Warning: This post contains spoilers from the season 2 finale of Max’s And Just Like That…
via: Rolling Stone
As Carrie Bradshaw gathered together her nearest and dearest to say farewell to her beloved Upper East Side apartment, some of the attendees made perfect sense. Charlotte and Miranda were, of course, in attendance, Charlotte bringing along husband Harry. The fourth member of the original Sex and the City crew was not there, because Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker can no longer stand to be in the same room together, but Cattrall at least recorded a hostage video cameo to establish both that the estranged friends were on good terms again, and that flight problems would prevent her from crossing the Atlantic in time for the big meal. The minute-long appearance saw her fake a British accent, bid adieu to Carrie’s “fucking fabulous, fabulous flat,” and channel Annabelle Bronstein, her Soho House alter ego.
Other more or less logical guests included Seema, who has largely filled the Samantha-shaped gap in Carrie’s emotional life; Che, who has become a close friend to Carrie since they did a podcast together, and who frequently stayed in this apartment while Carrie and Aidan were having sex at Che’s expensive Hudson Yards condo; Lisette, the downstairs neighbor who bought the apartment from Carrie; and Anthony, who is essentially an in-law of Carrie’s, even though he’s now divorcing her best male friend Stanford.
Also in attendance, though, were Charlotte and Harry’s friends Lisa and Herbert, whom Carrie barely knows; Carrie’s other former podcasting partner Jackie (and his wife Smoke), whose presence Carrie at best indulges; and Nya, who is ostensibly one of the main And Just Like That… characters, even though it’s often startling to be reminded that she’s on the show at all. Nya at least acknowledges that she won’t know anyone at the dinner, and attends as Miranda’s plus-one. (The latter excuse also covers Seema’s action movie director boyfriend Ravi and Anthony’s well-endowed Italian poet boyfriend Giuseppe.) Meanwhile, not only is Samantha absent, but so is Miranda’s ex-husband Steve, who remains on great terms with Carrie (and who makes peace with Miranda earlier in the episode), boyfriend Aidan (who at least has a good excuse, which we’ll get back to), and any number of recurring characters from either Sex and the City or this series with whom Carrie is closer than, say, Lisa Todd Wexley.
My goal here is not a rigorous audit of Carrie Bradshaw’s party-planning skills. Obviously, guest lists are fluid things, circumstances can be complicated, certain people may be unavailable, etc. The problem isn’t that the group gathered for one final meal in Carrie’s apartment feels unrealistic. It’s that it speaks to the fundamental problems of And Just Like That… as a mish-mosh of various ideas that only sometimes feel like they belong as part of the same show.
Two seasons in, for instance, it’s clear that the four new female “leads” exist almost entirely based on their relationships with the original trio. Seema isn’t necessarily close to Charlotte or Miranda, but as Carrie’s most trusted confidante, she at least feels like a significant part of AJLT. When Che was both a friend of Carrie’s and a romantic partner to Miranda, they seemed similarly important; once the Miranda affair inevitably fell apart and Che had to star in their own subplots about pet adoption and the challenges of rebuilding a comedy career(*), they became wholly extraneous. Nicole Ari Parker and Chris Jackson at least get a lot to do as Lisa and Herbert, but their stories tend to feel so far removed from everything else as to be part of another show. And Nya continues to disappear for long stretches, and barely matters when she’s around, as if the producers abandoned whatever their original plan for her was, but understandably didn’t want to fire the wonderful Karen Pittman in the process.
(*) Even by the unsparing nature of the Studio 60 Problem, Che’s comedy — both on stage and in civilian quips — remains almost shockingly unfunny.
So we have this sequel show that has attempted to drag both Sex and the City itself and its three returning stars into the 21st century, diversifying the franchise in terms of race, sex, and gender. But its efforts on that front often come across as more obligatory than enthusiastic, bending to the needs of the original characters as opposed to whatever inner life the newbies have been granted. Often, scenes feature collections of characters who only make sense if you assume that those actors were the ones who were available on the day of filming.
In many ways, this season was still an improvement on the first. Moving past Carrie’s grief over Big was huge, and the decision to re-embrace the sex, as well as the city, was welcome. And the return of John Corbett as Aidan in the home stretch injected a lot of life into things, especially for anyone who was always Team Aidan and thought Mr. Big was a manipulative garbage person.
But the season also couldn’t resist contrived, if not outright ridiculous, plotting. A story where Harry, in an attempt to spy on Rock’s new modeling career, donned a wig and posed as a much younger person, made me feel like I was losing IQ points as I watched it. Charlotte nearly suffocating herself in multiple layers of Spanx on her first day of a new job was nearly as bad. Lisa’s unplanned, unwanted late-in-life pregnancy was resolved with one of these conveniently-timed miscarriages television is so fond of. And the less said about how AJLT traded on Chris Jackson’s past as George Washington in the original cast of Hamilton, the better.
The clumsiest of all of these was the resolution to the season’s biggest story arc, with Aidan putting things on hold with Carrie for perhaps the next five years so he can be more attentive to his troubled youngest son, Wyatt. On the one hand, credit to Michael Patrick King and company for not having Carrie blow things up with Aidan a third time, and for attempting to hit Pause on the relationship this time, rather than Stop. On the other, very little of what’s happened regarding Aidan’s kids has made much emotional sense. That the show entirely skipped over Carrie’s first visit to Aidan’s farm in Virginia feels like a giveaway: a creative team that either couldn’t, or simply didn’t want to, imagine how that family functioned, nor how Carrie would even attempt to interact with Aidan’s sons. Wyatt’s crisis felt real, though, and Corbett played the hell out of Aidan’s response to it at the end of last week’s episode. But his solution seems to serve the needs of And Just Like That… much more than his own. It’s one thing for him to decide he will stop flying up to New York every other weekend, and another to decide that he also doesn’t want Carrie visiting him for a period of, again, five years.
It’s an odd decision, albeit one Carrie is mostly at peace with by the end of the episode. On the whole, “Entrée” seemed designed to give everyone happy-ish endings in the event the series wouldn’t continue past this. Charlotte lectures Harry to accept that he will have to pick up more slack now that she’s back at work, and he agrees. Miranda makes peace with both Che and Steve, and starts a flirtation with a BBC producer. Che moves back into the Hudson Yards apartment and hooks up with new crush Toby (Alex Lugo). Nya hits it off with the handsome Michelin chef (played by CSI alum Gary Dourdan) from Carrie’s dinner. Anthony reluctantly gives up his “ass virignity” to convince Giuseppe to stay with him in New York. Seema and Ravi will have their own temporary separation, albeit only for a few months, and they get to say meaningful emotional things to one another first. And Lisa and Herbert at least make peace with the lost pregnancy, and whatever guilt they feel over having wished it away.