Aand Just Like That didn’t have the smoothest landings. The sequel to Sex and the City was controversial from the time its return was announced. There would be no Samantha Jones, with the core group reduced to a trio, after Kim Cattrall failed to return to the franchise. (Was she invited? Did she decline? I’m looking forward to an inevitable Ryan Murphy dramatization of events – Feud: Cosmos and Cupcakes.) The movies had been mediocre, then terrible, then happily ditched a third before it got too far. Would a series built to be so brassy and brash survive into the excitable 2020s?
Then it finally came, and the drama rolled on. The big turn, or the big turn, at the end of episode one was a momentary moment, controversial largely due to the fact that instead of crying and hugging her still-conscious husband because he was having a heart attack, Carrie might have had considered calling an ambulance instead of. To think that Peloton’s reputation was the main topic of conversation. Shortly after it aired, allegations of sexual assault against Chris Noth were leveled by multiple women. He denied it, but his co-stars posted a message of support for his accusers, and a rumored end-of-season cameo was reportedly scrapped.
Critics of the show itself weren’t nice, and the first two episodes were definitely unstable. It seemed clumsy, grasping at what it felt was the zeitgeist with all the grace of a drunken goat. Some of the storylines proved fuel for the dreaded culture wars, which some viewers interpreted as the writers’ hatred for the three leading women. It introduced a non-binary queer character, Che (Sara Ramirez), and Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte, now in their fifties, struggled to navigate this horribly modern world as I struggled with the idea that a podcast could be the pinnacle of astonishing modernity. Subtlety was not his forte. Carrie seemed to have never heard of Diwali. The less that is said about kitchen sex, the better. Don’t make me relive “Rambo”.
But the truth is that I hedge my bets, recognize that I see its flaws and can understand many, but not all, criticisms. I note, however, that these criticisms are rarely focused on the first two episodes and are about scenes set in episodes three, four and five (Miranda’s cheating, Carrie’s dodgy hip). So, I had to think, aren’t the people who claim to hate this looking at it? I suspect the answer is yes. Obviously, its return was bumpy. (Miranda is an alcoholic! Oh no she isn’t! Oh yes she is!) Still every week I wait for the day a new episode comes out then I stop what I’m doing to watch it as soon as time and decency allow. I’ve heard others quietly admit the same thing.
It’s ironic that And Just Like That struggles with technology—from Carrie’s coy and then freewheeling contributions to the podcast, to her inability to turn off a beeping device in her new apartment—because this show fits into the digital age as well as resists it. It fits in, because according to the accounts I follow, which I admit have a certain bias, it’s a topic of conversation every week. It seems to have become that coveted thing, water cooler television. And it resists it, because there’s something free and old-fashioned about the way it’s jumbled and barked like that. Some viewers have interpreted his tone as tiptoeing around the “issues,” whatever they may be, but the characters’ occasional blunders about identity, for example, seem rather loose and candid.
To enjoy the series – and I realized after three or four episodes that I really enjoy it – you have to keep in mind two conflicting concepts. One is that it can be incredibly clunky and has a lot of moments that seem poorly rated. The other is that it is enjoyable and very entertaining, and still has many of its charms, if not quite the same as it had in its heyday. In a recent episode, Carrie considered making a few cosmetic tweaks to her face, which turned into a thoughtful exploration of the value of lived experience. I didn’t see it coming after the first two episodes, but dare I whisper that And Just Like That is starting to settle into its own skin.