"And Just Like That..." isn't as horrible as many make it seem, but it still doesn't live up to the original series.
***WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS***
"Sex and the City" was a hugely successful HBO series that changed television history. It also changed the lives of the four women who starred in it. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis would forever be linked to their iconic characters. The series spawned two films in its wake and a generation of viewers impacted by its portrayal of women and sexuality.
Even though the second film didn't do well with fans, hope was still strong for a third movie. Rumors about its development ran rampant for years and for a while, it seemed like it wouldn't happen. Then, in the midst of a global pandemic, a new series was announced for HBO Max. The series would be titled, "And Just Like That...," after Carrie Bradshaw's iconic voiceover from the original.
The biggest stand-out from the initial announcement was the new title. It's actually a pretty smart move. It allows longtime fans of the show to disassociate from this new chapter if they don't care for it. Even though its a continuation of these characters and their stories, it doesn't change or ruin what the original "Sex and the City" was for so many.
The series is marked by the death of two beloved characters, Mr. Big in the show and Willie Garson in real life. Mr. Big passed at the very end of the first episode, where he had a heart attack in the shower. This storyline leaked to the public years ago when rumors of the third film were circulating. The fact that this scene played out anyway, despite the leak, was a surprise.
Willie Garson's exit was abrupt, even though it was expected after the news of his death while the series was still in production. Stanford Blatch only appears in the first three episodes and his permanent exit is explained in the fourth episode. He leaves a letter to Carrie in her old apartment which says he's leaving for Tokyo. Anthony shows up to explain that he's managing a TikTok star. He says that Stanford didn't want to upset Carrie further after Big's death by telling her in person. Anthony also says Stanford wants a divorce.
It is abrupt and not a good way to send off a character like Stanford. However, given the circumstances, it's hard to be upset with those writing the show. It appears that they did the best they could given the situation.
Another character whose exit needed to be explained was Samantha. Kim Cattrall made it clear in an interview with Piers Morgan that she wasn't returning to the show. In the first episode, her absence is explained by Samantha moving to London. Carrie explained that the two had a falling out over her firing Samantha as a publicist. Even though Samantha has been ghosting all three women, she did send Carrie flowers for the casket display at Big's funeral.
There's been lots of debate about whether the new series handled Samantha's absence the right way. Some have said the character wouldn't leave and ghost her friends over such a thing. They do have a point. But it isn't the first time the two fought over business in a way that got very personal.
In the season 5 episode, "Cover Girl," Carrie is searching for the perfect look for her book cover and works with Samantha on the shoot. Earlier in the episode, Carrie caught Samantha giving a blowjob to a delivery man. Samantha was hurt by Carrie's judgmental reaction and it escalated when Carrie turned down Samantha's outfit suggestions in a similar manner. Samantha left the shoot and the two later apologized at the end of the episode.
I actually think the writers handled Samantha's absence in a good way. It was also interesting how close to real life the explanation felt. Cattrall herself is from the UK. When Carrie was talking to Miranda about the falling out, it almost felt like we were listening to Parker and Nixon talking about Cattrall. It didn't exactly break the fourth wall, but it came pretty close.
The main problem with this new series is the way it deals with age. If Samantha was defying expectations of age in the second film, the rest of the women certainly didn't follow her example. The show makes aging seem so depressing. It feels like they're caving and adhering to society's expectations rather than defying them. Not to mention the fact that it's mentioned way too much. Besides, the characters aren't even old. They're in their fifties. That's way too young for a character like Steve to be losing his hearing.
It's also way too young for sex to take a backseat to the plot. With Samantha's absence, her hilarious sexcapades are nowhere to be found. We can only guess the hijinks she's getting up to in London. The rest of the girls, however, aren't showing how one can still be sexual past a certain age. If anything, the opposite message is being sent. Miranda confesses to Charlotte that her marriage has been sexless for years.
The only one in her house who appears to be having sex is her son Brady. In the first episode, we hear Miranda reveal how she stepped on her son's used condom while cleaning his room. The second episode opens with Brady and his girlfriend having sex so loud, Miranda hears it from her room. This scene seems to exist solely to amplify the dreary, depressing nature of the older characters. It immediately cuts to Miranda and Steve's sexless bedroom where she gets a call from Carrie informing her that Big died.
Another issue Brady's sex life raised was the question regarding Miranda and Steve's parenting choices. While their decision to allow their son to have sex in their house is unconventional, his age isn't brought up right away. For all we know, Brady could be a young adult going to college in Manhattan and saving money by living in his parent's Brooklyn home. It isn't until the middle of the second episode (after his sex scene), when we learn that Brady is only 17.
The scene in question happened when Che Diaz (Carrie's podcast co-host) offers Brady marijuana at Big's funeral. When Miranda catches her son smoking, she flips out and accuses Che of corrupting a minor. This makes Miranda and Steve's parenting choices even more confusing, because it doesn't seem to line up with allowing him to have sex under their roof. To his credit, Steve does wonder aloud if allowing Brady to have sex in the house is the right decision. However, it gets dismissed by Miranda right away.
Some parents have justified their decision to allow their teenagers to have sex in their house. The common reason is that stopping them from having sex is impossible. Therefore, it would be better for them to do it in a safe place, rather than doing it in public and getting caught. It's unclear, however, what Miranda's reasons are for this. It's certainly something that needs to be explained by Miranda and explored further in future episodes.
