The following story contains spoilers for Barry Season 4, Episode 4.
When you’re watching you’re watching HBO’s Barry, things usually just feel different from just about any other show on TV. The show is a dark comedy in the truest and most extreme sense of the term; you’ll laugh throughout every episode, but you’ll be tense and on-edge for the whole damn thing. Co-creator, star, and director Bill Hader has created a show with a tone that’s unlike anything else; Barry, at the same time, can sometimes be both the best comedy and best thriller on TV.
And as with the most thrilling shows in TV history—think Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, etc.—you always have to expect the unexpected. And in thrillers, that can often be a shocking, unexpected death. “It’s funny, because when the show came out, people were like Wow, this is really dark, and then it just got darker,” Hader said in an interview with Men’s Health. “And then I think now… people might think, like, What the hell is this? But I always really liked that.”
The first unexpected death of Barry‘s final season comes at the end of Episode 4, “it takes a psycho.” And it’s a particularly cruel trick by Hader and company, because the character we unexpectedly lose is someone who we almost lost earlier in the episode, only for them to be saved. We let our guard down, and by the end of the episode, realize we never should have even considered it.
Why and how did Cristobal die in Barry?
Barry is a dark show that, over the course of its run, has gotten considerably darker than even where it began. But one of the few bright spots in a season that started with its titular character imprisoned for murder has been the relationship between NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and Cristobal (Michael Irby). The two began as de facto rivals, with Hank representing the Chechens and Cristobal representing the Bolivians in their respective crime worlds; but walls fell and the two eventually grew close and even entered a romantic relationship. This cultivated at the end of Season 3, when Hank saved Cristobal from his estranged wife, who was trying to perform some kind of electroshock torture/conversion therapy on him.
Saving Cristobal and killing his wife showed viewers that Hank would do anything for Cristobal, but it also showed that Hank was now finally willing to go where he had not gone before in the series—to kill someone.
And so while Season 4 opened with Hank and Cristobal living a happy and comfortable life together, Hank had now gone to a place where he hadn’t gone before, and where his happy-go-lucky personality would seem impossible to go. And so when we follow Hank and Cristobal’s plan to import sand to make money from construction companies—after convincing a pair of rival gangs to help them—we fully believe they’re in it for real.
Episode 4 proves that wasn’t the case, and that the whole thing was an elaborate long con to get all the members of the rival gangs in the same place—a sand mill—and kill them; Hank had the Chechens down his throat and this was his way to consolidate power. There was one major problem, though: he didn’t tell Cristobal, and when he executed the plan, Cristobal nearly suffocated.
Upon realizing that NoHo Hank was part of the set-up, Cristobal was heartbroken immediately. While the two always wanted to push to be great crime lords, Cristobal had moved away from this idea, seriously wanting to go legitimate, while Hank has gone the other way; since we saw him kill Cristobal’s wife, we also saw him take a (failed) hit out on his “best friend” Barry.
Cristobal can’t stand the idea of what Hank has become, and, after he believes the Chechens have left, he wants to leave. Hank pleads with him to stay, and Anthony Carrigan does a brilliant job putting the desperation in Hank’s eyes; he knows what will happen if Cristobal refuses to stay. But at a certain point there’s nothing Hank can do—and he turns around, heartbroken, knowing what’s coming next.
Hank breaks down, but he goes back to the door. Cristobal tried to leave, and as soon as he did, Chechens—Hank’s henchmen, who, we learn, he told what they would have to do if it came down to it—immediately shot him, killing him instantly. Hank told him to his face that he knew too much, and, as a seasoned crime lord, he had to know what that meant. But it didn’t change his mind.
And just like that, Barry‘s best couple is no more.
Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.