Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first two episodes of HBO Max’s “And Just Like That ... ”
Almost 20 years after the original run of HBO’s groundbreaking “Sex and the City” ended and more than 10 years since the last of two movie installments, HBO Max’s revival “And Just Like That … ” is here. From the start, there have been many questions. How would the show continue without Samantha (Kim Cattrall)? Would the revival try to correct the show’s glaring lack of diversity and bring some of its outdated ideas into the present? Will its new characters of color (played by big names like Sara Ramírez, Sarita Choudhury, Karen Pittman and Nicole Ari Parker) be fully realized?
Fans have pored over every scrap of news and photos from the production process. The rollout of the new show has also been strange, with most reporters and critics not receiving screeners until the show’s premiere early Thursday morning, keeping the show shrouded in mystery. HBO Max has now made screeners for the first four episodes available.
The first two premiered Thursday, with eight more episodes to come, releasing one at a time on a weekly basis. HuffPost’s Marina Fang, Candice Frederick and Erin Evans — all fans of the original show — break down their first impressions of the revival.
Marina Fang: In figuring out how to kick off our conversation, I was about to call it “long-awaited.” But I think we can all agree no one was really clamoring for this revival. And yet, as soon as HBO announced it, I knew immediately that I would 100% watch it, and my guess is that any fan of the original is probably going to watch it, now that it exists. And well, here we are. I have … some thoughts. Candice and Erin, how do you feel about what we’ve seen so far?
Candice Frederick: Generally speaking, I feel like the writers often don’t know who these characters are anymore and what show they’re even on. First of all, Carrie wouldn’t be that squeamish about saying the word “pussy.”
Erin Evans: Also, seeing her help Big in the kitchen was jarring. Though I don’t know if this was on purpose, but she was using what looked like Maldon salt to salt the fresh salmon. Maldon is a finishing salt, so at least it proved that she didn’t know what she was doing.
CF: And Miranda has about as much of a drinking problem as, say, any of the other women ever had. (That’s not to discredit any potential alcoholism, but it seems tacked on for the sake of giving her a conflict.)
Lol, good catch, Erin! She absolutely does not know how to cook and never wanted to.
I go back to a really early episode of the original series, possibly even the pilot episode, when Carrie mentioned the word “pussy” to Skipper, and he was squeamish about it.
EE: The first 30 minutes of the premiere episode were unwatchable to me. That first conversation in the opener was so stilted.
CF: I appreciate that the characters have evolved, but they also still need to make sense for who they are. And why aren’t any of the women having sex yet — at all?
MF: Wow, great memory, Candice! I forgot about that. But I agree generally that the show feels stilted and directionless. The dialogue is really heavy-handed: a lot of telling, not showing. I get part of it is exposition and needing to catch us up on where each character is now. But it also feels like the writers came up with a list of topics they wanted to cover and then couldn’t figure out how to seamlessly integrate them into the show.
CF: OMG, the constant need to tell us how old and out of touch they are seems honestly quite dehumanizing to me. Even “The Golden Girls,” though they certainly had their out-of-touch moments, never treated any of the characters like they were on death’s door. They had very full sexual lives even when they were talking about things like menopause. Steve losing his hearing cannot be his entire personality!
EE: I guess I should have guessed that there wouldn’t have been more sex since they decided to change the name of the series. A shame, honestly.
CF: True! I thought of that too, but it is still a show with three sexual beings at its center.
EE: I was way too young to be watching the first iteration when it was on, so I was really looking forward to watching them be sexy and sexual now, as a 30-something today.
CF: And they robbed their audience of that!
That ‘Big’ Spoiler (Pun Intended)
CF: We should probably discuss Big, though I’m cool with us pretending he doesn’t exist. I always have been.
MF: Lol, same.
CF: I want to feel bad, but ... the feeling is just not there.
EE: OMG, I cried, y’all; it’s been the most relatable part for me.
CF: I will say that that’s what they should have done with Samantha.
MF: I don’t understand why they seem to be teeing up a plotline of Carrie discovering he was trash. Because he always was!
