[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “And Just Like That” Season 2, Episode 11, “The Last Supper Part 2: Entrée.”]
“If you feel love, run after it.”
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Carrie’s latest personal credo doesn’t just linger over the Season 2 finale; it’s spoken aloud to kick off the episode. In case viewers forgot how head over Manolo Blahnik heels our former Shoe Gal is for Aidan (John Corbett), episode writer and director Michael Patrick King features Carrie’s words of advice in the introductory “last time on…” montage. (Wisely left out: Aidan’s egregiously weepy phone call about his hospitalized son.) Fresh off the death of her first husband, Carrie is strapping on her most supportive flats and sprinting after whatever brings her joy. A five-bedroom apartment valued at the GDP of Albania? She buys it. A teense kitten sure to destroy her SJP-brand wallpaper (not to mention the cat’s namesake: all of Carrie’s shoes)? She adopts it. Commit to her emotional neanderthal ex-boyfriend even though he lives three states away and refuses to step foot in her home of nearly three decades? She’s all in, baby!
Carrie’s behavior in the latter half of Season 2, especially as it pertains to her nostalgic lightning rod of a boyfriend, is — to borrow a strained metaphor from Che (Sara Ramírez) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) — completely off the rails. Giving up an apartment that meant so much to her she kept it throughout her decade-plus marriage, all so she can fully invest in a new (old) relationship is brow-raising enough, but she even tendered the idea, “Was Big a big mistake?” While wild to hear after living with “Sex and the City’s” conclusions (first, when the series wrapped, then twice more after two movies) that Big and Carrie found happiness together, that’s just how committed Carrie is, right now, to rediscovering joy. No matter how mind-boggling it seems to those of us who try to track the emotional arcs of our favorite TV characters, she is willing to push the past aside and embrace the present.
“And Just Like That,” in its two-part Season 2 finale, “The Last Supper,” tries to do the same… with a twist. After spending the first season feeling out its own identity — not quite a revival of “SATC,” but not its own story either — the follow-up episodes take what few new pieces were working and pair them with aspects of the old show audiences can’t live without. Second seasons are supposed to make adjustments; to grow and adapt, to react and restart. By patching up many of its plot holes, “And Just Like That” positions itself for a stronger Season 3, even when it has to defy logic to get there.
The most obvious fix is seen with Miranda. Her relationship with Che (as well as Che themselves) faced the widest, loudest backlash in Season 1, and the finale tries to move past it without erasing their journeys. “Miranda, we were a train wreck,” Che says, by way of explaining their split and acknowledging how many fans felt about the pairing all along. But Miranda pushes back a bit, arguing that yes, maybe they were a train wreck, but the train took them “to a place you needed to go, and only that train could get you there.” Yeah, OK. Sure. Coming out is never easy, and imagining how to do it cleanly — with a husband and a son — is near impossible. And no one gets to choose who they’re attracted to, so Miranda being drawn to Che wasn’t in question. Honestly, it’s their break-up that feels rushed. Che’s pilot bombs, they loses their comedic mojo, and they need time away from their significant other…? Yeah. OK. Sure?
But Miranda’s mentality at the end of Season 2 is as clear as it is familiar. She goes to Coney Island and patches things up with Steve (David Eignenberg). They’re not getting back together — Miranda isn’t going to “flip it around and go straight on me,” as Steve so Steve-ly puts it — but they are going to work toward a functional, friendly relationship. (I, for one, didn’t need the shot of Brady riding up, spotting his parents’ reconciliation, and beaming, but hey, a little schmaltz isn’t that hard to stomach.) Speaking of work, her career is again a priority for Miranda, as she bails on Carries’ last supper — after dinner, but without a goodbye to the place itself — to fill in for her boss on BBC News. Toss in a resolution for her and Che, and Miranda is the spitting image of the Miranda we knew and loved in “Sex and the City.” She just dates women now.
Season 3 can broaden her evolution as it sees fit, but it’s hard to argue against Old Miranda’s return. Samantha’s return (or lack thereof) is a bit less compelling. Tossed aside at the start of the episode, Kim Cattrall injects much-needed levity and decisiveness into her 80-second cameo, calling Carrie to say she can’t make dinner, but still wants to bid a proper adieu to the apartment. “Thank you for everything you fucking fabulous, fabulous flat,” Samantha says on speaker phone. Carrie notes a touch of an accent from her London-based friend, to which Samantha responds, “Who’s Samantha? This is Annabelle Bronstein — ta and cheerio!” And just like that… she’s gone again. I hope the whole thing cost David Zaslav $10 million.
