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And Just Like That finally remembers what made Sex and the City great

In season two, the Max series learns to laugh at itself, and at Charlotte.

A blonde woman sitting in a sound studio wearing headphones.
Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, a podcaster, in And Just Like That.
Craig Blankenhorn/Max
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

The first two episodes of And Just Like That’s second season are available to stream on Max on June 22, 2023.

Most conversations regarding television shows these days, particularly those precious prestige projects, are all about who’s going to win. Every episode that airs is either good or bad for a character. Those characters’ actions and dialogue are seen as good or bad for their success, with their counterparts’ actions and dialogue weighing against them (by being more good or more bad for their own success, of course). By the end of the season or the series, someone has clearly come out on top.

Blame Game of Thrones, that show about fire-breathing dragons and tyrants determined to sit on a throne made of swords. It’s Succession’s fault too, as no one could really quit the three nepo babies fighting over who gets to play with Daddy’s media company. There’s also Big Little Lies and White Lotus, shows that aren’t specifically about upward triumph but were still analyzed in such a way.

Our obsession with someone winning seemingly every TV show is why, for the last, longest year of my life, I’ve been anxiously waiting for the one show immune to this type of chatter: the glorious series that is And Just Like That (AJLT).

Better known as the Sex and the City revival, And Just Like That imagines a bawdily opulent fantasy world where three-quarters of our original protagonists — Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) — have all already won. They all married well. They all have tons of money. Even when their spouses die, or they cheat on the loves of their lives, or feel like horrendous moms, they all win! It’s exponentially easier to laugh at life’s failures from this point of view.

No one is asking that you feel bad for these extremely wealthy women because they certainly do not feel that bad for themselves. They will cry into their money and everything, eventually, will be fine. In this world, even funerals are fabulous.

Once you realize that this show is bombastic escapism — and let go of any latent ideas that human existence is a thing to be won or lost or power-ranked — the funnier And Just Like That becomes. Having learned from an uneven first season, And Just Like That has figured out what made the original series so beloved and what fans really want from a revival.

What went wrong in the first season of And Just Like That

And Just Like That’s first season took a while to find its beat. Its first few episodes feel like they’re doing damage control for Sex and the City’s oversights. As groundbreaking as the original series was, a big criticism headed into the revival was that the show wasn’t diverse. Though the original four women were living in what they said was the greatest city on Earth, their New York was painfully Caucasian. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) were written as fabulous, kind, progressive, and open-minded people (Charlotte, a strict Episcopalian and proud WASP converts to Judaism in the final season!) so it’s sort of shocking that the city they love and the people they share it with would be so uniformly the same.

Four women sitting and talking in a restaurant.
Finally, in And Just Like That season two, we get some brunches!
Craig Blankenhorn/Max

Sex and the City’s clunkiness when it came to topics like race may not have been malicious, but it does seem to have been the product of a lack of diversity in the writers’ room. In the late ’90s and early aughts, many people, white TV writers included, didn’t have the consciousness or language to talk about representation, gender, or race the way we do now. By 2021, when AJLT premiered, portraying a “realistic” version of New York City without reflecting the diverse array of people who live there and make it the greatest city on Earth would feel willfully ignorant.

The producers and writers behind AJLT seemed to take this criticism to heart, introducing characters like Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker), Seema Patel (Sareeta Choudhury), Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez), and Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman) as new friends. But the show didn’t seem to know how to let them be people. Che was essentially an assembly of blue-linked Wikipedia entries on “queer,” “non-binary,” and “podcaster,” while Lisa Todd Wexley, a stylish, extremely rich mom, needed Charlotte to lecture her Black friends about Black art. Nya’s first moments on screen were to witness Miranda misgender someone and clumsily talk about Black women’s hair.

Making the original protagonists so cringey about race and gender felt like an editorial commentary on the conversation about Sex and the City’s lack of diversity rather than a show revisiting the women we fell in love with. Would Miranda, a progressive lawyer who has lived in New York City for decades, really speak to a Black woman like that?

Coupled with heavy storylines like Big’s death and Miranda’s infidelity, AJLT had a bleak start. As the season went on, however, it eventually turned into a hilarious dark comedy about aging.

The writers this season have made a conscious effort to tackle race and gender in a way that feels more organic than a character taking three minutes to explain they are going to talk about race and gender. Those moments aren’t always successful, but it’s an improvement.

AJLT season two also hugely benefits from not having to explain who these new people are, why they exist, and how they’re connected to the original protagonists. Now these characters are allowed to be real friends and real people — well, as real as people are in AJLT. Seema has an irrational list of red flags but still dates a man who lives with his ex-wife. Lisa Todd Wexley has an annoying mother-in-law and an extremely horny husband. Nya has a rancid marriage that she needs to get out of. Maybe true equality in the SATC universe is that the women of color have the same nagging personal problems as Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and even Samantha (who will allegedly appear in a cameo despite Cattrall’s feud with Parker). Finally, they’re allowed to just go to brunch to complain about it.

