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Drawn to the light in Showtime’s ‘The End’

From left: Harriet Walter, Ingrid Torelli, Frances O'Connor, and Morgan Davies in "The End."Mark Taylor/Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Showtime recently premiered a British-Australian import that is straight-up all about death. Almost every character’s story line intersects with death somehow, through suicide, assisted suicide, cancer, you name it. The title of the show? “The End,” of course.

Oh, and by the way, it’s a comedy.

Being a morbid soul deep down, I enjoyed it, despite its flaws. The cast is excellent, with Frances O’Connor as Kate, a palliative care doctor in Australia, and Harriet Walter as her suicidal mother, Edie. Kate pushes Edie into a retirement community, and Edie is disgusted and angry. So during the day, Kate deals with dying patients, including an ailing woman who, with her husband, is planning to take her own life when the suffering becomes too much. And at night Kate copes with her difficult mother, who is threatening once again to kill herself. Kate is also raising her two children alone; her husband is in jail for white-collar crimes.


I don’t want to spoil any of the show, which airs Sundays at 8 p.m., but everyone changes across the season in ways that offer flashes of hope amid all the dire doings. The story lines are dense — too dense, at times — with issues of death, but the comedic moments are a great relief and the acknowledgments of all the absurdities of life and suffering are heartening. The writing is consistently perceptive, with intriguing notions about control, depression, and parenting.

The mother-and-daughter dynamic between Edie and Kate is a particularly rich part of the show, largely thanks to the two actresses. Walter, recently seen as the Roy kids’ mother on “Succession” and on “Belgravia,” has become a favorite. She makes Edie’s pain, as well as her victories, completely recognizable.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.