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‘And Just Like That’ Finale Wraps a Messy, Aggravating Revival — Bring on Season 2

Not-"Sex and the City" had plenty of pitfalls, but there's promise in the bigger picture. So let's sort what's working, what's not, and who is... Che Diaz.

And Just Like That Sarah Jessica Parker HBO Max

“And Just Like That…”

Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “And Just Like That,” including the finale, Episode 10.]

“And Just Like That” — the HBO Max sequel to HBO’s “Sex and the City” — wrapped its 10-episode season on Thursday, after two months spent stirring the discourse into a frenzy. Parsing the success of any TV show in 2022 is a difficult task, whether you’re assessing its overall quality or quantitative impact, but “And Just Like That” is trickier still: Reviews are across the board. Ratings, while strong, have only been reported by HBO Max. Now the finale has left enough lingering questions to leave audiences wondering if a Season 2 is in the offing. What’s to make of the characters’ contentious choices?  Does “And Just Like That” help or harm “Sex and the City’s” TV legacy? And, perhaps most pressing of all, will we ever see Che Diaz again? IndieWire’s TV Critic Ben Travers and TV Awards Editor Libby Hill try to answer these questions and more in a Double Take about the future of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha, too.

BEN TRAVERS: “And Just Like That” aka “Sex and the City 3” aka “the HBO Max version”… is over — or is it? The finale of Michael Patrick King’s revival series does many things: It sees Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) moving on with her romantic life, one year removed from the death of her husband. It pushes Charlotte (Kristen Davis) to accept her family sans labels. It even argues that a long-term partner’s death is the worst form of a break-up — which, at best, is a  misunderstanding of the question, if not an outright abuse of the pity card. (Carrie’s shift from wife to widow is a tragic, terrible ordeal, but it’s not a break up. Breaking up with someone implies intent, and I don’t think Big’s plan was to dump Carrie by keeling over in the shower. Plus, she’s already gone through the worst form of break-up: the post-it note!)

But what Episode 10 doesn’t do is provide much closure for the series itself. Sure, it’s easy to imagine what’s next for Charlotte and Carrie — another lavish fundraiser and a meeting with HR, respectively — but Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is left stranded by a season that was all too eager to throw her under the bus. Is this really the last we’ll see of the fiery careerist, loyal friend, and ambitious activist? Getting ready to move to Los Angeles for her new love interest, leaving Carrie and Charlotte behind, not to mention an internship she fought tooth-and-nail to land? Even acknowledging that the only consistent theme of “And Just Like That” is “people change, even in their fifties,” audiences deserve more than outside context explaining Miranda’s near-total transformation.

For a second, it seems like she and Carrie are going to have a come-to-Jesus conversation, before a wasteful Rabbi (don’t use paper towels when your hands are already dry, people!) puts a stop to it. Yes, Carrie and Miranda’s relationship does need attention — more than the finale was willing to give.

So… does that mean we should expect “And Just Like That” Season 2? It sure seems like it. Despite entering the revival without a hint of life beyond these 10 episodes, the one-two punch of the story’s open-ending and a carefully timed Variety interview that preempted the finale’s release all but confirm multiple seasons were always intended. But before we look ahead, Libby, let’s look at what’s in front of us. You recently caught up with the (first) season. What struck you about “And Just Like That” and the story it wants to tell?

LIBBY HILL: Like you said, Ben, I came to “And Just Like That” late, suffused in dread at having to watch yet another zombie series. But… I think I liked it. In fact, I suspect I liked it more than a lot of people. Don’t get me wrong: The series has innumerable pitfalls and I noticed every single one, but what worked was that the revival series allowed its audience to see the results of seeds sown so long ago.

And Just Like That Cynthia Nixon HBO Max

Cynthia Nixon in “And Just Like That”

Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max

So let’s talk about Miranda. You made a lot of great points about the irresolution of her fractured friendship with Carrie, so much of which could have been avoided if viewers had the confidence of knowing there would be further time for King and crew to give the relationship the attention it deserved. But that’s not a huge surprise because everything regarding Miranda’s tumultuous season wasn’t given enough time to land.

Imagine the title of this next part as: In Defense of Miranda Hobbes.

