At the start of Catastrophe’s second season, Rob (Rob Delaney) and Sharon (Sharon Horgan) are idly lying in bed. The first thing we notice is that Sharon is pregnant, which is startling — the previous season ended with Sharon giving birth to the child she and Rob had conceived during a one-night stand. At first it seems like this scene could be a flashback, until a child walks into the bedroom, revealing that the show has jumped two or three years forward in time. Despite that, everything seems the same as where the first season left off; Rob and Sharon are still together, and have decided that this is their family now, exactly as the first season predicted. But the feeling that comes with this stable scene of familial comfort dissolves almost entirely over the course of this season. If Catastrophe’s first season chronicled a mistake-turned-blessing, the second season is about mistakes that remain regrettable.
Catastrophe’s second season is punctuated by a series of major, life-changing events that should have huge repercussions in the show’s small world, but they are only felt briefly, if at all. Catastrophe pitches itself as a love story of two very stubborn people, but its exploration of the effects of that stubbornness on a marriage is shallow. The characters themselves mirror the show’s mindset: they look past everyone’s flaws, despite their apparently intense interest in pointing them out. By the end of the second season, Catastrophe’s formula becomes: set everything on fire, but don’t expect to see the damage.
set everything on fire, but don’t expect to see the damage
Parenthood, and what that means to Rob and Sharon, necessarily plays a bigger role in this season than it did in the first, when the turmoil of starting a new family was still hypothetical. Many of the show’s funniest moments are when Rob and Sharon discuss their children — especially their physical attributes — as if they’re gossiping about strangers at a cocktail party. At one point, they hope their son Frankie’s penis will inspire “respect, and a little bit of fear.” When Sharon worries that she hasn’t bonded with their daughter as easily as she did with Frankie, Rob reminds her how their son looked when he was born: “He weighed four pounds, he was dark red, and he had a hairy back. He was a monster.”
The anxiety of becoming a four-person family seems to set off a chain of bad decisions for Rob and Sharon. The longest running joke in the second season is that Rob can’t pronounce his daughter’s Irish name. It’s Moiron, or Maron, or Myron; Sharon says it so fluidly it’s hard to tell what she’s really saying, and Rob usually just mumbles it, or sighs as he’s tripping through it. Sharon chose the name without Rob, and she seems to be the only one (including her own Irish family) who can pronounce it. This is exactly the kind of situation Delaney and Horgan want their characters to be in: not quite on the same page, but nonetheless agreeably stuck there together.
Delaney and Horgan balance their characters’ general apathy for mutual respect and well-considered big life decisions with small moments of real heart. The show eventually reveals that the couple’s first son, Frankie, was born dangerously premature, sick enough that both Rob and Sharon seem to be incapable of talking about his first few months without crying. This, along with questions of aging and familial responsibility, balance out the show’s tendency to rely too heavily on slapstick.
The second season of Catastrophe, while still as easy an investment (still just six half-hour episodes), veers much more into drama than its first run. Its characters are realistic, but its jokes have larger-than-life powers. On Catastrophe, a good one-liner is capable of sweeping real problems under a rug; alcoholism and infidelity are still no match for the goof of someone tripping over that rug. But maybe Catastrophe is always just one step ahead of itself. If this season explored the consequences of the first, maybe the show’s third season won’t easily forget Rob and Sharon’s actions in this one.
Catastrophe‘s second season will be available on Amazon Prime Video on April 8th, 2016.