Why Carrie and Aidan’s Reunion on And Just Like That Makes No Sense

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This story contains spoilers for season 2, episode 8 of And Just Like That...

Though it lasted for only two seasons, one of the most contentious storylines in Sex and the City was the battle between suave financier John James Preston (a.k.a. Mr. Big) and hunky woodworker Aidan Shaw for Carrie Bradshaw’s heart. Fans were divided between Team Big and Team Aidan. The former suitor (played by Chris Noth) was emotionally unavailable but had an undeniable connection with Carrie. The latter (John Corbett) was the quintessential “nice guy” who kept finishing last. Ultimately, throughout six seasons of the original TV series and two follow-up films, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) always chose Big. Aidan may have been the biggest threat to the show’s primary relationship, but even he faded into memory, an old chapter in the long love story between Carrie and John.

But now—with John having met his demise and Carrie feeling her way out of the darkness and back into the dating pool on And Just Like That…—Aidan is suddenly, triumphantly, back. Fans of the original series had major feelings about Carrie’s ex’s reappearance in Season 2's episode 7, which dropped July 27 (and not only because he was dressed in an absurd belted and waxed jacket). Episode 8, out today, only escalates the situation, with Carrie and Aidan playing house in Che’s apartment (since Carrie’s place still triggers him), imagining what their lives might have looked like if they had stayed together in the past while starting to consider their future.

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It’s no secret that much of the new series’ momentum draws from nostalgia. Viewers tune in week after week to be reunited with beloved characters they’ve spent decades watching and re-watching, and cameos from characters who were part of the original show only ramp up the anticipation. The return of Aidan, now flush with cash after selling his furniture business to West Elm and retiring to a farm in Virginia, may be the zenith of this phenomenon, but it’s also the most nonsensical turn the show could have taken—even for a series with a notoriously tenuous relationship with reality.

Sarah Jessica Parker and John Corbett as Carrie and Aidan in 'Sex and the City'
The characters could never make it work on 'Sex and the City'HBO/Everett Collection

Aidan was always a foil to Big. While Big was distant and cold, Aidan was affectionate and open. While Big was an ultra-wealthy finance guy with a vacation home in the Hamptons and an affinity for smoking in bed, Aidan was a hippie-esque woodworker with a rustic cabin upstate who once broke up with Carrie because of her cigarette habit. Throughout Aidan’s multiple attempts to make it work with her, the specter of Big always loomed large. Carrie was so attached to Big that she even brought him to Aidan’s upstate house for a cursed weekend after they had an affair. Though Big and Aidan were often referred to as the two great loves of Carrie’s life, it was always abundantly clear who her main love interest was—and the fact that Aidan wasn’t right for her hasn’t changed just because Big is gone.

For many, Aidan was the epitome of boyfriend material: a handsome artist who was also secure, attentive, unafraid of vulnerability, and ready for commitment. He was what many viewers dreamed of, but he was never a good match for Carrie. Their relationship was not defined by tender moments but instead by cringe bits: her repeated professions of being his “booth b-tch” at a furniture show, the way she cruelly took out her frustrations on him at an Apple store after her computer crashed, the time he ate so much fried chicken in bed he asked her to rub his belly instead of taking her up on sex. And Carrie’s moral compass was far more aligned with Big’s. She cheated on Aidan for weeks with a still-married John, lied to him about the affair and her smoking habit, and allowed Aidan to buy her apartment for her after violating his trust, then asked Charlotte to hock her ring to pay for it after she broke off their engagement. In short, Carrie was always a selfish jerk, just like Big—which is why they worked. They deserved each other, and they found a way to make each other better.

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All this makes Carrie’s response to Aidan’s return is a little mind boggling. They may have matured and changed over the years, but they are fundamentally the same people they were when they couldn’t make it work. Aidan’s lifestyle is still at odds with Carrie’s—she still grimaces at the memory of his upstate “shack,” but meanwhile he’s upped the ante by moving full time to a farm. She’s putting her friendships on the back burner in order to spend time with her new boyfriend—a rookie mistake she learned not to make in the original series—which causes Seema to question whether they should go through with their summer in the Hamptons. Carrie is even considering splitting her time between her beloved Manhattan and Aidan’s home in Norfolk, Va., which is unthinkable for a woman who’s defined by New York City.

It’s jarring to watch Carrie seriously ask Miranda whether or not her nearly 20-year relationship with Big was a “big mistake” in light of her burgeoning romance with Aidan. It’s even more dismaying to see her double down on the sentiment when she tells Che that the reason why she and Aidan didn’t work out before was because of a “mistake.” Big might not have been everyone’s definition of a perfect partner, but he was Carrie’s. Like his much-maligned fashion, Aidan’s return is ill-fitting and out of character.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com