How ‘And Just Like That’ has new friends competing for a seat at the table
“And just like that…” covers a year in the lives of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) in its first season, but in many ways our fictional best friends and in fashion barely exceeded what we expected of them.
Executive producer and showrunner Michael Patrick King certainly wouldn’t agree with that, given the massive life changes Carrie and Miranda have gone through.
Carrie loses the love of her life when John, aka Mr. Big, dies in the season premiere. However, he remains very present after his departure. It takes 10 episodes to set him free, along with herself, with a trip to Paris to spread his ashes in the Seine – a trip Chris Noth was cut from after several women claimed he sexually assaulted them.
Miranda quits her job, then ditches her marriage to head west with her new love interest Che (Sara Ramirez), whom everyone hates, when they take jobs in California doing a TV pilot.
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Of them all, Charlotte stays closest to how we remember her while traveling the farthest from her starting point, loosening her grip on tradition and her embrace of the way things should be. This is forced upon Charlotte by her child deciding she no longer wants to be known as Rose, but Rock, and doesn’t want to be labeled as anything – including Jewish, a real inconvenience for her parents during its “they mitzah”.
Old Charlotte would have canceled the party. Instead, she claims the celebration as her bat mitzvah, and why not? At first glance, she and Harry (Evan Handler) spent a small fortune on the candy bar alone.
The filling of the fourth rotary seat
Ultimately, the overriding message is one of change. And yet, much of what came before involved an unspoken audition for the empty fourth seat at the table.
It is not proverbial. In nearly every episode, the ladies gather at a restaurant to dissect the issues plaguing them that week, a “Sex and the City” device used successfully enough to make brunch and cosmopolitans all the rage. Only this time, when the fourth seat wasn’t empty, it was occupied by a rotation of invited diners, as if the ladies were auditioning for their next best friend.
It was the balance between King and the writers between keeping Samantha on the show as a loving but invisible presence and bringing in a fresh perspective — thanks to a character who isn’t necessarily white or straight.
The writers settled there, sitting Stanford Blatch (the late Willie Garson) first – who doesn’t love Stanford? He called Charlotte out on her reluctance to include him in their reindeer games, as if to imply he wasn’t on Carrie’s A team. Alas, Garson died in real life, and Stanford got up and walked away, ditching Mario Cantone’s Anthony in the process. But Anthony was always expressly Charlotte’s main man, aside from Harry; more importantly, he fiercely maintains a life beyond these women.
It is from there that things happen. . . interesting. As the writers sought to introduce new characters — specifically two black women, Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker) and Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), as well as Sarita Choudhury’s Seema Patel — we see them mingle with the trio in their hallowed restaurant settings with varying degrees of integration. And in each case, the success and plausibility of the innuendo of each of the characters in the group corresponds to the time they can spend with the three to four. They are literally, albeit subconsciously, competing for a place at a table.
Those who choose to review are encouraged to watch carefully to see what I’m talking about. Charlotte’s friend Lisa Todd Wexley meets Carrie and Miranda while enjoying a lunch date. Carrie and Miranda walk out while LTW, as Charlotte calls him, sits down to snack on someone else’s fries.
Carrie and Charlotte have similar flyovers with Does not have, whose entire friendship with Miranda makes absolutely no sense — and yet her infertility issues are widely aired separately from Miranda’s mess. Only, that is, after Miranda gave him airtime by keeping quiet about Che.
Later, Nya and her husband have their own excursion to a restaurant with friends, entirely apart from whatever Miranda, Carrie and Charlotte do – existing as a satellite of their lives instead of fully integrated into the mix. This adds to Nya’s breeze over Miranda’s cascade of racist micro-aggressions when they first met, which she forgives without the two coming back to respond to it in any way.
The only new friend who shares a table with the three “Sex and the City” OGs for an extended period of time is Sema, who is single and sexy, and also the type of “ethnic” friend who gives Carrie a fashion boutique. Seema invites Carrie to her family’s Diwali celebration and grants her permission to wear a sari to the event. This, Seema explains, makes it “cultural appreciation” as opposed to cultural appropriation, which delights Carrie, a woman always on the lookout for unconventional fashion.
Either way, it earns her the ultimate “in”-vitation, sitting in a restaurant with the rest of the girls as they plan Carrie’s reintroduction to the dating world. It’s something Samantha would have done, and yet Seema is entirely separate from Samantha. But the most important point of this scene is that it reached the level of intimates, placing it close to Carrie’s loved ones. Nya and LTW don’t quite get there.
Guess we shouldn’t expect a mixture of fully enlightened friend groups from King, who explains his philosophy about inclusion in The Daily Beast by saying, “What’s in the world right now that wasn’t in the world, on the language of these characters, when they were 35? And what is it, is race, gender, privilege.
Oh. Oh, my friend. He means well. (Ask a Midwestern native what this phrase implies)
Give him and the other producers on the show credit, at least they try. They’re pretty darn goofy about it, but hey. . . they could have gone back to the old “Sex and the City” vision of New York. The Nya, LTW, and Seema women have always been in this world, proven by Seema and Carrie lamenting the death of Barney’s warehouse sale. The problem was that “Sex and the City” claimed that was not the case. “And just like that…” tries to fix this huge levity, albeit in a sloppy way, and never really understanding how to incorporate these new characters in a way that doesn’t symbolize them.
Expanding the unique quartet to a group of six, with Che on the periphery along with the rest of the queer folks, would be a heavy burden on even the most thoughtful writing team. My colleague Alison Stine has already pointed out the many ways the show fails its weird characters by slipping into old tropes.
But Nya, LTW and Seema face another problem, in that they never quite move alongside their white counterparts as equal but rather supporting roles. Sympathetic viewers might give “And just like that…” a pass on that front in season one, because so much revolves around reintroducing classic characters we haven’t spent time with in a while. decade.
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Still, in a show where having the right look is a central concern, it’s a bit surprising how lopsided those relationships are, and how much the development of storylines involving characters of color depends on the extent to which the three leading white women decide to center. them.
This includes the one between LTW and Charlotte, which is mostly driven by Charlotte’s burning desire to have a powerful, classy black friend. No kidding – when Carrie and Miranda ask Charlotte what’s so special about Lisa, Ms Goldenblatt responds by recounting highlights from her LinkedIn page.
At least the awkwardness of their newfound friendship finds its way to the middle of the table in episode four, “Some of My Best Friends”, where Charlotte tells Harry, “It’s unacceptable that we don’t have a friendship circle. more diverse! ” before going to dinner at LTW, where they are the only white people.
Charlotte makes a few terrible mistakes before everyone recognizes his discomfort and nervousness about saying the wrong thing when he only wants to do his best. Moments later, Charlotte defends her friend with diplomacy and passion when her stepmother mocks the money LTW has spent on artwork, each piece of which is an investment.
In this exchange, Charlotte shows that her passion for culture includes a high regard for the contributions of black artists. It’s not something Charlotte has to study – she just knows. The look she shares with her new friend LTW is genuinely warm, confirming the start of something genuine.
Eventually – perhaps – it will earn him an invite to brunch.
All episodes of “And Just Like That…” are currently streaming on HBO Max.
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