1 of 6 | From left to right, Nicole Ari Parker, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis and Karen Pittman return in "And Just Like That..." Season 2. Photo courtesy of Max
LOS ANGELES, June 21 (UPI) -- Season 2 of And Just Like That..., premiering Thursday on Max, finally feels like what Sex and the City revival fans have been waiting for. It's back to stories about dating, relationships and fashion, but still evolves the characters and themes -- and it's funnier.
Season 1 had a lot to undo and set up. The Sex and the City movies established Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) married Mr. Big (Chris Noth).
Since And Just Like That decided to make Carrie a widow, it also couldn't do that too quickly, so it took several episodes to get through the funeral. Season 1 also had to introduce the new characters, but Season 2 finds them already engaged in interesting adventures.
Carrie is back on the dating horse. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is still involved with Che (Sara Ramirez) and learning things about her first queer relationship (Che is nonbinary).
Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is still frisky with her husband, Harry (Evan Handler). New ensemble members Seema (Sarita Choudhury), Lisa (Nicole Ari Parker) and Nya's (Karen Pittman) relationships are in various stages of harmony or disharmony.
The new cast also gets to join the original trio for brunch regularly -- the ultimate sign that they fit in naturally.
Season 2's depiction of Carrie's job as a podcast host seems more relevant than Season 1's fantasy version of it. Carrie has to read ads she finds distasteful, and fluctuations of the media industry are better represented, despite giving her the fanciest studio in which a podcast has ever been recorded.
And Just Like That hasn't completely forgotten about Big though. Carrie has to read the audiobook of her memoir and essentially relive the chapter on his death. Most people don't have to record their audiobooks, but no one knows when a reminder of grief will hit them.
Fashionwise, Episode 1 deals with characters getting ready for the Met Gala. This leads to fashion emergencies and scheduling conflicts, while Anthony (Mario Cantone) wisecracks about Lisa's complaints just like old times.
The fashion component still addresses generational differences, as Carrie is rather understanding of younger shopkeepers not appreciating fine footwear.
Lisa and husband Herbert (Chris Jackson) deal with racial issues that Black couples face. Can you lose your temper in public? Lisa feels that if Herbert does, racist society wins. Plus, it could escalate into a worse trauma for their kids.
It's portrayed as a bedtime conversation about the day's events, rather than a major moment to teach the audience about systemic double standards.
Stories also address feuds with hairdressers, which is more relevant than it might sound at first. Clients are intimate with stylists as they talk about their lives, so how does a woman handle it when the stylist oversteps?
Sexual scenarios provide dilemmas for characters. Humor surrounds those awkward situations and subsequent discussions of them at lunch.
Some modern issues are only relevant with technology that has emerged since Sex and the City. Losing a phone and all one's contacts does create challenges when we no longer memorize people's phone numbers.
Wanting to have a sexy Facetime when your partner is busy can lead to hurt feelings. It can also suggest other issues in the relationship, or simply be a matter of bad timing, but the jilted party will obsess over it, nevertheless.
And this is all before Aidan (John Corbett) even shows up, as the trailers have promised he will.
And Just Like That essentially balances six storylines now, when Sex and the City only had to handle four. Forty-five minutes still feels too long for this material, but at least it's using the time to explore interesting stories.
Some of the subplots are still cringe-worthy, but at least they are fewer and the show visits them less frequently.
For example, Che is in Los Angeles filming a pilot for a show based on their life. Che clashes with the writer, the network and celebrity guests as they fight to keep the show true to their experience as a nonbinary person. It's well intentioned, but the most heavy-handed plotline of the show.
Che is valid in correcting LGBTQ stereotypes in Hollywood, but their own material hasn't improved. When And Just Like That shows Che performing standup, they're just telling lame L.A. versus. New York jokes.
In a blatant bit of corporate synergy, a character has the Max app on her TV. Obviously, the writers knew Max was launching, so it's accurate. But it also seems oddly self-justifying for a background scene.
Everyone watching And Just Like That is already watching it on Max. But, And Just Like That also shows people still wearing masks at work, so that's doing way more social good to balance out the corporate interests.
The show keeps the late Willie Garson's character, Stanford, alive via dialogue the same way The Fast and the Furious films keep Paul Walker's character, Brian, alive off-screen.
Perhaps acknowledging Stanford's passing would be too much on top of Big, but it seems an odd choice, especially considering that Samantha is off-screen because Kim Cattrall no longer wants to play her (except for a cameo she reportedly filmed separately).
Having only minor quibbles with And Just Like That Season 2 is a huge improvement over Season 1. Sex and the City wasn't perfect, either, but it's finally back on track to its former glory.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.