Warning: Spoilers ahead for Catastrophe series finale “Episode 6.”
“It was such a buzz, Rob and I were really buzzing off the back of that,” Catastrophe creator Sharon Horgan tells Refinery29, clearly smiling on the other side of the phone. The “Rob” Horgan speaks of is Rob Delaney, her Catastrophe creative partner and on-screen husband. “That” is the outpouring of love and support the duo found when their beloved comedy's series finale premiered in the U.K. last month. It was a reaction Horgan didn’t expect and one she isn’t sure will be repeated when Amazon releases those same final episodes to American audiences on March 15.
“A lot of the time with Catastrophe, you never know what you’re going to get away with,” the Irish performer recalls. “You never know if people are going to be like, ‘What? Those guys, there’s something wrong with them.’” That attitude applies to season 4’s “Episode 6” more than any other installment of the boundary breaking rom-com. After all, it ends with its lead duo — Horgan’s Sharon Morris and Delaney’s Rob Norris — farther out in the Massachusetts sea than any viewer would expect. The threat of deadly rip currents hovers over the panic-inducing final shot as Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” plays.
It’s a shocking end to the relationship comedy — that is until you notice all the breadcrumbs Horgan and Delaney dropped throughout Catastrophe’s finale season.
“Along the way we knew wanted things to get kind of bad because we knew that when we took them to America in ‘Episode 6,’ we wanted to feel like there was a chance they could just say, ‘Fuck it all,’ Horgan explains. When you look back on season 4, Delaney and Horgan did pave a path for their characters to throw in the towel on their lives in Europe or their precarious relationship. By this point, Rob's season 3 relapse into alcoholism has put a strain on his marriage, Sharon’s father Des (Gary Lilburn) is dead, her brother Fergal (Jonathan Forbes) has moved to Spain, and her mother Carol (Frances Tomelty) is finding relief from her grief in the arms of a male model. Both Sharon and Rob are in vague jeopardy with their jobs. That’s why Sharon, a teacher, leaves work at the close of “Episode 5” announcing, “I think this is gonna be my last year at Kingscote.”
While all of these mounting crises make a strong case for the Norris-Morrises hightailing it to Rob's native States, such a suggestion never springs to mind in the midst of the action. That’s by design. “We definitely didn’t want that to be a question that anyone saw coming. We just wanted to make sure that we made things shit for them,” Horgan explains of her heroes. “We knew that if we put in enough pointers, people might not see them the first time around, but when they get to the end, they’ll see [Sharon and Rob] were at a point where they could have jacked it all in.”
The goal of all these stressors on the Morris-Norrises wasn’t inspired by a passion for elaborate sadism. Instead, it was to emphasize Rob and Sharon’s commitment to each other. “We reach a breaking point really [in the finale], but then we sit them on that rock,” Horgan says.
In “Episode 6” alone, Rob rips into Sharon and Sharon hides a pregnancy from Rob, albeit very poorly. Both of these actions seem even more intense since they’re in response to the tragic and abrupt death of Rob’s mom Mia (late icon Carrie Fisher). The episode is built around a well-deserved “send off” to Mia and Fisher, fueled by the Hollywood icon’s “feisty” demeanor and “crazy spark.” By pushing Sharon and Rob to these extremes, their rock-set, beach-y resolution is much more meaningful. Still, they choose each other — messes, surprises, pains, and all.
“We wanted to say in those moments everything the series is about. They would do it all again,” Horgan says, confirming Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” helps reinforce the point. “The same mistakes. The same fuck ups. But, the same love.” So, Sharon and Rob head out into the depths of the unpredictable waters. As Rob tells Sharon in the last words of the series, “I just didn’t like seeing you drifting there on your own.”
With Catastrophe’s entire mission statement wrapped up in Rob’s quote, only one real question is left: do Sharon and Rob die together in a New England riptide? We’ll never know, and that’s the point. “That’s exactly how we wanted it. Because I think even Rob and I have got different views,” Horgan admits, revealing the pair added details to the final scene suggesting their characters had a “difficult” time returning to shore. “We wanted it to be a ‘You write the end of that story’ situation … How you view it, it says what kind of a person you are. If you’re a nihilist or a fatalist or an optimist.”
Whatever you are, Horgan is pleased with Catastrophe’s goodbye. “I’m happy that last shot works, that shot that was in our heads for so long … That’s good enough for me. That song and that image — that’s all I need.”