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Is Sally’s Story Over in ‘Barry’ Season 4, Episode 5?

Sally looks up pensively, standing on a street at night.

Episode 5 of Barry season 4 confirms that the time jump at the end of episode 4 was no dream or hallucination. Barry and Sally really did run away together after Barry escaped from prison—and now they’re raising a kid together in the middle of nowhere, using the aliases Clark and Emily. If Barry is caught, he’ll go back to prison, and Sally believes she’ll be held responsible for the guy she killed in self defense in season 3, so the two of them don’t see any choice other than to disappear.

Neither of them is a particularly good person, but considering how fervently Barry wanted to start over in the show’s early days—and how promising Sally’s acting career seemed to be—it’s tragic to watch them lose themselves in a monotonous life of solitude, televangelists, and alcohol. As sad as the time jump is for Barry, though, it’s even harder to watch Sally give up her dreams.

So is there any hope for Sally? Let’s unpack episode 5.

Sally has given up on her acting career—and her life

Sally stands against a public bathroom mirror, wearing a brown wig, a nametag, and blue eyeshadow. Her face is deadpan. Another woman is visible in the mirror.

While Barry makes up a new backstory for himself as a heroic medic and tries to scare their son John away from baseball, Sally works in a diner. She wears a wig and speaks with a fake accent, ostensibly to throw people off her trail. At work, Sally flirts with one of her coworkers, tries to choke him in the bathroom, and then gets him fired after he tears off her wig and sees her real hair. In the evenings, she and Barry watch preachers on TV. She cries a lot, and drinks a lot. To put it bluntly, Sally’s life is fucking bleak.

Even worse, Sally punishes herself by watching Just Desserts, the show that Natalie scored after Sally’s show, Joplin, was canceled. Just Desserts is badly written and badly acted, but the media calls it “the show that defined a generation,” and apparently the president has quoted it in the State of the Union. Sally chugs her wine.

In the first half of season 4, we see Sally gradually giving up on her acting career for good. Teaching doesn’t work out, since the only teaching method she knows is Gene’s abusive style. She doesn’t want to do a podcast, like her former agent suggests, or go up for “appropriate” roles, like Kristen’s agent offers. When Barry appears in her apartment, Sally’s ready to walk away.

But acting was what gave Sally life. Has she really given it up for good?

Is there more to Sally’s new life than meets the eye?

Sally is still acting, of course.

She’s acting all the time. The accent, the wig, the lies she tells her coworkers: all of it is part of the art form she’s so good at. Even donning a wig instead of dying her hair gives her an opportunity to get into character each morning, transforming herself as if she were about to go in front of the cameras.

Of course, playing the part of Emily doesn’t mean Sally is happy. After all, this role doesn’t come with all the fame and accolades Sally dreamed of in Los Angeles. It’s still an interesting thread to follow, though. In fact, Sarah Goldberg, who plays Sally, talked about Sally’s performance in a recent Variety interview:

For Sally, [the act] is the last little drop in the jug of who she used to be, and at least she still gets to act. In this life that they’ve got on the run, she’s gonna give Emily her full Meryl Streep. It’s the one piece of her old self that she still holds onto; she goes to work every day and gives this performance. At this point, they’ve been on the run so long and they’re truly in the middle of nowhere, there’s no real reason for her to be doing the accent and wearing the wig. There’s some element of her old self still kicking and screaming, wanting to give a performance.

However, Goldberg also warned that “there’s not really any character that has a happily ever after” in Barry‘s final season. As bleak as it’s gotten so far, it looks like the story is going to get even bleaker before the series ends with episode 8.

In the meantime, there’s a movie about Barry and Sally in the works, and a mysterious figure is knocking on their door. We’ll learn a lot more about what’s been going on for the past eight years when episode 6 airs next Sunday.

(featured image: HBO Max)

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Julia Glassman (she/they) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at