Catastrophe is a series that thrives on blunt honesty -- not only honesty between its main characters, but honesty between the show and its viewers. For the past three seasons, it's been lauded as a shockingly funny, realistic look at marriage and parenthood, and its fourth (and final!) season only further proves its worth. The comedy -- about an unlikely couple who quickly come together after a one-night stand leads to a surprise pregnancy -- has been a lovely, filthy, and much-too-short gem that's managed to stand out in a crowded television world by showcasing fantastic writing and performances.
Created by Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, who also pen each episode and star as the leads, much of Catastrophe revolves around the relationship between Sharon Morris (Horgan) and Rob Norris (Delaney). Thrust into each other's lives unexpectedly (they met in a bar while Bostonian Rob was in London on a business trip and after the pregnancy, he moved there full-time), Catastrophe often functions as a romantic-comedy in reverse. It started with marriage-and-children, and they work their way toward getting to know and love each other.
The fourth season, which has already aired in the U.K. on Channel 4 and will premiere on Amazon this Friday, doesn't switch up its basic formula but does still succeed in surpassing its previous seasons -- which are all dark and magnificent in their own way. And Season 3 was, indeed, pretty dark. Rob, long-established as an alcoholic, secretly starting drinking again and only confessed this to Sharon after being involved in a car accident and realizing that the police were going to test his blood alcohol level. Season 4 begins during that aftermath, opening with Rob injured and in court, attempting to deflect the blame onto Sharon (referencing a previous season, he explains that she "masturbated off a young student, a college boy, on the roof of a night club") to lessen his punishment. Sharon later retorts, calling him a "criminal in a neck brace -- what a f--king catch." They are, in many ways, the perfect couple.
Rob's backslide looms over a good portion of the fourth season, notably and understandably, because the ripple effects of alcoholism are impossible to ignore. Sharon's view of him adjusts slightly, now finding herself worrying about Rob when he's not around. Is he drinking somewhere? Is he dead? She also can't help but look back and reevaluate the past few months, and wondering if he was always unhappy in their situation. "You didn't love being a dad and a husband enough to not drink vodka in the basement," she tells him. "Those things can co-exist," he responds.
But that's not the only plot Catastrophe concerns itself with. For being only six half-hour episodes, the season sure does pack in a lot: Sharon spends an episode trying to figure out if a coworker was being inappropriate with her and contends with the realities of wavering health as you get older (a bored doctor mentions the "fat around [her] organs" among other things). Rob attempts to wage war against prankster youths, does community service at a small shop, and faces changes at work. The season also makes sure to touch on the lives of some side characters -- such as Fergal (Jonathan Forbes), Chris (Mark Bonnar), and Fran (Ashley Jensen) -- and finds a way to provide homage to Carrie Fisher, who played Rob's mother in previous seasons. Yet at the same time, it doesn't ever feel busy or rushed -- it has its own little rhythms.
The season isn't always as outwardly funny as before, but it's more comfortable and lived-in, fully confident in itself and its characters. Part of the show's success is convincing us to become so invested in these characters' lives even when they aren't exactly "good" people. In fact, it's precisely because of the imperfections of their relationship that makes it such a good viewing experience -- it's always welcoming to see depictions of love and parenthood that aren't through a rose-tinted filter. And the show works for those who aren't married or parents (the kids are rarely seen) because the humor found within the self-loathing, the financial struggles, and the frustrations of simply existing are all universal.
Catastrophe's final season, like its predecessors, is certainly raw at times -- there's one particularly vicious argument that has stuck in my mind -- but it's also bittersweet. It's so easy to root for Rob and Sharon, who don't exchange "I love you"s but instead say things like, "The kids would be f--ked if you die first" and "They'd be way more f--ked if you died first!" This, in turn, made it so easy to root for the overall success of Catastrophe, a brilliantly biting sitcom that never relented yet always provided laughs. By the series finale -- which is aptly strange, beautiful, and ambiguous -- it just feels unfair that we have to let go of something so special.
Season 4 of Catastrophe premieres Friday, Mar. 15 on Amazon.