CF: Oh, I think, theoretically, this is devastating! OK, but Susan Sharon reminding us all of that — always at an inappropriate time — was the comedy I desperately needed with this show. And one that’s largely missing.
EE: I screamed when she popped up. And I knew she was going to give us the levity (and honesty!) we needed at that moment.
MF: I was sad for Carrie, but Big’s death also feels like a bit of a stunt to me. (And it could also be that Chris Noth didn’t want to be in a lot of this show, or wasn’t available.)
CF: Yeah, I wondered about that too, Marina. I am also slightly annoyed that even in death, he is still so much a part of her storyline.
EE: Here’s what I’ll say about the Big of it all, and yes, this gets a little sappy: So much of watching the show for me (and rewatching the show over and over) has been relating to each of the characters in different ways. And at every turn, I find myself latching on to something different, like I’m sure a lot of viewers do. I cried through the whole second episode and had to walk out of the room when Big was on the floor in that shower. My dad died of a heart attack almost 20 years ago, and I watched my mom grieve in a lot of the same ways Carrie did. I felt like the writers did justice on that whole death and grieving stuff. And seeing Miranda by Carrie’s side felt really true to the character, and true to my mom’s experience as a wife losing her husband at an early age.
CF: Oh, I’m so sorry, Erin! I do agree that that entire scene was played out quite masterfully, and the role of grief, over lost friendships and loves, is extremely well done.
MF: Aww, lots of love, Erin. Not sappy at all!
EE: And since they ain’t gonna be funny in this show, I need them to do something right. It makes me miss Samantha so much more!
CF: I really do need them to be funny, though.
Carrie and Samantha’s Friend Breakup
EE: I couldn’t even really laugh about Stanford kind of subbing in as the fourth character.
CF: I don’t believe Samantha would have fridged Carrie like that. I really don’t understand why it was so hard to handle this situation.
EE: OMG, I was like what????? Over not being her publicist any more? That made absolutely no sense!
CF: Stanford was always Carrie’s friend, so this is another example of the writers making up a conflict that doesn’t exist (i.e. the riff between him and Charlotte).
MF: Yeah, I like when shows depict the breakup of a friendship. But this was completely unrealistic!
CF: Zero sense! And Samantha ALWAYS made more money than Carrie!
EE: I would have been really sad if they killed off Samantha, but at least it would have made sense.
CF: The thing that’s great about the original series is how much they portrayed genuine conflict in each of their friendships. but they always later brushed it off and moved forward! Samantha wouldn’t have written all of them off like this.
I will say this other thing about Big: I appreciate that we got a tiny bit of male masturbation in such a sweet way here. He’s an ass — RIP — but this was cute and honest. It could have been that I was so starved for anyone to do anything sexual on this show — other than the two teenagers BANGING IN THE ROOM NEXT TO HIS PARENTS.
MF: Oh, Brady. Side note: I cannot get over how he’s a teen now!
EE: OMG, I am still not over Brady being a teenager.
CF: It’s funny because he looks exactly how you’d expect Brady to look today.
EE: Exactly. Honestly, for months, I thought they had cast the same kid.
CF: I always knew that Miranda would be the bad cop parent and Steve — who, in case you might have forgotten, is losing his hearing now — is the good cop. It creates such an honest conflict between them that I think has always been there.
EE: LOL, it really annoys me that that’s all we get of Steve ― his hearing issue — because I really love his character.
CF: Yes, he was SUCH an interesting character! He had all those sexual partners and a bar and one ball and ...
The New Characters
MF: Speaking of character development (or lack thereof), do we want to get into the new characters? I was cautiously optimistic when they announced all of these big names. But of course, I was also bracing myself, given that the glaring lack of diversity in the original sets a pretty low bar for this revival. So far, I like the glimpses we’ve gotten of each new character. But I hope they get fuller storylines in future episodes.
CF: I think Sara Ramírez is the most interesting new character on the show. Though, I do think Sarita Choudhury has promise.
MF: Agreed on Sarita Choudhury (who’s introduced in the fourth episode). I hope we get more of her.
EE: Yes, I’ve always loved her as an actor. I like Sara Ramírez a lot too, obviously, as a “Grey’s” stan. But ... their comedy set took up a long-ass time in that episode, and I was like, “OK, I get it.”
