Though it seemed improbable that such a thing could exist, the Sex and the City reboot that Jezebel has been dreading for what feels like centuries has issued forth three episodes. A momentous occasion for those of us waiting for this event with bated breath, And Just Like That... propelled viewers into the lives of Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda once more, providing one and all with an update on how these gals are navigating the tricky waters of the Big Apple in 2021.
If you have avoided this program or are averse to spoilers, turn away here.
The experience of watching the first two episodes, which aired last week, was one of utter calamity, with every plot point seemingly engineered to make me scream. Truthfully, Carrie and her pals are adapting poorly to changing societal mores, but that was to be expected, and to its credit, the show does an excellent job of establishing how keenly each woman is feeling her own slow fade into obsolescence. Carrie is on a podcast (the Buzzfeed-sounding XY and Me) with Che, a queer non-binary standup comedian, and is completely out of her depth, balking at talking about masturbation and acting as if she did not once write a sex column for the New York Post. Uncharacteristically, her relationship with Big seems wonderful, and her life, conflict-free.
Miranda’s ginger baby is a grown-up whose sex noises emanate through the halls of their beautiful Brooklyn brownstone; Steve can’t hear it because he’s literally going deaf, but Miranda, to her dismay, still can. She is also getting her masters degree, performs a micro-aggression against her professor Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), and then unleashes the woke version of her inner Karen when Nya has a little trouble getting into her building without her ID. (Also it appears that she has a drinking problem.)
And Charlotte’s slow slide into irrelevance hits a little closer to home: Her daughter Rose no longer wants to wear Mommy and Me Oscar de la Renta cocktail gowns and tells her mother that her gender identity is changing. Admirably, Charlotte handles the latter with a grace that shows maturity.
There are only ten episodes in the entire season, and so the plot must move at a rapid clip. It felt good to be right about Big’s untimely passing, but nothing prepared me for the ridiculous circumstances of his death; tangentially, I don’t think anyone was prepared for the Peloton ad which lived briefly then disappeared after some disgusting sexual assault allegations against Chris Noth came to light. The pacing of the death scene was deranged: Big slumping against the wall of his well-appointed bathroom intercut with scenes of Charlotte’s piano prodigy daughter performing a monstrous concerto. In the early, dark days of Carrie’s grief, she finds herself managing her own feelings as well as Charlotte’s, who is wracked with guilt at the thought that if Carrie wasn’t at her child’s recital, she could’ve saved her husband’s life. I call attention to this incident specifically because it is a plot point that made me realize what the trouble was: Samantha Jones’s perverted yet sensible energy was what kept this show together, and without her, these women are in big trouble.
Big’s death established the throughline for Carrie, which is learning to live a new life that is drastically different from what she’d imagined. Surely on this journey, she will encounter many a crisis, but unfortunately, her former best friend and publicist Samantha Jones will not be there to help. The explanation for Samantha’s absence is as follows: She and Carrie got into a fight, and Samantha ended up moving to London and does not speak to her former friends. This reason is so breathtakingly petty that I have to hope that they’re leaving room for her illustrious return, breezing into whatever restaurant in the Meatpacking District and acting as if she’d been there the whole damn time. Her absence is keenly felt, because she is the only one in this show’s history with an ounce of good sense.
As a PR professional, Samantha would have necessarily evolved with the times in ways that her friends have yet to do. In order for her to be good at her job—so good that she was able to move to London and start a new life there—she had to keep up with the Jones’. A good publicist is three steps ahead, not ten years behind, and Samantha Jones was good at her job. There’s no way she could’ve ultimately saved any of these women from themselves, but in a time of personal, professional or sexual crisis, a PR gal like Samantha would be my first call.
Big’s funeral was an unmitigated disaster, set in the cold stark white of an art gallery in Soho, and Carrie showed up dressed in a confounding black dress, snatched for the gods, just as Big would’ve wanted. Miranda gave a speech that felt like spoken word poetry, and Big’s secretary cried more than Carrie. The only warmth at this affair were the only floral arrangement in the entire room— a gorgeous cascade of flowers sent by Samantha, no note. While I was bowled over by the classiness of this gesture, I realized that had Samantha still been in Carrie’s life, she would’ve found the correct venue for this sad event, which is something closer to either St. Patrick’s Cathedral or a semi-stuffy funeral home on the Upper East Side with burled wood and cigars in the back room.
There’s no real sense that there’s a lot of sex forthcoming in these women’s lives now, but it does seem like Che and Miranda are gonna French sometime soon. I cannot think of a better resource for a late bloomer’s coming-out journey than a woman whose sexual knowledge and experience is encyclopedic. When Miranda finds herself faced with new feelings, I imagine Samantha would quietly messenger over her files of sex therapists, shamans, and various sexual gurus for assistance.
Though it is clear that Miranda’s twin storylines of both alcoholism and reckoning with her own privilege is penance for the show’s previous clunky handling of race, I think that if Samantha was around, she’d be able to talk some sense into Miranda; in my revisionist history, Samantha has done all the appropriate work required to atone for her behavior in her relationship with Chivon and is able to deactivate Miranda’s fumbling white savior instincts, just by being her friend. That’s a lot of pressure on one woman, but a life spent in PR requires a steely exterior. She can handle it, but I bet after a certain point, it starts to feel like work.
Though she was routinely given some of the most ridiculous lines in a show chock-full of puns and high-pitched squeals, Samantha knew what to do, how it should be done, and why. She is an inherent problem-solver, expert at delegating appropriately and understanding innately the big picture and its many, tiny parts. Like any good publicist, she is able to map any possible outcome for a crisis and is tenacious like a terrier. And in the first three episodes, her presence was sorely missed. All of her friends were in crisis, both big and small, and part of the joy of her character was watching her fix the shit around her without really making it a thing—the sort of friend every person should have in their lives if they are lucky.