Spoiler alert: This story includes details of HBO’s series finale of “Barry.” finale.
Henry Winkler has been carrying the burden of the secret “Barry” ending long before Sunday’s Season 4 and series finale (now streaming on Max).
Co-creator Bill Hader, who plays the hitman who yearned to be an actor on the Emmy-winning HBO series, confided it to Winkler earlier this year. It was Winkler’s acting teacher Gene Cousineau who killed Barry Berkman, the acting student he once loved like a son, with a gun in the living room.
“Bill came up and asked, ‘Want to know how it ends? You shoot me,'” Winkler tells USA TODAY. “I didn’t know what to say or feel. Where that ending came from out of his brain, I have no idea. But holy mackerel!”
Winkler helps break down the shocking “Barry” ending.
Berkman’s dirty deeds were pinned on Cousineau
Cousineau’s life had collapsed after taking the blame for all of Berkman’s past misdeeds; he was bearded, with shockingly unkempt white hair, after living in hiding from the hitman/student. The shockingly twisted narrative was revealed in last week’s episode, when Cousineau learned he was now the suspect in the murder of LAPD detective Janice Moss (Paula Newsome) from her vigilante grieving father Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom) and crime investigators. Moss, Cousineau’s lover, was killed by Berkman in the Season 1 finale.
“The switch went off for Gene at that moment,” says Winkler. “All these people making up this story, and there’s no way to turn it back around to the truth. He’s close to insanity, instantly.”
In the finale, Cousineau is at rock bottom, sitting on his bedroom floor reading a news account painting him as the murder suspect. He takes out and inspects the .38 Special that had been given to him by his old roommate, the actor Rip Torn. Cousineau had told Berkman he considered killing himself with that gun as he coped with the grief over Janice’s death.
But Winkler insists Cousineau would never go through with killing himself: “If he was contemplating it, it was for nanoseconds,” says Winkler. “I never truly never believed Gene would kill himself. As self-centered as he is, he is too important to the universe.”
Barry shows up for a surprise showdown with Cousineau
Even his longtime manager Tom Posorro (Fred Melamed) is about to leave Cousineau for good. He’s discreetly rolling his suitcase out of the house when Berkman shows up, suspecting his partner Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg) was hiding with their son at Cousineau’s house.
Posorro convinces Berkman to do the right thing and take ownership of the crimes pinned on Cousineau. The resigned Berkman sits down in the living room and asks to call the police to confess. But Cousineau steps into the room and shoots Berkman twice, without a word.
“Gene has the gun right there,” says Winkler. “Gene thought he finally had the son he wanted. But that son turned so badly against him and was the reason he was so screwed. In his mind, there was no other course of action.”
The scene’s final macabre moment shows Berkman dead in a chair with Gene on the couch just staring, as lifeless as the puppets on the wall.
“They are both dead, but Gene is dead and still in this world,” says Winkler.
Cousineau killing Berkman means the end for both
The irony of Cousineau killing Berkman, before Berkman can confess, means there will be no exoneration. Barry’s death is an extra nail in his own coffin: Cousineau is sent to prison for killing Janice and Barry, while the real hitman, a former Marine, is buried with full military honors. Their history is so rewritten that the final flash forward scenes show Berkman’s grown son John (Jaeden Martell) watching a fantastical movie version of his father’s life.
“The Mask Collector,” a twist on the term Cousineau used himself, features a heroic Berkman ensnared by an insidious Cousineau as the crime puppet master.
“The movie is such a reality of fakeness,” says Winkler. “Gene called himself a mask collector because he carried all these characters inside and thought he was God’s gift to acting. Gene would have been crushed to see that portrayal.”
Even with Cousineau spending the rest of his years in prison for Berkman’s crimes , Winkler still has hope that his exuberant drama teacher will bounce back.
“He’ll eventually get some equilibrium,” says Winkler. “He’ll come back to Earth, look around and start a prison theater company. He’ll say, ‘I can be famous right here. If this is my audience, I’ll take it.'”
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