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And Just Like That finally remembers Steve doesn’t deserve this

A vindication of the rights of Steve Brady.

The characters Steve and Miranda, kissing in the rain, in the original show “Sex and the City.”
Steve and Miranda in better times.
Sex and the City/HBO
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.

“Look how they massacred my boy,” I muttered, as I watched Steve Brady — played as always by David Eigenberg, here in the first season of And Just Like That — babble about the layout of a farmers market and yell about losing his wallet at the pickle stand.

Apparently in the years between Sex and the City and its revival AJLT, Steve had seemingly aged faster than his cohort, turning into a bumbling old man. His wife Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) was embarrassed by him and, even worse, cheating on him with an alleged comedian.

This was not the man I had grown to love over five seasons and one giant-sized movie’s worth of Sex and the City (in agreement with the rest of the general population of Earth, I choose to forget the second one exists). This was not the same Steve Brady who cracked Miranda Hobbes’s tough Manhattan exterior and got her to move to Brooklyn. This was not the same Steve Brady who showed up, unasked, to Miranda’s mom’s funeral in Philadelphia even when they were broken up. This was not the same Steve Brady who gave Miranda the best sex of her life.

It has not been easy watching SATC’s best man become a decaying husk of his former self. But there’s hope on the horizon.

In an unusual-but-frankly-welcome move, this second season of AJLT has slowly been undoing the character assassination orchestrated in the debut season. Inexplicably, Steve’s hot again, and seemingly around the same age as his peers. For the first time in two seasons of AJLT, Steve Brady finally has a pulse.

Steve was always the best — and just like that, he was someone else

Of all the men in SATC, Steve Brady is the kindest.

From his very first appearance in season two’s “The Man, the Myth, the Viagra,” Steve is established as one of the rare characters in the series who challenges Miranda’s toughness and cynicism. He does so with warmth. After a fight with Carrie, Miranda finds herself in the bar where Steve works. She’s horrifically grumpy and actively rude, asking for another glass of wine without even making eye contact. He tells her to add “please” and “Steve” to her requests, which Miranda refuses to do, but slowly warms up to him enough to have what she thinks is a one-night stand. By the end of the episode they’re kissing in the rain, and Miranda, the series’s archetypal cynic, is now a rom-com cliché.

The characters Miranda and Steve on a couch eating out of a bowl in “And Just Like That.”
Bring back my boy.
Max/And Just Like That

Their first meeting establishes the relationship they have throughout the series and movies. Miranda is realistic. Steve is an idealist. Miranda is a pessimist. Steve’s an optimist. Miranda’s a planner. Steve’s more go with the flow. Miranda’s a cynic. Steve’s a romantic. Miranda is Manhattan. Steve is Queens. Miranda spends so much of their romance pointing out all the things that won’t work. Steve spends so much of it assuring her that it will.

The thing about Steve is that he continually supports Miranda, whether it’s mopping up spilled pasta sauce, being excited to help co-parent their kid, or doing the dirty work of cleaning up the horror of baby Brady’s dried umbilical cord remains. It takes Miranda a bit to realize that Steve will show up for her, even when she doesn’t always reciprocate.

“You don’t know how good I am,” Steve tells her in the SATC episode “No Ifs, Ands or Butts.” He’s talking about basketball: He has a chance to make a million-dollar half-court shot at a Knicks game. But this same sentiment is true on a larger scale. Miranda doesn’t understand so much about Steve and his goodness. When she finally does see him play, she’s shocked to find he’s actually pretty decent.

By the end of the series, the two have learned to compromise. But it always comes with the implicit acknowledgment that Miranda is the center of Steve’s universe. He bends more so she doesn’t have to. In the first movie, fans were shocked to learn that Steve had had a one-night stand, but even this plotline was navigated with the old Steve in mind. While he’s obviously in the wrong, Miranda reveals to Carrie, Charlotte, and Samantha that they haven’t had sex regularly; the last time they did, she told him to “just get it over with.” When she moves out, even her friends also seem to think she’s being too severe. Miranda learns to forgive Steve, primarily because of the way he’s shown up for her in the past.

