Catastrophe: the final episode | TV review by Steve Bennett © C4
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Catastrophe: the final episode

TV review by Steve Bennett

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

The last ever scene of Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s Catastrophe - like so much of what had gone before - was just perfect. Agonisingly, ambiguously perfect.

In a moment that will long linger, viewers were left desperately hoping that the fictional Sharon and Rob will be OK as they stick together against the savage tides of the world, even if the peril came entirely from their own impetuous recklessness. 

As metaphors go, the final image of them as specks floating in the ocean speaks loudly, even though it was executed with deft subtlety. Its potential bleakness enhanced by the image of their two children sleeping unknowingly in the car,  its impact heightened by how much we’ve come to care for these damaged, often selfish parents. 

That’s because they have always been drawn with honesty, dealing with the slings and arrows almost everyone encounters in a  serious grown-up relationship. One that in this case was forged from circumstance when Sharon became pregnant following a one-night stand, but came to be something real.

Over four series, they’ve dealt with the major irritations of each other and of friends and family, and come through some major life-changing events. Things are never sugar-coated or resolved in a neat package, but they move on, the incidents become part of their shared, messy history. For Catastrophe never moves its sharp focus from Rob and Sharon, even their children rarely get a look-in, often confined to inconvenient props.

When the pair have what appears to be a relationship-ending row in this compelling episode, Rob doesn’t lob out some pithy sitcom insults, but pure, unfiltered bile, designed to cause maximum hurt the woman he had come to properly love. At this point, it seemed that this one thing that held these two together was to be flushed away with words that cannot be easily taken back. If a story needs jeopardy, this is it.

The last scene wasn’t the only note of finality in the show, which revolved around the funeral of Rob’s mum Mia, taking place on a gorgeous New England beach. It was rich with poignancy, of course, given that Carrie Fisher, who played her, had died herself just after the last series filmed.

But at the most maudlin moment, the tension was shattered with an email Mia sent before she died with the most exquisitely savage description of Mike Pence. It came out of nowhere, but ever the rebel princess, Fisher would surely have appreciated the shock and the sentiment.

This also shows that for all the drama in Catastrophe – and there is a lot of drama, for that’s what keeps viewers hooked – Delaney and Horgan know how to write a joke. Often astringent, for sure, but occasionally heartfelt when their two characters were alone, away from the travails of the world.

They pack a lot into each half-hour episode, too. In the finale, Rob struggled to deal with his own grief as well as that of others. Sharon, he felt, wasn’t sombre enough, trying to insensitively squeeze a beach holiday in alongside the mourning. On the other hand, his brother-in-law appeared as a ‘grief vampire’, muscling in on the tragedy that wasn’t his to share. Then Rob’s estranged father shows up, a racist wife-beater, to add a whole new tangle of relationships,.

Such density of scripting, combined with the dark humour and embarrassing realities, both made palatable by the screen charisma of Delaney and Horgan, should cement Catastrophe’s place as a landmark in Britain’s comedy terrain.

• All the episodes of Catastrophe are now available on All4 and all four sereis are available as a box set DVD.

Review date: 13 Feb 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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