If there’s one thing that absolutely every Sex and the City viewer knows, it’s that Carrie Bradshaw is a bad person. She’s selfish and narcissistic; the world revolves around her, and if anyone in her orbit forgets that, she’ll be quick to remind them that she’s supposed to be the one at the center of the universe. It’s why even the least dirtbaggy boyfriends of her past have been met with strife if they break it off with her: Carrie Bradshaw is not concerned with anyone but herself.
But that’s also why we love her. Carrie represents the id that lives inside all of us. She’s impulsive, a bit manic, and very chic—as all the most delightfully troublesome people are when they spin through your life like a couture tornado, leaving a beautiful disaster in their wake. Of course, she’s had a couple of notable flashes of empathy too. Who among us will forget when she deigned to take the subway all the way to Brooklyn on New Year’s Eve just to comfort her best friend, Miranda? But what makes these scenes significant isn’t Carrie’s compassion, but the fact that these acts of sensitivity are few and far between.
While And Just Like That promised to be a “new chapter of Sex and the City,” Carrie was largely still stuck in her first edition. With more age came only a speck more wisdom, which was bafflingly reserved for near-strangers instead of Carrie’s own friends. Over the course of the show’s massively improved second season, however, Carrie’s capacity for emotion gradually improved—though not without its major setbacks. It was looking like Carrie might never become a decent friend or understanding girlfriend, until the season finale gave her a tough pill to swallow and (hopefully) changed her character arc for good.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead for the And Just Like That Season 2 finale.)
The first season of And Just Like That felt so unearthly for a plethora of reasons, the most prominent among them being Carrie’s listlessness. For Sex and the City’s six seasons and two movies, Carrie always had something to do, somewhere to be, or someone to date. But with her husband, Big, having passed at the start of the spinoff, she appropriately skulked around New York like Miss Havisham, wading through a kind of grief she had never before experienced. Any decent friend could forgive her for being off-kilter, especially the most staunchly loyal ones like Miranda and Charlotte, who had already brushed off so many of Carrie’s unfeeling antics in the original series.
I know what you might be thinking, and yes, Sex and the City and And Just Like That are about Carrie. It makes sense that we’d be seeing everything from her perspective, no matter how skewed it might be. But that doesn’t necessarily excuse her lack of empathy for her friends, or an outright refusal to understand their own points of view. Take the time in Season 5 when Carrie walked in on Samantha—in Samantha’s own office—blowing the Worldwide Express guy. Carrie spent the next few days making judgemental digs at her friend, instead of just talking about it and moving on.
Apparently, Carrie and Samantha eventually making amends wiped away Carrie’s prudish behavior for a while, given that she was happy to gallivant around Abu Dhabi with Aidan in Sex and the City 2, despite the two of them being married to other people, and Charlotte’s stern warning that she’s playing with fire. Carrie, ever the romantic, was too stricken by what she perceived as being fate at work when she and Aidan reconnected halfway across the world, dismissing her friend’s good intentions as conservative relationship views.
And we can’t forget the million-and-one times that Carrie was an outright terrible friend to Miranda. How about when Miranda fell and hurt her back in Season 4, and Carrie sent Aidan to scoop up a naked and afraid Miranda from her bathroom floor and take her to the hospital? Even after Miranda confronts her about it and Carrie apologizes, Carrie hijacks the conversation and continues to make it about her belief that Aidan is cheating.
Or, just a few episodes later, when Miranda was debating having an abortion: Instead of being present to listen to her friend’s concerns, Carrie walked around the city for days, wondering what her life would be like if she hadn’t had an abortion years prior. And don’t even get me started on the time in Season 5 when Miranda was in the throes of postpartum depression and Carrie made an entire lunch about a face that Aidan’s ex gave her in a random bathroom run-in.
Carrie’s coldness has been clocked by viewers for years, even spawning a new meme of drag queen Chad Michaels in a Sarah Jessica Parker-esque look, staring blankly ahead while Carrie’s friends ask for sympathy. If you ask me, the now iconic scene from And Just Like That Season 1 where Miranda gets fingerbanged in Carrie’s kitchen while Carrie pisses herself is merely the pendulum swinging back. Che tickling Miranda’s pearl was really karma knock-knock-knockin’ at Carrie’s door for all of the things she’s put Miranda through, and would continue to do in Season 2. One might think that, at Carrie’s big age, she’d learn a bit more empathy. But her antics only continued in the show’s second season.
Across Season 2’s 11 episodes, Miranda’s personal life completely devolved, leaving her at an impasse after a bad breakup with new flame Che Diaz and a strained relationship with her ex-husband, Steve, and their son Brady. Miranda was left to nomadically hop between her Brooklyn home—where Steve was residing—and her friend Nya Wallace’s apartment, at which Miranda was subletting a tiny second bedroom. By the season’s final stretch, Carrie decided to sell her apartment…to her downstairs neighbor. Her friend of four decades who desperately needs a real home in the city? Get on Zillow!
To make matters even worse, Miranda tags along with Carrie to surprise Che at their first standup show after their breakup. Che immediately launches into a series of nasty “jokes” about Miranda (they really should stick to the reception desk at the vet’s office), causing Miranda to flee the venue. Who is not going after their best friend to make sure that she’s OK after having the world’s worst comedian poke fun at them? I’ll give you one guess.
And to top it all off, Carrie invites Che to a “last supper” at her apartment, basically telling Miranda to get over it when she raises concern. The tone-deafness would be astonishing enough as it is, if Carrie wasn’t about to make herself look even worse in the penultimate episode’s final moments. When Aidan calls her from Virginia to tell her that his son is in the hospital with a broken collarbone and leg after he crashed into a tree while driving drunk, Carrie’s bedside manner is about as good as Doctor Kevorkian’s. “It’ll be OK… breaks heal,” she tells Aidan over the phone, while her boyfriend is wailing in guttural sobs, saddled with fatherly guilt over not being there for his son. If I came within an inch of losing a family member and my significant other was basically like, “Shit happens!” I would launch across the room at their throat.
But Aidan’s son’s accident is the one event that she can’t Carrie Bradshaw her way out from. There was no way for Carrie to make a near-death experience all about her, and when she’s faced with an unexpected, harsh reality in Season 2’s final moments, she has no choice but to exude some legitimate compassion and understanding.
After everyone has left her dinner party, Aidan shows up at her apartment—the one he vowed never to step foot into again after their traumatic relationship 20 years prior. He broke his one devout rule to show Carrie how much he cared for her, and how deeply committed he is to their future. It was a necessary step to take, seeing as he had to tell Carrie that they needed to put their relationship on an extended pause. For the next five years, until his son is out of his troubled teen years, Aidan won’t be able to be with Carrie. It’s a sacrifice that he’s making for the good of his son, the only person he loves more than her, and one that she can’t help but admire despite how much it breaks her heart.
Now, there is no “breaks heal,” there is no pleading or misguided worries about how much stock she has put into rekindling their relationship. She can do nothing but let her love for Aidan guide her response. For once, Carrie puts someone else’s needs in front of her own, and for longer than just one New Year’s Eve.
Perhaps what Carrie said in Season 2, Episode 8 was true: Maybe Big was a big mistake. She was once so clouded by her obsession with someone that his callousness reflected back onto her, and she put her friends and her relationships at the receiving end of it. With Aidan, Carrie gets love without conditions. It softens her and teaches her that there’s a world outside of New York City. Whether or not this new, more tender side of her will be seen in the recently announced third season is still anyone’s guess. But if there’s one thing Carrie could do with five years to spare, it’s get into therapy to make sure that this newfound benevolence sticks.
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