Given how Steve has been depicted as consistently kind, loving, honest, and great at sex (Miranda has two orgasms during their one-night stand in season two), his portrayal in the first season of AJLT feels like character assassination. Despite being athletic and active throughout SATC, he seems to be at least 30 years older than every other character in AJLT. The highlight of his day is ice cream and an early bedtime. (He used to be a sexy bartender!) For someone whose world centers on his wife, he doesn’t realize she’s struggling with a drinking problem. The final nail in the coffin is that Steve no longer understands how to sexually please Miranda.

The only explanation is that Steve’s steep decline is a storytelling maneuver.

In order to tell Miranda’s story of sexual exploration in that first season, they had to turn the man SATC fans fell in love with into someone that barely resembles Steve Brady: conspicuously old, losing his hearing, and maybe his mind. If Steve were the same Steve, Miranda wouldn’t just abandon him. If Steve were the same Steve, it’s harder to justify Miranda’s interest in pursuing Che Diaz. So it seems the writers of AJLT basically turned Steve into Alice from Still Alice.

And they’re intent on undoing what they did by turning Steve around in season two.

Steve was always too good for Miranda

A hint that the old Steve is back is that he is, once again, extremely hot. In the fourth episode, he’s seemingly taken up boxing as an exercise and unleashes a multitude (100? 200? 300?) of punches every morning. Miranda suspects he’s picturing her head as the punching bag. Whether she’s the motivation or not, Steve is now chiseled. He looks, sounds, and generally seems like himself again.

That sets up the sixth episode, in which Steve unleashes on Miranda.

Convinced that Steve hasn’t and will never move on, Miranda asks if he’s gotten anywhere with the apartment search. He tells her that he hasn’t really been looking. She tells him her name is on the mortgage.

“I made [this house]!” he yells. “This kitchen, I built it. It was a shithole before I did everything. I did everything here! This floor. The fireplace. The fucking bookshelf. All of it — it’s my house. You never wanted to come here to Brooklyn. You never wanted me. You never even wanted Brady. So why don’t you find a new place and get the fuck out of our lives?”

The characters Steve and Carrie in “And Just Like That.” They’re speaking, crouched on a floor, in a room that  looks like it’s being remodeled, with plastic on the windows and an open paint can on the floor.
Steve is one of the few characters who honesstly calls Carrie on her bullshit (and she listens to him!) without being cruel.
Max/And Just Like That

Steve isn’t wrong — he renovated that entire townhouse (which is probably worth exponentially more than it was when they purchased it in 2004) into a place where he, Miranda, and Brady could live together. Just like how Miranda needed to be convinced that Steve helping raise Brady would be a good thing, it took Steve creating an entire home for her to realize that moving to Brooklyn was the best thing for her and their family. It’s one more time he made her life better, with her kicking and screaming behind him. And there’s even more unsaid.

Despite their years together, Miranda didn’t even have the respect to break up with Steve before cheating on him with Che and then jetting off to Los Angeles. With the way she’s acted, Miranda does not have the high ground to ask Steve to move out of an apartment that she already left.

After talking things over and calming down, Miranda finds a condom wrapper (a magnum, it seems!) and is upset that Steve is having sex. Again, coming from Miranda, this is rich. She’s pissed, telling him that she’ll write up the divorce papers, and accuses him of making himself look like the wronged party.

“Who said I was a victim?” Steve tells her. “You’ve moved on. I’ve moved on. I ain’t a fucking victim.”

While it’s cathartic to see Steve finally stand up and call out Miranda’s chaotic behavior, the actual Steve Brady move would be to give the Brooklyn townhouse to Miranda. The original Steve is an unrealistically good guy. He exists to make life easier. He does the things you need but don’t ask for. He shows up when you need him to. He’s too good to be true and maybe, it seems, AJLT finally realized that.

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