thu 05/12/2019

Catastrophe, Channel 4, series 4 finale review - sitcom saves the best till last | reviews, news & interviews

Catastrophe, Channel 4, series 4 finale review - sitcom saves the best till last

Catastrophe, Channel 4, series 4 finale review - sitcom saves the best till last

Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney go out on a grief-stricken, hope-filled cliffhanger

Shore thing: Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney contemplate the future in 'Catastrophe'

When the third series ended with a car crash, I did wonder whether Catastrophe (Channel 4) should maybe think about calling it a day. The previous half-dozen episodes had gone to a dark place in their exploration of alcoholism, but stealthily, as if the script didn’t quite know whether it was meant to be funny or a gut-wrenching purgative. Well it’s always good to be proved resoundingly wrong. Catastrophe, written by and starring Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, returned for a fourth turn of the wheel with the filthy smile restored to its face.

The scripts have been to some awkward and icky places: workplace sexism, midlife health anxiety, youth gang aggression, over-anxious parenting, filial stage nudity, and late-life romance. With all the other plotlines tied up in a bow, for the last ever episode the action flew to New England (played with some conviction by Islington-on-Sea, aka Whitstable in Kent) for what turned out to be the funeral of Rob’s impossible mother Mia, who died while Rob and Sharon were in mid-air. The actual death of Carrie Fisher has loomed over the show, so this was a clever way of laying her character to rest. Rob’s beach speech, a salty assault on Vice President Mike Pence, was a fitting and honourable tribute to her memory.

It wasn’t too late to introduce new family members. Rob’s literally jaundiced father Ryan (Mitchell Mullen) hovered around like a yellow contagion; his rabid politics lent equal credence to Brexit and Obama’s organisation of false-flag mass shootings. There was a last wild swipe at the simpering, faux-sincere new boyfriend of Rob’s sister Sydney (Michaela Watkins). Pat (Nat Faxon), who had somehow appointed himself chief mourner, had perfectly terrible teeth.

But at the heart of this valediction was our last sighting of Rob and Sharon. Their union, begun so haphazardly with a bar pick-up and an accidental pregnancy, was subjected to the greatest strain yet as Rob launched on a wild and grief-stricken hate speech that put a bomb under their union. It was written from a dark and desperate place, delivered with horrid conviction by Delaney, and shattering to witness; Horgan’s face was a picture of bemusement and pain. Suddenly you could imagine Rob and Sharon as George and Martha, but with even pottier mouths.

The scripts have always felt free to go to extremes – witness the animalistic street frotting of Ashley Jansen and Douglas Hodge. So how would it play the outro? There was talk of moving to Boston, a new pregnancy was discovered, and a baptismal dip in coastal waters vouchsafed the loving/warring couple the promise of a new beginning. But that warning sign on the beach, and the camera rearing away to a godlike perspective, left room for doubt that Rob and Sharon would ever reach safety. Even if we never see these two again, you do genuinely hope they make it back. Together they have reinvented and restored faith in the sitcom as a place in which to explore truths of life and love.

Suddenly you could imagine Rob and Sharon as George and Martha, but with even pottier mouths


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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