Character Review - Barney
Barney is perhaps the most tragic figure of the entire series. His wrongful execution at the hands of the community for the murder of Wendy, is startling and poignant.
We first meet Barney as Lizzie explores the Grange in Starvation. Jenny and Greg realise he is simple but quite rightly don't see him as any threat to the children or themselves. He is just scared and lonely and needs company. It is ironic, considering the events that are about to unfold, that it is the arrival of Tom Price which makes Barney feel at a home at the Grange. Tom immediately adopts Barney as his confidant because he knows that he will not answer back or question his authority, a relationship he could never hope to have with other community members. Unlike the others Barney doesn't see Tom as a joke and instead finds his companionship reassuring. In Spoil of War in particular Tom treats him as his favourite pupil, commentating on events for Barney's benefit. Barney is also seen to enjoy a close relationship with Lizzie and John, latching on to them on an endearing childlike level.
It is Barney's attraction to Wendy and the cowardly nature of Tom Price that causes his tragic downfall in Law and Order.The morning after the May Day party, at which Barney pays a lot of attention to pretty Wendy, she is found dead in her room. The community quickly jump to the wrong conclusion. Their assumptions are further skewed when Barney is witnessed fleeing across the fields following a conversation with Tom. It is in fact Tom who has committed the murder and he ruthlessly intends to use his friend as the scapegoat. That he attempts to get Barney out of the area rather than let him carry the can is hardly to his credit.
During his trial, Barney is eager to help, but confused by this turn of events. He knows he did not kill Wendy and says as much, but circumstantial evidence nevertheless brings the community members to a unanimous verdict. Greg argues that it wouldn't be right to banish a murderer who could strike again and favours execution instead. A majority verdict seals Barney's fate. Innocent Barney and Wendy are buried side by side in the grounds, with only Greg and Abby having learnt the horrible truth about what Tom has done.
Perhaps the most beautifully played Barney scene occurs in this episode whilst the community are trying to decide a course of action. Lizzie and John have sought out Barney, who has been locked in his room, to play with them. The obviously innocent nature of his playful interaction with the children makes his fate all the more tragic and difficult to stomach.
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Page last updated: 22nd November 2002 All text © Andy Priestner Screen Captures © BBC