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‘And Just Like That’: Smart sequel reminds us why we love ‘Sex and the City’ squad

HBO Max series brings witty dialogue, grounded drama and Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda’s trademark sense of style.

More than a decade after the “Sex and the City” series ended, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon, from left), Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) remain close on “And Just Like That.”
HBO Max

Note: When it comes to revealing specifics, we are going to tread as lightly as vintage Carrie Bradshaw in a pair of four-inch-high heels at the end of a long night, but some mild spoilers appear in this review.

Miranda says it best, right off the top:

“We can’t just stay who we were, right?”

Amen. Much has changed in the world — and in the world of entertainment — since we last checked in with that indelibly etched quartet of BFFs from “Sex and the City,” given it’s been some 15 years since the seminal HBO comedy/drama series took its final bow and more than a decade since the second of the two regrettable feature films skimmed across the public consciousness and seemed to render Carrie Bradshaw and her friends … irrelevant, of all things.

Here’s the great news. The Max Original series “And Just Like That” feels like a 10-year reunion you weren’t sure about attending — but from the moment you arrived, you were SO glad you did, because it reminds you of why you loved these people in the first place. Thanks to executive producer Michael Patrick King, a team of talented writers and excellent performances from Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, a host of returning supporting players and some intriguing new characters, “And Just Like That” is a smart, layered, insightful gem with true dramatic gravitas but also the same sense of style and upper middle-class, Manhattan-centric escapism as the original.

Debuting with two episodes on Dec. 9, with the remaining eight chapters premiering on subsequent Thursdays, “And Just Like That” doesn’t ignore the events of the two movies but feels more like a spiritual sequel to the original series. We pick up the story with Parker’s Carrie, Nixon’s Miranda and Davis’ Charlotte as close as ever but now navigating life in their mid-50s. They’ve been through a lot and they’re at different stations in life than they were back in the 2000s, but Carrie is still rocking a different hat and purse in nearly every scene, Miranda is still the most serious of the bunch and Charlotte still has that endearing sweetness about her.

As for the Kim Cattrall (Who’s Not) in the Room: When the self-consumed socialite Bitsy von Muffling (Julie Halston) runs into the trio at a trendy eatery and asks, “Where’s Samantha?” Charlotte replies, “She’s no longer with us” — but Carrie clarifies Samantha isn’t dead, she has relocated to London for work. We also learn that after Carrie and Samantha had a professional parting of the ways, Samantha not only moved — she moved on and has no interest in staying in contact. It’s a respectful way to dismiss the character, but a later development stretches that plot point beyond credulity, and I’ll leave it at that.

Early episodes of “And Just Like That” (I’ve seen the first four) bring about the welcome return of a number of familiar faces, including Carrie’s husband “Big” aka John James Preston (a warm and handsome Chris Noth), who has settled into a romantic and lasting relationship with Carrie, greeting her with “Hey kid, let the wine begin” and already cooking dinner when she returns home from a long day of socializing with her friends and podcasting, because of course Carrie Bradshaw would be part of a podcast in 2021. Not that Big has totally been tamed; he has a thing for a sultry woman named Allegra, but it’s all virtual and it’s purely platonic, as Allegra is his Peloton instructor.

Mario Cantone and the late Willie Garson (who died at just 57 from pancreatic cancer only weeks after filming) reprise their roles as the married couple Anthony Marantino and Stanford Blatch, and a number of recurring characters from the TV series also make some choice extended cameos — all of that adding to the feeling of continuity with the past.

Sara Ramirez is a welcome addition to the cast as queer podcaster Che Diaz.
HBO Max

“And Just Like That” is set in post-pandemic New York City, with characters navigating whether to bump fists or say hello from a distance, and when is it OK to hug? (When Carrie says, “Remember when we had to stand six feet apart?” Miranda cracks, “Yeah, I miss it.”) The dialogue crackles with witty one-liners, but there’s a lot of heavy stuff going on as well, with one character becoming alarmingly fond of adult beverages while another isn’t sure what to feel or how to respond when one of her children makes a startling revelation, and yet another going through some unexpected and profound life changes. There’s more grounded, authentic drama than zeitgeist comedy in the first four episodes, though we also get plenty of cutting-edge laughs, primarily via Sara Ramirez’ podcast host/stand-up comedian Che Diaz, who identifies as a “queer, non-binary, Mexican-Irish diva,” and is so instantly likable and such a force we’d watch a whole show just about this character.

“And Just Like That” confronts the lily-white heritage of “Sex and the City” with the introduction of not only Diaz’ Che, but three other characters of color: Nicole Ari Parker’s Lisa Todd Wesley, a documentarian who befriends fellow parent Charlotte; Karen Pittman’s Dr. Nya Wallace, who is Miranda’s grad school professor at Columbia, and Sarita Choudhury’s high-end real estate agent Seema Patel. These four gifted actors lend even more depth and richness to a show that pays tribute to the past but promises a possibly even more substantial future for Carrie Bradshaw and her widening circle of friends.