When it debuted in 2015, “Catastrophe” quickly made its mark by telling the truth. Everything about Sharon (Sharon Horgan) and Rob (Rob Delaney) getting together happened hard and fast, from their would-be one-night stand to their decision to have the resulting baby to Rob moving across the ocean for Sharon and their child. Accordingly, the couple’s conversations get right to the point — there’s no time to beat around the bush, spare feelings, or otherwise sugarcoat the day-to-day facts of life when your life is intertwined with two others and all three are suddenly hurtling forward at a mile a minute.
Credit to the co-creators and co-stars, these discussions serve as the entertaining and insightful lifeblood of the series; written with purpose and delivered with tenacity as sharp as the timing, audiences get to watch this fated couple make it work with equal doses of destiny (at times, they feel like the perfect match) and stubbornness (others, they’re more likely to kill each other). The language biting and the topics as dark as life and death, “Catastrophe” could be too honest for some, but that willingness to go deep into the existential fears of partners and parents made it powerful. Imagine “Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?” as a comedy tinged with hope, where George and Martha really had a couple of kids.
After persevering through affairs, alcoholism, and multiple pregnancies, there’s no real fear of splitting up come Season 4. Rob goes to court, strapped in a neck brace, following his DUI accident at the end of Season 3. Sharon remains by his side, as much for him as their children and herself. There’s no simmering anger or heartfelt apology coming. This couple has lasted through enough already; they understand each other, and their shared honesty keeps them moving forward.
That’s most apparent in an episode that steers into advocacy territory to surprising ends, as Sharon deals with an overly affectionate new boss and Rob steals the affection of his boss’ boss just because he’s a good bro. How they come to terms with each, and how they buck expectations with a “fuck the world, we have to survive” mentality is the kind of truthful assessment rarely seen on TV.
Still, there are moments in the new season, unlike in years past, where you get the impression they’re running out of things to say. Rob’s arc in one episode focuses on him recovering from an “attack” in which a kid threw juice in his face. Another focuses on a birthday party thrown for Sharon’s brother, Fergal (Jonathan Forbes), which solidifies the new bonds and responsibilities of family. Early on, Sharon tries out some light shoplifting simply because she thinks she can get away with it.
Horgan and Delaney are sharp enough to acknowledge these take-it-or-leave-it moments and a) end the series now, rather than dragging it out for an extra few seasons of forced problems to solve, and b) they call themselves out for worrying about nothing. A few times, Sharon and Rob’s friends say they wish they had their problems, and Fran (Ashley Jensen), Chris (Mark Bonnar), and Dave (Daniel Lapaine) have always provided perspective for the core couple — wow, especially Dave — reminding them just how well-matched they are in comparison.
They do so again, but Rob and Sharon also face an end, so to speak. There’s no awkward flash-forward or anything so stylized to close out Season 4; no meta connection between the series’ end and a stopping point in their lives. Instead, the writers unearth fresh ground going in the opposite direction and find ways to make these two partners and parents face the reality of their present circumstances — this is it; it’s going to continue like this, quite possibly for the rest of their lives. So how does that feel?
The final episode does connect outside the show a bit, as a goodbye to Carrie Fisher, who played Rob’s mom. The emotions are raw and it’s easy to see how personal this could be for the performers. Yet the offscreen loss never overpowers the onscreen story. It’s a graceful farewell — the opening moments of the episode beautifully connect to the closing seconds, yet the final scene, final dialogue, and final line encapsulate the show in its entirety. Even now, after four seasons, viewers might be knocked back a bit by how Horgan and Delaney decide to end it, but it’s hard to imagine a better way to go.
“Catastrophe” will be remembered for its courage — not only by saying what others were only thinking, but for defending those thoughts and actions as a representation of real love. Between the many, many jokes, Horgan and Delaney built an unshakable bond between their characters. Rob and Sharon’s relationship, for all its heartache and flaws, is enough. That’s the honest truth, and it’s felt through to the end.
“Catastrophe” Season 4 is available to stream now on Amazon Prime.