MF: Yes, Erin! I love them too. But I also think their podcast is another too heavy-handed attempt to make the show relevant to 2021. It seemed like it was what the writers think a podcast is like.
CF: I couldn’t help but wonder ... if the PoC characters are here to help the white leads understand their privilege and little else.
MF: YUP. I was wondering that as soon as they announced Sara Ramírez’s character was going to host a podcast ... and sadly, so far it seems like that’s the case with both their character and Karen Pittman’s professor character.
EE: Whew, exactly this!
CF: Yeah, totally heavy-handed. OMG, the Karen Pittman of it all...
MF: Oh, we need to talk about that scene with Miranda! Yikes.
CF: The hair? Lol. Here’s the thing: Miranda has already shown in the first movie who she is when she and Brady were looking for an apartment when Steve and her broke up: “White guy with a baby. Wherever he’s going, that’s where we need to be.” So, as much as Miranda remains my favorite character, she’s still flawed. BUT, she is (clumsily and badly) trying to be more self-aware. Honestly, the whole exchange between her and her professor reminded me of many, many white liberal women who are horribly awkward about their “anti-racism.”
EE: OMG, I forgot about that white man and a baby line! You’re right!
CF: Hard to watch, but extremely authentic to me. Cringey!
MF: Yep, exactly! They definitely succeeded in making that scene (and several others) cringey!
EE: Yeah, I was squirmy through the whole hair conversation in the classroom. I think with any shows about race/racism where I don’t expect the convo to happen, I’m like, ‘Ugh, why are we doing this?’ I have been thinking about this specifically with watching this season of “Survivor,” but that’s another story for another day. But you’re right, they are actually showing us how awkward white women are around these conversations.
CF: And the other students looking like, “Who TF is this white woman?”
MF: For sure, Erin, and how it’s such a minefield for the woman of color who has to be like, “Uh, no.”
CF: YES! Their roles are so ... teachable. Meaning, they’re there to teach them how to be better white people.
MF: We do start to get some character development in Episodes 3 and 4, but again, I’m not expecting much.
CF: Yes, true! There is, however, Nicole Ari Parker. Her character is interesting to me because she was never there to teach, just to be a rich woman who likes purse wine, mainly.
MF: Yes, loved the purse wine. I am stealing that idea. And yeah, I was just thinking about how the women of color in Charlotte’s school parent group are a nice contrast: They aren’t as defined by their identities.
CF: LOL! And yes! They’re just elite folks who enjoy random dinner parties and alcohol out of a bag at a child’s music recital.
MF: I’m hoping that’s the case for Sarita Choudhury’s character too, that she’s this glamorous real estate agent.
CF: Same! She is pretty fabulous.
EE: I hope they build out Nicole Ari Parker’s character more. I love her, but also, I am really annoyed by Charlotte, so I don’t want to think of her as “Charlotte’s friend.”
MF: Ugh, Charlotte making Big’s death and Carrie’s grief all about her!
CF: LOL, a total Charlotte move, though. Carrie and Miranda have always depended on each other to be the non-emotional ones during emotional situations (remember when Brady was born and deciding on Carrie to be his godmother instead?). And Charlotte was the one who was a master at, say, Miranda’s mom’s funeral. I also enjoy that the whole flower thing had such significance — a callback to the “My Motherboard, My Self” episode, as well as Samantha’s love note to Carrie.
So, Should You Watch It?
EE: I’ll definitely keep watching ― but I hope it gets funny. I cried enough and now I need some laughs ... and some sex!
MF: Yes, I did like the little nods to the original! I think in general, the more heavy-handed the show gets, the less compelling it is for me.
CF: Haha, I agree with both of you! I’ll keep watching because I adore these characters, but some of the magic of what makes these characters great is missing for me.
MF: I mean, I could keep talking about this for hours, which I think is an indication of how, despite all of our reservations about this revival, there is still something irresistible about these characters and their world. Like, we’ve unpacked a lot, yet there’s still so much we haven’t even discussed! I’ll keep watching for all of the drama and to see where it goes.