This review contains spoilers for the first four episodes of And Just Like That… Please read at your own risk!

And just like that… Sex and the City returns with an assured and boldly dramatic vengeance! The new series, titled And Just Like That… brings back all of the main players and their partners, despite one major omission: Kim Cattrall’s sassy and deeply horny Samantha is absent as a result of major behind-the-scenes drama. With the elephant in the room acknowledged, little else this year has been as comforting as catching up with Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte as they forge their way over the hump of middle age. Of the first four episodes screened for critics, I was impressed by previous showrunner (and director of the two films) Michael Patrick King’s ability to evolve with the times, and to address some of the complaints about the original show’s run. For better or worse, the new additions color the personal journeys of our core group. This is still a laugh-out-loud funny comedy even without Samantha’s sharp wit, but this iteration is more mature and dramatic as well.

Navigating the waters of friendship in your 50s is not exactly a walk in the park. With their “fourth musketeer” Samantha off to the UK for work, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) forge on with their lives. Carrie is still happily married to Big (Chris Noth), thriving as part of the new podcast, XY and Me, which is of course all about sex and gender. Carrie seems stuck in a rut—her podcast boss makes Carrie promise to “step her pussy up” on air. I never thought I would see the day when Carrie Bradshaw would be uncomfortable talking about sex, but a podcast is a whole new ballgame for her. Miranda is trying to stay sane in the wake of “stepping on her son’s semen before coffee,” as his sex drive is in full force. She is back in school, starting a new class with a black professor (Karen Pittman) whose relationship will test every politically-correct muscle in Miranda’s body (and make every audience member cringe in secondhand embarrassment). Charlotte, meanwhile, still with Harry (Evan Handler), is trying her damndest to be supportive to her talented daughter, Lily (Cathy Ang), and her gender-questioning child, Rose (Alexa Swinton).

In the conclusion of the very first episode of this revival, the tragic death of beloved character Mr. Big comes fast and furious, closing out with a total gut-punch. “And just like that… Big died,” says Carrie’s voiceover before cutting to black. This is the moment when I realized why this new show has a different title. This isn’t Sex and the City: Part Two, but a new beast entirely. It is a natural evolution of the themes and characters we followed before, a continuation of the narrative threads that made the series so beloved. It also is something more. It becomes a meditation on life and death, on grief and loss, and yet it still carries the humor and heart alongside it with gleeful abandon. 

For the most part, And Just Like That… feels like a wonderful return to form and ‘back to basics’ of HBO’s original hit. I absolutely adored both theatrical outings (especially 2008’s Sex and the City), but this series trades the lighter tone and outrageous fantastical qualities in for a moving meditation on what it means to grow older. Being a longtime fan, it is virtually impossible not to be excited at getting a chance to become reacquainted with these ladies. Rumor has it, the originally proposed Sex and the City 3 film would have featured Big’s death, similarity to how it came together in this new show. Either way, starting off in this way sets the standard for a darker, less sex-y iteration. In the normal course of our lives, we constantly love people around us, and run the risk of losing them altogether. While the choice to kill off Big so early on in this run is undoubtedly divisive, I admired the growth it allows for our core trio. In seeing the drastically different way they each react to the horrible situation, the audience is given a window into their maturity levels.

Of course, another real-life death happened that will probably bleed into the story. The first three episodes give sassy and charming Stanford (Willie Garson) a substantial role. He is there for Carrie in the wake of Big’s death, and he insists on sitting next to her at the funeral because he is her “best friend.” Garson sadly passed away after a long battle with cancer earlier this year, leaving a mark on the series at large. The fourth episode ends with a beautiful tribute: “In memory of our beloved Willie Garson.” In a way, the show is forced to juggle three big absences going forward: that of Samantha, Big, and now Stanford. At least one of these is handled perfectly—a Samantha moment in the second episode involving flowers literally brought tears to my eyes. Big gets a whole episode devoted to his mourning, complete with several flashbacks that throw salt in the wound. The jury is still out on whether Stanford’s departure will be as satisfying to the audience as either of the others.

A significant amount of scenarios that I never dreamed I would see in a million years pop up in And Just Like That…, and leave an indelibly specific mark as only Sex and the City can. Dr. Wallace being attacked by Chucky in the subway, then Chucky being smacked by Miranda’s heavy book is one of them; Carrie no longer being able to hail a cab is another. Almost everything new here is effective, though I will say the first episode is the weakest. This is where we have to play catch-up and get introduced to where every character has been since Sex and the City 2, and there is obviously a lot of ground to cover.

Making predictions about what may be coming is a little tricky. The pieces are certainly laid for several different threads. Carrie’s new relationship with realtor Seema (Sarita Choudhury) may be a pleasant surprise. I foresee Carrie eventually having a big breakdown, as she tries to find her place in a Big-less world. Miranda is walking a different road; it seems that her relationship with Steve may be on the outs, while an alcohol addition and a potential lesbian relationship could be in the cards. Charlotte’s journey may sprout from her children, as she helps Rose come to terms with their gender identity. I have no doubt the remainder of the season will see more than a couple exciting faces pop up. Personally, I would love to see the return of Carrie’s former flame, Aidan. 

Each episode of And Just Like That… ends with a meaningful final meditation from Carrie, a meta reflection of the way she used to close out her columns. And Just Like That… Michael Patrick King brought us back into the lives of these three women with effortless ease, and an eye for progression and change. If I had to sum up the series in just a few quick thoughts, I would say it is an emotional rollercoaster—an evolution, a breath of fresh air. So gay, so fun, so wild, and shocking. I cannot wait for more, and to see what the remaining six episodes will hold.

And Just Like That… is now available to watch on HBO Max, with a new episode debuting weekly exclusively on this streaming service.

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