emergency discussion

And Just Like That … Can’t Let Go and Neither Can We

No matter how hard this season tried to push us away with unhinged coat choices and olive-slurping, we kept smashing that play button. Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Max

Occasionally, Vulture staff will convene an emergency discussion about something that’s been haunting us. Today, Jen Chaney, Roxana Hadadi, and Kathryn VanArendonk don their chicest ensembles to bid farewell to Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment and what’s left of their sanity following the season-two finale of And Just Like That ….

Jen Chaney: Before we begin to dissect this season finale, and this season in general, I want to say to both of you: “This is not about your asshole. This is about your other walls.” And I mean that sincerely.

Now we must discuss the big Samantha scene, which was exactly what I expected: brief, pointless and something Kim Cattrall clearly wanted to get finished with as soon as possible. Am I the only one who found that a let-down — or well, a let-down if I hadn’t already given up all my expectations?

Kathryn VanArendonk: I had the benefit of going into that scene expecting Julianna Margulies/Archie Panjabi in The Good Wife levels of awkward non-interaction, so that phone call kind of succeeded for me! I was amused by the Annabelle Bronstein reference, complete with terrible pronunciation of “India.” I enjoyed the terrible green screen behind Samantha’s vehicle. It was, mercifully, short, and the content was much more reasonable than Stanford’s decision to become a Japanese monk. Look at all these bars it cleared! If only those bars weren’t roughly ankle height.

But seriously, to the extent that this entire project is about balancing a dutiful respect for the past of these characters with some acknowledgement of the present and future, the Samantha scene struck me as about the best I could’ve hoped for given my admittedly low expectations. My problems with the finale, and with this season (and with this series!) lie elsewhere.

Roxana Hadadi: My thoughts on that scene are: Samantha’s outfit, great! A metallic trench coat and puke-green purse? I would like them both. Otherwise, I’m with you, Kathryn. This scene was, ultimately, fine, a bit of smoothing over a jagged spot from the first season and a way of closing the chapter on all the Carrie/Samantha drama. I hope Kim Cattrall got a bunch of cash for it and I hope she got to keep the clothes.

Additionally, I do think Charlotte and Miranda made out all right. Kristin Davis might be the MVP of the season for me, in that she managed the goofiest dialogue (“Slurp the sperm,” iconic), most relatable storyline (leaning in, etc.), and AJLT’s version of the big Greta Gerwig “Women!” speech (“You are not doing it all … In fact, you are doing the bare minimum”) with ease and enthusiasm. Watching her and Harry, our favorite Elizabeth and Philip Jennings cosplayers, struggle to activate a cell phone made me laugh a surprising amount. Where did the episode land on humor for you two?

JC: Roxana, I agree with you about Charlotte. In season one of AJLT, I frequently wanted to punch Charlotte in the face. But this season I found her to be the character dealing with most relatable challenges of being a woman and a mom in her 50s, despite the fact that she asked to speak to the manager at The Real Deal.

I have to say, I didn’t laugh a ton in “The Last Supper Part Two” except when I was laughing at how unintentionally ridiculous everything was. Miranda telling Steve she wants to stay in his life? You have a child together, I feel like you’ll probably bump into each other occasionally. Every goofy thing Ravi said? A real contest between, “If I want the Sphinx, I have to leave New York immediately!” and “I have not Tik-ed or Tok-ed since we met.” Lisette asking Che, “Is there any new comedy thing I should know about?” which, coincidentally, is how every comedy meeting begins here at Vulture.com?

My favorite thing in this episode was Carrie’s Last Supper dress, which I desperately covet. My least favorite thing — and a problem endemic to this whole series — is the degree to which the episode ping-pongs between storylines so it can include every one of its many ensemble characters but with no sense of theme or structure. Sex and the City was great at tying things together, perhaps in part because it was only dealing with four principals. AJLT is a real mess in this regard and I sincerely hope they figure out a better way forward in season three.

“The whole structure of this friend group doesn’t track anymore, and that becomes particularly clear when bigger-feeling narrative arcs are put on characters we don’t really know.” Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Max

KVA: Why hello, did someone say narrative structure

I think we all understand why AJLT felt like it needed to introduce a bevy of coincidentally non-white new friend characters. As the past two seasons have developed, though, I’ve realized how desperately this show needs the freedom to cut people loose. Miranda has this newfound desire to maintain relationships with her exes, but SATC was built on the idea that people would come and go out of your life, often unpredictably. It was crucial to how the show worked: It allowed the series to bring in new guest characters without feeling beholden to them forever, it helped balance the obviously improbable aspirational elements with something more like a realism of social structure, and it was a way to emphasize exactly what made the core foursome so special. They were the people who stay.

