The Sex and the City reboot—And Just Like That…, now streaming on HBO Max—addresses Samantha’s absence neatly and swiftly within the first 15 minutes. There was no betrayal, no backstabbing, no bad blood so vile it would warrant ending a 20-year friendship. Rather, Carrie, upon surveying the status of the publishing industry—she’s a podcaster and Instagrammer now!—decides it doesn’t make sense to keep Samantha as her publicist. That’s a logical assessment, and in any other world, Samantha—a P.R. wiz whose company has presumably evolved with the times—would agree. But here, Samantha is livid at Carrie’s decision, so livid that she dumps her (and Charlotte and Miranda) as friends and moves to London. She’s not answering their calls, their texts, nothing. All because Carrie no longer has books to promote.
It’s a puzzling explanation. Presumably HBO Max did this to leave the door open for Kim Cattrall’s return to the show. But if that doesn’t happen—and Cattrall has made it clear on many occasions it won’t—it’s a bit of a character assassination. Anyone who’s watched Sex and the City knows Samantha and Miranda are the most selfless, loyal friends of the quartet. If the series is a commentary on chosen family, Samantha was the person who prioritized that chosen family over everything else. (She literally flew cross-country weekly in the first movie to see her friends.) So for her to dump them over something petty like this feels wrong and a bit sad.
Which was, in a nutshell, the emotional through line of the revival’s first two episodes: sad. And Just Like That… is determined to show that women’s stories don’t exist only on bookends. It’s not just 35 and 85—there’s a wealth of life and drama and joy in between. On a surface level, it succeeds. We pick up with Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda in their 50s, and much has changed. Their children are older, and their careers have evolved, as have their politics—which Miranda reminds us about every 15 minutes with scenes that feel just a little ham-fisted. (Also, please see: “WOKE MOMENT!”)
The cast is finally diverse, as it always should have been, with several races, sexualities, and gender identities represented. (Of course, everyone is still dumbfounded when a person eats carbs!) But the diversity on And Just Like That… feels calculated, and many of the scenes read like PSAs. These queer and POC characters aren’t allowed to just exist like their white, straight counterparts. They can’t even ride the subway in peace. (Seriously, Miranda: Just let your professor listen to her AirPods and catch the 1 train without asking her about white savior complexes.)
I’m eager for the magic we love Sex and the City for to present itself on And Just Like That…—both for our core three and for new characters. That would be refreshing: to see the truth that there’s no gender or race or age requirement to enjoy life, sex, and New York City. But right now, And Just Like That… is painting a very grim picture—especially where age is concerned. If this show has a message, it’s that aging is terrifying—which, obviously, is problematic, unfortunate, and just not true. Nevertheless, Charlotte can’t seem to get over Miranda letting her hair turn grey. Every character mentions their age, self-deprecatingly, any chance they get. Friendships—air-tight, rock-solid friendships—end for little reasons. And husbands die. Yes, the rumors are true: Big dies. Samantha sends flowers.