Warning: spoilers for the season 2 finale of And Just Like That... ahead. It finally happened, and it was glorious. Samantha Jones made her highly-anticipated return in Thursday's finale of the Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That..., with Kim Cattrall making her on-screen return to the franchise. When the news of Samantha's comeback went viral last May, I wondered if this (as well as the reunion of Carrie and Aidan) would finally bring back the essential spark of the original series, which still serves as required viewing for TV fanatics and young women who subject themselves to heterosexual dating to this day. Samantha's brief appearance was a 71-second scene of pure nostalgic joy, a standout moment in a show that does its best work when it's not trying to live up to its predecessor.
First, let's break down the big moment. At the start of AJLT, Carrie was estranged from Samantha, in a hazily-defined development that was held together by Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker's real-life feud. They began to reconcile at the end of season 1, and by the season 2 finale, they're close enough for the PR maven to attempt to make it back to NYC for Carrie's "Last Supper" goodbye party for her classic brownstone apartment. However, Samantha's flight from Heathrow was canceled for being understaffed, so she called Carrie to send her well wishes for her new start in her new home however and bid adieu to the apartment via speakerphone. As we see a Fendi-clad Samantha sitting in the backseat of a car, she says, "Thank you for everything you f------ fabulous, fabulous flat" in a new, slightly-British accent.
The fabulous, highly-anticipated, and likely highly-paid appearance is brief, to-the-point, and effective. Details of the filming conditions have been out there for months, so we knew that Cattrall wouldn't appear on-camera alongside Parker, Cynthia Nixon, or Kristin Davis. Thanks in large part to prior knowledge around the conditions of the cameo, the sudden drop-in had the satisfying feeling of expectations being met, and it felt more natural at the end of a season that barely mentioned Samantha at all. Plus, it fit smoothly in the episode's arc, as it would be impossible to say goodbye to Carrie Bradshaw's iconic apartment and former life without also honoring Samantha's history with both. And, arguably, the scene can also function as Samantha's goodbye to a franchise that is truly continuing on without her.
And Just Like That... has walked the same odd tightrope as every IP reboot/nostalgia grab that has come out in recent years, as Hollywood has mined the past while seeking an instantly loyal fandom (and their open pockets) for new projects. A reboot has to honor the history of the original series, often updating its most beloved themes or character for the 2020s, while also forming an original identity. The new show needs a reason to exist that surpasses the cognitive dissonance that a viewer feels when characters that played a pivotal part in their youth are brought back from the dead and shoved into new situations. For all its awkwardness, AJLT season 1 laid out its argument for why it should exist early on, showing through Big's death that it would explore a new era in its core trio's life, one of grief and aging and evolved identity politics (see the Che of it all and Rock). Now, after two seasons of finding its footing, And Just Like That... has developed beyond Sex and the City.
AJLT season 1 was never going to be smooth sailing, as it made the bold choice to kill off Big in the first episode. (While there's always Twitter, my own barometer for SATC fan reactions is my mother, who was crushed by the twist.) The season covered Carrie's first year as a widow, meaning the franchise's favorite goofy ball of chaos was busy dealing with heavy themes. With Samantha gone and Charlotte being a devoted mother (and the stealth MVP of the show), the sex was left to Miranda, to the demise of her relationship with poor Steve. There were added characters introduced, but Seema, Lisa, and Nya felt too new and too much like each of the core trio was allowed one new, necessarily diverse friend.
With season 2, viewers were more used to the new crew and circumstances, and AJLT had the chance to spread its wings. Carrie could actually date again! Miranda could date again, after she and Che met their natural end. Lisa, Nya, and Seema's storylines continued to be fleshed, with Seema standing out as she represented the fabulous single career woman that was sorely missing among all the married characters. (Her conversation with Carrie about being the only single friend was my favorite scene in the whole season until Samantha showed up). As the season went on, more and more of the show's best moments stemmed from the characters' own growth over the course of AJLT, rather than reaching back into the past to comment on how much everything has changed since the SATC-era. (Remember that whole storyline about Seema's Birkin being stolen, which felt like nothing more than an attempt to hit on two iconic SATC episodes at once? Less of those in season 3 please.)
So what's my answer to questions of whether Cattrall would consider joining season 3, and calls to bring Samantha back permanently? And Just Like That... doesn't need her anymore. Sure, they needed the cameo, that moment where she actually appears on screen to honor the character's legacy. SATC doesn't exist without Samantha, and AJLT doesn't exist without SATC. But And Just Like That... has evolved beyond needing to look back to Sex and the City. For the first two seasons, the new show acknowledged the parts of its legacy that needed to be addressed, checking up on Big, Aidan, and Samantha. From now on, it needs to continue on as its own unique show, continuing to evolve the characters, dynamics, and themes it has created rather than dipping back into the well of SATC. Samantha's short return and loving goodbye was a perfect 71 seconds of nostalgia. Now, let's look towards the future.
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