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‘Barry’ reloads for its crackling third season without missing a beat

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

Barreling forward without much apparent thought to its own longevity, “Barry” returns without missing a beat, fearlessly racing through story with a mix of darkly comic violence and drop-dead-funny visual gags. Delving deeper into Hollywood’s quirks and its title character’s double life, the crackling third season continues to operate like a high-wire act without a net.

Star/co-creator Bill Hader (who directed the first two episodes, with the next two by co-creator Alec Berg) has given himself the role of a lifetime as the hit man who discovers an unexpected passion for acting; alas, he keeps getting dragged back to his past, in part because he’s good at it.

After a shocking end to season two almost three years ago, Barry finds himself suspected of murder (correctly) by his former acting coach, Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler, again sensational), creating a serious dilemma for the title character given his soft spot for the guy.

Barry’s girlfriend Sally (Sarah Goldberg), meanwhile, is enjoying unexpected success, having created and starring in her own TV show, though the gig brings with it considerable pressure and major hassles, from network interference to a co-star concerned about Sally and Barry’s relationship.

Finally, there’s Barry’s other world, the one occupied by colorful personalities like his former handler Fuches (Stephen Root), as amoral a biped as ever walked, and Chechen mobster Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan), who is carrying on a secret relationship that seriously complicates his life.

Both Hader and Winkler have earned well-deserved Emmys for the show, but the cast is first-rate from top to bottom. Indeed, Hank might be the most amusing, “Fargo”-esque denizen of the “Barry” universe, cheerfully saying things like “Guess who got interrogated by police today!” with childlike enthusiasm.

Reminiscent of “Breaking Bad,” the “Barry” writing team excels at seemingly pushing the characters into impossible situations and then cleverly concocting last-minute escapes, while probing whether redemption is feasible for someone with Barry’s murderous resume.

While the show’s satirizing of Hollywood hardly tills new ground, combining that with Barry’s day (or sometimes night) job creates a spin around those eccentricities that somehow freshens up the network doublespeak and “Love your work” glad handing.

Although the nagging question of how long “Barry” can keep finding plausible ways to extend the story remains a legitimate concern, so far, when it comes to shifting Barry’s attention to new targets, so far, the producers haven’t missed yet.

Speaking of balancing acts, “Barry” returns with a dark, strange companion in the form comedy “The Baby,” a British limited series that takes parenthood into the realm of horror.

Natasha (Michelle De Swarte) is a single woman whose life is upended when a baby literally falls into her arms, bringing with it a whole lot of bad luck and misfortune.

Who does it belong to? Is there something mystical or malevolent about it? And can Natasha rid herself of the little thing before it (somehow) kills her?

Those questions are intriguing, not that the eight-episode limited series (a co-production of HBO and Sky in the U.K.), six episodes in, appears to be in a great hurry to answer them.

Instead, “The Baby” toddles along, adding a perverse spin to the notion that a kid can ruin someone’s life. If that doesn’t sound particularly appetizing to parents periodically convinced their infants are out to get them, in this case, the devil seems to be in the details.

Season 3 of “Barry” and “The Baby” premiere at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET on April 24 on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.

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