And Just Like That… Everything Changes in One Shocking Moment — Plus, How Samantha's Absence Is Addressed

See what Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte — and even Samantha — have been up to since fans last checked in on the "Sex and the City" ladies more than a decade ago.

It’s been more than ten years since the women of “Sex and the City” were swept off their feet into wedded bliss and riding off into the sunset for the respective happily-ever-afters. And that’s exactly where we find them now.

But not for long.

In the first two episodes, we find out why this show is called “And Just Like That…” rather than “Sex and the City.” Yes, it’s a phrase that excited long before this sequel series, but it’s also a phrase that punctuates the beginning of this chapter in these women’s lives.

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“And just like that…” indicates dramatic, abrupt and unexpected change. By the end of the first episode, just such a moment happens, and the entire show pivots around it into something completely different.

While teasers for the rest of the season indicate that the show will find some semblance of its former self, these two episodes had only glimmers of what made “SATC” a visionary comedic force in the ’90s. Mostly, they had a lot of work to do before these ladies would even be ready to settle into their usual antics.

The first episode spent the bulk of its time really pushing just how current and modern and now it is, from Big (Chris Noth) being all about Peloton exercises to Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) being part of a podcast now, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) quitting her corporate law job in response to the Muslim ban, and all the talk about coming out of a pandemic, the writers wanted us to firmly understand that it’s 2021 now.

What was more interesting than those token details, though, was reflecting the “SATC” of the ’90s through a ’21 lens. There was perhaps no better example than when Carrie was uncomfortable talking about sex on the podcast, even though writing about sex was her job for how many years?

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The woman who pioneered a new revolution in talking about women’s sexuality finds herself suddenly so far behind the curve that she’s uncomfortable with how openly women and men and non-binary people are talking about sexuality. Carrie may be the OG, but can she keep up?

Meanwhile, Miranda is so many cishet white women (and men) trying to be good allies to minority groups and just going about it all wrong. She falls into the “white savior” trap, talks way too long about a Black woman’s hair and generally keeps her foot in her mouth throughout the premiere.

But through it all, her heart is in the right place. And that’s just as important a message. Learning and changing and growing and evolving is messy work, and you’re going to make mistakes. And it was just as important to see Black and LGBTQ people showing patience with her efforts as it was seeing her continue to try, and making incremental progress.

So where do we find the women of “Sex and the City” when the series begins? And what upsets their world at the end of the first hour? Let’s dive in!

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Carrie transitioned onto Instagram, where she started posting random fashion from the street. From there, she wound up on a very progressive podcast, representing the cishet female point of view alongside two comedians, one a proudly vulgar cishet male played brashly by Bobby Lee and the other a non-binary queer individual named Che (“Do I look like a Cheryl?”), portrayed by Sara Ramirez.

Right away, Che has to challenge her to step up after she balks at talking openly about her own masturbation habits. The message is clear. Get more open or get gone from the podcast. “You need to step your p—- up,” Che tells her, which is about as blunt as you can get.

At home, she and Big are living a blissfully perfect life, complete with a round through the record collection every night during dinner since lockdown began. Big is nearing 1,000 workouts on his Peloton, Carrie wears gloves to avoid germs and they apparently both watch “Bridgerton.” Did we mention it’s 2021, because the writers really want us all to know.

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Miranda’s husband Steve (David Eigenberg) seems to be taking advantage of his hearing loss, slipping out his hearing aids at strategic times, including when their 17-year-old son Brady (Niall Cunningham) is having obnoxiously loud sex with his girlfriend Luisa (Cree Cicchino) in the house.

They seem to be trying to strike a balance between being those cool parents, and really buckling down. Like sex is cool, but we draw the line at marijuana! Let’s just say, Miranda is still a bit of a mess, but trying to find her way in this new world and make her life and career mean something.

As we mentioned, she quit her corporate law job after 30 years and headed back to school, trying to get her Master’s degree in human rights so she can be an advocate for women who don’t have one. It’s a noble cause and her heart is in the right place. If only she could control her mouth.

Through painful trial, error, more error and perseverance, Miranda slowly begins to befriend her Black teacher, Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), even after she makes their first meeting all about Nya’s hair, and then makes way too big of a deal over a security guard needing to see Nya’s ID to let her into the building at school.

There’s that “white savior” complex. Later, though, when Miranda legit stops a bizarre mugger from taking Nya’s purse, the seeds of a reluctant friendship seem to be starting to blossom.

