TV

‘And Just Like That’ Has A Samantha Problem

I’m a Sex And The City loyalist from way back, though not so much for its style obsessions and cosmos. More for its focus on dating, friendship, and the symbiotic dynamic between the two. Really, the show is one of the all-time best to tackle those topics, leaning on wit, guts, and the skills of its supernaturally gifted foursome and characters that complemented each other so well. Friendships sometimes end, however, creating a hole. And it’s one the Sex And The City sequel series (alliteration!) keeps falling into as it tries to navigate without Kim Cattrall and her character, Samantha Jones – perhaps the sharpest tool that showrunner Michael Patrick King previously had in his toolbox.

Cattrall has (repeatedly and unambiguously) stated that she is done, proving that out with her non-appearance this season, but King and the show haven’t been as able to let go. Even in the most recent episode, Samantha gets mentioned. This time as a sort of cautionary tale for friend drift. Repeatedly, and more tangibly, King has found a way to inject Samantha into key moments, such as when she sent flowers following the death of Big (which is kinda fucked up when you think about Cattrall’s public rejection of Parker’s IG sympathy after the loss of Cattrall’s brother). Or that text exchange after last week’s episode when the Samantha text bot triple-dotted Carrie after a vulnerable moment. I suspect the show is going to go on like this, occasionally commenting on the absence and the distance, conjuring the spirit of Samantha for reasons that aren’t quite clear.

So, should we just shrug and accept, or think up some alternative (and weird!) solutions to And Just Like That’s Samantha problem? Let’s go with the latter since it’s more fun.

Take Samantha Text Bot 9000 To A New Level

Having short typed exchanges be representative of the vivacious Samantha Jones is a shande (a shame so great I had to go Yiddish). I kinda get not wanting to kill her off especially after Pelotoning Big to the great beyond, but trapping her in a cell phone is cruel. Instead, let’s think bigger. Literally. Goodbye, cellphone, hello giant steel and piston-laden robot body that has been ensouled by Samantha’s essence and affixed with a tablet for a face.

Because the love of true friendship never really dims, Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte could take possession of robot Samantha and re-incorporate her into the friend circle, with machine learning scanning recordings of Samantha’s voice to provide a very choppy, slightly off the mark reading of new dialogue. Think sex-positive Max Headroom for the new millennium. Not perfect, but something is better than nothing, right MPK?

An Iconic Stand In

In the same vein, the show producers could go more fantasy than sci-fi while borrowing from another iconic Cattrall role. This suggestion came from a friend during our weekly And Just Like That kvetch sessions: what if they brought in Cattrall’s mannequin double from the ‘80s film, Mannequin?

Hear me out. You sit the Mannequin mannequin down for brunch and task SJP, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristen Davis with just reacting to it like Cattrall is back even if, to us, it’s just a still mannequin. They could laugh at the Mannequin mannequin’s assumed quips, they could pretend to listen intently as it tells of its sexcapades. Maybe there’s some fishing line and some marionetting at play too. I don’t know, I’m more a big idea type than a details fella. Regardless, it’d be like old times, so long as we all can unlock the power of our imagination.

Too avant-garde? Fine. An alternative approach would be to have the Mannequin mannequin in scenes, but also have someone do a passing Kim Cattrall impression to verbalize for the mannequin. Mario Cantone is already sitting in as 4th chair with the group, maybe he could play Anthony, but also throw his voice to read Samantha’s lines? This is far-fetched, but it would still imbue the show with a measure of Samantha without the bother of actually having to convince Cattrall to be involved. So, bonus, right?

And Then There’s… Just Trying Something Else

One could glibly suggest caving to whatever Cattrall wants or suggest making a titanic financial offer to get her to come back, but she has literally stated that it’s not about money in a 2017 Daily Mail interview:

“This isn’t about more money, this is not about more scenes, it’s not about any of those things. This is about a clear decision, an empowered decision in my life to end one chapter and start another.”

With that in mind, the efforts to keep pulling Samantha back into the events of Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda’s lives feel a bit messed up. You could recast, sure. And Cattrall even endorsed that in that same interview (as well as urging the show to showcase new points of view… which it’s clumsily doing, but doing all the same). But the character is so closely tied to Cattrall that it feels disrespectful to continue the ruse that she’s involved in any of this. Cattrall made a choice, an “empowered decision” to disconnect her life from this show and that character. And continuing to sprinkle in Samantha — even in small doses — feels disrespectful to that choice, to a show that can live without her as something new, and to fans who get strung along seeing these blips as evidence that there might someday be a reunion when that seems nearly impossible. (And wow if a reunion happens will this be a bad take.)

For a franchise that has shown so many breakups through the years, it’s weird that it’s failing to observe the clearest lesson about them: don’t draw things out or cause drama for drama’s sake. Free And Just Like That to be the next chapter it’s been billed as — one without the baggage of a relationship it can’t fully explore anymore.

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