How ‘And Just Like That’ Expertly Tackles Death And Loss In Fabulous Footwear

Spoilers for And Just Like That ahead

….And Just Like That, Sex and the City was back. Only, so far, there’s isn’t a lot of sex. 

The first few episodes hinted at what will undoubtedly be an uncovering of many new emerging tropes in an ever-advancing society. It hints that Miranda’s sexuality may be more fluid than the original character thought, while also providing fans with the question as to whether or not she may have alcoholic tendencies. Charlotte is as Charlotte as ever before, if not slightly cringe at the way she is going to have trouble accepting her daughter Rose for anything less than the idyllic feminine girly girl she always envisioned. Samantha is gone, working overseas in a not-so-subtle absence that reverberates throughout the show’s first 30 minutes. And then there’s Carrie, using her oven for cooking instead of storage and being happily in love with Big…even during an impromptu and slightly off-putting masturbation scene that quickly reminds fans that this isn’t Netflix, kid. 

Fans of the original series needed time to adapt to the nuances of the trio’s journey toward middle age, but were quickly upended with the surprising, if not shockingly sickening, twist that Big dies at the end. When Miranda comes face to face with a grief-stricken Carrie and Big’s body bag nearly out of frame, she responds to Carrie’s question of “What happens next?” with a quirky but relatable “They take his body out,” hinting that when it comes to life and loss and death and grief and what comes next, sometimes it starts with the most common sense answer and first step. 

Oftentimes, I feel like grief gets reduced to a bit part. It’s used as a side plot, an aside on the hero’s journey. Grief eventually propels them to take a chance or fall in love or move to the big city. And while, yes, grief can do all those things, it’s not as linear as that. Grief doesn’t operate as a side plot. Grief is the main plot and everything that subsequently falls to the waste side like your job, your sanity, and watering your plants are a characterization of something grander—an incomprehensible monstrosity lurking in the deep, cobwebbed corners of our mind that tells us that this depressive moment is all we’ll have. It’s our job to convince the grief otherwise. 

Leave it to HBO and Sex and the City to tackle grief the way it’s meant to be tackled: as a natural part of life where what follows next isn’t natural but rather a construct of what society teaches us is acceptable. There’s nothing natural about holding your husband’s ashes in a cardboard box, yet the juxtaposition of Carrie lying next to her dead husband’s ashes in a cardboard box as the only way she can sleep somehow feels inherently natural. It doesn’t make sense to the outside world, but to us, to the widows and widowers and grieving vessels, it’s as clear as the memories we hold onto in our collective rearview mirror. 

Perhaps most enlightening, it puts a spotlight on just how annoying the after-death process is. The funeral is a perfect example of what not to say at someone’s funeral, yet those of us who’ve lived it nodded our heads in agreement as we watched the anger and irritation of someone thinking they have a right to be sadder about our loss than us. Or how nice, thoughtful comments can be twisted into something evil as long as the grief tells us it’s okay. 

Most significantly, though, in my opinion, is how the show addressed the aftermath of losing someone you love and the realistic portrayal of insomnia. When someone close to you dies, many on the outside looking in are quick to point out all the ways your life can remain the same. It’s like when someone moves to hospice and everyone tells you to enjoy the time you have left. While the sentiment rings true, it doesn’t negate how unnatural it all feels. Nor does it allow for the realities that the grieving process has already started, which severely clouds and inhibits your ability to genuinely interact with the dying person the way you used to. 

Grief upends your life in magnificent ways. You have to relearn everything. Even something as simple as how and when you drink your coffee in the morning can be deeply rooted in a tradition you both shared. Case in point, my husband brings me a cup of coffee every morning after I wake up. How dreadful that day is going to be when I have to walk to the kitchen to get it myself. What And Just Like That… did was show how impossible it is to fall asleep because something as simple as not having someone behind you to rub your back when it hurts is different. Without even realizing it, a part of your routine is over. Even if it is such a minimal part. 

I know that the show will eventually use this death as a side plot because it has to. Fans of the show can recognize what will happen from a mile away. Carrie will somehow make her way back to her old apartment. Old flames will remerge. And the lessons of life and love will reveal themselves, and who knows, maybe Big’s death will unveil a silver lining Carrie never even knew she had. 

But isn’t that what grief is really all about? It’s about the moments we find ourselves in after. It’s in learning to fall asleep on your own in a home that feels unfamiliar. It’s about getting mad and happy all within the same few minutes. It’s about learning to use Icy Hot when your back is sore instead of relying on big, strong hands to work out the kinks. It’s about going back to your roots and what feels familiar because nostalgia is where we find the strength to greet another day. It’s about friendships forged and friendships lost and discovering, for the first time, who you are now that another day, another love, another tragedy has passed. 

Because even though the show may eventually move Big’s death to a side plot so fans can enjoy new and exciting adventures for the remaining cast, for a character like Carrie and for all the fans that relate to her in the aftermath of sudden singlehood and despondency, the life after death still steers the story forward. Even though it may sit on the sidelines to everyone else, death forges a new path forward because it has to. Grief is the plot of the story. Those of us writing the chapter have just gotten used to the page. 

Fans of the original Sex and the City don’t want to see Carrie living happily ever after; we want the Carrie who finds lessons lurking around each corner. We ultimately want to see her as herself, sans Big and the romantic dances around a kitchen, because to us, that’s not the woman we fell in love with. And Just Like That… has some big (no pun intended) shoes to fill, but I will forever be grateful to a show that reminds us that tragedy is a part of life—and that nobody, not even those in fabulous footwear in the biggest, most beautiful city in the world, can outrun it.