Catastrophe: Season Four Review
Catastrophe is a show unlike any other. So much was accomplished in only 24 episodes – real proof of what a fantastic writing team can do in such little time (take notes American TV). In the first episode, the two leads haven’t yet met one another, by the third episode they are having a child together and by the beginning of season two, they’ve a second on the way. From the day to day nightmare of raising children to marital issues, from dealing with dementia to managing addiction, Catastrophe had its fingers in many pies throughout its four season arc, dealing with emotionally testing situations but somehow always managing to have the last laugh at the same time.
Knowing that season four would be its last, there felt like some kind of pressure for Rob (Rob Delaney) and Sharon (Sharon Hogan) to finally get their act together and become ‘real’ adults but fortunately, Delaney and Hogan had no intention of serving up any kind of feel-good tacked-on ending. One of Catastrophe’s greatest selling points is that neither Rob nor Sharon are capable of handling themselves, or each other, most of the time and are just trying to get through everything as best they can.
Season three’s ending was somewhat of a cliff-hanger – Rob’s car-crash would inevitably lead to the discovery that he had indeed been under the influence whilst driving. This is not news to the audience, but was news to Sharon and the series ended before we found out how she would react. Luckily, Rob is let off with only community service and an order to attend AA sessions, and Sharon’s biggest grievance turns out to be the fact that he isn’t around to go to lunch with anymore.
The first episode of season four deals mostly with the fall-out of Rob’s recently reignited alcoholism. Sharon isn’t forgotten though – she goes through a klepto phase resulting in the two of them having a much needed talk about the issues in their marriage and what the future is going to look like for them. All the regulars show their faces – from Fergal’s 40th birthday to Fran and Chris’ reconciliation, every-one we’ve grown to love (and pity in the case of Dave) provides an opportunity for us to imagine what their lives will go on to entail. The ensemble cast have always been excellent and season four is no exception especially when it adds Julie Hesmondhalgh (Coronation Street, Broadchurch) to its roster as alcoholic-cum-scam-artist within the first episode.
Much of season four trundles along in a similar fashion to previous seasons– painfully funny story-lines are offset with far more serious underlying issues. A particular highlight is episode three – Rob and Sharon decide to get into fitness but end up having a run in with the youths down at their local park. Naturally, Sharon is horrified to discover she isn’t the picture of health and is even more annoyed to find out that Rob actually is. The boot-camp sequence (with Ashley Jensen doing stellar work in the role of Fran, as always) is wholly relatable and effortlessly funny in a way that Catastrophe just knows how to be.
From the beginning, the elephant in the room was Rob’s mother, Mia. Tackling the death of Carrie Fisher was always going to be a difficult issue – despite only appearing in a handful of episodes, Fisher was an integral part of the cast and cut a formidable figure as Rob’s overbearing, EBay-loving mother. Her send off, which felt as if it was as much for Carrie as it was for Mia, felt perfect. Rob’s grief at finding out his mother had died mere hours before they arrived was, of course, linked with the prior knowledge that Carrie Fisher would not be in the series, but that scene felt perfectly pitched.
How to end a show like Catastrophe? Delaney and Hogan were always able to strike the perfect balance between side-splitting humour and emotional devastation, and the final scene is no different. A dip in the ocean, followed by a close up on an ominous sign leaves a slightly bitter taste as we watch Sharon and Rob drift in the beautiful blue waters of the Boston coastline. The symbolism is not lost on anyone – Rob and Sharon took a hell of a plunge in the first episode, throwing themselves head first into waters of which the depth was in comprehensible. Perhaps more than this, the final sequence alludes to the idea that Sharon has (historically) always been the leader, and Rob will follow her – even if both of them don’t know where they are going.
Either way, Catastrophe will leave on as one of the greatest TV shows to ever exist, and one that never jumped the shark. They aren’t any sharks in Boston right?