If Miranda was the white lady buffoon in Episode 1, it is Charlotte’s turn in Episode 4.
Despite being a classic “‘Rules’ girl” and a master of playing hard-to-get (“I invented that game,” she once declared in the original “Sex and the City”), all that self-discipline Charlotte once reserved to pique men’s interest goes out the window when Lisa Todd Wexley says she is free for dinner on Thursday night — just two days away. Charlotte drops everything, even canceling Harry’s colonoscopy for the next morning, to throw an impromptu dinner party at her house.
(Can’t Harry just book his own colonoscopy?)
Charlotte desperately wants to morph L.T.W. from a mom friend into a real friend — a distinction actual moms, like me, will relate to. But it occurs to Charlotte that at the soiree she’s about to host, L.T.W. and her husband, Herbert (Christopher Jackson), will be the only Black people in attendance.
Horrified that it will appear as if she and Harry have no Black friends (they don’t), she makes it her mission to recruit at least one fringe friend of color to invite. Just as she gets a bite from a fellow P.T.O. mom, L.T.W. abruptly backs out.
But she and Harry still attend Herbert’s birthday party at L.T.W.’s house, and in a twist, they’re the sole white couple there. Charlotte has come prepared, having forced a cram session about contemporary Black authors on herself and Harry. It’s all for naught, though, when Charlotte walks in and immediately mistakes one of L.T.W.’s guests for a different Black woman they both know.
It turns out, however, that Charlotte didn’t really need to study. When Herbert’s mother, Eunice Wexley (Pat Bowie), takes jabs at the seemingly frivolous art collection L.T.W. has amassed, Charlotte defends her, calling out the notable Black artists by name and talking up the importance of each work hanging on the wall — to the delight of L.T.W., who relishes taking her mother-in-law down a peg.
Somewhere during these awkward scenes, Charlotte remembers who she is. She’s far more than the demure wife and mom she has been made out to be since she quit gallery life in the original “Sex and the City.” She’s highly educated and cultured, and she knows art impressively well. All she really had to do at that dinner party was be herself.
I hope to see more of this multidimensional version of Charlotte as the series progresses, especially because she hasn’t been given a substantive story line since her struggles with infertility — a topic that comes up over dinner between Miranda and her law professor, Nya.
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.
Amid the bustle of a hip, crowded restaurant, Nya surprises herself (“Maybe it’s the hormones,” she quips) by telling Miranda that she’s undergoing her second round of in vitro fertilization, but that’s not her biggest revelation. She also says that when her first attempt failed, she felt a deep sense of relief. It’s a fair assumption that anyone going through the effort of fertility treatments must very much want a baby, but Nya isn’t so sure. She likes her life as it is and asks Miranda to confirm that motherhood is worth it. Miranda can’t quite make that promise.
What unfolds between them is one of the more astute conversations about the plight of modern womanhood that I’ve seen on TV, maybe ever. Pushing beyond the trite topic of whether working mothers can “have it all,” the two characters grapple with the hard truth that no matter what kind of life is chosen, there are always roads not taken, and probably some level of regret. Reaching the pinnacle of your career doesn’t erase that, nor does having children. Despite coming from two rather different worlds, Miranda and Nya connect on this, and they move from acquaintances to confidantes.
All the while, Carrie (whose real name is apparently Caroline! Who knew?) is wrapped up in selling the apartment she shared with Big. She taps the hotshot real-estate agent Seema Patel (Sarita Choudhury) who waltzes in and immediately replaces the colorful character Carrie has woven into the home’s décor with boring beige. Seema must erase anything that feels too much like the current owners, she explains, so that buyers can see themselves in the space.
“It’s like we never lived here. Our life is just … gone.” Carrie tells Miranda over the phone, dejected.
Oddly, that’s exactly why Carrie feels good when she’s around Seema. Seema never knew Big, so Carrie can tuck away the sad stuff when she is with her and simply enjoy the moment.
That is until Seema accidentally breaks the frame that holds an old photo of Carrie and Big.
Seema is ready to replace it, not thinking the broken glass is much of an issue, but Carrie is heartbroken. That frame was on Big’s side of the bed, she explains. He touched that glass over and over, and now one of the final connections she had to her late husband is in pieces.
Seema sees she’s being insensitive, but in a slightly contrived fit of whataboutism, she brings up a recent moment when she felt Carrie had done the same. When Carrie commended Seema for “still putting herself out there” in the dating world, it stung. Seema has never really found love, and Carrie unwittingly rubbed that in. What’s more, Seema doesn’t feel all that bad for Carrie, she says, because at least Big was the love of her life, and she had him for years.
Carrie is taken aback. Is Seema right? Is it actually better to have loved and lost?
In a sense, we could all be asking ourselves the same question about Big.
In recent days, two women have accused Chris Noth of sexual assault, as detailed by The Hollywood Reporter. Noth, who was enjoying some reupped fame from this reboot, as well as a viral Peleton ad — itself a response to some ill-advised product placement in Episode 1 and since taken down — has denied the accusations.
I was never a fan of Mr. Big. Maybe he conjured up too many personal ghosts, and I wanted Carrie to see through that kind of whiplash-inducing lover faster than I had. Plenty of viewers adored his mystique, and if you were in that camp, or you at least loved the love they shared, that’s almost certainly tainted — it’s nearly impossible now to separate Big’s sleazier tendencies from this troubling new context.
As for me, I thought Big deserved the boot long ago. I’m not sorry I don’t have to see his face, or Noth’s, on my screen anymore.
Carrie may never see things that way, though, so a new beginning with new people may be just what she needs. As she and Seema exchange apologies and dig into takeout sushi, the agent-client relationship begins to dissipate and a genuine friendship starts to blossom.
In case it isn’t abundantly clear, that’s the theme of this episode: Each main character advances her friendship with her new pal (over dinner, in each case, to really tie it all together). The producers promised these new characters would be layered and do more than simply serve as window dressing for the returning leads. This episode seems to be a bridge to those new story lines that will, I hope, continue to deepen.
The show must go on without one more of its recurring characters, though, and that is Stanford, because the actor Willie Garson died in September while the series was filming. The disappearance of Carrie’s steadfast friend is accounted for when she opens a melodramatic letter from him explaining that he has jaunted off to Japan on tour with the TikTok cash cow he manages. Anthony got a letter as well, except in his, Stanford asks for a divorce.
Stanford always had a catty side, which was one of his more endearing traits, but it is hard to imagine he would have Dear John’d both Carrie and Anthony in such a hardhearted way. Perhaps the writers didn’t want us dwelling in sadness over the loss of Garson, but it’s hard not to feel like we never knew Stanford at all. The Stanny we knew would have at least wanted to share one last cigarette with Carrie.
Oh yeah, she’s smoking again.