Optimists out there could argue Samantha’s irrelevant reemergence teed up an episode that steers “And Just Like That” closer to its “Sex and the City” roots, and Charlotte’s equally trivial arc may even second the motion. (I don’t think Harry would actually complain about packing lunches or picking up the kids — he’d just pay someone else to do it.) But, unlike King and the writers seem all too willing to do, we can’t forget about the non-canon characters. Lisa’s (Nicole Ari Parker) embarrassingly thin pregnancy plot led to a nothing-burger resolution, when her husband Herbert (Chris Jackson) spits out empty dialogue like, “You have feelings. We both have feelings. … But thoughts are only thoughts.” “Hello? Writers’ room? It’s 2023. You can write a character who doesn’t want kids because it’s OK to not want kids! Just ask Carrie!” The original show understood this, yet somehow “And Just Like That” is stuck in an even more dated past.
Then there’s Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman). After spending much of the season on an extended break-up with Andre Rashad (LeRoy McClain), the woman whose loud sex annoys her roommate one week is now so lonely she can’t even savor a career milestone? “You’re a beloved and tenured professor at one of the best law schools in the entire world. This is the life you wanted,” Miranda tells her, after hearing of her election to the American Law Institute. “Yes,” Dr. Nya Wallace says, “Except no man to share it with.” Hoo boy, what kind of regressive nonsense is going on here?
Of course people can be lonely, and of course they can wish they had a partner with which to share their lives. But the way Nya shifts from barely proud enough to mention her accomplishment, to trying to bail on The Last Supper, to grinning from ear to ear the second she spots a hot dude who she can date… I mean, it’s a bad look. Worse still, it doesn’t feel honest to the character, and it hurts the series. “And Just Like That” has spent so much of its time in mourning — whether it’s Carrie about Big, Miranda about her family, Nya about her marriage — that joy is a precious commodity. Imagine if Nya, high on her admission to the American Law Institute, floated into Carrie’s dinner, only to channel that pride and excitement into landing a Michelin star chef. That’s fun! That’s inviting! That’s a person we want to get to know better! Instead, Nya’s “happy” ending feels entirely dependent on a man, rather than dialed in on herself.
Seema (Sarita Choudhury), as usual, fares better — her friends push her to recognize what she’s doing and why, before she shows enough courage and self-awareness to adjust and get what she wants. But even that layered arc stems from rushing into saying “I love you,” which brings us back to Carrie. Her break-up with Aidan was always inevitable. Whether you recognized the deep-seeded flaws in their coupling from the start or simply pay attention to TV structure, Carrie was going to be single again for Season 3. And how it went down makes enough sense to go along with, so long as you don’t dig any deeper. Aidan wants to be there for his kids. His kids, through their actions, have shown they could use more guidance. So he can’t keep leaving for weeks at a time to live in New York. There. Done. Say your weepy goodbyes, send Carrie spiraling, and pick things up as she’s piecing herself back together again in Season 3.
Only… the pieces appear firmly fastened. There’s no sign of a spiral. Here’s a woman who’s professed that she’ll run head first after love, and she’s just been told to stay standing in place… for five years. Five years?! I’m sorry, but whether Carrie interprets her time away from Aidan as a break up or a break, she’s not going to respond well. Time is her most precious commodity. She lost her husband suddenly, which led her here, to Aidan, and all the decisions entangled within. Why would she be OK enough with waiting to roll around in bed with him, smile sweetly as he holds up his unsnapped fingers, and cheerily order two more cosmos on an impromptu Greek vacation with Seema? Carrie, as writers so often do, feels deeply, and yet “And Just Like That” wants us to believe she can skirt past her latest loss sans grieving.
Maybe that grief will come in Season 3. Honestly, I expect it will. But like so many more of the series’ adjustments, that will be too late. “And Just Like That” is all too ready to retcon its past to fit whatever present it wants. Right now, it wants Carrie to be single (because otherwise the show doesn’t work, per King); it wants her to be happy (or at least happy-ish); and it wants to leave the door open for Aidan to come back, whether it’s at the end of the show (for another “happy” ending) or whenever they need him (for another hit of chaotic nostalgia).
Chaos is still the series’ greatest strength. Not knowing what inexplicable thing will happen every week makes “And Just Like That” perversely entertaining, mainly because “Sex and the City” already did the hard work to get us invested in what happens to Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte. There are still plenty of highs to be had — more cats, more Seema, more Anthony, more Brady & Lily relationship sleuthing, please! — and it’s encouraging to see King make the necessary adjustments to chase after more revelry. He’s running after love, and damn the madness left in its wake.
Yeah. OK. Sure. Bring on Season 3.
“And Just Like That” Season 2 is available on Max. Season 3 has been renewed.
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