In the first three seasons, Rob and Sharon endured a slog of obstacles, among them Rob’s adjustment to London; the premature birth of their son, Frankie; the near-immediate arrival of their second child; a false sexual-harassment claim and ensuing employment lapse; the death of Sharon’s father; a faint brush with infidelity; and Rob’s slowly building relapse into alcoholism. Season 3 ended with a jolt: Rob crashed into another car while drunk, and confessed to a frantic Sharon that he wouldn’t pass the mandatory Breathalyzer test.
The Season 4 finale finds the couple once again navigating perilous territory. After their planned beach vacation is overtaken by the news of Rob’s mother’s death and the logistics of her funeral, he and Sharon fight about a central fissure in their marriage toward the end of the episode: “From the day I met you, I’ve struggled to make you happy, and it never works,” Rob tells Sharon. “Have you ever done one thing—I mean one thing—just for me?” She balks: “What—other than grow and feed and raise all of your babies?” It’s a tense exchange, a fight that could easily portend the demise of their union.
But the scene soon gives way to a far more poignant moment, in which the two sit beachside as Sharon attempts to smooth their fight, and her husband’s grief, while also informing him that she’s pregnant, a fact Rob had already deduced: “I saw the test in the trash can,” he notes. “You left it, like, on top of the pile of trash.” After a quick deliberation, Sharon offers a tentative question, an inquiry and a plea: “Do you think we would have ended up together? I mean, if you hadn’t got me pregnant. The first time.” After all the two have faced, Rob’s reply, a characteristically crass and sincere rejoinder, functions as a thesis statement both for the series and for long-term partnerships in general: “If I met you right now, I’d still want to fuck you for a week. And get you pregnant. And marry you. And mess it all up from there.”
That Catastrophe is capping its run with Season 4 is at once devastating for loyal viewers—selfishly, I want as many episodes of the series as Horgan and Delaney are willing to give—and evidence of the show’s self-awareness. The series, and its finale, end on a note so apt, it stops a hair short of cliché. In the final scene after the beachside exchange, an initially reluctant Rob follows a skinny-dipping Sharon into the water after he notices a sign that indicates the water is unsafe to swim in because of rip currents. The two embrace in the ocean after Rob lumbers in to reach her, and the camera pans away as they swim back to shore. When the shot fades, the two are still adrift—but together.
It’s as gorgeous and transcendent a finale as the series deserves. Season 4, more meditative and tonally heavy than Catastrophe’s preceding installments, ends the show with an eye toward Rob and Sharon’s future, in addition to that of their stellar supporting crew, and an insistence that love is, fundamentally, a series of promises. (As well as a parade of gentle roasts—in Episode 3, for example, Sharon tells an alabaster turtleneck-clad Rob that he looks like “a college poetry teacher who tells girls he invented the MeToo hashtag.”) Even when Rob and Sharon’s commitment to each other wavers, Horgan and Delaney’s conviction in their show never does. In moments of conflict, the series finds its leads engaging each other with the kind of candor that deepens their relationship and viewers’ investment in it.
Notably, Season 4’s moments of tension do not emerge, as they did in earlier seasons, primarily because of Rob and Sharon’s children or the pair’s adjustment to parenthood itself. Prior to the beachside adventure, the pair had already been presented with a number of potentially life-altering circumstances. Rob was offered a job in Boston by an old friend, played by an oddly cast David Alan Grier. (Another forgivable distraction is that the final episode, with its reflective sky an aesthetically pleasing tapestry of pinks and oranges, is visibly not set in Massachusetts.) Catastrophe wrestles with the guilt Rob feels about being away from his family, particularly his mother, before her death.