The nominations for the upcoming 74th Primetime Emmy Awards were recently announced, and while there were a number of wonderful surprises, such as Sydney Sweeney for both Euphoria and The White Lotus, and Melanie Lynskey for Yellowjackets, there were also some glaring snubs. As expected (and deserved), HBO’s dark crime comedy Barry was recognized for its stellar work both in front of and behind the camera, racking up an impressive 14 nominations. Co-creator and star Bill Hader was nominated for writing and directing in addition to his work playing the titular role, Henry Winkler and Anthony Carrigan secured recognition for acting, and the series itself was nominated alongside other heavy hitters such as Hacks, What We Do in the Shadows, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for Best Comedy Series. But where on Earth is actress Sarah Goldberg’s nomination?
Barry follows the twisty journey of Barry Berkman (Hader), a Marine-turned-hitman who falls in love with acting when a pending kill leads him to an acting class. (That ol’ trope.) Leading the class of wide-eyed actors is the somewhat renowned, very disillusioned Gene Cousineau (Winkler), whose reputation in Hollywood, we learn, is far less glamorous than he paints it to be. Among the sea of students is Sally Reed (Goldberg), a determined and hopeful performer with ambitious dreams of “making it” in the entertainment industry. From the moment Barry (and the audience at home) laid eyes on Sally, it’s crystal clear that she’s not like the rest of her peers — for better and for worse.
Season 3 of Barry was incredibly dark, yes, for Barry’s involvement with the Chechen and Bolivian mobs, but largely because of the brutal rise and fall of Sally Reed, which was expertly executed by Goldberg. Sally has a front-row seat on an emotional rollercoaster this year that was constantly in jeopardy of being derailed. The season started out on a mostly positive note for her character, as she was finally living out the dream of practically every aspiring actor: starring in her own television show. Not only was the show Joplin a critical success, but it was based on Sally’s personal experiences in an abusive relationship and was the direct result of her no-holds-barred (and partly fictionalized) performance with Barry in the acting showcase in the Season 2 finale.
Goldberg embodied the manic energy and faux confidence that comes with biting off more than you can chew. This is especially true in the case of Sally, who’s never quite been able to separate her work from her life, because, well, it is her life. We quickly see how much fame can negatively affect someone, as Sally starts to talk down to her friend and former acting classmate Natalie (D’Arcy Carden), who is now her assistant. “Natalie, listen, I can’t feel empowered as a woman if I don’t bring other women up with me, so I’m so happy that you’re here. And I really want you to learn. But, uh, don’t talk in meetings.” This tense interaction in the hallway of the studio, that was preceded by Sally’s calloused run-through with the cast and crew, is a taste of how Sally would wield her power and ego for the rest of the season.
The authoritative Sally we see on set is deeply threatened by Barry, whose secret life as a hitman is bubbling to the surface. Barry could only play the role of supportive boyfriend for so long before his personal demons and ulterior motives got the better of him. Sally politely declines Barry’s suggestion to cast Cousineau in her show, eliciting a volatile overreaction from Barry that frightens not only Sally, but her younger co-star. Goldberg impressively channels the restraint and vulnerability that Sally was unfortunately used to in her marriage to the physically and emotionally abusive Sam. She was in shock, but knew that she certainly couldn’t express that, for fear of what Barry was capable of doing next.
Though it can be easy to forget with all the intensity and drama, Barry is actually a comedy. When Sally learns that the studio wants to push up Joplin’s premiere date to compete with the rival show Pam!, she’s forced to live through her first-ever press junket far sooner than she expected. Goldberg hilariously captures the essence of what actors go through for this career rite-of-passage by rapidly thinking through potential questions the reporters could ask her while she’s getting ready in the makeup chair. “Alexis Kaplan has a daughter on Pam! and in real life. I don’t have one in real life. Is that bad? You think they’re gonna call me inauthentic? I mean, should I say that I’m considering adoption?” It turns out Sally was too prepared for the heavy-hitting questions and completely unprepared for the hollow ones that were thrown her way. When asked who should be the next Spider-Man, she hesitantly replies, “Ben Mendelsohn?”
The premiere of Joplin is one of the two places where both Sally and Goldberg are able to shine. Sally’s speech at the premiere was equal parts inspiring and devastating. Her genuine enthusiasm for the show’s positive critical reception was palpable and evident through her untamable smile and shaky, rambly delivery. After spurring cheers from the crowd when she revealed the show’s 98% score on Rotten Tomatoes, Sally immediately falls into a paralyzing, weeping silence. All the eyes were as she always wanted, but it felt different than she expected. Everything and nothing made sense, and she was figuring that out in real-time. Sally stumbles her way into recovery, where she thanks all the people that got her to this coveted position. Among the names she rattles off is her boyfriend Barry, which, as her co-star Katie and the audience at home knows, is a heartbreaking and undeserving inclusion. Following her powder-keg speech, Katie tells Sally what she already knew but didn’t want to hear: Barry’s bad news.
Sally’s breakup with Barry and then-subsequent conversation with him when he comes to her apartment shows her major growth. Her high from the premiere evaporated once she gets word that Joplin was canceled for not hitting the intended demographic overnight, but she doesn’t succumb to Barry’s frightening idea to break into her former boss’s home and mess with her psychologically. Instead, Sally stands her ground and tells Barry to “get the fuck out.” Goldberg’s ability to flood Sally with sincerity in between projecting a false version of herself to her friends and co-workers is a feat unto itself.
The other moment of the season that further proves Goldberg’s chameleonic acting abilities was in the elevator with Natalie in Episode 7. Sally’s career and ego took a beating with the cancellation of Joplin, and in order to keep her relationship with the streaming service on good terms, she reluctantly agrees to take a job as a consultant on the show that replaced her own. When she leaves the writers’ room, she discovers that her former assistant Natalie has secured a show of her own and was beloved by all involved. Rather than be happy for her friend’s newfound success, Sally corners her in the elevator and unleashes her fit of rage. Barry might be dealing with literal life-and-death situations every episode, but Sally’s repeated guttural yelling at Natalie that she’s an “entitled fucking cunt” is by far the most terrifying moment of the season.
Goldberg’s brilliantly raw performance in Season 3 tragically undoes almost all the good that Sally’s done the entire series. Natalie’s secret recording of Sally’s explosion that she leaked online prompts a call from Sally’s agent, who wants Sally to not say another word. But thanks to Sally’s inflamed ego, she decides to post an “apology” video that does anything but apologize for her outrageous tantrum. When her agent tells her she should have let her handle it, Sally spills out a staggered, stream-of-consciousness style monologue about how the balance of power in their working relationship is out of whack. “You work for me! And I am fucking drowning! And instead of trying to help me, you’re just trying to save yourself!”
In the Season 3 finale, Sally’s at the point of no return, and Goldberg flawlessly demonstrates that. The roles have eerily reversed, with Sally breaking into Barry’s place and telling him that she wants him to harass Natalie the way he wanted to harass the woman who canceled Joplin. Sally matter-of-factly tells Barry, “Okay, so, I’ve drawn a map of her house. You’ll break in while she’s sleeping. First, just take a picture. You’ll send it to her the next day with something scary written underneath. I’ll come up with something.” Sally is then choked by one of the motorbike men after Barry, but thanks to her feral behavior, she’s able to escape his tight grip. And she doesn’t just escape…she beats him to death with a baseball bat, something that the panicky Sally preparing for the press junket earlier in the season couldn’t possibly fathom.
This season of Barry featured some of Goldberg’s best work in the series yet, and considering she’s been nominated for the role before, it was especially surprising to see her missing from this year’s Emmy ballot.