There’s no question that Miranda got the short shrift this season, in large part because she was the only active character. Carrie is siloed by her grief, her capacity to see beyond the loss of her husband severely winnowed and for her, survival is the name of the game. Charlotte is still Charlotte, save for the fact that now she’s mom to a mini-Charlotte and an anti-mini-Charlotte. The death of Big happens to Carrie. Her child’s identity exploration happens to Charlotte. But for Miranda, a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, all her struggles are self-inflicted. Miranda happens to Miranda, and so the fallout is so much worse and so much more. It’s impossible to play out that storyline in the given amount of time, and that’s the real obstacle in how things unfolded.

If “Sex and the City” fans are honest with themselves, they shouldn’t be surprised by where the character has found herself. Miranda walked away from her job at a law firm, disillusioned by the world’s inequalities (news of which has only reached the liberal white elite within the last five years). She’s going back to school. Her son Brady (Niall Cunningham) is largely grown and her relationship with Steve is as comfortable as it’s ever been.

Miranda sees her life as something she acquiesced to, rather than actively chose. It was never her intention to get pregnant. (She was even under the impression that it was medically unlikely.) Her torturous relationship with Steve has forever felt like the character compromised; the original series tried to sell their continued connection as “opposites attract,” even when proof that the marriage was DOA was made manifest in the first movie.

Is Miranda blowing up her life? Yes. Is she behaving in a fashion that is cruel and unbecoming of her? Yes. Is she wrong to be completely reimagining the rest of her life? Maybe, but that’s her mistake to make. People wake up every day and realize that the life they’re living is untenable. That’s all that happened here.

But I suspect what people are more upset about is the catalyst for Miranda’s journey of self-realization, so let me ask you this, Ben: What say you about Che Diaz?

BEN: If there were three hot-button issues among the many contested topics in “And Just Like That” Season 1, Che Diaz and Miranda were Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, with their inevitable union finishing a close third. Many have lumped the three topics together when critiquing this season, but, as you did with Miranda, each needs to be pried apart in order to better understand what’s really riling people up.

I think you’re right on the money with Miranda. Watching a person blow up their life shouldn’t be easy, and the process itself could never be clean. (One sticking point for me is her career, which she abandoned before the series started, yet has to abandon again… for… love? It feels like pursuing her new profession would’ve been more important to her, not just based on who Miranda was, but as part of her mid-life reboot.) In turn, whoever lights the fuse that detonates a traditionally picturesque existence is going to face derision.

Sara Ramirez and Bobby Lee in “And Just Like That”

Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max

But that’s not really the problem with Che Diaz. Sure, plenty of fans will forever despise the stand-up comedian, podcast host, and future Fox sitcom star for breaking up their favorite “SATC” couple. (Though I really hope resentment doesn’t carry over to Sara Ramirez, a wonderful actor who isn’t to blame for the character’s issues.) What holds Che back is that they always feel like a TV character. They’re never given an interior life for audiences to empathize with, whereas even Miranda, whilst caught in a loosely defined season-long spiral, is still identifiable as a real person. (Granted, a lot of her authenticity came from the original “SATC.”)

Che doesn’t feel genuine, even to the roles they claim as their own. They’re supposed to be a stand-up, but their “comedy concert” can’t set up a solid joke despite five full minutes of screen time. They’re supposed to be a cool, hip podcast host, but they have a “woke moment” button like some sort of shock-jock from 1994. They’re supposed to “do a ton of weed,” but they say things like “I’ve done a ton of weed.” Beyond the writers’ nagging inability to follow-through on making us believe Che is who they say they are, they’re also… kind of a dick. Che and Miranda’s meet-cute involves Che giving Brady, Miranda’s underage son, weed at a funeral. They also smoke in elevators, have sex in their enfeebled coworker’s kitchen, and tell the woman they love they’re moving to Los Angeles at the same time as 100 other people.

Anyone rejecting Miranda’s mid-life transformation is probably stuck on their distrustful feelings about Che. And here’s where the relationship comes in: It’s hard to buy into a couple that feels one-sided, but it’s even harder to invest in Miranda’s inner journey when it’s tied to someone who’s a) annoying, and b) clearly isn’t in it for the long haul. (Prediction: Che will not appear in “And Just Like That” Season 2.) The finale’s last scene with Miranda, where she’s heading to the airport to support Che while they tape their pilot, was initially infuriating because it lacked closure and it seems to be about Che more than Miranda. Now, knowing a second season is likely on the way, her goodbye is a little more comforting because her final exchange with Brady makes it clear what King and the writers were going for all season: Miranda blew up her life to try to find herself again, and she dyed her gray hair back to that iconic red hue because she feels like she did. The reason for going is dumb — Che, of all people, doesn’t need a shoulder to lean on while making their own TV show — but Miranda’s on the right track nonetheless.

