And Just Like That season 2 review: Sex is back on the menu
The first season of the Sex and the City sequel received its fair share of criticism, but how does its sophomore outing compare?
Only 7 of 11 episodes were made available for review.
Before And Just Like That arrived on our screens back in December 2021, we were all poised for a different kind of offering, given Kim Cattrall's Samantha Jones would not feature in the Sex and the City sequel. But her absence, while felt, paled in comparison to what was waiting for viewers at the end of its opening episode.
Following Big's shocking death, the narrative's central concern was unpacking Carrie's grief, which was one of the few things showrunner Michael Patrick King and his team did well. But as a result, the tonal shift from what we'd typically been used to in SATC was pretty severe, with comedy largely sidelined for drama.
In the show's second season, Carrie's heartbreak remains front and centre, with King continuing to emphasise that the grieving process is both lengthy and non-linear. While recording the audio for her new book, Loved and Lost, she fakes a Covid infection to avoid reading the chapter about the moment her husband died, and it's simultaneously depressing watching her hide out in her apartment and lie to her friends, and also the perfect fodder for a gag that would feel at home in SATC – "Now she's got Covid?! That's very off trend for her."
The book is also a nifty way of letting us know exactly where Carrie is now emotionally, and in a time-friendly manner. It would have been remiss to sweep her sadness under the rug in the name of keeping things moving, but season 2 absolutely wants to keep things moving.
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"My sadness shrank but I grew until I was so large, the grief just felt smaller," she reads. "And then I realised, it was time. You don't move on because you're ready to, you move on because you've outgrown who you used to be."
AJLT is absurd and messy in a myriad of ways, but in those moments, it shines.
As well as a return to more comedic territory, sex is also back on the menu (we're not talking SATC levels, but it's a marked change). Following a season-opening montage in which Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, Seema and Lisa are all getting it on with their current or long-term partners, you can expect: a penis pump and a strap-on and retrograde ejaculation. Oh my!
That switch-up taps into one of the reasons people found the original series so entertaining. Its exploration of female friendships grounded the show, but the sometimes wonderful, often weird and downright nasty nature of dating and sex was what kept viewers on their toes.
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And speaking of nostalgia, Carrie's Vivienne Westwood wedding dress also makes an appearance, but it arrives at the end of a very dull episode about the Met Gala, which was clearly only written so that the dress could have its moment. As significant as it was for Carrie to take something synonymous with pain and turn it into something beautiful, it was hard work getting there.
Another treasured item from Carrie's past also makes an appearance: Aidan. To go into any detail about what transpires between the two would be to spoil the fun, and critics are also forbidden from sharing when he re-enters the frame, but their flame continues to burn bright, even after a lifetime apart, which will be music to many fans' ears.
He's also desperately welcome following Carrie's scintillating conversations with her podcast producer Franklyn, who she's still sleeping with, which include how to poach an egg and rewriting an advert for vaginal odour suppositories. Swoon, indeed.
Miranda and Che's relationship continues to play a key role in season 2 and we see a new side to their dynamic. They're still in LA, where Che is working on a TV pilot about their life and non-binary journey.
But the Hollywood machine can chew you up and spit you out, particularly if you don't align with the status quo, and we see Che's seemingly boundless confidence falter, which naturally takes a toll on their relationship with Miranda, who spends her time milling about the city while she waits for them to clock off, and little else.
In the first few episodes, Miranda still feels somewhat alien to the character that fans fell in love with in SATC, which isn't to say people don't change in 20-plus years, but she continues to be bumbling and awkward and needy when it comes to Che.
The creators would argue that if you're trying new things, it comes with the territory, but watching a grunting Miranda haul her naked body out of a sensory deprivation tank feels misgudged.
"That doesn't sound like you," says Nya. Girl, you're not wrong.
But in the latter half of season 2, when the pair return to New York, Miranda, who is apparently still an alcoholic (aside from one AA meeting and a comment about some non-alcoholic wine, you wouldn't know it) begins to resemble herself, and long may it continue.
Charlotte spends much of the first seven episodes micromanaging her kids' lives, as she did in season 1, which once again makes for uninteresting viewing, aside from one occasion when she ventures out into Manhattan during a snowstorm to hunt down some condoms for her eldest child Lily. It's Charlotte dialled up to 11, which is often far more than any of us can bear, but the image of her banging on the windows of a chemist in blizzard conditions for a packet of rubbers was a rare moment of hilarity involving her offspring.
That all looks set to change, however. After a guest at a dinner party offers Charlotte a work opportunity in the art world, she's certainly tempted, and there will be no shortage of viewers willing her to make that leap and employ a more hands-off parenting approach for their sanity.
AJLT made strides to address its longstanding problems with a lack of race diversity with the additions of Seema, Lisa and Nya, but in season 1 they were little more than sounding boards for the main trio, and largely used to impart wisdom – what-you-should-never-say-to-a-Black woman 101, by Miranda Hobbes – rather than existing as fully-fledged characters in their own right.
In season 2, their roles are significantly more substantial as the curtain is peeled back further on their own family and dating lives away from their SATC counterparts, but the writing around issues such as race remains clunky.
In one scene, Lisa's husband Herbert has an altercation with a racist taxi driver, which is designed to showcase that a) people are still discriminated against on the basis of skin colour, even if their clothing denotes that they're a high-flier, as Herbet is. Who'd have thought it?! And b) Black people are not a monolith and, as such, Herbert's response to the incident differs to that of his wife and mother.
The intent behind including that moment is undoubtedly admirable – the shadow of past failings looms large – but AJLT can struggle with seamlessly incorporating those conversations into the plot.
As with season 1, the second instalment of AJLT takes a while to warm up – the most exciting thing that happened in the first four episodes were the tiny stools that Carrie, Seema and Charlotte rested their very expensive handbags on while at a restaurant – with the action and the quality of the writing picking up in the final couple of episodes that were made available for review.
The show is also deeply weird on occasion – the less said about the "MILF list" storyline in episode 3, which causes a stir at the school Charlotte and Lisa's children attend, the better.
But at its best, it remains an entertaining watch that demands very little from viewers, which is a blessing in an age of Succession and Severance and Barry, that also has the capacity to be insightful and inspire emotion. This is not the bold, ground-breaking telly that SATC was, but that doesn't matter. If you enjoyed season 1, you'll lap this up.
And Just Like That... season 2 will air on Sky Comedy and NOW in the UK from Thursday 22nd June 2023 and on HBO Max in the US.
Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide.
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