Season 1, Episode 5
For a show with such a sultry title, the love scenes in the original “Sex and the City” were usually more comedic than hot. At various points, Carrie sleeps with a guy who performs like a “jack rabbit,” Charlotte dates a man who blacks out and screams obscenities in bed, Miranda deals with an “overeater,” and Samantha takes a literal roll in the hay with a farmer, just to name a few of the many silly sexual encounters.
But the sex scene in this week’s episode of “And Just Like That …” — the one we’ve been building to between Miranda and Che — might have broken this mold … if it weren’t cut with scenes of Carrie peeing into a diet peach Snapple bottle and then spilling it all over her bedsheets. Carrie is laid up after hip surgery with limited mobility, a twist that, believe it or not, seems meant partly to prove that she is not old. It also winds up being a handy plot device for bringing several of the series’s themes and story lines to a head.
Early in the episode, we see that Carrie, who has never once exhibited the slightest wince of pain while sashaying down the streets of Manhattan in four-inch heels, suddenly can’t get up stairs without using an umbrella as a faux cane. She assumes she has arthritis, slapping on a Salonpas pain-relief patch and continuing to hobble.
But Carrie’s newest friend, Seema, bullies her into an impromptu trip to the doctor where she learns her pain is coming from a congenital birth defect, not from “old lady disease.” So under the knife Carrie goes, then on to recovery with the help of a physical therapist so hot she is willing to pay out of pocket for him. (Her sole motivator, she tells him, is to get back into heels.) Meanwhile, Charlotte and Miranda take turns tending to her, just as they did after Big died.
One afternoon while Carrie naps, Miranda is at Carrie’s apartment (her old apartment, to be specific — that’s where she’s now staying) when Che stops by with a bottle of tequila. Like two horny teens sneaking alcohol while mom and dad are asleep, Miranda and Che take shots in the kitchen. The drinking leads to smoking pot, which leads to shotgunning the smoke, which leads to a steamy, raw love scene between the two characters. (It also leads to Carrie’s being woken up and unable to make it to the bathroom on her own. Hence the pee.)
The ‘Sex and the City’ Universe
The sprawling franchise revolutionized how women were portrayed on the screen. And the show isn’t over yet.
- A New Series: Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte return for another strut down the premium cable runway in “And Just Like That,” streaming on HBO.
- Off Broadway: Candace Bushnell, whose writing gave birth to the “Sex and the City” universe, stars in her one-woman show based on her life.
- In Carrie’s Footsteps: “Sex and the City” painted a seductive vision of Manhattan, inspiring many young women to move to the city.
- The Origins: For the show’s 20th anniversary in 2018, Bushnell shared how a collection of essays turned into a pathbreaking series.
More important, it turns into a moment when “And Just Like That …” is at its best, at least so far.
It’s no secret that a certain swath of the Twitterverse has been dumping haterade all over this series, and I’m not going to act as if I have no idea why. Yes, it’s relying too heavily on “old people” clichés. Yes, some of the dialogue is contrived. And yes, I see flaws in how the show has handled diversifying the cast.
But Episode 5 reminded me why so many of us were drawn to the franchise in the first place: its willingness to tell bold stories about a demographic that isn’t frequently centered with much depth. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, that was independent single (white, straight) women in their 30s, and today it is (thankfully, not only white, not only straight) women in their 50s. This show knows that when women hit a certain life stage — in the ’90s it was simply being unmarried and in your 30s, today it is being deep into middle age, married or not — they are perceived as past their “best by” date. But it doesn’t care. That is exactly why this show remains important.
Groundbreaking as the original series was in its time, it still wrapped up each of its leads in some version of happily ever after. They paired off, some got married and maybe had a kid, and they did the settled-down thing.
But in our collective older age, many of us are wise enough to know that’s not the end of every woman’s story. Maybe things continue to change, and maybe everything she thought she had figured out ends up being nothing like she expected. Maybe that’s uncomfortable. And maybe that’s good.
In that vein, Miranda’s sexual fluidity is an audacious story to tell. That’s not only because a sexual awakening in midlife is a big thing but also because we rarely see a story line in which a mature woman has to face the fact that she’s gotten everything she ever asked for, and she doesn’t want any of it.
Cynthia Nixon is uniquely positioned to tell this story. Like her character, she was once married to a man with whom she had kids, but she later came out as queer. Sara Ramirez, who plays Che, was also in a heterosexual marriage and came out as bisexual, and later, as nonbinary, identifying as neither exclusively female or male. Ramirez, who uses nonbinary pronouns, split from their husband earlier this year.
Perhaps it’s Nixon’s and Ramirez’s ability to identify so closely with their characters’ experiences that makes for such a convincing love scene between them. It’s exciting and erotic, especially considering this is the first time in this series that we’re seeing any of these characters have any actual sex. It feels essential to include that in a show that promises to portray well-rounded accounts of older women. As a viewer, I got caught up in the thrill of where it all could be going until Carrie brings Miranda back down to earth, reminding her that she is married.
At that point, we find out that Miranda is struggling with more than just an attraction to Che. “I’m unhappy,” she says through chokes. She hates her marriage, hates her life and feels trapped.
This is a story made all the more compelling because of the character’s age. By this point, Miranda has been married for going on two decades, and the toll that comes from having suppressed so much of herself for so long — in particular, lately, through the boozing — is palpable Miranda finally sees the drinking as the Band-Aid that it is and dumps her stash down the drain.
But there is an antidote to all this belated grief, which we see through the lens of Rose. Charlotte and Harry’s daughter, at age 12, isn’t wasting years. She doesn’t identify as a girl (or at least solely as a girl), and in this episode, she begins going by the name Rock and using they/them pronouns.
Harry and Charlotte are thrown, certainly by their child’s potential transition, but almost more so by the fact that Rock told everyone in their life except their parents about this new identity. It’s unclear whether Rock is on the precipice of a permanent change, or if Rose is simply trying on a new idea. Carrie reminds Charlotte that even though the path is unclear, her kid is amazing, and “a Rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
For the first time since Big died, we see Carrie in the role of supporter instead of supported. It’s a surefire sign that she is bouncing back and moving on. So is the fact that we see her dressed for a big night out — in heels — by the end of the half-hour.
Some things I can’t stop thinking about:
Even though Samantha left Carrie hanging on “I miss you,” it tugs at the heartstrings to see them texting again, especially as they enjoy some lighthearted banter about old times. Considering that Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker had an actual fallout, seeing that their two characters can still connect feels like a warm nod to their back story.
Not only does Miranda pump the brakes on drinking in this episode, she also realizes it was she who drunk-ordered “Quit Like a Woman,” which is a guide to quitting alcohol. She spends most of the episode blaming Charlotte for sending it to her anonymously. Maybe Miranda can sense that Charlotte is picking up on her problem, which is putting her on the defense. At least Charlotte cares enough to notice it, though, unlike Carrie, who up until this episode couldn’t really be bothered. What’s worse, when Carrie suddenly decides the drinking does need to be addressed, she uses Miranda’s alcohol dependency to kick her when she’s down, throwing it at her callously while she is spiraling about Che and her miserable life. Maybe Charlotte could have done more to intervene, but any points Carrie scored for directness are deducted for her complete lack of compassion.
Can you imagine having to explain your first queer experience to your friend before you even had a second to process it? Or with a spilled bottle of pee involved?