But AJLT can’t bring itself to say goodbye to anyone. The Last Supper itself is a perfect illustration — here are all these people gathered in this apartment, but there’s no reason at all for Che to be there, or Carrie’s former podcast producer and his partner (Smokey!), and there’s barely a reason for Nya to be there either! So instead of actively supporting and investing in its central women, AJLT has become thinner and more brittle. That ending montage is a nightmare because it insists that a shot of Che making out with their identity-less kitten-crush should have equal emotional weight to Carrie and Aidan having goodbye sex. It doesn’t work! It’s never going to work.

RH: What, Kathryn, Nya talking about olives exploding in her mouth at the dinner table didn’t work for you? I am shocked! But yes, I agree that the new additions to the cast haven’t integrated uniformly well because, perhaps, they shouldn’t — because it’s odd that Carrie would not only remain friends with Che, but not say anything to them after the cruelty of their standup jokes about Miranda; that Nya would, while arriving at this goodbye dinner for an apartment she’s never been to, say to Miranda, “I don’t really know any of these people”; that Seema would still be so weirdly doubtful about falling in love when, you know, that’s Sarita fucking Choudhury and she is a gift. The whole structure of this friend group doesn’t track anymore, and that becomes particularly clear when bigger-feeling narrative arcs are put on characters we don’t really know. Case in point: Lisa.

After Lisa’s miscarriage last week, we mused on Slack about whether Lisa had maybe gotten an abortion, a choice Sex and the City had discussed in its storytelling and, decades ago, not saddled with shame or judgment or any other ickiness. But in this episode we learn that Lisa did, in fact, miscarry, and that she blames herself for it because she was initially doubtful about whether she wanted another kid. Coupled with Miranda telling Steve he was right about them being good parents — remember that Miranda initially wanted an abortion, too, but decided against it — and Aidan telling Carrie that his 17- and 20-year-old sons also need him so much that he can’t take every other weekend off to visit her in New York … I don’t know, man. For all of AJLT’s “oh hey, inclusivity!” casting, anal-virginity talk, and woman-on-top sex empowerment, those moments felt weirdly conservative in a way that I didn’t anticipate. The series can’t even bear to say the word “abortion” once! Am I overthinking this?

KVA: You are not! This is correct!

JC: There is something timid in the way AJLT handles some of its storylines, which is particularly strange since it’s a sequel to a series that was considered so bold in its discussions of sexuality and women’s issues. The miscarriage/abortion storyline is a great example of this, but so is Carrie’s sometimes prudish attitudes toward sex. Ma’am, you used to write a newspaper column about sex and now you’re uncomfortable with a conversation about pegging? Carrie was always more sexually conservative than, say, Samantha, but she was also always curious, and I don’t get that from her now.

Even the fuck-montage at the end, in which literally every character gets off or seems headed in that direction, felt extremely perfunctory and not at all hot — much like the fuck-montage that opened this season! Forgive the pun, but it was a lot of checking off boxes that did not make me feel anything at all.

And while it may not be entirely fair to talk about what a show isn’t doing versus assessing what it is doing, I do find it strange how little these characters talk about menopause. It’s a big fucking, transformative deal. It changes your sex drive — for better or worse, depending! — and it challenges your sense of self in all kinds of ways. This show has such an opportunity to dig into all that but has missed it entirely, which seems like massive oversight given the age of these women. Anyway (sigh), I don’t know, should we talk about Aidan now?

KVA: I suppose we must. My feelings about Aidan in this finale are mixed, and honestly, that makes them more positive than most of my other feelings about this episode. So here comes the praise. Aidan worked for me much better than most nostalgia returns tend to, and, unhinged coat choices aside, in general I find the chemistry between them to be much more appealing than most of the other SATC-era relationships in this show. I also feel like Aidan deciding he needs to spend time with his teenage son is a completely humane and reasonable way to soft-exit this season.

