“Sex and the City” premiered just over 25 years ago, on June 6, 1998, and since then much has been lost in a franchise that now includes six seasons of the original HBO show, two films and the Max follow-up series, “And Just Like That …”
The formerly carefree Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) still mourns the death of her husband, John (played by Chris Noth and known to all as Mr. Big). Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is nostalgic for the art career she gave up in order to raise children. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) perhaps misses her past consistency of character. And then there’s Samantha (Kim Cattrall), always a reliable source of wit and wisdom, who appeared only by text message in Season 1 because Cattrall declined to participate.
Season 2, however, which premieres on Thursday and picks up a few weeks after the events of Season 1, promises a Samantha cameo and the return of several other beloved figures from the franchise’s past. How do all the characters fit together? And what do you need to remember before dipping into the new episodes? Read on.
Mr. Big wasn’t Carrie’s only big love. She was also once engaged to Aidan (John Corbett), who returns to the extended story this season. It’s worth remembering how things went the first time around. And the second.
“Sex and the City” presented Aidan as Mr. Nice Guy, and Carrie might still blame herself for their breakup. After all, she cheated on him. (Big time, you could say.) And then Aidan punished her with passive aggression, even letting her know he was contemplating cheating on her in retaliation. Later, when Carrie freaked out about their impending nuptials (to the point where she developed a rash) and requested more time, Aidan pressured her to get married right away. So maybe Aidan wasn’t the Good Boyfriend who got away but rather a dodged bullet.
Aidan subsequently married a fellow furniture designer and had three sons. This didn’t stop him from kissing Carrie during their rendezvous in Abu Dhabi in the second film. Carrie was quick to tell Big about this, but did Aidan do the same with his wife? Whatever trust issues he had before, he would have to accept that he is just as flawed as Carrie if not more so. Should he and Carrie ignore all this history to get together one more time? If so, they would need a memory-free environment: Carrie’s old apartment, despite its renovations, contains their past, not their future.
Carrie Bradshaw, sexual anthropologist, has written a long-running newspaper column, a number of pieces for Vogue and several books. The latest of these, “Loved & Lost,” is a weepy grief memoir with an optimistic epilogue.
That upbeat ending was added at the behest of Carrie’s editor Amanda (Ashlie Atkinson), who pushed the author to re-enter the dating pool to offer readers a taste of hope. This led her to dip her toes in with the widower Peter (Jon Tenney) — no oomph — and with her podcast producer, Franklyn (Ivan Hernandez), who definitely has potential. More research may be required.
Amanda is prepping next steps: setting up readings, interviews, audiobook recordings. None of these things will give Carrie what she still needs, which is time to reboot more fully after Big’s death.
For that, Carrie will have to turn to other projects and other editors — perhaps even her role model and mentor, the Vogue editor Enid Frick (Candice Bergen), who also returns this season. When we first met Enid, in Season 4 of the original series, she was ripping Carrie to shreds for not completing an assignment to her liking; the last time we saw her, she was trying to talk Carrie into posing for a photo shoot in wedding couture, in the first film.
Carrie’s career at Vogue had a bumpy start, but as she came to appreciate Enid’s style, their relationship deepened into both a friendship and an odd romantic rivalry. When Enid was 50-something, she rightfully resented younger women who were dating older men. (“Why are you swimming in my wading pool?” she asked Carrie back then.) Now that Carrie is 50-something herself, she might understand that predicament better.
If it’s diversion she wants, Carrie can always concentrate on her podcast. This isn’t the insufferable “X, Y and Me,” which appears to be dead, as her comedian co-host, Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez), has relocated to Los Angeles for pilot season.
Carrie’s retooled pod is called “Sex and the City” (why not?), and if she wants it to continue, she will to have to sort out some important questions. Like why, after years as a sex columnist, is she still uncomfortable talking about sex and body parts? Who owns the podcast and the studio, and what do they want from Carrie? Also, as stimulating as romantic attention from Franklyn may be, won’t it complicate their working relationship?
Charlotte York Goldenblatt gave up her career as an art dealer and gallery director and her dream of one day owning a gallery in order to start a family. Her family — her husband, Harry (Evan Handler); her musical prodigy daughter, Lily (Cathy Ang); and her nonbinary child, Rock (Alexa Swinton) — still needs her but what she needs is a more tangible sense of accomplishment.
As a more woke Charlotte reminded everyone last season, her eye for art is as keen as ever. She defended her friend Lisa Todd Wexley’s art collection against the criticisms of a judgmental mother-in-law, identifying the value of works by Gordon Parks, Carrie Mae Weems, Deborah Roberts and Mickalene Thomas and others. Could Lisa (Nicole Ari Parker) repay the favor and jump-start Charlotte’s re-entry into the art world, maybe by introducing her to a few key gallerists?
What about Che?
The polarizing Che is definitely back in Season 2, with Miranda in tow. A Harvard-educated lawyer who has never devoted herself so completely to her significant other, Miranda forgoes a prestigious internship in order to follow Che to Los Angeles. (This is probably not the wisest move for an alcoholic in early recovery.) It remains to be seen how Miranda’s husband and son will handle the divorce.
Other characters are less certain about their romantic prospects. Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), Miranda’s professor friend, still has unresolved issues with her musician husband, Andre Rashad (LeRoy McClain), regarding parenthood. Seema (Sarita Choudhury), last seen having a steamy fling with a club owner, might not yet be ready to book a table at “Relationship Place” (a term coined on Carrie’s podcast). But she is ready to become a bigger part of the show’s ensemble, if the writers and producers will only give her better material.
Finally, Stanford Blatch (the late Willie Garson) is presumably still in Japan. And Samantha is still in London — although because she and Carrie met for offscreen drinks last season, the door is open for her cameo comeback. Whatever happens, it is sure to be fabulous.