We also get two scenes that have us wondering if perhaps Miranda has developed a bit of alcohol dependency. Let’s just say she’s looking to drink a little too early and a little too willing to be pushy or wait to get some booze into her. Functional alcoholic, perhaps?

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Well, Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is an emotional wreck pretty much from start to finish. Like the other two women, she’s happily married to Harry (Evan Handler) with their two girls, Lily (Cathy Ang) and Rose (Alexa Swinton). What we picked up right away is that Lily is clearly more in tune with her mother, while Rose is more Harry’s girl.

Lily is also a brilliant pianist, who loves the beautiful dress her mother picked out for her to wear at her recital. Rose had to be forced into hers and still put a tuxedo t-shirt over it. Let’s just say she has a style all her own. We suspect she may be having more than just wardrobe uncertainties about herself, and we’re not sure how well Charlotte will take what might be coming.

She’s also become close friends with another parent, Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker), whose son Henry is definitely not a piano prodigy, or anything close to it, but he has all the confidence of someone who knows they’re going to hit as many bad notes as good ones, but they’re going to do it with pinache!

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While Will Garson tragically passed before filming was done for the season, we nevertheless got to see that for some characters, virtually nothing changes. Stanford and Anthony (Mario Cantone) are not-so-happily married when we run into them, but that’s mostly because Anthony grows so frustrated with how prissy Stanford can be.

But there’s also a clear affection between them. And Stanford remains a staunch friend to Carrie, and wants to make sure that everyone knows it.

He’s a one-of-a-kind character. Showrunner Michael Patrick King said they didn’t come close to telling the full story they had planned for him, but so far it’s business as usual. We also know they’re not intending to address his death (at least not this season), so it remains to be seen if he’ll just fade out of the narrative or how they’ll manage that loss.

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Of course, the biggest question mark is what you do about Samantha. Kim Cattrall made it clear she would not return to the show, but how can you have a “Sex and the City” series without Samantha? As it turns out, you can’t.

Right away, the writers had a little fun with their viewers, having the girls tell Bitsy (Julie Halston), “She’s not with us.” The intent was clear, but Samantha is not dead in the “SATC” universe. Instead, it turns out she’s in London for work.

What we find out a little bit later is that she and Carrie apparently had a personal falling out after Carrie let her go as her publicist. After that, Carrie said that Samantha basically just ghosted her.

“I understand that she was upset, but I thought I was more to her than an ATM.” Clearly there are hurt feelings surrounding the departure of Sam from the show. But far from being a one-off note to explain Cattrall’s absence, the gang’s disconnect from Samantha is setting up to be at the very least a background storyline throughout the season.

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Aside from a few things here and there, the premiere mostly showed that the women have pretty much been living pretty damned perfect lives over the past ten years. The loss of Samantha from their inner circle seemed to be the biggest blow they had to face. At least, until the closing moments of the premiere episode.

Lily’s piano recital was the focal point of the episode, with Charlotte convincing Carrie to attend. As such, she pushed back the trip to the Hamptons she and Big had planned. They were going to leave Wednesday, but pushed it back two days as the concert was Thursday night.

Well, Big opted out of going to the concert, that everyone else was going to, for a session on his Peloton. And here’s where the title of the show kicked in. “And just like that… Big died,” Carrie said to close out the episode.

She came home to find him in the bathroom, having suffered a heart attack after his ride. We’ve no idea why she didn’t call 9-1-1 immediately — perhaps shock — but he was still somewhat conscious when she got there, meaning he died in her arms.

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The next episode centers entirely around Big’s funeral, with Carrie meticulously planning a one-of-a-kind event. She has yet to really cry Big’s death, but not to worry as Charlotte was crying enough for all of them.

Charlotte, having convinced Carrie to push their Hamptons trip back, blames herself that Carrie wasn’t with Big on Thursday when he had his heart attack. Carrie blames herself for not just going to the Hamptons anyway.

It was during the funeral that we got the biggest moment with Samantha yet, and the reason we think the writers aren’t done with this narrative. And with how it’s going, there’s an interesting possiblity out there.

Obviously, they will always hold out hope they can convince Cattrall to come back. But if they can’t, she can still be a part of the story. After Carrie explicitly said no flowers, she showed up at the funeral to a stunningly appropriate bouquet … from Samantha.

Later in the episode, we see Carrie texting her thanks. When she and Miranda had talked about Samantha, they’d mentioned that they’d all tried to reach out to her, emphasizing their use of text. And just like that there’s a built-in way to communicate with Samantha without Cattrall’s involvement. Will they do it? Well, we’ll find out.

New episodes of “And Just Like That…” drop every Thursday on HBO Max.

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