If you haven’t heard of the excellent Amazon series Catastrophe, seek it out. It’s a U.K. comedy from Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney that runs an economical (and far, far too short) 6 episodes a season. Though its initial premise can seem like a standard rom-com-y one — while on a business trip in London, an American man gets his Irish one-night stand pregnant, but despite their problems with each other, they take a leap of faith and get married — the show is exceptionally, and sometimes brutally candid about the realities of dating and relationships in your 30s and 40s.
Catastrophe has a history of ending its seasons with incredibly emotional moments. Season 1 concluded with a no-holes-barred fight between Sharon and Rob (who use their real first names as their characters on the show), but that was interrupted when her water broke. Season 2 did a time jump to a picture of fraught domesticity, and just as that season came to an end, Rob discovers what he thinks is an infidelity on Sharon’s part. The closing shot is literally him opening his mouth to confront her, before the credits roll.
If it sounds like a miserable show, I promise you it’s not. (The series’ name comes from the Zorba the Greek quote: “I’m a man, so I married. Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe.”) There’s so much honesty and laughter and awkward humor (including a fantastic recurring role by Mark Bonnar as Rob and Sharon’s friend Chris, a Scottish curmudgeon with a very fixed worldview). Though Season 3 keeps Ron and Sharon emotionally at bay for most of the episodes, they come together in the finale with a complete honesty about relying on each other completely, and never wanting to be apart. But of course, that’s not the end of things — Rob then reveals something he’s been hiding all season, leaving the couple’s fate again uncertain.
But that wasn’t the only emotional gut punch of the finale. It was also Carrie Fisher’s last performance, and her only appearance in this season as Rob’s quirky mother Mia. After Fisher wrapped on Catastrophe in December, she took a plane to L.A., where she suffered a heart attack and died a few days later. Yet somehow, her final scene in Catastrophe is a kind of perfect farewell, as she decided to do a rambling improv on the details of her character’s favorite TV show as an exasperated Sharon leaves the room:
For the uninitiated, this is basically Catastrophe in a nutshell. It’s real, it’s funny, and it’s honest (sometimes uncomfortably so). It’s smart, but it’s also emotional — even more so, knowing that Fisher is gone. As a mental health advocate, Fisher choosing totally about a made-up show called “My Children Are Schizophrenic” makes the material that much richer, and it speaks to Catastrophe’s core — to both honor and lampoon the most difficult moments in life.
Catastrophe’s third season has just debuted on Amazon, but I encourage you to watch from the beginning. It’s a quick binge, and while Fisher appears in only a handful of episodes overall, her appearances are extremely memorable. For those who are already fans of Catastrophe, Season 3 is perhaps its darkest yet, against leaving us on an extreme emotional cliffhanger to close this latest chapter. But with a Season 4 renewal already having been confirmed, we can know at least there is more to come. Unfortunately, this time, it will be without the fantastic Fisher.