The following review contains no spoilers.
With every season, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s brilliant Catastrophe (which they write and also star in) has gotten more dramatic. Picking up from the previous season’s finale, which ended with Rob backsliding into alcoholism and getting into a car accident, the show’s fourth and final season is its most dramatic yet.
Never a series to pull punches, there are blunt depictions of our two protagonists and the friends and family members orbiting around them as they deal with grief, paranoia, sexism, loneliness, and mortality. Surprisingly, Catastrophe manages all of this without also sacrificing being consistently laugh-out-loud funny.
The thing about a TV comedy is that, when it ends, though you want some sense of closure, you also just want to see your favorite characters cracking jokes at each other like always. Catastrophe understands this well. Almost every character we’ve grown familiar with gets an “ending” of some kind (or at least an event that indicates a new chapter in their lives).
Each episode of the fourth season is building toward conclusions, but it’s done subtly, hidden behind satisfying, self-contained conflicts. It’s impressive how the series works toward and earns its climactic moments over the six episodes, while also delivering simpler storylines about Sharon getting a new boss or Rob flirting with becoming a Quaker.
Also impressive is how the series creates emotional moments for its side characters that bolster the core character dynamic of Rob and Sharon. Much of these side conflicts are about life changes that come with aging. Divorced couple Chris (Mark Bonnar) and Fran (Ashley Jensen) are both struggling with midlife loneliness, retreating to unhealthy relationships to cope with it.
This season introduces Rob’s sister Sydney (Michaela Watkins), who, let’s face it, is obviously here at least in part to fill the hole left by Carrie Fisher (who previously played Rob’s mom). Regardless, she’s great and used to great effect as a stoic humanitarian type who’s actually deeply angry just below the surface. The show’s thesis remains that everyone’s life is, in one way or another, a catastrophe and that Rob and Sharon’s own personal catastrophe is actually a pretty good one.
Something I also appreciate about this series is how it quietly, occasionally references the catastrophe that is existing in present society. It’s personified in Dave (Daniel Lapaine), Rob’s formerly out-of-control, drug-binging friend, who has managed to luck his way into sobriety and a home with a wife and child. Unfortunately, fatherhood has made him paranoid (some of which rubs off on Rob) and he’s all about world-ending conspiracy theories now. Beyond that there’s dialogue directly addressing fears of climate change and the rise of white nationalism, which, like everything else in Catastrophe, is refreshingly honest in a culture of entertainment that typically tries its hardest to present everything as business as usual.
As mentioned, Catastrophe is an extremely funny show, but it’s slowly established itself as an affecting drama as well. Something very unique to this season in particular is that, after Rob’s car crash in the last season, the series has trained me to expect actual shocking, harrowing moments. These moments are few and far between, but season four is still at times properly tense, since we now know it won’t shy away from visiting tragedy upon its characters and is also not afraid of the occasional display of grotesque imagery. Comedy, drama, and now even some suspense: it’s just one more mood Catastrophe demonstrates it has the chops to pull off.
There’s literally one subplot in the entire season that I found a bit forced, in which Rob acts a bit over-the-top ridiculous, but that’s a minor complaint in an overall stellar final season to close out a wonderful series. If you haven’t been watching Catastrophe, you ought to get cracking on it. The entire show is only 24 episodes long and it’s all nakedly honest, beautifully written, emotional, funny stuff. It’s sad it’s over now, but it leaves behind a solid, perfect slice of television.
The fourth and final season of Catastrophe will be available to stream on Amazon on March 15th.
Joe Matar watches a lot of cartoons and a lot of sitcoms. He’s obsessed with story structure so that’s what all his reviews are about. Joe also writes about video games on occasion. He has an MA in English if you can believe it. Read more of his work here. Follow Joe on Twitter for more fun @joespirational!