Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan explain that mysterious ‘Catastrophe’ finale. Sort of

(Mark Johnson)

Warning: This post contains lots of spoilers.

If you’ve made your way through the final season of “Catastrophe” by now, you probably have some questions about the ambiguous way the Amazon series ended.

In the finale, Sharon and Rob (played by Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney) find their relationship — a passionate fling that unexpectedly led to marriage and kids — in crisis. Sharon discovers she is pregnant, and Rob, grieving the death of his mother, wants to accept a job offer back home in the United States. A bitter fight ensues.

The next day, Rob and Sharon sit on an idyllic New England beach, making up and reiterating their commitment to each other. Sharon spontaneously strips down to her bra and underwear and dives into the water, and Rob follows her in, despite signs warning of rip tides.

“I thought you didn’t want to swim,” she says. “I didn’t like seeing you there drifting on your own,” he replies. They kiss and turn back. A wide aerial show shows attempting to swim toward safety, but they’ve drifted far from the shore.


Interpretations of the scene have varied. Some view it as a metaphor for marriage in keeping with the central themes of the series. Others see it more literally and offered detailed theories about why Rob and Sharon are actually dead, a twist that wouldn’t be entirely out of character for a show that has often contemplated loss and mortality (and, well, is called “Catastrophe”).

The inconclusive ending has invited comparisons to the notorious finale of a very different kind of show, “The Sopranos,” which left Tony Soprano’s fate hanging in the balance with an abrupt fade to black and still fuels heated debate 12 years after it aired.

During a recent trip to New York, Delaney and Horgan, who also created and wrote the series, opened up about the ending.

“It is sort of a write-your-own ending scenario,” Horgan said, noting that even she and Delaney went back and forth about the meaning of the final scene in the editing room. “I think it depends on your state of mind. If you’re nihilist or an optimist, you know? It depends on the person viewing.”

Rob Delaney, left, and Sharon Horgan are the creators, writers and stars of “Catastrophe.”
(Rick Loomis / For The Times)

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Initially, the writers “wanted to end in water,” Delaney said, “because Rob is a fish out of water when he goes to London, and then, we end four seasons later with Sharon in America, out of her element.”

The episode as a whole strikes a dark, fatalistic tone and builds to the crisis in Rob and Sharon’s marriage. It opens as they land in Boston for what is supposed to be a family holiday, only to learn that Rob’s mother, Mia (played in previous seasons by the late Carrie Fisher), has died suddenly.

Rob’s deadbeat father — an alcoholic who thinks the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax, is turning yellow from cirrhosis and once drunkenly broke Mia’s jaw — shows up unannounced at her funeral and defends his history of domestic violence by saying, “I hit her way less than my dad hit my mom.”

Rob, grieving and angry at his father, lashes out at Sharon, who’s just realized she’s probably pregnant: “You’re mean and you’re selfish and nobody likes you.”

While the goal of “Catastrophe” was always to entertain and “elicit a high number of laughs,” Delaney said, “we also never really tried to make the show easy viewing.”

And it also never provided an easy answer, even if some fans have found it frustrating.

“My mom and sister called me after they saw an early cut, and they were freaking out, and telling me to explain to them exactly what happened,” Delaney recalled. “I remember saying to my sister, ‘Well, it’s up to you,’ and she’s like, ‘It’s not up to me, it’s up to you! You made the thing! Tell me.’”

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