A couple embracing.
Herbert Wexley (Christopher Jackson) and Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker) feel like actual people in season two.
Craig Blankenhorn/Max

As inconsequential as brunch sounds, that’s where the magic of Carrie and her besties has always been: a group of friends eating, drinking, and bouncing off one another. It’s always been the most important kind of relationship on the show. Including these new characters in the reservation — and making their presence at the table feel natural and fun — is a canonically powerful, inclusive gesture. Plus, it’s a delight to watch.

Kristin Davis’s Charlotte steals the show in And Just Like That season two

The incredibly genius thing about Sex and The City is how it crystallized its four lead characters into obvious archetypes — the cynic, the romantic, the sex bomb, and the ego — and somehow still made them feel human and endearing. It did so to the point where people saw themselves in these characters.

To this day, “I’m a ____ (insert Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, or Samantha)” functions as a type of shorthand. Mirandas are practical, cynical, and independent. Samanthas are breezy, daring, and sexy. Charlottes are romantic, earnest, and loyal. Carries are impulsive and reflective; chronic main characters. Identifying yourself as one of these women was a way to talk about the show, but also a way to talk about yourself, how you see the world, and the qualities we like and don’t like in others and ourselves.

And Just Like That abandoned that dynamic, mainly because many of the characters are no longer in The City. Samantha Jones is still living in London. Miranda Hobbes, at the end of season one, moved to Los Angeles to be with Che. Even Stanford Blatch is gone, with actor Willie Garson having passed away in 2021, and his character having fled his marriage for greener pastures. Charlotte York-Goldenblatt, being the last of Carrie’s original friends, assumes the different modes of comic relief and voice of reason by default — at least until the rookies make it into the rotation.

Charlotte and Carrie in a women’s clothing store.
Kristin Davis’s Charlotte steals the entire second season.
Craig Blankenhorn/Max

While Carrie learns to be a wealthy widow — unearthing and donning the Vivienne Westwood wedding dress her now-deceased husband once left her at the altar in — and Miranda is off in LA following around emotional bulldozer Che, Charlotte is the real winner of the second season.

Davis, who understands how silly and funny these moments should be, gives the show buoyancy and airiness. It feels like she knew that the camp and silliness were missing from the first season and she’s made it her mission to rectify that in every scene she’s in.

“How big is his dick?” Charlotte asks in the first episode, grilling Carrie about a friend-with-benefits situation. It’s a line that any Sex and the City fan can hear Cattrall deliver, and Davis leans into the shock by delivering it with a convincing earnestness. If no one’s there to be Samantha, Charlotte explains, she will. She says can channel Miranda’s nagging tone too, and then does: “If you sleep with someone at work, you give away your power, Carrie.”

Instead of giving lectures about Black art or struggling to come to terms with her child coming out as non-binary, the writers gifted Charlotte some lighter battles this season. She’s dealing with problems like whether or not to worry about husband Harry’s dry ejaculation (which is apparently a thing if you are an older man who hasn’t been doing kegel exercises). You see, Charlotte loves semen — in a celebratory way that she compares to fireworks on the Fourth of July — and the lack of it makes her feel like a pageant without confetti. In a very Charlotte way, she makes an appointment with the best urologist in New York City and, of course, talks about this with Carrie and the rest of their friend group.

The question of whether Charlotte being turned on by cum is an out-there one for most audiences, and it allows her pals to chime in. Miranda thinks it’s a little odd. Carrie thinks Miranda only thinks it’s strange because Miranda is no longer into cis men. Carrie also declares that she had never previously given much thought to jizz but is happy to know that Charlotte appreciates the pageantry. Anthony just wants everyone to know that he still is capable of ejaculation.

Charlotte holding a small bulldog in her arms.
Charlotte has a dog named Richard Burton in season two of And Just Like That. Her dog in Sex and the City was named Elizabeth Taylor.
Craig Blankenhorn/Max

These friends roasting each other about doing it will make you remember the rhythm and daringness of the original series. Often the most quotable moments from the show involved the women getting frank about sex.

At the end of the original Sex and the City series, one of the big criticisms is that the show never reconciled its assertion that friendship is more valuable and more fulfilling than men. All four protagonists were coupled by the end, and the bonds they made with each other ultimately came second. Finding their happily ever afters with men was a failure of the show’s credo. And Just Like That gives that idea a second chance, showing us how important it is that these women exist in each other’s lives — even if it is just to make life a little easier to laugh at.

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