Let’s Unpack That

A big mistake: And Just Like That is rewriting history when it comes to Carrie and Aidan

The reunion between one of the most famous couples in ‘Sex and the City’ history has prompted Carrie to ask if marrying her late husband Big was a catastrophic error. If anything, argues Olivia Petter, it’s more proof that this show has lost the plot

Thursday 03 August 2023 06:30 BST
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And just like that... we went insane: Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie and John Corbett’s Aidan
And just like that... we went insane: Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie and John Corbett’s Aidan (HBO/Sky)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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The latest episode of And Just Like That, Sex and the City’s divisive reboot, starts with a big question. Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie is walking down a Manhattan street with Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), having gushed ad nauseam about her revived romp with the man she almost married, Aidan (John Corbett), but instead dumped twice for Chris Noth’s man-about-town Mr Big. And now that Big is dead, felled by a Peloton-induced heart attack in And Just Like That’s first episode, Aidan is back on the scene. He and Carrie have since stumbled into a real-life romcom montage, practically living together, cooking meals together; they’re even buying pepper grinders together.

But as Miranda asks whether they’re moving too fast, Carrie shakes her head defiantly, gushes a little bit more, and proceeds to question 25 years of film and television history: “Was Big a big mistake?”

The line is a gut punch to any dedicated Sex and the City fan who’s spent more than two decades investing in the turbulent and toxic love affair between Carrie and Big. Remember, this story and the different dynamics it created – which spread across multiple seasons of the original series – was enough to become the fulcrum around which the entire SATC universe orbited. And despite all of Big’s many misgivings – He left her at the altar! He cheated on his wife! He bought Carrie that duck handbag! – he was the man who the show sold as our protagonist’s great love. Over and over again.

In the long, chequered history of Carrie’s love life, it has always been a question of Big vs Aidan. Carrie and Big were on and off for the show’s first two seasons. And it wasn’t until season three, when she met Aidan, that we saw our high-heeled sex columnist fall in love again. Then Big came back onto the scene. Carrie had an affair with him, then Aidan was gone. Then so was Big. Then Aidan came back, still hurt by Carrie’s betrayal. Then he was gone again. And then Big came back – again.

The two men were consistently pitted against one another. Not just in terms of which one Carrie would end up with, but because of how each of them represented two opposing tropes of heterosexual men. The toxic one versus the loving one. The distant one versus the clingy one. The one that’s going to always leave you questioning who you are, how you look, and if you’re good enough versus the one that, well, won’t. Of the two of them, Aidan was kinder, more reliable, and by far the more sensible and stable choice. But it was Big who Carrie always went back to, over six seasons and two movies. The one that kept getting away. The one she never got over.

To ask whether that relationship was a mistake is, then, colossal – so it’s all the more strange that the rest of this week’s episode simply skirts around it, with Miranda replying that she’s speechless and Carrie offering no further insights.

Don’t get me wrong, an Aidan return was inevitable once the show decided to kill off Big. Who else would they bring back, the politician that asked Carrie to urinate on him? Aidan’s last comeback came in the second Sex and the City film – after a spontaneous meeting in an Abu Dhabi market, he took Carrie out for dinner and the two shared a clandestine kiss that she later divulged to Big, to whom she was married at the time. It’s unclear whether or not this will even be acknowledged in And Just Like That – the show’s writers tend to have a habit of wiping the past from their scripts.

A moment of madness: Miranda and Carrie ponder whether Big was ‘a big mistake’ in ‘And Just Like That’
A moment of madness: Miranda and Carrie ponder whether Big was ‘a big mistake’ in ‘And Just Like That’ (HBO/Sky)

When Corbett was confirmed to return for the series, and he and Parker were photographed filming scenes together in February, fans couldn’t contain themselves. The shots went viral, and Carrie and Aidan fans seemed to immediately re-emerge from their decade-long dormancy, high on romance and giddy with delight.

Carrie, it appears, is much the same. She’s so thrilled by the reunion with her ex that it’s almost as if her marriage to Big never happened, let alone her grief over his death, something that was a focal point just two episodes ago. Moreover, though, it’s as if the specifics of how Carrie and Aidan’s relationship ended are being brushed under the rug. Sure, Aidan is too wounded by their past to return to her old apartment, the one where their relationship blossomed and fell apart. But are we really meant to believe that these two characters would just fall into each other’s arms and resume a perfect relationship? After all, Carrie broke Aidan’s heart more than once. The first breakup followed Carrie and Big’s affair. And the second – which came right after the pair got engaged – came about due to Aidan’s mistrust and Carrie’s failure to commit to him. Both were dramatic. Couple all this history with Carrie’s grief and Aidan’s divorce from the mother of his children (he’s had three kids since he and Carrie split, he reveals), and the viewer is left baffled: how on earth could this relationship ever be smooth sailing?

Given the sheer lack of probability here, I’d like to think the writers are building to some sort of colossal shakeup in the Big/Carrie/Aidan love triangle – despite one of the three now being dead. Perhaps Carrie and Aidan will reignite old fires, and get into it about the consequences of her betrayal and how it affected his marriage. Maybe there’ll be a major screaming match featuring a series of jugular jabs, the kind that only exes can ever really make, rehashing various sins of the past. This could then be followed by a moment of catharsis in which they realise that, after everything they’ve been through, there’s simply no way a relationship between them could ever work.

Loved and lost: Carrie and Big in ‘Sex and the City 2’
Loved and lost: Carrie and Big in ‘Sex and the City 2’ (Warner Bros Pictures)

But I’m not getting my hopes up, because – so far, anyway – only one character has shown a scintilla of doubt about Carrie and Aidan’s reunion. And, of all people, it’s Che Diaz, the narcissistic comedian that literally nobody likes. “Why did this not work out the first time?” they ask over beers in their apartment. To this enormous – and rightful query – Carrie simply turns to Aidan and says, somberly: “Because I made a mistake”. They hug. And that’s that. Six seasons and two films. All because Carrie “made a mistake”. One she has now fixed after a few quick shags, apparently.

This may be TV, where fantasy often trumps fact, but the thing that always made Sex and the City so good was its relatability. And there’s absolutely nothing relatable about this reunion. At least not yet. Last season, the main issue with And Just Like That was its painful attempts to seem current. Now, that seems to have been trumped by its attempts to rewrite its own history. Are we even watching the same characters anymore? Have they been through any of the things we’ve seen them go through? Or are we just watching a handful of well-dressed New Yorkers, swanning around the city in designer clothing, and occasionally trading tales about orgasms?

‘And Just Like That’ is on Sky and Now, with new episodes dropping every Thursday

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