“I just charged tomatoes,” Carrie once told her boyfriend Aidan Shaw (John Corbett) in the original “Sex and the City,” “I’m not in a position to buy an apartment.”
In this week’s episode, we find Carrie, our perpetual uptown girl, on a final walk-through of her new downtown pad. She gazes out of the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Hudson in a shot reminiscent of that “Sex and the City” Season 3 episode in which she escapes to Los Angeles and tours a $3 million home with Carrie Fisher’s personal assistant, Keith Travers (Vince Vaughn). (“That’s where the guys here have New York men beat,” Carrie says: “Real estate.”)
But now that Carrie is awash in Big’s life insurance payout, and she’s intent on getting out of the apartment they shared, she’s on a mission to find a new place. Even though she can pick nearly any charming old Manhattan spot with all the crown molding she wants, she chooses instead a spacious, stark, blindingly bright modern loft that she doesn’t even like.
Part of Carrie’s motivation in this face-palm of a decision is that she feels bad for dragging Seema to so many different apartments without buying one. Rather than prolong the search any further, she just settles for this “good on paper” place. But her deeper motivation, it seems, is her need for a fresh start. She doesn’t want to move back into her old apartment because it feels like “retreating.”
So she moves in with barely more than a mail-order mattress and a vintage lamp, only to be tormented by a constant beeping she can’t find the source of. Anthony insists it must be the dishwasher, (“It’s always the dishwasher!”) and tells her to bang it closed over and over, to no avail.
Apparently, Anthony is now the one Carrie calls for such things, which feels, frankly, random. If Willie Garson hadn’t died while filming, perhaps Stanford would have been in this scene instead. Maybe we’re supposed to assume that, with the abrupt exit of Stanny — Anthony’s and Carrie’s mutual partner and crime — the two have bonded over their collective loss. But assuming is all we can do since we haven’t been given much context.
That’s why it feels just as odd seeing Carrie be the one to accompany Anthony to his face lift consultation. Anthony says that Charlotte is up to her ears in kids, and that’s the reason he taps Carrie instead, but come on. This is the kind of thing Charlotte would make time for.
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.
In any case, the handsome young plastic surgeon, Dr. Paul David, (Jonathan Groff), tells Anthony he doesn’t need a face lift, but then he quickly turns his attention to Carrie, using some fancy computer imagery to show her the range of options she has for a little “refresh.” Carrie makes jokes, but as she looks into the eyes of a digital version of who she used to be — and could be again, sort of, if she is willing to shell out the cash — she is tempted.
Here is where a lot of us are going to feel disappointed in our heroine. Carrie isn’t a Real Housewife! She should be above this kind of thing! Doesn’t it defeat the purpose of a show that centers on aging women if she is even considering this?
But maybe we should grant our girl a little grace, as perhaps Carrie Bradshaw isn’t as thick-skinned as Sarah Jessica Parker.
Ever since footage of this series was released, members of the public have made scathing comments about the stars’ appearances, assessing them all to look a little worse for wear. There’s been backlash to the backlash, as there should be, even from the actresses themselves. In November, Parker hit back in “Vogue,” calling out the “misogynistic chatter.”
“This is what they do to women,” Miranda says in a line that’s reflective both of the plotline, and of the negativity the stars have faced. “They make it wrong for us to age.”
Viewed in that light, it’s not so crazy that a character of Carrie’s age (and socioeconomic status and privilege) might feel the pressure and get tangled up in this trap, especially considering that her husband just died; two of her best friends, Samantha and Stanford, have bailed; and nowhere feels like home. Not much has been going right in Carrie’s life, and if she’s looking for ways to make herself feel better, erasing a few frown lines might feel like an easy fix.
Of course, Miranda is right there to let Carrie know that the doctor is just manipulating her and that she doesn’t need to fall down the nip-and-tuck rabbit hole. And Charlotte reassures her that if she does, in fact, want to go under the knife, it is perfectly OK. The two play angel and devil on Carrie’s shoulders over a sunny picnic that has all the feels of the classic diner scenes that were pervasive in the original “Sex and the City.”
As the three sip nonalcoholic wine — because Miranda has, in fact, quit alcohol like a woman — Miranda makes a confession to Charlotte: She had sex with Che in Carrie’s kitchen.
Miranda knew Charlotte would be stunned, and she is correct. “It is an affair,” Charlotte says accusingly.
“It was a finger,” Miranda retorts.
She’s downplaying the act, but ultimately Miranda knows she doesn’t have answers for the questions Charlotte is pressing: Is she gay now? Does she no longer want to be with Steve? Was it a one-time thing or something that might happen again?
By the end of this episode, we at least have the answer to that last one: Miranda texts Che, asking to hang out again.
But ultimately what Charlotte wants to know is, “What is wrong with people just staying who they were?”
On the surface, she blurts this out as a response to the bomb Miranda just dropped — and in reference to her struggles earlier in the episode with Rose’s new identity as Rock. But it’s more than that. Charlotte worked very hard for her happily ever after. All she ever wanted was marriage, kids and a Park Avenue apartment, and she has all that. She’s done. That’s why change makes Charlotte so uncomfortable. If others around her are going through such unexpected, drastic changes, what else might she not see coming?
As for Carrie, she also finds herself of the mind-set that change isn’t always a good thing. She decides to sell that downtown apartment and move back into her old place. She also decides to don her old Carrie necklace — the ultimate relic of the original series — because it helps her see her old self again when she looks in the mirror. It turns out she doesn’t need a face lift to do that.
Things I can’t stop thinking about
If Carrie weren’t already Seema’s favorite client, she certainly is now. That’s not because they’ve become shopping buddies, or because Seema brings Carrie to the Patel family Diwali celebration, or even because Seema confides in Carrie about her dating troubles and overbearing parents (although all of these are signs that their friendship is blossoming). It’s the fact that Seema is about to bank two hefty commissions off Carrie in extremely short order.
I’m happy to see the show making good on its promise to ensure the new characters are layered, which in the case of Nya, comes via her struggle with whether or not to have a baby. Still, that’s a plotline we’ve seen in triplicate already in “Sex and the City”: in Miranda’s surprise pregnancy; in Charlotte’s fertility issues, adoption and eventual pregnancy; and in Carrie’s internal battle over whether she is a “baby person.” For that reason, this “will she or won’t she” seems unfortunately redundant.
O.G. fans of “Sex and the City” won’t see it as so out of character that Charlotte finds Che attractive. Even though Samantha was the overtly sexually liberated one, Charlotte has always been adventurous between the sheets as well. Remember, in the original series, when the ladies were all aghast at one of the sexual proclivities of Miranda’s “marathon man”? Charlotte was the one to shrug it off. “Trey likes to do it,” she said of her husband at the time, to gaped mouths. “We’re married.”