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TV Review: Barry Season 1

Year: 2018 (ongoing)
Episodes: 8
Genre: Crime, Crime Comedy, Action

Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) is a former military veteran that works as a hitman Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root) as his handler. Whilst the money is good and the work is easy for him, Barry hates his life. When he gets a job to go to Los Angeles to kill a guy sleeping with the wife of Goran Pazar (Glenn Fleshler of the show Billions), a Chechnyan gangster, Barry meets with some of the people in his target’s acting class.
Suddenly, a world of possibilities is opened for him and he begins to seriously think about a life outside of being a killer for hire. However, he must first break off the shackles of his life as an assassin if he can ever pursue his dream to be an actor. It is easier said than done. He must not only contend with Chechnyans and Bolivian gangsters, but also a police investigation and his obsession with Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg), one of the other students.

First up, this HBO show is co-written, occasionally directed by and stars Bill Hader, a regular on Saturday Night Live around a decade. As a big fan of Hader’s work, this was a big selling point when I first came across trailers for this series. However, you cannot go wrong with Henry Wrinkler as Gene Cousineau and Stephen Root as Monroe Fuches. I wasn’t familiar with many of the other members of the cast, but I ended up taking a liking to Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank and Paula Newsome as Detective Janice Moss. Whoever did the casting for this show did well.
The story is an odd one but appropriately chaotic when you have a bunch of people with their own motivations gunning for you. The use of fantasy to give an insight into Barry’s headspace is a good one, giving a psychological aspect to this series. His desire for a normal life that doesn’t involve hurting people is a big motivator for the main character. Barry is a broken and easily-manipulated main character. It is easy to feel for him even though he does create many of his own problems. He also has to contend with the conflicting motivations of Monroe, who is obviously ripping Barry off.
The action scenes for this series are pretty solid, being closer to what one would expect for a series with a bit more of a focus on the technical aspects of armed conflict. The deaths of characters have a purpose and are typically caused by Barry being put into a corner by those around him or by a sense of obligation. However, it also gives us a chance to see the character and those around him a chance to shine. Pn several occasions, he is even forced to kill people that he cares about. We see the emotional impact it has on him, making him more and more desperate to get out of the life of an assassin.
However, this series is still predominantly a dark comedy and the comedic elements are done well. It accomplishes this with some good dialogue and situations where Barry has to deal with some odd and sometimes dangerous situations. Both the humor and the action elements work well in progressing the story as well without feeling like it is diminishing either.

If I had to choose an MVP for this series it would be Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank, hands-down. Whilst I love the entire cast of characters, NoHo Hank provides a counter-balance to the other members of the Chechnyan crime organization he is a part of. Anthony Carrigan delivers some really awesome lines, making his character such a delight to watch.

In conclusion, the first season of Barry was a delight to watch. Some people might raise an eyebrow when I say this but I actually like it a lot more than other crime series such as Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. It might sound a bit like comparing apples to oranges but it is not necessarily a bad comparison when you consider how Barry moved along plot instead of dragging the story out like these other series did. I give this series a rating of 9/10. I dropped a point for a few strange choices in the last episode. These choices weren’t major but they dropped this series from a perfect score.

The second season for Barry begins on the 31st of March.


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MOOC Review: Understanding the Origins of Crime

Provider: Open 2 Study (Australia) [course page]
Lecturer: Aaron Sell
Subject: Biology / Criminology
Delivery: Intake-based asynchronous study 
Completion Date: 08/27/2013 

Description: Aaron Sell discusses the biological elements of criminal behavior, offering numerous examples of behavioral studies of various cultures throughout the world and those of the long passed based on observation and other research.

Strengths: Aaron Sell delivers the information with relevance to a modern western inhabitant. He doesn’t make any assumptions about the existing knowledge of students, offering up intelligent arguments regarding the role that biological foundations of human behaviour often play in criminal behaviour. His voice is strong and confident, manner conversational.
Weaknesses: His comb-over is mildly distracting. There were some participants that became rather heated over some studies that were deemed politically incorrect. This wasn’t an issue for me, but it obviously was for other people.

Conclusion: Aaron Sell delivers this rather interesting multi-disciplinary take on criminology with ease and purpose. I came out of the four modules more knowledgeable than when I enrolled. I recommend that folks enroll in Foundations of Psychology and Becoming Human: Anthropology at Open 2 Study as well.

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Book Review: The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer

The Book of Fate The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book of Fate is a great conspiracy novel about the figures on either side of an attempt to control and manipulate information for monetary gain. I bought this book after enjoying The First Counsel, and wasn’t disappointed. Brad Meltzer weaves an amazing story, a rollercoaster ride that is heavily influenced by his research into the politics and procedures of the Oval Office.

Each Brad Meltzer experience is awe-inspiring, ranging from the tele-drama of Jack and Bobby, or the various thrillers he’s had published over the years. The main character is somewhat different for each story though, and is often destined for greatness or an act of brilliance that will inevitably lead to the uncovering of a crime. Though the general structure is standard, the writing is always top-notch, and well worth reading, whether you are a layman or a seasoned veteran.

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