We should've known on January 10, 2021.
When HBO Max confirmed that a Sex and the City revival was officially happening, fans noticed that not only do seasons changes and sometimes cities, but after 23 years, six seasons and two movies, titles do too. And Just Like That... would be the next chapter in the story that would follow Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) as "they navigate the journey from the complicated reality of life and friendship in their 30s," declared the press release, "to the even more complicated reality of life and friendship in their 50s."
New title. New chapter. New characters. Sounds fabulous, right? And when And Just Like That... premiered in December 2021, expectations and excitement were higher than the heel on Carries signature stilettos, proving there was still an appetite for more Sex.
But as the episodes continued to drop weekly, the sentiment seemed to sallow. The anticipation was slowly replaced with anger over storyline choices, shifts in relationships and, of course, the absence of Kim Cattrall, who has made it quite clear she is done playing Samantha Jones, thank you very much.
Still, we couldn't help but wonder: Why did we expect And Just Like That... to be Sex and the City 3 when it is entirely a new show and made that very clear from the start?
Maybe it's not the show, maybe it's us? (Warning: Spoilers ahead for And Just Like That...'s Feb. 3 finale!)
"It was a great, extravagant adventure to come back to do this just from a story point of view," showrunner and executive producer Michael Patrick King said on the Jan. 28 episode of the Homophilia podcast. "It's so rare to have characters that people believe are their friends…to have characters that you already love and that you've invested in and that you can actually come back and pick up with them, from a writing point of view it's so potent. And that's what we're seeing from the reaction. It's like, 'Well, this isn't my Miranda. This isn't my Carrie.' Well, it is! It is your Carrie! It is just a choice we made for what they are experiencing."
With the current state of the world, we understand the desire for the safe space that the original series represented to many. Who doesn't want to see Carrie strut around in a tutu or sit in as the foursome down cosmos while talking about their latest sexual adventures?
"People would be in a worse state now [if we did that]," King speculated, "because they would have said, 'It's dead, it's over, it's old, it's the same. Who cares.' What they're not saying is, 'It's over. They're saying, 'What?! No, I reject it! It's not over. Carrie would never do that. Miranda would never do that. What about Steve? Poor Steve!'"
And those blissfully remembering the frothiness of yore and slamming the revival just might be looking back with rose-colored Dior glasses. (Also...have they never watched Sex and the City 2?)
Who can forget Miranda calling Carrie "pathetic" in season three when she learned her friend was planning to see Big after their affair ended, the word stinging more than a slap to the face? How about Carrie's messy affair with a married Big? And we still cringe when we think of how Carrie was angry that Charlotte wouldn't offer to lend her money for a down payment on an apartment.
"People don't remember the show," King told Homophilia co-hosts Dave Holmes and Matt McConkey. "It was this. It was a mess. It was easier maybe because...in the first series, the villain was being single. And everybody was comfortable having someone speak up for single people. But they were 34. Now, the villain is society's views on aging and being a woman and it's not as easy maybe to look at."
King's prime example was many viewers' reaction to the scene where Miranda returns to school and meets Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman) and then proceeds to keep inserting her foot in her mouth.
"'I'm so uncomfortable that she would embarrass herself like that!'" King said of the response. "It's something they're not used to seeing. And maybe age is upsetting people because they're not perfect at 55. they're still as flawed as they were at 34. I think it's really fascinating because the old show was a mess by design. They were lost and strong. But lost."
Loss is a big theme in And Just Like That... with Carrie not only losing her husband in the premiere episode, but also Samantha, who has moved to London and stopped speaking to the women after Carrie informed the legendary publicist she no longer required her services. But that doesn't mean the fan-favorite character was absent from the series.
Sure, the series' handling of Carrie and Samantha's epic falling out was caused by Cattrall's desire to no longer play the character. But it also felt real for friends with such a long and rich history. Part of growing up together is expecting the other person to embrace your changes while also accepting their metamorphosis. Easier said than done.
"I realized we can have them mirror a split that people already know," King explained in And Just Like That... The Documentary, "but make it really Carrie and Samantha and make it heartfelt, the way you really lose friends."
Carrie mourns the absence of Samantha almost as much as she grieves the death of Big, a relatable experience for many women who have had a friendship with someone they once considered to be a pillar of their life come to an end.
But that kind of love—made up of memories both mundane and monumental—is still there, like a once-broken bone that hurts a little when it rains. Which is why Carrie and Samantha's small but meaningful text exchanges in the finale, along with their implied off-screen reunion in Paris—felt so very earned and satisfying, even if we didn't see it.
"I feel when someone's in your heart and in your soul and friendships, how do your friends support you when you're going through the worst thing that can happen?" King explained to Variety of keeping Samantha in the show through text messages. "I found it interesting that Carrie would reach out to Samantha in certain specific times...So I love the idea of the dance—the true love being the reach."
What also felt visceral throughout the 10-episode run was the simmering tension among the main trio. Carrie can barely contain her annoyance with Charlotte in the first few episodes, actively avoiding her in the wake of Big's death, while Charlotte was consistently judging Miranda's choices (her drinking, her decision to be with Che, etc.).
And then there was the finale conversation between Carrie and Miranda in the bathroom after Carrie learns her friend waited to tell her about deciding to go to Los Angeles with Che rather than pursue her internship. It just doesn't seem like something Miranda would do, Carrie reasons, subconsciously speaking for the viewers.
"Am I not allowed to change a little bit?" Miranda asks Carrie—and maybe even the audience. "Or a lot? Or change back again if I feel like it?"
It's a talk only two people so comfortable with each other can have, just like Miranda breaking down about her marriage in episode five, telling Carrie, "I'm unhappy… I'm trapped. I hate my life. I hate it."
