‘And Just Like That,’ the Show Is Over

American Age Official

The interview includes mild spoilers for the season finale of “And Just Like That. …”

Carrie heard the call. Miranda followed her heart. And Charlotte finally became a woman. Mazel tov!

“And Just Like That … ” released the final episode of its first season Thursday on HBO Max. This new series brought three of the characters of “Sex and the City” to post-pandemic Manhattan and gave them new friends, new habits, new hats. There was less sex than in the original and somewhat more death and loss.

“We took the viewers through a lot,” Michael Patrick King, the showrunner, said in a recent video call. “A lot of people reacted like it was quite an aggressive loofah shower of emotion. It was good for them, but it hurt!”

From the opening episode, which left Chris Noth’s Big dead from a Peloton-incited heart attack, the series elicited passionate responses, with viewers taking to social media to dissect the relationships, the clothes, the use of the term “comedy concert.” Sexual assault allegations against Noth, which surfaced days after the season premiere, further complicated the show’s reception. (The actor was edited out of a dream sequence in the finale.) Each subsequent episode seemed to generate a new sheaf of think pieces about what it all meant.

“To have such an incredibly engaged fan base, where they care so deeply about these characters as if they are real people, that’s something that’s hard to achieve,” said Julie Rottenberg, a writer on the series. “So we take the passion and even the rage — we take that as a sign that we’ve done something right.”

No announcement has yet been made as to whether the series will return for a second season. So if you have lingering questions about Carrie’s downstairs neighbor or Miranda’s social justice commitment or Charlotte’s quest for school-board dominance, they may or may not be answered.

But a few days before the finale aired, King joined a video call with Rottenberg and Elisa Zuritsky, the writers of that last episode, to discuss, with mild spoilers, constancy, change, justice for Steve and hopes for a second season. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What did you want to accomplish with this finale?

MICHAEL PATRICK KING To move people someplace they weren’t in the first episode, to take them on a journey. For Carrie [Sarah Jessica Parker], it was to take her from the dark to the possibility of something new. For Miranda [Cynthia Nixon], it was bringing her to a point where she was allowed to be not just one thing but many things. And then for Charlotte [Kristin Davis], we wanted her to finally leave behind her childish ideas of perfection and become a woman rather than a girl.

Was it consciously lighter in tone? No one dies. No one has hip surgery.

ELISA ZURITSKY I didn’t perceive a conscious shift. I felt like there was a progression of humor and lightness throughout.

Chris Noth’s Big, who was killed off in the first episode, originally appeared in the finale as part of a dream sequence. How much of that dream did you cut and reshape?

KING The conversation around the dream was going to upstage the dream. There are seven magnificent performances in this finale that have nothing to do with something that happened five months ago, or 15 years ago. And quite frankly, artistically, a dream is always iffy. So when I was in the editing room, it came down to: Is the dream really working? And is it worth the next bunch of press that will not be about how wonderful or how interesting the finale was? So what happened is Carrie is in the dream now.

This season began with Big’s heart attack. Why kill that character?

KING Carrie’s growth. And to do something radical and new. The last voice-over in “Sex in the City” is Carrie saying the most significant relationship of all is the one that you have with yourself. So what I was really interested in, from the jump, was Carrie’s significant relationship with herself. And then the incredibly clear pitch: Carrie Bradshaw, single again at 55. And 90 percent of “Sex in the City” was Carrie Bradshaw without Big, wishing she had him. So the idea that he would be gone — somewhere else, unreachable — felt very authentic.

JULIE ROTTENBERG The truth is, change happens. That’s just reality. That felt to me, like the most real thing we could have done. It felt completely organic to what happens, sadly, at this age.

After that first episode aired, allegations of sexual assault against Noth surfaced. Did that change how people received the series?

KING With all due respect, if I didn’t put Mr. Big in the finale, I’m not going to spend any more time in this interview talking about why he’s not in the show.

On social media, I’ve seen people describe “And Just Like That … ” as a “hate watch.” Did that reaction surprise you?

KING I love what we did. A “hate watch”? I don’t even know what that means. I can find a group of people who “love watch” it and say they can’t wait for next week, and they’re so thrilled that the girls are back.

ZURITSKY The other day, I was watching an episode of “Get Back,” the Beatles documentary, and I was thinking about the show as a band. If we came out with a new album after many, many years, that initial reaction is often: “Wait, what about my favorite song? Wait, this sounds different!” It can be uncomfortable.

KING We took the voice-over out. Carrie, in the old series, she had an overview. She was summing it all up for you. There was a cushion. By taking the voice-over away, we threw the audience into the middle of the unknown that Carrie is experiencing. Maybe that’s a little bit of the chafe that people are feeling, that no one is summing anything up for them.

I read an essay about the show making middle age seem like a real bummer. Is it?

ROTTENBERG Just the way we did 20 years ago, we always wrote from experience. So everything is something that actually happened. Sadly, we are surrounded by couples who divorced or someone who died or someone who had to have hip surgery. We relate to these challenges in life. And we always find something funny in them. We felt like we had to be true to these characters and what would be happening at this age.

Did you feel that you were entirely fair to Steve? He seemed like such a fogy.

ROTTENBERG The idea of giving him hearing aids came right out of real life, just like every other story we did. David Eigenberg [the actor who plays Steve] has hearing aids. I find it really incredible that that was held up as this old man thing. It’s like, no, that’s real. Like, that’s actually real.

What with killing off Big and leaving Steve, is the show suggesting that characters can’t grow and change inside a marriage?

ZURITSKY With Charlotte and her marriage, in this season we didn’t follow them through a web of hardship together ——

KING On purpose. By design.

ZURITSKY Her marriage is alive and well and seems to be thriving. With Miranda and Carrie, we had an opportunity to explore other avenues of middle-age growth.

KING All three of us are in very long term relationships. I don’t believe that there is no personal growth or challenge if you stay in a committed relationship. In order to grow this series, we had to change something. The funny thing is people want it to be the show that they remember. And now there are two single women!

You introduced four new characters — Nya (Karen Pittman), Seema (Sarita Choudhury), Lisa (Nicole Ari Parker) and Che (Sara Ramirez). You envisioned them as main characters. Do you think that you got there?

KING You’ve known Miranda for 20 years; you’ve known Nya for 20 minutes. It’s a testament to the agenda we had to make them be real people with lives and problems, that we got that in there. Everything’s an evolution. You know their names, and you know a little bit about them, and you know them more than you did 10 episodes ago. They exist and we like them. If we had more time and more episodes, they would definitely become more present.

ROTTENBERG We had to figure out how to juggle seven balls in this finite amount of time.

ZURITSKY There’s certainly more to uncover about all of them.

If there is a Season 2, what would you like to do with it?

KING We always started each season of “Sex in the City” with the same rule: to not repeat.

So Carrie won’t have the other hip done?

KING First of all, that was a congenital birth defect. But the reality is we try not to repeat. It’s a gold mine of where you can go. We like the people, and they’re all complicated. Some are more flawed than others. Some, their flaws are yet to be revealed. So who knows where it can go?

ZURITSKY Miranda, when she was breaking up with Steve on the couch, she had that line: “More, I want more. More sex, more energy, more everything, more, more, more.” That’s what I would want from the show.

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