Taking a step back, it shouldn’t take this much sorting to appreciate the character arcs within a 10-episode season of television. “And Just Like That” is filled with flaws, but is it still a worthwhile continuation? Does it help or hurt the “Sex and the City” legacy? And would a potential second season be a good idea — a chance to fine-tune what they’ve started — or a bad one, that risks following in the disastrous footsteps of the movie sequel we dare not speak of?

And Just Like That Sarah Jessica Parker Cynthia Nixon HBO Max

Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon in “And Just Like That”

Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max

LIBBY: See, that’s your problem right there. If we’re talking about legacy and the good, the bad, and the ugly of “And Just Like That” then you can’t not talk about “Sex and the City 2,” a film so execrable that I legitimately forget if it was an actual movie or just the worst fever dream of all time. That is not an exaggeration.

As more and more content is released chasing that sweet, sweet intellectual property contact high, the more I’ve come around to seeing each installment of a series as something related to, but not reflective on, its source material. Which is my way of saying that “Sex and the City” cannot be impugned by the existence of “Sex and the City” (the movie), “Sex and the City 2” (the abomination), and now, “And Just Like That”

Think about it. “The Godfather, Part III” is an unfortunate chapter in the larger cinema text of the Corleone family, but in no way does it make the first or second films in the series anything less than masterpieces. But that’s also why “This Simpsons,” having run for more than 30 years could still tarnish its own reputation. It’s not likely, but maybe it runs for 50 more years the bad eventually outweighs the good. Basically, it’s different for sequels.

To be completely honest with you, I think it would be a real mistake not to give “And Just Like That” another season. We’ve seen enough TV to know how a show often finds itself in its second year. Of course this (hopefully) first season was rusty — a lifetime has passed. When you reconnect with a long lost friend, you have a lot of life to get caught up on, but you eventually find your groove, even if it’s a little different than you remembered. I think the original series was so influential and earned so much goodwill that the least we can do is give our old friend(s) another shot to find their groove.

BEN: It’s hard to imagine a better note to end on than that — never in a million years did I think we’d loop in “The Godfather Part III” — so I’ll just share a few final thoughts that must be released from my brain:

– When reviewing the first four episodes, I noted that the series’ new characters hadn’t been fleshed out yet, but there was plenty of time to do so. Che, well, Che certainly happened, but I’m still eager for more Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), whose relationship started a fresh, crucial conversation about couples who don’t have kids, and Seema Patel (Sarita Choudhury), who got a happy ending here, but feels more than capable of carrying story without a cool, club-owning boyfriend.

– Samantha existing solely in text form proved to be a savvy, satisfying way to keep the character’s essence alive — and I love that she was still there for Carrie in Paris, even if we couldn’t see their reunion — but that trick won’t work long-term. Perhaps Samantha can pop-in with notes and messages in rare, carefully selected moments, but recurring texts at the same frequency as Season 1 will start to feel weird when we never see her in the flesh.

– Anthony (Mario Cantone) got the biggest laughs of the season.

– Favorite cameo: Jonathan Groff, as the impossibly smooth plastic surgeon.

– “You can now kiss each other, or do whatever will get the most likes on Instagram” is the worst thing I’ve ever heard at a wedding, fictional or otherwise. (Remember how there was a surprise wedding in this episode?)

– It’s been so uncomfortable watching the uber-wealthy York-Goldenblatt family refuse to let anything pierce their luxurious money-bubble all season, but Harry trying to bribe Rock into conforming to his religion is… extra yuck. (Remember how there was a massive Bat Mitzvah this episode?)

– I am a huge proponent of Carrie’s style choices over the years, but those pink hand-coverings worn to dump Big’s ashes are dishwashing gloves, come on.

“And Just Like That” is available to watch in full via HBO Max. Season 2 has not been confirmed.

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