Perhaps the most significant decision in Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan’s “Catastrophe” Season 2 — or at least the one most likely to take viewers by surprise — arrives without you even knowing it. [Editor’s Note: A fairly trivial spoiler appears in the next graph, so you can skip to the next if you prefer.]
Rather than picking up right where things left off in Season 1, with Sharon about to give birth to her and Rob’s first child, Season 2 launches right into an argument; an argument interrupted by their son barging in on their make-up sex because this is all happening during the (mostly) happy couple’s second pregnancy. And it’s in this twist of timing that we learn one of the series’ secrets: Despite the emphasis on pregnancy and its end results, “Catastrophe” isn’t really about the kids. It’s about how parenthood affects a relationship. And, like the North Star in a sky filled with brightly shining imitators, it actually addresses the development with pure, unfiltered honesty.
The truth that comes from such straight-shooting can be jarring. While Season 1 certainly depicted Rob and Sharon’s fair share of rough patches, those six episodes were cushioned for viewers by a couple’s young love. Like in real life, the two spared each other’s feelings because they were still trying to figure out who the other person was, and who they had become themselves during this new phase in their lives. Now, by moving past the couple’s honeymoon period — admittedly, an accelerated one — Delaney and Horgan have aptly upped the emotions. Fights are more vehement. Temperaments are shorter. The love, though, is more compassionate.
And more rational. Season 2 would’ve been easier to write with a break-up in mind. That’s not to say Rob and Sharon’s journey is trouble free or even guaranteed to last a lifetime. But audiences are trained to expect a split when they see a fight, let alone multiple back-and-forths in single episodes, even though that’s not in line with the aim of “Catastrophe.” The thesis statement certainly isn’t to prove why marriage won’t work when kids enter the mix or even that a couple can’t survive if they got together for the “wrong” reasons. Much like the first season focused on how to practically handle an unplanned pregnancy later complicated by impractical emotions, these six new episodes successfully attempt to explore a deeper level of romance. These two may still be figuring out how to balance the demands of their new lives together, but Delaney and Horgan speak from a place of such knowledge it gives the series incredible authority.
Of course, it’s also incredibly funny. Cunningly woven into the fabric of what feels everyday are jokes so well-told you want to write them down. You can’t, though, without breaking up the compulsive rhythm, because “Catastrophe” moves at the unrelenting pace of parenthood, pushing forward to what’s next no matter the joy or sorrow found in the now because there’s no longer time to stop and smell the roses. It’s this deliberate pace that makes the laughs all the more rewarding, as we, the viewers, can step back when episodes end and admire the carefully crafted ride we just took, all while eagerly anticipating the next episode.
Delaney and Horgan keep you coming back with more than just good intentions and great jokes: Each character opens up about moments so perfectly empathetic and unabashed you never question their authenticity. Sharon talks about how cute the baby’s penis is (“Oh, his little penis!”) and later Rob describes their first child as a “monster” who was “dark red and had a hairy back” (both eliciting loving looks from the partner). Later, they joke during a romantic moment about it being worth it if they get pregnant again before realizing the consequences of those words and freaking out. There are even moments where you fall in love with them both because of the utter hatred they spew toward others, simply because you can see how they have each other’s backs even in the most unreasonable circumstances.
It’s this delicate balance of concepts — honest arguments, clever humor, deepening compassion — and how they merge together that makes “Catastrophe” feel utterly identifiable. It’s so real it hurts, but it never keeps you down long enough to feel anything other than joy (and maybe a little admiration) in the end. “Catastrophe” is a comedy, first and foremost, but it masterfully proves that you don’t have to sacrifice depth for laughs.
“Catastrophe” Season 2 is streaming now on Amazon Prime. Also available on Amazon…
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