Miranda and Che didn't avoid each other after the altercation at the funeral. In fact, not knowing what had just transpired, Carrie introduced both of them afterwards. This led to a flirty exchange between them. Miranda develops an unspoken-but-obvious crush on Che and this leads to another flirty exchange between them at a bar following Che's comedy show. It's unclear how and why Miranda was able to move on from the weed blowup so quickly. It's also unclear what this means regarding Miranda's sexual orientation.
The writers have set up so much for Miranda to deal with in this new series. In addition to her sexless marriage and sexually active, pot-smoking son, she is going for her Masters, embarrassing herself in front of her professor, and apparently has a drinking problem. We'll have to wait and see how it all plays out, but it seems like way too much for one character on a show with an ensemble cast.
It's also an odd choice to make Miranda's sexuality step outside heterosexuality. There was never a hint of an attraction to women in the original series. There was an early episode where Miranda's boss mistakes her for a lesbian and sets her up with another woman. Miranda kisses her in the elevator, but determines that she is "still straight." Her attempt had less to do with an attraction and more to do with pleasing her boss.
It seems like the writers are forcing diversity and just like the idea of one of the main cast being part of the LGBTQ+ community. Diversity isn't a bad thing and it would be great to have a fully fleshed out, well written LGBTQ+ character, but this isn't the way to go about it. The public's support for this move speaks to their inability to separate the actresses from the characters they play. Just because Cynthia Nixon is queer, it doesn't mean Miranda needs to be.
And we're definitely not getting a fully fleshed out, well written LGBTQ+ character in Che. The podcast host/stand-up comic is not funny in the slightest. The character isn't played by a stand-up comic, it's played by Sara Ramirez. Ramirez might be a brilliant actress, but this isn't the right role for them. Their performance feels so stiff and void of any personality, much less a humorous one. The character should've been played by a stand-up and written by a stand-up.
The podcast Carrie co-hosts is not only unfunny, it's downright cringey. It also sounds more like a radio show than a podcast. Whoever was writing this portion of the show clearly doesn't listen to podcasts. This is a recurring issue with this series. It feels like it's being written by people who are insecure about their age, wealthy, and unaware of what goes on outside their own bubble.
Instead of a podcast, the writers should've given Carrie a Substack instead. It would be timely and allow her to continue her writing. Instead of a newspaper, her column is now on her Substack account. It would also allow the show to continue using her voiceover throughout the episode. In the new series, the only voiceover we get is at the very end of the episode when Carrie begins the sentence by saying, "And just like that..."
At the end of the fourth episode, we are introduced to Carrie's realtor, Seema, played by Sarita Choudhury. She's one of three new characters in the series, all of whom are women of color. The other two characters are Miranda's professor, Dr. Nya Wallace, played by Karen Pittman, and LTW, Charlotte's new friend, played by Nicole Ari Parker. While Carrie doesn't see her realtor's ethnicity as an issue, Miranda and Charlotte's attitudes towards their new friends is quite different.
The first episode sees Miranda embarrassing the hell out of herself on her first day of class. It all starts over what was intended to be a complimentary remark on her professor's hair. In the rest of the episode, Miranda struggles to understand her white savior complex. Charlotte's faux pas comes in episode four, when she invites LTW to a dinner party. She freaks out because LTW and her husband will be the only Black couple in attendance.
Many people have talked about the "wokeness" of the new series. In more recent years, the original series has been discussed in a more critical way. The main criticism being the show's lack of diversity, especially since it took place in a city like New York. While this is a fair criticism, it feels like this new show is introducing "woke" storylines merely as a form of damage control. It doesn't feel natural or genuine. It feels like a deliberate attempt to right a wrong and maintain a good reputation.
Despite this, the wokeness of the new series isn't as bad as people make it out to be. While it seems out of character for Miranda and Charlotte to be babbling messes in front of their Black friends, there are good messages behind these storylines. Miranda and Charlotte are both learning that Black people just want to be treated like people. They're learning that their new friends don't want to be treated any differently just because of their race.
Charlotte is also dealing with her daughter Rose's revelation that she doesn't feel like a girl. It's unclear as to whether this means Rose is trans, but it's handled in a very realistic way. Charlotte is the kind of parent who has an ideal image of who she wants her daughters to be. But she is also very loving and open-minded (she did dress as a man for a photoshoot in the original series, after all).
Her initial reaction is very realistic. However, when she talks to Anthony about it afterwards, it's clear she wants to do the right thing. Anthony's reaction is less than understanding. He comes across as someone who doesn't understand what being transgender is. While some might be shocked this would come from a gay man, it's actually pretty realistic. It also perfectly sets up a viewer who shares Anthony's perspective to learn a lesson as Rose's journey is explored further.
At the end of the day, this new series isn't as bad as most people make it seem. However, that doesn't mean its good enough to stand alongside the original series, either. It's just okay. And while it can be disappointing, it's still nice to tune in every week. It feels like reuniting with old friends. You realize how much you've missed them. It's a comforting feeling regardless of its flaws. My recommendation to longtime fans of the original series would be to stick around. The season isn't over yet and there's always room for improvement.