The Catch-22 ending packed such an emotional punch, but what do the episode’s final moments mean?

“What’s it about?” “… George Clooney is in it…”

“Well, yeah go on then, I’ll watch it.” We imagine this is how a lot of conversations went down when Catch-22 first arrived on screens. 

This exciting mini-series first aired on Hulu in the United States back in May and arrived on UK screens shortly after on Channel 4 in June. Immediately, potential audiences were drawn in by the cast. The marketing surrounding it teased the story of airmen during World War II striving to maintain their sanity and return home in one piece, with a darkly comic edge. It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but when George Clooney’s on-screen, most are happy to try a new flavour. 

Not that he’s been the only draw though. The star was graced by the likes of Kyle Chandler (The Wolf of Wall Street, Manchester by the Sea), Rafi Gavron (A Star is Born), Kevin J. O’Connor (There Will Be Blood), Austin Stowell (Whiplash) and many more. 

Catch-22: From Joseph Heller to Channel 4

United States Army Air Forces WWII bombardier John Yossarian (Christopher Abbott) is doing his best to survive while his own army is hellbent on ramping up the danger. 

It all comes down to a Catch-22! If you’re determined to embark on dangerous flight missions, you must be insane. However, if you request to relieve yourself of these duties, then they perceive this as a rational decision, and therefore, you can’t be insane. Essentially, there’s no way out and you’re stuck in a particularly unenviable jam – to say the least.

With a premise so ironic, the miniseries was always going to prove darkly comic. Fortunately, that’s exactly how it’s turned out, much to the delight of fans of the book, which is best described as a satirical masterwork; thematically rich and bold.

Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel is regarded as one of the greatest literary works of the twentieth century. Recently, fans have been invited by Channel 4 to see it jump from the page and onto the screen, with excellent results. 

Catch-22: Ending explained

Yossarian is left traumatised by the death of Snowden, and it’s clear that he’ll never be the same again after experiencing such a harrowing moment. It proves pivotal for his sanity, and after witnessing his funeral from a distance. The chaplain offers a speech, expressing that the men vanish into the sky; it’s supposed to be comforting, but perhaps suggests it’s a torment which never ends. 

This calls into question the concept of duty. Is it over in death? Now, is there any way to Yossarian to get out? Interestingly, he receives his Flying Cross medal totally naked in front of the other characters. The vision of his deceased peers happy in the ocean is oddly alluring as if death has become the only thing which can save him.

The next mission he goes on, he embarks on naked, which arguably symbolises the character’s revelation. After his ordeal, the uniform once believed to be a symbol of pride has become a shackle, but – Catch-22 and all – he has no hopes of escaping this life without death. In an act of defiance, he refuses to wear the uniform, but alas, he must still fight. It’s an ironic image; is he sane in his thinking? In his reason? Sanity or not, his fate is sealed. 


Has Catch-22 been a success? 

Of course, people will draw different interpretations and feel differently about the ending and the series’ final images, but it’s good that a discussion has generated from it. 

The author’s novel has been analysed for decades, and this recent show is quite the testament to its everlasting power, in a sense. Overall, it’s been a great success, boasting an admirable 87% on Rotten Tomatoes with a similar audience rating of 81%. Over on IMDb, it has a stellar audience score of 7.9, so it’s safe to say the TV mini-series is a credit to the source material. 

In other news, a glockenspiel has stolen the show outside Parliament!