(This story contains spoilers for Thursday’s episode of “And Just Like That. . .”)
Carrie Bradshaw stares at an illuminated laptop screen displaying an email draft with the subject line, “Hey Stranger. . .” She says in the provocative message to her ex-fiance, Aidan, that she has been thinking of him and wonders how he is. It’s littered with ellipsis and dashes betraying the writer’s hesitancy. She hits send anyway.
Oh, Carrie! She might have used those pauses to think through the decision once more. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) starts off the second season of “And Just Like That. . .” navigating dating as a newly single woman in her 50s. The series is streaming in this region on OSN+
Her flings, unlike those fueling her neuroses in Darren Star’s original “Sex and the City” series, are now initiated by a more self-assured protagonist. There’s opportunity to push past her prudish tendencies. That’s always been the fun of this franchise. But just as the reboot begins to tread new ground . . .
Enter Aidan (John Corbett), the narrative crutch.
That was a few episodes ago; Aidan and Carrie have since spent their spare breaths convincing everyone in their lives - and ultimately, themselves - that this time will be different.
They’re older and claim to be wiser. This time, Carrie won’t cheat on Aidan as she did in “SATC,” and certainly not with Mr. Big (Chris Noth), her former husband who suffered a fatal heart attack in the “AJLT” series premiere. And Aidan won’t hold Carrie’s past infidelity against her. Neither one spends much time thinking about the events of “Sex and the City 2,” the spinoff film in which Aidan kisses Carrie while they’re both married to other people.
Aidan’s return gives an aimless season of “AJLT” some direction, but the question remains of how much mileage this storyline has left in it. While Carrie insists to Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) that she and Aidan are “very much in the present,” she flounders when another friend asks why Aidan refuses to enter Carrie’s brownstone, where she also lived when they last broke up. The memories haunt Aidan: “It’s all bad. It’s all in there,” he tells her. Neither he nor Carrie are willing to accept that they cannot live in the present until they confront the entirety of their shared past.
If they did, they might remember that they were wrong for each other from the start. Carrie lies to the charming furniture maker, telling him she’s a designer to get a discount. It’s a small fib. But then she tells him she smokes “just a little,” when that’s as much a part of the Carrie Bradshaw brand as those Manolo Blahnik heels.
“It’s too bad that Aidan had a problem with it,” Carrie says in that episode, “but you have to accept people for who they are.” Only, he can’t. Aidan is written as a sympathetic character - unlike Big, who comes off much more pompous - but still manipulates Carrie from his holier-than-thou perch. Their final breakup in “SATC” lands as a gut punch, a painful reminder that no matter how much you want something, sometimes it just isn’t right. Aidan was a lesson for Carrie, fulfilling his purpose in the protagonist’s emotional arc. At least Big accepted her for who she was.
Aidan resurfacing not only undermines this message, but also traps Carrie in a love triangle she has outgrown. “SATC” frames her romantic journey as a choice between Big and Aidan; just as Carrie begins to look past that false dichotomy, the reboot yanks her back with a single email.
This speaks to a recurring issue with Carrie’s storylines in “AJLT,” which either play it safe or forget to play at all. Aidan’s reintroduction was teased as a burst of serotonin for viewers who weathered a season of Carrie grieving Big, but the effect quickly fades. The show languishes in familiar territory and loses the novelty of its middle-aged protagonist learning new things about herself. Within a couple episodes, the most fascinating discovery Carrie makes is that a garlic press can cost $40.
Even then, familiarity is only embraced to the extent that Aidan is comfortable with it. When he refuses to enter Carrie’s brownstone, which she moved into after Big’s death as a means of grounding herself, he rejects one of her main comforts. She decides to purchase a new property in which they can spend time together - a supposedly empowering move that just feels like another instance of Carrie betraying herself for a man.
The rekindled relationship prompts Carrie to rethink her life’s decisions. In a surprisingly poignant moment from last week’s episode, she asks Miranda whether choosing Big “was a big mistake.”
Big was a tool. He could’ve been a mistake. But what makes her so sure Aidan isn’t?
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'And Just Like That' is streaming on OSN+