Review: 'And Just Like That...' a Loving, Uneven Reunion

by Megan Kearns

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday December 10, 2021

'And Just Like That...'
'And Just Like That...'  (Source:HBO Max)

"Sex and the City" is one of my favorite TV series, a wildly influential show and love letter to female friendship, dating, and, of course, New York City. With many shows returning for reunions and reboots, it makes sense "Sex and the City" would, too.

"And Just Like That..." — Carrie Bradshaw's catchphrase narrating writing her weekly sex and dating column — follows friends (and soulmates) Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbes, and Charlotte York Goldenblatt, played respectively by Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis. The series also sees the return of supporting characters Big (Chris Noth), Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson), Anthony Marentino (Mario Cantone), Steve Brady (David Eigenberg), and Harry Goldenblatt (Evan Handler). Michael Patrick King, who's gay, also returns as the showrunner of the "Sex and the City" revival.

Writer Carrie posts unique outfits of strangers (without their consent) on her Instagram page and co-hosts a podcast on sex and gender, which is interesting considering this is the same character who didn't know how to back up her computer. Miranda has left corporate law and starts Columbia University for a degree in human rights. Charlotte dotes on her daughters, buying their dresses for a piano recital. All three are still married to Big, Steve, and Harry, respectively.

But someone is glaringly missing.

It feels strange not to have the iconic Samantha Jones — played by the effervescent Kim Cattrall — reprise her role. For many, Samantha is the best character: Bold, confident, assertive, outlandish, accepting, and sexually free. We learn Samantha moved to London for work — and that she and Carrie have had a falling out.

The strength of the show — besides the glittering New York City locations and gorgeous fashion — has always rested on the characters' tight friendship. Despite the familiarity of the restaurant table conversation — the usual locale to display the women's varied perspectives — the dialogue in "And Just Like That..." often feels stilted, lacking the bold humor and shrewd insight of "Sex and the City." It's a loving reunion for the audience to reunite with these characters, yet it's uneven.

In addition to familiar faces, allusions to the original series and films sprinkle throughout: The huge closet Big built for Carrie; Carrie says, "Hello, lovers" to shoes — a Season Four finale nod; Carrie's wedding shoes; and the song "You've Got the Love" from the original series finale plays during the first episode's credits.

While a comedy, "Sex and the City" never recoiled from serious subjects: Samantha getting cancer, Charlotte's infertility, the death of Miranda's mother. So it's no surprise that tragedy strikes in the first episode, "Hello, It's Me." Although preceded by heavy foreshadowing, it feels tonally jarring nonetheless. The second episode, "Little Black Dress," deals with the aftermath and reactions to grief.

"And Just Like That..." clearly aims to address the diversity problems of "Sex and the City" regarding race, gender, and queerness, adding people of color to the cast: Sara Ramirez, Nicole Ari Parker, and Karen Pittman. In an intentionally cringe-inducing scene, Miranda assumes her grad school professor, Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), a Black woman, is a student, based on her hair. The camera focuses on the disapproving reactions of her classmates, indicating that we're not supposed to side with Miranda. She needs to do more work to become an ally. Later, Dr. Wallace refreshingly calls out Miranda's White Savior Complex.

Despite gay characters Stanford and Anthony, as well as Samantha's sexual fluidity, "Sex and the City" typically focused on cis hetero (and mostly white) relationships, so it's great to see the inclusion of Che Diaz, a queer non-binary character, portrayed by Sara Ramirez (whom I adore), a queer non-binary Mexican Irish actor. They're a stand-up comedian and host of the podcast Carrie guests on. Ramirez imbues Che with charisma and an effortless swagger. Cynthia Nixon is a queer woman, so there was speculation that Miranda might also be queer.

But there is a misstep regarding gender and pronouns. In class, Miranda refers to a queer-coded student as "he"; he praises her "quick pick-up" of pronouns. But if Miranda was truly respectful and inclusive, she would have asked, rather than assuming gender and pronouns. While trying to right its wrongs regarding representation, it remains unsurprising, considering the original show's history of transphobia, biphobia, and, at times, queer erasure.

We desperately need more films and TV series featuring women over the age of 50. But the show is uneven in its depictions of aging. Miranda and Charlotte debate hair going gray; I like the inclusion of this discussion. Yet, it feels ageist and sexist to only show younger people having sex on the show, rather than the 50-year-old characters. Ageist and ableist jokes about Steve needing hearing aids are trite and vapid. Che talks to Carrie about her timidity in talking about "graphic," "raunchy" content (Carrie's words) on the podcast. But Carrie has always been reserved discussing her own sex life, despite writing a sex column, so this feels true to the character, rather than ageist. Going forward, I hope the series explores the women's sexuality and jettisons ageist jokes.

"We can't stay who we were." Both Miranda and Carrie say this line of dialogue, a statement not just about these characters but life itself, especially in a COVID-19 world. It also serves as a meta commentary on how the new series diverges from the original: No Samantha; no narration by Carrie, aside from the last line of each episode.

I'm intrigued to keep watching, since I've followed these characters for so long. While the chic glamour and tender camaraderie remain, "And Just Like That..." lacks the sharp observations and witty banter of the original. It made me want to re-watch "Sex and the City" instead, reminiscing about why I fell under its spell.

"And Just Like That..." streams Thursdays on HBO Max. The first two episodes are available now.