'AJLT': 'Who's That Sitting In Samantha's Chair?'

by Robert Nesti

EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor

Monday January 17, 2022
Originally published on January 14, 2022

"The internet has let out a collective sigh that 'And Just Like That ...' doesn't have quite the same magic as 'Sex and the City,' in part because all of the formerly charismatic single characters are either married off, mourning, or masturbating their way through sexual frustration," writes the New York Times Ali Trachta in her weekly recap of the HBO Max show.

On this week's episode, "Sex and the Widow," Carrie did return to her MacBook in time-lapse opening sequence in which it was apparent she was working on something big. It turns out that "something" is a book about Big's death and her loss that makes a peppy book editor Amanda (Ashlie Atkinson) go through boxes of hankies while reading it — so much so that she thinks it needs a glimmer of hope at the end — a short epilogue that shows Carrie back in the dating pool, looking again. Carrie reluctantly agrees and has a disastrous date with another of the recently widowed — a handsome teacher; but, in keeping with the theme of finding hope, they agree to date again at the end of the episode.

But as the series limps towards its conclusion (there are three episodes left), this episode had a glimpse of the show's new power dynamic — that is, who is to replace Samantha in the fourth seat at brunch or dinner?

As a replacement, the show writers have provided three alternatives: Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker) as Charlotte's new BFF who shares her privileged bubble of exclusive schools and gala benefits; Che Diaz, (Sara Ramirez ) a rising, nonbinary comic with a take-no-hostages attitude who seduces Miranda; and Seema Patel, (Sarita Choudhury), a no-nonsense rental agent who set out to help Carrie find new digs, and with whom she ended up bonding over smoking.

So far this season when the three have been seen in public without Samantha, her seat has been either empty or occupied by the recently divorced Anthony Marentino (Mario Cantone) to provide the wry, gay wisecrack. But towards the end of this week's episode, there was Seema, confidently sitting in Samantha's chair, and in a ballsy gesture worthy of her predecessor, she signed up Carrie (in her down time) for three dating apps, and landed her a date on one.

Whether or not Seema will replace Samantha on a more permanent basis remains to be seen; but she fits the bill: single, fearless, and looking; what she's missing is that Samantha gene — to be outrageous and sexual and proud of it — in ways that Kim Cattrall owned. And given that "And Just Like That" only timidly treads where the previous show organically went to, it is doubtful that being sexual outre is a Seema thing.

As for Samantha, her absence has been an uneasy situation for showrunners to solve from the start. It was ultimately explained by Carrie as the result of a personal tiff: Carrie needed to fire her as a publicist and Samantha took it personally in an odd inverse of the real course of events in which Kim Cattrall essentially fired Sarah Jessica Parker. Over the season, her seat has often been empty and her character was worked into the plot. There was even a text exchange between Carrie and Samantha that gave some of that "glimmer of hope" for viewers longing for Ms. Jones' return.

But whether or not "AJLT" will return for a second season has yet to be announced. There has even been talk that due to the Chris Noth scandal, who, after his showy death scene, was deluged with sexual abuse accusations. His posthumous appearance in the show's finale has been cut. But will he affect the show's renewal?

ScreenRant reported earlier this month "renewal talks for And Just Like That season 2 are reportedly on hold in the midst of the scandal surrounding Mr. Big actor Chris Noth." And US Weekly quoted an anonymous source who said, "There was talk about doing another season, but after the past few days all those conversations have stopped," the source said. "Everyone is raw."

Robert Nesti can be reached at [email protected].