I sat down at my computer today and I couldn’t help but wonder, which characters get written out of And Just Like That …, HBO Max’s revival of Sex and the City? How does it happen? How brutal does it feel? How absurd is it? And at the same time, what new characters arrive to fill in the empty places? How gracefully does the series manage to shoehorn them in? And while I’m at it, what does a girl have to do to get a martini around here!?
Of course, this post is filled with spoilers for the first two episodes of And Just Like That … You have been warned, and if you have feelings about spoiler posts, now would be a good time to pull out your podcast’s trusty “spoiler warning!” sound-effect button.
Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker)
The first major new presence in And Just Like That …, the woman Charlotte insists on calling “LTW” breezes into the opening scene almost immediately. Although she is most clearly a Charlotte-centric character — LTW has a child at the same school as Charlotte’s two daughters — there’s a very direct sense that LTW is there to fill in an obvious hole. Not only that, there’s some impossible-to-ignore undercurrents in LTW’s placement. You can almost feel the network notes: “Oh, the new show? It will have Black people in it, right from the start!”
She shows up with all the confidence and bluntness of a woman who knows this show is supposed to be a foursome, kissing cheeks and saying hello and then going about her day. That’s right, LTW, play hard to get! Don’t let these women just assume you’re going to be in the group! (It doesn’t help that when Stanford hands her a cup of wine at the school concert, he calls her “the Black Charlotte.”)
Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez)
It’s not just that And Just Like That … needs to build out a non-white cast. It’s also that the original Sex and the City had some moments of seriously regressive gender depictions, and the new series is frantic to get with the times. Enter Che Diaz, Carrie’s nonbinary, half-Mexican, half-Irish, all comedian podcast-host boss. Che makes jokes about sex and prods Carrie to be less prudish. Che has a sound-effects button that says “woke moment” every time they want to interject a warning about sensitive material. Che is cool, the kind of cool Carrie cannot be, but also the kind of cool that makes Carrie look better by being in proximity. Now if only Miranda could manage to say the word “podcast” without looking like she wants to throw up.
Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman)
Apparently, the idea was that every one of the three main Sex and the City women should be outfitted with their own 2021 non-white counterpart. Charlotte gets LTW, a more relaxed, more stylish, more effortlessly graceful socialite school mom. Carrie gets Che, because podcasts are the new columns/blogs. For Miranda, that person is Dr. Nya Wallace, a professor in Miranda’s “master’s in human rights” program. Miranda shows up for the first day of class, doesn’t realize Dr. Wallace is the professor, and then launches into the most unbearable “white lady trying to be politically correct while in fact making everything 100 times worse” scene put onscreen in recent memory. Dr. Wallace is much, much more kind about it than Miranda deserves, and Karen Pittman is much, much better at playing this role than the show deserves!
… and one bittersweet arrival
Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson)
It’s so lovely and simultaneously heartbreaking to see Stanford Blatch back in And Just Like That … He looks incredible in his periwinkle suit — the patterned shirt underneath is so good — and he spends his time in these episodes mercilessly sniping with his husband Anthony in a way that is exhausting but also hilarious. They’re fun scenes to watch, but knowing that Willie Garson, the actor who played Stanford, died before they could finish filming the season makes all the Stanford footage especially poignant. At this point, it’s unclear how the series will deal with Garson’s death, but the wild situations happening in the “departures” section below do not bode well.
Mr. Big (Chris Noth)
Okay, this is the biggest spoiler. Are you ready? You are not ready. No one could possibly be ready, but here it is: Mr. Big dies.
It’s not just that he dies, it’s that he dies from Peloton-ing too hard. He Pelotons to death. He gets on the bike, cues up his favorite instructor Allegra from Barcelona (a fictional Peloton instructor who nevertheless looks uncannily like real instructor Jess King), and just has the best time doing a 45-minute ride. He’s up out of the seat! He’s going so hard! He completes the cooldown!
Meanwhile, Carrie and the girls are attending the piano recital of Charlotte’s daughter Lily, whose masterful performance of the final movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” is intercut with those scenes of Mr. Big on the bike, absolutely crushing his PR. He gets off the bike and you think maybe this is a fake-out, in spite of the most dramatic and oversignaled lead-up of all time. But then he keels over in the shower and manages to sit there, still alive, until the exact moment Carrie returns home. RIP, Mr. Big. Maybe you could’ve made it, if only And Just Like That … could imagine how to be a television show if Carrie were married, or perhaps if Carrie had just had the presence of mind to call an ambulance rather than standing there and shouting your name.
Samantha (Kim Cattrall)
I’ve saved this for the second departure even though it happens first, because although it is superficially less shocking than the fate of poor Mr. Big, it is in fact much more brutal.
The question of “what happened to Samantha” comes up almost instantly. In the first few moments of the first episode, Bitsy von Muffling appears and asks Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda where their usual fourth has gone. Charlotte answers that she is “no longer with [us],” which Bitsy — understandably! — interprets to mean that Samantha has passed away. No, no, they reassure her. Samantha has moved to London.
This could’ve been enough. It’s hardly the most seamless write-around TV has ever done, but it’s short, it’s to the point, and — especially for anyone familiar with the behind-the-scenes drama of Kim Cattrall’s refusal to join this series — it is plenty of information.
But no. And Just Like That … was not going to let this go so easily. After the lunch, Carrie and Miranda are walking along outside and Miranda says that it is actually like Samantha’s died. “We never even talk about her,” Miranda tells Carrie. Then Carrie launches into an, again, completely unnecessary backstory: Carrie gently told Samantha she no longer needed her as a book publicist, and then Samantha stormed off in a huff and never spoke to anyone again. She will not return voice-mails. She will not answer texts.
The metatextual red flags are already waving frantically. It couldn’t be more explicit if Carrie turned straight to the camera and said, “That jerk abandoned us, and her name is Kim Cattrall.” And then Carrie says, “I thought I was more to her than an ATM.” Gasp. Honestly, it’s a good thing Samantha moved even farther away than Napa, because Carrie seems ready to give Samantha the kind of napa no one wakes up from.