The big faucet showdown between Carrie and Miranda wasn't in the initial script for the finale, writer Rachna Fruchbom revealed on the And Just Like That... The Writers Room podcast. But it ended up becoming one of the season's most integral moments.
"People who have been friends for a hundred years there is also this feeling of an implicit contract," Fruchbom explained. "Like, 'You're this person, I know that, and then...if you're going to do this crazy thing and be un-Miranda…then that's going to force me to look at what I'm doing.'"
This uncomfortable conversation is ultimately about Miranda's projection of judgment and her subconscious need for permission to make a change, to be a new version of herself, the one that follows a stand-up comedian to L.A. instead of taking her dream internship with a human rights organization. Somewhere, an older, wiser Lauren Conrad might be shaking her head, but this is Miranda's story and the rest is still unwritten.
"It's sort of saying you don't come of age one time at 13 or whatever," executive producer Elisa Zuritsky said on the same podcast episode. "There are many chapters and you can come of age at any of those chapters. Even though it might feel shocking to people, there's so much hope in Miranda's story."
This feels like a good time to say that we do not think everything in And Just Like That... worked. In fact, a lot of it didn't and there are thousands of think-pieces out there and even more memes about Che Diaz to prove it. But you kind of have to admire King, SJP and the rest of the team just saying, 'F--k it, let's swing for the fences.' Come on, they killed Big with a Peloton bike! Miranda got fingered by Che while Carrie was peeing herself in her bed! Charlotte is learning from the other PTA moms that Rose is now going by Rock and identifies as non-binary!
Some of the biggest criticisms of the revival are valid. (Che and Carrie's podcast was truly awful and we never need to see a sex scene with Brady ever again, thank you very much.)
Giving each of the three leads a new friend that is a woman of color felt like a very obvious band-aid placed on the wound that was the glaring lack of diversity in the original series. No, they didn't handle it perfectly, but, hey, doesn't it beat the alternative of not even trying to remedy the issue? They are expanding the world and the representation, drawing on the real-life experiences from women of color in the writer's room. Fingers crossed we will get to see even more of the internal lives of Nya, Seema Patel (Sarita Choudhury) and Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker), who were all breaths of fresh in the city.
And though we are big fans of Steve (David Eigenberg) and have cried for justice for the character, we think any fan can acknowledge that he was always more invested than Miranda, representing that person you know is good for you and you should be happy with, but it is just not fully there. The easy route would've been Miranda flying to Cincinnati to surprise Che in episode nine only to find them with another person—we all thought that was going to happen, right?—so she could run back to Steve. But no, AJLT... leaned all in on Miranda's second chance.
"The real issue is—and I say this with love—90 percent of long-term relationships are watching television, sharing dessert and talking about kids," King explained to Variety. "So that's trouble when Miranda points a finger at that relationship, which a lot of people are very happy with, and says, 'This isn't enough.'"
Daring to show a woman in her 50s putting herself first, choosing to end her marriage to pursue an unconventional relationship that might end in disaster rather than settle for a life that doesn't fulfill her feels revolutionary.
"Men have a midlife crisis, and it's expected. They leave their wife, they get a car," King said. "Miranda had an incredibly interesting break from her social self. She let her red hair go gray. She quit her corporate job, and she threw herself into improving herself. And what came at her was something bigger."
The characters have always been flawed, so why are we so mad at them now for not being perfect, for saying the wrong thing, for occasionally being an asshole to their friends? News flash: Carrie has always been self-obsessed! Charlotte has always been annoying! Miranda has always been maligned, the character most people least want to have as their result on a Buzzfeed personality quiz!
But the one thing you can never accuse the show or these women of is being boring. Just look at how And Just Like That... has dominated headlines and conversation since its premiere in December.
"I'm so happy with the boldness of it, the boldness of each episode," King said on Homophilia. "And I know there is something in each episode that will create a thing. So I am grateful for the conversation. I'm choosing to invest in the fact that people are talking about it and that's a good thing."
They may be older, but they are still the same people, just with the life experience to make different decisions. Miranda may have returned to her red hair by season's end, but she is far from the same woman we met in 1998 or even at the start of AJLT.... Carrie is indulging in a spontaneous elevator makeout with her hot podcast producer in the final scene, but she isn't the naïve writer searching for that big love anymore. Our history with these women and knowing all of the s--t that they have gone through just makes these moments that much richer.
Watching these characters we have known for decades live through these goalposts of life—death, dating, divorce, etc.—isn't always easy. But grief isn't pretty. Relationships can be messy. Friendships are exhausting.
But the secret no adult lets you in on when you are younger is that it never ends: The confusion, the questioning, the feeling of not knowing who the hell you are supposed to be and what will make you happy now and if it is the same thing that will fulfill you in a decade. We are all waiting for the other shoe to drop, even if we're a TV character wearing blue Manolos who is supposed to represent millions of women's happily ever after.
Rather than shy away from that, And Just Like That... is daring its characters to look at themselves and their place in the world and, in return, trying to find Sex and the City's place in a vastly different TV landscape.
"What's so true about right now is no one has their footing," King told Vanity Fair. "You don't know how to behave in the world. You don't know what's right to say, what's wrong to say, if you're allowed to have feelings about things or not. So it's a good time for us to come in and sort of put a tiny mirror up. If you really look at the original show, the characters are a mess. They are not shiny. They are erratic and dangerous and daring in shoes, drinking Cosmos."
To paraphrase this one particular newspaper columnist-turned book author, maybe the past is like an anchor holding us back. Maybe, we have to let go of Sex and the City to embrace And Just Like That...
And Just Like That... is streaming on HBO Max.