The ten-episode Max Original series And Just Like That, from executive producer Michael Patrick King, debuted on December 9th on HBO Max. This new chapter of the groundbreaking HBO series Sex and the City, follows Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) as they navigate the evolution of their friendship, that began when they were in their thirties.
Unlike the two feature films that spawned from the franchise — Sex and the City (2008) and Sex and the City 2 (2010) — that were not as compelling as the actual series, And Just Like That possesses the same in-depth character analysis of the original series that kept audiences hooked for six seasons, from 1998 to 2004.
Spectators reunite with three of the iconic characters that composed the quartet of female New Yorkers. Fans where concerned about how screenwriters and producers would have handled the absence of Kim Cattrall (playing Samantha Jones), from the show. It turns out that it is tackled with wondrous equilibrium. Right at the very beginning the band-aid is ripped off: the character has not been killed but has moved to another country. Furthermore, Samantha has had a falling out with Carrie and consequently with the other two friends. But in full respect of the friendship, that kept these four ladies together for two decades, Samantha will express her humanity at one point in the show. The narrative choices are subtle and leave all characters untainted in the eyes of the public. After all, friendship breakups happen in the real world too.
If viewers were accustomed to the lavish and frenetic life of thirty-year-olds in the Big Apple, And Just Like That presents a different narrative. This series is extremely truthful in portraying how people are conditioned by the passing of time; despite their nature may stay the same, they struggle to confront the generational change. Hence, it makes perfect sense that we do not see Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte dealing with the same issues as they did in the Nineties. Now, they discuss grey hair, post-pandemic gatherings and the conduct required in an era that cherishes diversity and inclusivity.
The title of the new series opens up to the unexpected events that can revolutionise a balance that has been conquered and achieved through the years. It takes a lifetime to build a happy life, but it can be shattered in just a minute. This is what happens to Carrie, and we follow the way she tries to put the pieces together of her broken heart when her husband John James Preston, aka Mr. Big, suddenly dies of a heart attack. This instant is full of authenticity, for the way she reacts to loss and the manner in which her friends interact with her, each dealing with the personal problematics of their lives.
A few new characters enrich the world of Sex and the City, by plunging the legendary heroines into the modern dimension. Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte are given counterparts of colour, to confront the issues of our contemporary world that strive to include many different types of people and treat them all fairly and equally.
Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker), who some thought would have become the “black Samantha” (which is not the case), projects us into the challenges of a documentarian woman who is a mother of three and shares with Charlotte her trouble in making a good impression on her cantankerous mother-in-law. Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), is a brilliant and challenging professor at Columbia Law School, who will unleash a sense of awe in her pupil Miranda, until they start discussing the challenges of motherhood. Seema Patel (Sarita Choudhury), a successful self-made Manhattan real estate broker, will discuss with Carrie the prejudice towards established women of a certain age who are still seeking for The One. This trio of characters, that reflect the current problematics of women, joins a cast that also includes Sex and the City veterans Chris Noth (Mr. Big), Mario Cantone (Anthony Marantino), David Eigenberg (Steven “Steve” Brady), Willie Garson (Stanford Blatch) and Evan Handler (Harry Goldenblatt).
To depict with utter accuracy 2021, the film also introduces the first non-binary character in the Sex and the City world: Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez), a non-binary, queer, stand-up comedian that hosts a podcast on which Carrie is regularly featured. The quick-witted and extraordinarily agile mind of this character will conquer audiences, especially in a speech that encourages change, which is the leitmotiv of this series, since Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte — just like all of us — can’t remain who they were.
Although these new characters may initially come across as additions that tick the boxes of today’s political correctness, in truth, they serve as a mirror of present society. And the beauty of it all is that these very characters are self-ironic and the “vanilla” WASP ladies are allowed to joke about them too, proving that equality has been conquered, since everyone is treated in the same way: respectfully, but without the fear of being humorous.
And Just Like That, is a delightful surprise. The series does not want to bring us back to the good old days, because it acknowledges that life moves on, and what we were yesterday is not what we are today or will become tomorrow. Thus, although the nature of our characters is preserved, what transpires through Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte are life’s circumstances that have shaped them into the current, multifaceted, fifty-year-old, women of the 21st century.
Final Grade: A-