CATASTROPHE - A Tragedy Waiting to Happen
Updated: Sep 3
CATASTROPHE's latest season concluded recently. Its latest and - we are told - its last. I'd like to keep my praise short and sweet - this show has been perfection from start to finish. THE funniest show on your Smart TV. And also the most romantic. Comfortably so. It's just a ridiculous double whammy. Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney are exceptional comic acting and writing talents with the rarest and most watchable of chemistries. I was lucky enough to catch an early glimpse of episodes 1 & 3 on the big screen at the BFI/National Film Theatre, followed by a Q&A with the co-creator-co-stars. Needless to say they were effortlessly charismatic and funny, and pretty much charmed the pants off the entire audience. I'll miss this show.
That's the pre-amble. What I wanted to write about is the finale - AKA The End of the show. Just for good measure:
The end scene of Catastrophe sees Rob and Sharon make up after a blazing row. Earlier in the episode Rob says something so cruel after Sharon's typically inadequate support during the laying-to-rest of his mother (may the gods bless Carrie Fisher) that it's almost a terminal blow for their 4-season-long marriage. These moments - and those beaming, laughing conciliatory smiles in bed that follow, that only these two people can bring out in each other (one feels) - are the soul and essence of the show. That and shit-ass-funny situational comedy.
This is what happens next... They've apologised to each other and resolved their argument - as always in that wonderful way that makes love seem a) real and b) irreducible. The kids asleep in the car, parked nearby on the beach, Sharon decides to go for a swim in the sea. Rob watches her go, before turning around to see a sign that warns of dangerous rip tides. Don't fucking swim, Sharon. He goes after her. He joins her, swims out to her. To be with her. Not screaming danger, not ostensibly trying to rescue her. They're together in the water. And then we pull out, and it appears that the rip tide has pulled them far out. Unswimmably far? Fatally far? It's totally and deliberately and excruciatingly ambiguous, and it's fucking perfect and I love it.
It's Tony Soprano -- CUT TO BLACK. Or something along those lines, or so it appears to be. To each their own interpretation. And here's mine...
Rob and Sharon die at the end of Catastrophe. The rip tide pulls them out to sea and they drown. It's a fucking tragedy. Why do I choose to interpret the ending in this way? Surely like Schrödinger's cat they are both dead and not dead, maybe-dead at most...? Not for me. Because I elect for the most profound, the most meaningful, most artistically perfect version of this story.
Here we were thinking that the 'Catastrophe' was an accidental pregnancy between two casual lovers, snowballing into a modern marriage full of glorious imperfections. Marriage - What a clusterfuck of love and laughs and tears, am I right audience? Yes. And more. The 'And more' arrives with that final, tragic scene. With this coup de grâce, Catastrophe is elevated (yes, elevated) from being one of the funniest, best observed comedies of all time, to one of the greatest love stories of all time. The eponymous 'catastrophe' encompasses the entire relationship arc, through to its beautifully awfully tragic end. Catastrophe was a tragedy all along. It was there, in the title, waiting to break our stupid fucking hearts.
Thank you Sharon and Rob, Rob and Sharon, and everyone who put anything into this show. Good luck topping that, muppets.