And Just Like That Was… Great??

The Sex and the City reboot was funny, cringey, sweet, and uneven—which means that it's pretty much as delightful as the original.

And Just Like That Was… Great??
Image:Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max

It was a bit jarring to be thrust back into the world of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha. (Samantha may have been absent, but it’s her world too, nonetheless.) After a decade filled with gray movies and minimalist interiors, and sitcoms that either had no jokes—most of them—or absolutely perfect jokes—a blessed few—it felt almost dislocating to return to Sex and the City’s technicolor realm of escapist good cheer and sometimes-funny-sometimes-cheeseball humor. It didn’t help that the long awaited reboot landed with a bit of a thud when it debuted in December. Reviews were mixed, and Big’s death by Peloton in the premier felt like a lame stunt, before the rape accusations against actor Chris Noth turned it into a very depressing stunt. There were some bumpy early episodes, with the sense that the team was back in the saddle, but not yet in full control of the horse. Having ridden out the full season, I’ve got to admit it: I thoroughly enjoyed And Just Like That

In the years leading up to the show’s debut, there was a lot of talk about whether a series about four rich white women could feel relevant today, which has always struck me as funny for its implication that the lives of rich white women held some sort of universal resonance in 1998. (They did not!) Still, I loved the series when I was growing up, viewing it in family-friendly syndication on TBS. The movies burned through a bit of my SATC goodwill, but I never felt that the show, which would be ridiculous no matter when it took place, was uniquely unsuitable for the contemporary media landscape. SATC created and inhabited its own fantasy bubble, and AJLT succeeds because it expands that bubble, but doesn’t burst it.

Of course, things have changed. There’s a new title, with its annoying ellipsis, and the fact that everyone has been assigned a friend of color, with Miranda and Carrie each acquiring two, as if to make up for Samantha’s dereliction of duty. This ham-fisted effort at peripheral diversity had its hits and misses. As I watched scenes between Miranda’s professor Nya and her husband, I couldn’t help but wonder who the fuck these people were and why I was supposed to care whether or not they have a baby. But others became welcome editions. Despite her near pathological man-hunger, Sarita Choudhury’s Seema was charming, beautiful, and funny—exactly the sort of woman that you can see Carrie wanting to bring into her circle. Charlotte’s social-climbing friendship with Nicole Ari Parker’s effortlessly elegant Lisa Todd Wexley also felt like a natural fit for her character and the show.

Then, of course, there was Che Diaz, whose very name sends a frisson of chills throughout my spine. Now crowned the worst character on TV, Che Diaz was indescribably annoying all season long and yet manages to break new ground in the finale. Within the show, Che brings out Miranda’s inner chaos agent, inspiring her to destroy one of the best relationships in SATC history and testing her bonds with her pals. However, as the season developed, Che Diaz began to feel like a gift. The jokes and memes they inspired were fantastic; with the help of the internet, Che Diaz evolved into a character so abominably written that they’ve become deeply enjoyable, and honestly, a now integral part of the fabric of my mind.

And while Che Diaz is impossibly irritating, they’re irritating in a way that makes sense for Miranda. Remember her early-season attempts to ingratiate herself with her professor? Miranda is a woman of “In this house we believe” signs, someone who was probably profoundly moved when Chuck Schumer donned kente cloth, someone who probably thinks TD Bank floats at Pride represent the height of progress. Of course she’d be salivating at Che’s toothless brand of empowerment comedy. Of course this is the person she’d choose to blow up her life with. It may be tough to watch, but the logic is very much there.

The season inspired me to rewatch some old Sex and the City episodes, which reminded me that, long before the shoehorned-in friends of color were behind each door and just outside every window, SATC was a very cringey show. For almost every time Samantha was funny, sexy, and generally her generation’s answer to Mae West, there was a “Lawrence of my labia” moment.” Carrie and Big were insufferable, Charlotte could feel two dimensional. All three are in some ways more fun to watch now—Carrie’s grappling with a changing world has made her more gentle, the pleasures of family life have made Charlotte more mellow, and Big is finally dead.

Newness aside, the season also had plenty of what made the show great in the first place—the strength of the bond its characters share. Domestic developments gave the friendships new ways to play out that were honestly lovely to watch. The way everyone rallied around Carrie after Big’s tragic spin class felt far more emotionally resonant than the death itself, and from Lily’s sleepover at Carrie’s apartment, to “Uncle Anthony” trying to whip Rock into shape for their them mitzvah, it was truly sweet to see the ways in which Charlotte’s kids have been supported and mentored by the whole gang. (Ginger baby grew up to be very annoying, so I guess that’s why he was left out of the auntie action.)

The season ends on a fractured note far from the cozy camaraderie of the series’ most effective moments, but this is perhaps the best cliffhanger the show could give us. Jobs, relationships, and new friends all exist on the edges of this series. I still want to find out just what’s going on between Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha, which is why I will definitely tune in for season two.

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