If Barry Season 1 was a breath of fresh air, then Season 2 was a life-saving gasp after a near-drowning, with SNL vet Bill Hader masterfully anchoring the dark and ever-surprising comedy through its Season 2 finale. The season has taken a big jump in the ratings and viewership, and Hader is quite appreciative and supportive of this year's lead-in, Game of Thrones' final season. He's not quite as fond of fair-weather fans, though.
Bill Hader directed the Season 2 finale, titled "berkman>block," which ramped up the complications between Barry and Stephen Root's Fuches, as well as between Barry and Henry Winkler's Gene. Happily for all involved, the episode was watched by 250% more viewers than the Season 1 finale. Here's Hader tying the joyousness of Barry's popularity to its time slot preceder.
It's been great. We had 2.5 million new viewers once the season started, it was insane. I was in New York just before Season 2 started and the attention was good, but I was there earlier last week to do press and it was massively different for me. People shouting out ‘Barry!’ and stuff like that. And that has to be because of Game of Thrones.
It's usually difficult to separate causality from correlation and coincidence, but this is a case where the details all lean in one direction. For Season 1, Barry first followed the seventh episode of the then-new Alan Ball drama Here and Now, which was cancelled ten days after its finale. That could explain why Barry only premiered to less than 600,000 people watching on Sunday night.
Season 1 concluded after the fourth episode of Westworld Season 2, another non-peak time to drop a big episode. As a sign of how dedicated the Barry fanbase was early on, the finale only lost 20,000 net viewers compared to the finale, which is impressive. Though not as impressive as having Game of Thrones sitting front and center, of course. Barry's first two Season 2 episodes were on par with last year's numbers, but as soon as Game of Thrones' Season 8 premiere hit, the comedy's numbers vaulted up.
Episode 3's totals rose to 1.78 million from Episode 2's 424,000, and the viewership only got bigger from there. Much as Game of Thrones' final episode smashed records and became the epic drama's most-watched installment of all time, Barry's Season 2 finale reached a whopping 2.2 million people on Sunday night. And don't forget that these are just the Live + Same Day linear TV numbers, which don't account for the swaths of people who mainly view the show via HBO Go or HBO Now.
Though the ratings rise is a source of comparison between the two shows' recent finales, the similarities don't reach the "critical appeal" side. Barry's dark resolution to Season 2 was praised by just about everyone who laid eyes on it, while Game of Thrones' conclusion ran the full gamut of critical opinions. A dramatic petition was even started to reboot Season 8 with new showrunners, a concept that Bill Hader wasn't a fan of. Here's what he told Business Insider:
I was talking to people after I did an interview and they were complaining about Game of Thrones and I said, ‘I think the Dragon Queen going evil was rad,’ and they got mad at me. [Laughs.] So I was like, ‘Okay, I'm leaving, this is me walking away.’ I mean, I don't want to get political here but I'll say this: the fact that there's a giant petition that the season has to be redone, I mean, there's a lot more things in this world right now that could use a petition with thousands of people signing it. There are bigger fish to fry.
There are two lessons to be learned here. One: TV shows are always more popular when they air after Game of Thrones. Two: don't badmouth Game of Thrones around Bill Hader if you have any intention of having a larger conversation with him. Granted, there's not much that the average person can do with either of those tidbits, but knowledge is power.
Barry may be done with Season 2 for now, but the episodes are just begging to be rewatched, which fans can do on HBO Go and HBO Now.