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And Just Like That Miranda Che.jpg

‘And Just Like That’ Still Has No Idea What to Do With Miranda and Che

By Kayleigh Donaldson | TV | June 28, 2023 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | TV | June 28, 2023 |

And Just Like That Miranda Che.jpg

(This article contains spoilers for the first two episodes of season two of And Just Like That…)

And Just Like That returned to HBO for its second season, with promises of fixing the mistakes the first part of this Sex and the City spin-off made. The reception to the series was distinctly mixed, even from the most ardent fans of Carrie Bradshaw and company. Attempts to bring the cosmopolitan fizz of late ’90s and early 2000s 3rd wave feminist pleasure into the 2022s felt hackneyed. New, more diverse characters were introduced to change the glaring whiteness of the show but left talented actresses with little to do beyond be sidekicks to the central trio. Samantha’s absence weighed heavily on the narrative. Early reviews of season two are somewhat more positive than what preceded them but the scepticism is evident. What’s really been fixed, and can such massive holes in plot and character be filled adequately over the next eight episodes? Anything can happen, but things didn’t get off to a good start, particularly with a fan favourite who’s been put through the wringer for far too long.

Miranda Hobbs was the realist of the group, the high-climbing lawyer who had the wit and warmth to puncture her friends’ more romanticized ideals about love and sex without giving up on her own search for happiness. When Carrie got too egotistical or Charlotte too wrapped up in fantasy, Miranda was reliably able to shine a light on the situation and provide necessary guidance. She wasn’t above it all or immune to disaster but her battles felt familiar in a way that the other women’s often didn’t. if any Sex and the City character seemed primed for the future, it was her. Oh man, that didn’t pan out at all.

It’s always a risk for a series to break up a beloved relationship for a new romance. Season one of And Just Like That had Miranda leave Steve in favour of Che, the comedian who hosted a terrible podcast with Carrie. This plot was also, ostensibly, about letting Miranda exploring a new chapter of her life as a recently out queer woman in her 50s. The basic set-up was an intriguing one but the execution was so sloppy that it left few fans satisfied. Miranda’s relationship with Steve was a series highlight on Sex and the City, with the pragmatic career woman finding someone who matched her wit while providing emotional and romantic support well beyond mere animal attraction (which they had in spades.) The ease of their marriage made so much sense, as did their mutual adoration and respect for one another. Of course, the first movie spin-off cocked that up by having Steve cheat on her for no discernible reason other than a lack of other ideas for her subplot.

By the time we got to And Just Like That, things had gotten not only worse but creatively lazier. Steve’s hearing problems were treated as a joke as well as an irritating millstone around Miranda’s neck. Rather than give the relationship room either to evolve as any ageing couple’s would, or even to have their split happen naturally, Che was shoehorned into proceedings. Fans may have been more sympathetic towards Miranda’s decision to be spontaneous and selfish in her desires had her character not taken such a nosedive over the course of this new season. Gone was the sharp cynic with no tolerance for bullshit and in her place was someone of endless bafflement with no grounding in the modern world. Sex and the City was often accused of surface level approaches to pricklier topics, but it’s truer than ever with this new Miranda.

With Che, she’s never seemed more lost. Stuck in Los Angeles, supporting her new partner as they try to develop a sitcom based on their life, Miranda has nothing to do beyond act as a mothering presence to this poorly developed character. She seems less like a girlfriend and more like a groupie. Miranda was many things but she was never aimless. Right now, she has little to do but be Che’s support figure and there’s not much to be mined in this dynamic. The more she stresses out about her relationship with Che, the less she seems like Miranda, and this kind of clueless petulance does not suit her in the slightest.

Sara Ramirez is trying hard to inject a sardonic cool to this parodic version of a comedian. This is a Tony-winning actor with incredible comedic chops who long proved their dramatic abilities in Grey’s Anatomy. That show also means they’re no stranger to imbuing the ludicrous with pathos. But good acting can only take you so far when you’re playing someone as arcane a creation as Che. Putting aside the sheer weakness of their ‘comedy concerts’ material, let’s just look at the character: a non-binary comic with a laidback attitude and Casanova reputation who is trying to find a seat at the table in a notoriously tough industry without losing their sense of self. There is something here. Perhaps it’s not a great fit for a Sex and the City story, but it could work. So, why doesn’t it? And why is their pairing with Miranda so ill-fitting?

As the series tries to develop its new characters beyond being extensions of the core trio, it drives home another unavoidable problem: Miranda and Che have NO chemistry. It’s almost impressive how little heat there is, verging on the point on anti-chemistry. You end up wondering if that’s the joke, that the writers are playing around with TV conventions of romance and the weighty expectations put upon queer characters. That, however, would be to give too much credit to the people behind ‘comedy concerts.’ In a show dependent on chemistry - platonic, sexual, feudal - this glaring lack of it does neither character any favours. It’s galling because this season sees Che getting to be an actual person for a few scenes, eager to advance their career while navigating a field that isn’t designed for those who buck the norm. The potential of this narrative comes to a grinding halt when it becomes a relationship drama, although drama seems too forceful a word for their entanglement.

In their review, Autostraddle couldn’t help but wonder (heh) if Che is this show’s new Mr. Big: the emotionally unavailable cad whose charisma (?) keeps others hooked despite their initial protests. Miranda chasing after someone who isn’t even divorced from their husband yet and refuses to put a label on their current romance certainly seems like Carrie/Big stuff, but that oft-aggravating pair had heat and the folly of ’90s youth in their favour. That show’s Miranda would be yelling at this one to get the hell out of L.A. to reclaim her spine.

People change. Characters change. None of what Miranda is going through is necessarily a bad idea or creative failing. Hell, half the reason people were eager to see And Just Like That was for a rare opportunity to see women in their 50s on-screen thriving, struggling, and desiring. The series is struggling in various regards with this theme - do not get me started on Carrie’s prudish crisis of confidence over a damn podcast ad - and Miranda is suffering the most as a result. If you’re going to undo all the stuff that people liked to create new drama, it better work on its own terms. Miranda doesn’t feel like a real woman right now, which is a painful loss given her deftly layered journey over the original six seasons. Che deserves better too, or at least the version of them that’s an actual person.