Underpinning all the comedy—and Catastrophe offers much to laugh at; it is perhaps one of the most cleverly and subtly written sitcoms currently on offer—is, from the very beginning, a sense of anxiety. Can these two make it, really? Can a relationship that begins in this haphazard way survive the various romantic inconveniences of Real Life? In an era of algorithmic matching and years-long courtships and years-longer searches for The One, can two people whose fates collided by way of their genes really make it as married couple, with all of marriage’s ups and downs?
Basically: Is their relationship evidence of serendipity, or of, indeed, catastrophe?
The show’s first season gets much of its dramatic pathos from those questions, and the second season—with, remarkably, even more subtlety, and frankness, and wit—does the same. Now, though, the tensions are sharper, because they don’t just involve Sharon and Rob; they involve the two new people their union has created. The show’s six new episodes start with Sharon and Rob—having had their son, Frankie, prematurely, three years before—preparing for the birth of their second child, a girl. (Later episodes will get a lot of comedic mileage out of the fact that the couple give her a traditionally Irish name—Muireann—whose Celtic diphthong none of the show’s American characters, the girl’s father included, is able to pronounce.)
And things, for the most part, are going well for Sharon and Rob! They’re parents. (Not just to Frankie and Muireann, but to a dog whose presence they seem to tolerate rather than appreciate.) They’re living in a lovely, eclectically decorated house. They have wacky friends and trying families, yes—Sharon’s father is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s; Rob’s mother (Carrie Fisher) resents his marriage and, seemingly, his children—but for the most part, the two people who randomly met in that bar in London are still very much in love.
The question, though, is whether that’s enough. One of the accomplishments of the new season is to suggest that the daily trials of marriage might be too much even for a pair who have the kind of obvious chemistry that Sharon and Rob do. While season one presented the couple with One Big Challenge, season two offers diffusive difficulties: Sharon, missing her job while she’s on maternity leave; Rob, hating his but feeling obligated, as the family’s breadwinner, to keep it; Sharon, dealing with the slow-burning fear that she won’t love her daughter as much as she loves her son; Rob’s alcoholism; their families, who are by turns demanding and uncaring; their small group of friends, who are the same; their differing levels of interest in postpartum sex; all of these amounting to a looming threat of infidelity.
There are other, smaller things, too—small fissures that threaten to accumulate into cracks that can break the whole, tenuous thing. Sharon never opens the mail when it comes. Rob doesn’t like the way they’ve celebrated their anniversary. Neither much likes their dog. And also: As new parents, they’re exhausted all the time. They’re threatened with money troubles. They don’t get a lot of emotional support outside of their relationship with each other. (In one particularly well-realized series of scenes, Sharon undergoes that most modern of humiliations: being dumped by a friend.) Sharon is sometimes kind of rude to their babysitter. Etc.