And Just Like That Needs to Let Go of Carrie Bradshaw’s ‘Two Great Loves’

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Spoiler alert: This article discusses details of And Just Like That's Season 2 finale

The Season 2 finale of And Just Like That was all about letting go. If that much wasn’t already apparent from the unwieldy title—“The Last Supper Part Two: Entrée”—indefatigable writer, director, and showrunner Michael Patrick King made it obvious when the show’s massive cast of characters gathered in Carrie Bradshaw’s iconic apartment for the last time. One by one, the hostess calls on her friends to name something they were ready to let go of: fear for Lisette, control for Anthony, guilt for Miranda and LTW. For herself, Carrie chooses expectations.

What that means, ultimately—after one literally phoned-in, whole-lotta-nothing Samantha cameo and ample discussion of Anthony’s “ass virginity”—is leaving her future with Aidan to fate. He wants five years in Virginia to shepherd his shroom-popping, truck-stealing son, Wyatt, into adulthood. She’s open to seeing what happens. This ambiguity over whether Aidan is the endgame of a 25-year love triangle is simply a copout from a show whose obsession with its protagonist’s past is now actively undermining its ability to tell a compelling story in the present.

The cast of And Just Like That at Carrie's "Last Supper"Craig Blankenhorn—Max

Credit where it’s due: AJLT has improved vastly over its gloomy first outing. This season has given us some fun plots, from Miranda’s post-Che adventures as the world’s most overqualified legal intern to Charlotte’s ongoing struggle to redefine herself now that her teenage children no longer require her hovering attention. The hilariously awful first dates and hot one-night stands that made the original Sex and the City a taxonomy of New York singles have returned with relish. But this franchise can’t truly thrive unless it’s serving up surprising and captivating story lines for Carrie. And in that respect, it’s stuck in a pretty unfortunate rut.

“Everyone knows you only get two great loves in your life,” Charlotte famously announced in SATC’s fifth season premiere. Despite the dubious context—she’d read the tidbit in a magazine that Miranda joked must have been titled Convenient Theories for You Monthly—that belief has aged into an article of faith within the legend of Carrie Bradshaw. Big and Aidan were it for her; when one died, it was time to bring back the other. Once she’s gotten a few all-too-brief rebound dalliances out of the way, Aidan’s sudden reemergence is served up as a fait accompli of the most fan-service-y sort. (Did we really have to watch him throw rocks at her window again?)

Sarah Jessica Parker and cat in And Just Like ThatCraig Blankenhorn—Max

The couple’s not-quite-breakup in “The Last Supper” feels like King’s attempt to move forward with AJLT, which announced a third-season renewal on Tuesday, without having to sacrifice that two great loves mythology. If Carrie and Aidan had moved into her beautiful new home together, they’d be on a path to marriage, or at least to permanence, that would soon leave her love life stagnant. Especially with the libidinous Samantha exiled to London, the show can only support one domestic-bliss story line of York-Goldenblatt proportions. Which, in retrospect, explains why Big had to die for AJLT to live. But if Aidan had broken it off without dangling that five-year plan, the show would’ve had to dream up a different happily-ever-after for Carrie when the time came.

King arrived at a compromise that is good for the franchise, as a business. Now it has five years, which translates to at least a few more seasons, to let Carrie bob around in the New York dating pool. Maybe she’ll try to keep her hookups casual at first, but inevitably she’ll fall for someone and have to make another choice. Of course, the two great loves theory dictates that she must pick Aidan. Maybe their golden-years nuptials will be fodder for yet another SATC movie.

Unfortunately, as has been the case since Baryshnikov appeared to make Big look like a softie by comparison in the final season of the original series, what’s good for the franchise is not always good for the story. The show had already made it clear, with not one but two breakups, that Aidan and Carrie simply aren’t compatible. More importantly, his continued presence on her far-off horizon threatens to rob AJLT of the spontaneity that a show about the search for love needs. It wouldn’t be easy to sever the Aidan-Big binary by inventing a third great, archetypal love for Carrie Bradshaw. But a show about starting over in middle age, about how being single in your 50s can be kind of exhilarating, should have the courage to break the rules it’s outgrown.

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