (yet).
This year, he’ll go up against Ted Lasso again – another show in its final season, hoping to get a bit of a “finale bump” at the Emmys itself – but he’s also contending with new comedy series The Bear, which is poised to put up a fight in quite a few categories and could block Barry even if Season 3 of Lasso is a little weaker. To specify, though Lasso‘s latest season hasn’t been making as much noise as its first two (perhaps allowing Barry to leapfrog it), The Bear, despite premiering last June, has maintained momentum for almost an entire year, and it will be airing its second season this summer, right around the time when Emmy campaigns will be heating up, giving it a second wind in the race. So, if you were thinking that Hader could come back with a vengeance in the Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category after Jason Sudeikis bested him last September, the truth is that The Bear‘s Jeremy Allen White – who has Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and SAG Awards under his belt already – may topple them both.
And if you turn to the Directing or Writing races believing those could be less competitive, think again. In the former, The Bear is once more a formidable contender, with Episode 7 of its first season – “Review,” shot in a 20-minute-long one take – surely being its submission after it was one of the most talked about episodes of television all year last year and already earned director Christopher Storer a DGA nomination. And in the latter race, Barry contends not just against The Bear and the aforementioned Lasso but also reigning champ Abbott Elementary, which seems like a solid bet to repeat after a supremely successful second season that remains buzzy and brilliant.
There’s also the question of how Barry‘s “tone” is affecting its place in the Emmys race, as last season was decidedly more dramatic than its already often anxiety-inducing first two seasons (categorized as “dark comedy”), and it caused many voters to claim that Barry no longer belonged in the Comedy categories and should be moved to Drama. With this season somehow raising the stakes even more, that debate isn’t dying down any time soon, and when running against series that offer more conventional comedy like Ted Lasso or Abbott Elementary (while The Bear is more “dramedy”), this could hurt it.
Obviously, it’s still early days, and we have to see where the final season of Barry takes us to be fully aware of what its Emmy prospects are. But at the end of the day, no matter what it – or Hader – does or doesn’t win in September, what a pleasure it is to simply witness this exemplary end to one of the finest series of the century so far (and honestly, ever) and watch it exit stage left with its head held high, as its impact is already cemented in pop culture and this industry.