What I cannot understand, though, is his request that she put everything on hold for him until they can be together again in five years! Why can’t she come visit him in Virginia? Who, at any point in their life, would say they’re absolutely positive nothing of note will happen for five years! It’s not as immediately off-putting as, say, listening to these characters sit around a table slurping olives off spoons, but it suggests a deeper lack of curiosity about who these people are and what their internal lives would actually be like. It’s about on the same level as the show’s bizarre incuriosity with money!

RH: Aidan asking Carrie to wait for him for five years, and rationalizing it by saying they already waited for each other for 10 years, during which time he says he thought about her constantly, is narcissistic and bizarre. I understand that this show has a weird relationship with Big given Chris Noth’s actions, and I wish it had actually done something with Carrie wondering whether Big was a “big mistake.” But I don’t think hyping up Aidan and Carrie as these long-lost loves is the right move, either, especially because it makes Aidan seem like an obsessive asshole. And there was some resentment in how Aidan said Kathy has a boyfriend, right? My take: Good for Kathy! Kathy seems like she’s striking the right kind of work-life balance, and if Aidan really was mooning after Carrie all this time, then she was right to divorce him. AJLT has this overall preciousness with these characters that SATC never had; I’m thinking about how phenomenally impactful the “I’m sorry. I can’t” Post-It was as a narrative choice. AJLT would never do anything that harsh, and while I don’t think the Aidan/Carrie conversation needed to be that level of definitive, the way their relationship ends here feels aggressively noncommittal.

So now Carrie is saddled with this gigantic house, purchased to accommodate Aidan and his sons, and there’s no Aidan and no sons. But hey, AJLT is also weirdly blasé about how money works in the real world, so I guess that tracks! Look, I understand that these women — at least Carrie, Charlotte, and Lisa — are phenomenally wealthy. I understand that so much of this show is fashion porn and, now, real-estate porn. And if we’re going to live in that fantasy fully, let’s be in that fantasy fully. Aidan and Carrie illegally subletting Che’s apartment because they were spending “a fortune” on hotels … no, I’m sorry, stop it. Be consistent in your outlandishness, AJLT!

JC: I’m with both of you on Aidan — I agree, Kathryn, that the chemistry between Sarah Jessica Parker and John Corbett is still strong and I appreciated that. But I can’t get over the fact that Aidan could not even go into Carrie’s apartment. Like, I know she broke his heart and treated him terribly. I was there. I watched all those episodes when they first aired. But if you’re still so screwed up about me that you can’t enter my apartment, maybe you shouldn’t enter my vagina.

We could probably go on and on about this all day. We haven’t even covered how weird it is that Carrie left Lisette her bras — her lacy, unsupportive bras! — and that Lisette was actually excited about this. But I want to bring this to a close by noting one of the weirdest things about my relationship with this show: that despite my long, long list of things that don’t work in AJLT, I will still smash the play button on the episodes of season three as soon as they arrive in my inbox. Which, at the rate the strikes are going, probably won’t be until 2026.

RH: Fine, I’ll watch, because like Carrie’s Last Supper guests, I too cannot let go of distrust, yesterday, regret, guilt, fear, and expectations. And because I want to know what Marvel project Ravi is allegedly working on that would include the Great Sphinx. Is my guy on Moon Knight? If there is one fan of that show, it is me!

Samantha??? Max.
Samantha??? Max.

KVA: I will also be frantically hitting play on the next season, for one reason and one reason only. Carrie adopted a kitten. That kitten was first brought to Che’s vet at least two months ago, which we know because Miranda’s boss had an entire baby and two months of maternity leave and is now back at work. Carrie now owns this kitten. The kitten has not aged. God knows I will be back to watch more AJLT, but it will be primarily to discover whether Carrie has adopted the first kitten to defy the laws of time. The entire show is caught in a weird time warp where it can’t decide whether to be beholden to the past or embrace the future. Maybe an immortal kitten could finally tie it all together.

JC: What if — and come along for this ride with me — the kitten is like the cat in Behind Her Eyes, and it’s actually Samantha Jones astrally projecting herself into the cat so she can be near Carrie? I’m sorry, this is canon now. Whether Kim Cattrall shows up to do another scene in front of a green screen or not, this is how I plan to watch And Just Like That season three: with the comforting knowledge that Samantha is Carrie’s cat.

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And Just Like That … Can’t Let Go and Neither Can We