But this otherwise laboured episode ends with a thwack to the heart, a death that leaves Carrie, especially, bereft. The next episode is all about grief, carrying an unintentional subtext. Willie Garson, who plays Carrie’s friend Stanford, died in September and only appears in three episodes. Seeing him at a funeral with Carrie jolts us out of the fiction and into the sad reality of the actor’s death.
The first four instalments of 10 lurch uneasily between wrenching sorrow and desperate attempts at relevance and wit. When Miranda announces that she has accidentally stepped on her 17-year-old son’s half-empty condom, the cringy line feels like a reach back to the supposedly shocking old Sex and the City days.
But the series more often points ahead. Miranda and Che have some moments, one angry, another sexually suggestive. Carrie wonders about her future. She still has eccentric fashion sense, too. One minute you might want her coat, the next wonder where she even found such an ugly hat.
The show has smartly added cast members to make up for its all-too-white past. The writing, though, is too blunt to serve any social issues well. When Miranda goes into a class with taught by black professor Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman) she nervously calls attention to the instructor’s braids, then adds, “My comments had nothing whatsoever to do with it being a black hairstyle,” putting her foot ever further into her mouth. It’s hard to believe Miranda got that stupid. Nicole Ari Parker plays Charlotte’s friend, Lisa, a black filmmaker. Charlotte seems far more aware of Lisa’s race than Lisa does, which makes Charlotte look unsophisticated and Lisa one-dimensional.
And the show ignores many of the ways New York has changed. The series ended just before the economic freefall of 2008, but to this day none of those characters have any money problems.
The original Sex and the City, of course, was always a fantasy of New York and of perfect friendship. It sent mixed messages about women’s lives, leaning into sexist cliches while pretending not to. Carrie and her friends talked a good game about being independent and valuing women’s brains, while being slavishly devoted to finding the right man, or in Samantha’s case, men. Having it both ways, being both retro and au courant, was a big part of that series’ appeal.
In her final voiceover as the old Sex and the City ends, Carrie says, “The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.” It wasn’t convincing then, but in its best moments And Just Like That… finally makes the line seem true.
And Just Like That … is available on HBO Max in the US and Sky Atlantic/ Now in the UK
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