Warning: Spoilers for the entirety of Catastrophe, season two, follow. It's good, though! Watch it!
The opening scene of Catastrophe's second season — which dropped in its entirety on Amazon on April 8 — is all it takes to remember that this show isn't telling the same marriage story you've heard so many times before.
"Don't touch me," Sharon, curled up in bed around her enormous, nine-months-pregnant stomach, snarls at her husband.
"If you touch me, I'm gonna scream," Rob spits at her, furious.
Two seconds later, they're laughing.
Five seconds later, they're fucking.
Catastrophe — created by and starring comedians Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney — is a filthy, painfully honest weirdo of a show.
First broadcast on UK network Channel 4, the series began with Sharon and Rob having a wild week of random sex while he was on a business trip to London, and came crashing back down to earth once Sharon learned she was pregnant. The two don't know each other, but this might be their last shot to have a kid, so they decide to just give it a go and see what happens.
Catastrophe delves into pregnancy, sex, and marriage without retreading any of the usual clichés. In fact, when I asked Horgan recently which stereotypes they were trying to avoid, she just laughed. The answer was obvious: "All of them."
With the goal of making something actually relatable for parents who just might be less than perfect, the second season ditches pregnancy drama and dives straight into what it's like to try to make a family work.
I caught up with Horgan about Catastrophe's excellent, surprising second season, so she could break down some of its more shocking developments.
1) Season two jumps forward in time — like, a lot
The first season ended on a cliffhanger — Sharon's water breaking months early — so it was natural to assume the second would pick up almost immediately afterward.
Instead, that opening scene doesn't end with Rob asking Sharon to put "a finger in his asshole"; it ends with their toddler son running into the room and ruining the moment entirely.
As it turns out, the second season of Catastrophe isn't actually about a couple raising their first kid. They already have one, and then, almost immediately, another. As Horgan tells it, she and Delaney were never going to tell that story, precisely because it's been done so many times before. "We just weren't interested," she said. "We didn't want to show a baby pissing in their eye if they couldn't get the nappy on, you know?"
And getting to surprise people just when they think they know what's up is fun. Or in Horgan's words: "We kind of just wanted to fuck with people."
In fact, skipping ahead to Rob and Sharon having two kids and being fully entrenched in family life was always the plan. The two even originally had the time jump set for the end of the very first episode, so Catastrophe could skip Sharon's pregnancies entirely, but network feedback encouraged them to slow it down. "They said they really liked getting to know [Sharon and Rob]," said Horgan, "and them getting to know each other."
Once they thought about telling the story of Sharon's first pregnancy in more detail, Horgan and Delaney realized they could tell a very different story from most pregnancies on television. Staring 40 in the face, Sharon had a pregnancy fraught with health problems that didn't exactly seem comedy-friendly — yet in Delaney and Horgan's hands, those problems absolutely were.
And in season two, the pair were even more committed to going to darker places than some might expect from a raunchy, rollicking comedy.
2) Sharon and Rob are finally happy together. That doesn't make their marriage any less excruciating.
If there's one expected story about marriage that Catastrophe actually indulges, it's the idea that couples with kids have less sex. That, at least, felt real to the series' creators.
If Sharon and Rob had as much sex now that they have two kids as they did back when they had no kids — or if that sex was as good as it had been in season one — Horgan and Delaney knew it wouldn't feel right. Says Horgan: "We didn't want couples with young kids watching it and going, 'Oh, fuck off.'"
In one episode, they manage to escape for a weekend to Paris but end up having a terrible time. "In the 12 years I've had kids, I've had three weekends away," said Horgan. "And it was miserable every time. There's so much pressure when you don't have your kids with you to be romantic."
Case in point: Sharon breaking a rib by falling off the bed during the Paris trip was, in fact, inspired by one of Horgan's own disastrous "romantic" weekends away.
But not being able to physically connect like the couple used to ripples out even further than Paris. In the second season, Catastrophe lets Sharon and Rob entertain fantasies of sleeping with other people — and it very nearly rips them apart.
Rob gets in too deep with an office flirtation, to the point where he gets fired. "I think he would've been happy with a rather intense flirt," Horgan said, "but even when you don't have intentions of going through with something, it can still backfire in a catastrophic way."
Fittingly, Sharon also gets too drunk and friendly with a 20-something dude after a huge fight with Rob — and then the next day, she can't remember whether or not she went ahead and actually cheated.
Sharon and Rob still find each other attractive, but they are also exhausted, which makes them feel less desirable. And so for them, and for many tired married couples, indulging in the idea that someone young and hot might like them isn't about necessarily wanting to cheat.
"We wanted to tell those stories," Horgan said. "It's all about people making them feel attractive."
3) Rob and Sharon both have personal crises that get much darker than you might expect
In the words of Bridget Jones: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces."
Having a new house and a family doesn't make Sharon and Rob's problems disappear. If anything, they just get far more complicated — and that much harder to shake.
After the scare with Frankie, their first son, Sharon finds to her horror that she can't connect with her new daughter. "You don't think she's ... manipulative?" she asks Rob afterward, trying to sell it as a joke but obviously failing. Then, lest we think this might be a casually tossed-off line, the second episode opens with Sharon seeing a psychologist and trying to get some pills.
She's lost, she's lonely, she's embarrassed, and she has no idea how to fix it. Even worse: Learning to love her daughter doesn't make that feeling go away.
"People really responded to the real stuff in the first season," Horgan said of Sharon's pregnancy troubles in the first season. "Depicting postpartum depression was another way to not just tell a more meaningful story, but to tell people that really, truly, it's going to be okay."
Rob also has a rough go of it this season, thanks to increasingly feeling useless and getting fired from his job. By the end of the season he goes back on years of sobriety, raids a hotel mini fridge, and falls off the wagon and flat onto his face.
Horgan told me that she and Delaney — who is sober offscreen as well as on — never intended to get into Rob's alcoholism in a real way.
"We were interested in the idea that [sobriety] was just a part of his life, his persona," she said. But as they were writing the season, they realized that it made sense that Rob would react to all the chaos in his life by turning to alcohol. "It's so dark," Horgan said, "and also, I'm sorry, a little funny." She tried to stop herself but let out a big laugh, anyway. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be laughing."
"But comedy's really good for that," she continued. You can be going through something so awful and still, with some well-placed "gallows humor," find a way out.
Seasons one and two of Catastrophe are currently available to stream on Amazon.