‘And Just Like That’ Finale: Michael Patrick King, Sarah Jessica Parker Break Down Carrie’s Return to a Familiar Place

SPOILER ALERT: This piece contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of “And Just Like That,” which premiered Feb. 3 on HBO Max.

Reader, if you’re seeing these words, we must congratulate ourselves — we’ve made it through the “And Just Like That” wars alive.

The “Sex and the City” revival, which premiered in December on HBO Max, has been the subject of passionate discussion (and division) through its 10-episode season, while also becoming the streamer’s most successful original series. The two things are certainly intertwined, said Casey Bloys, the chief content officer at HBO and HBO Max, who told Variety, “In terms of viewership, it’s been phenomenal.”

Bloys didn’t stop there, though. “Criticism of any show is fair game — when you put a show out in the world, people have a reaction, and that’s healthy, and that’s normal,” he said. “Having said that, in my experience, it is shows with all-female led casts — and I’m thinking specifically of ‘Girls,’ of ‘Big Little Lies’ and of ‘And Just Like That’ — where there does tend to be a specific level of vitriol leveled against the shows. I’ll leave you to theorize why, but it is something that we’ve noticed.”

Yes, we have noticed. But behind the scenes, “And Just Like That” was made with love — by showrunner Michael Patrick King, as well as by returning “Sex and the City” stars/executive producers Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie), Cynthia Nixon (Miranda) and Kristin Davis (Charlotte). We watched them in their mid-30s, and now again in their mid-50s, as they navigate the world around them. And that world has changed, both for them as individuals — the death of Big (Chris Noth) is the precipitating tragedy that begins the season — and in the larger sense, which is illustrated by the show’s new characters.

Parker and King would both like to continue “And Just Like That” — and Bloys confirmed that HBO Max wants that as well — though the show hasn’t officially been renewed yet for a second season. “Michael and I spoke two weeks ago, and said: ‘OK, when are we going to talk about this?’” Parker told Variety. “Because there’s a calendar and you don’t want to let too much time pass. There feels like there’s momentum.”

In a long interview with King, and one with Parker, they offered insights into the finale of “And Just Like That,” in which Carrie finds closure, Miranda runs off with Che (Sara Ramírez) and Charlotte becomes a grown-up (Jewish!) woman.

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Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw. Courtesy of HBO Max

Carrie’s dream about Big sends her to France — to “Paris, our bridge.”

Since the show’s second episode “Little Black Dress,” Carrie has carried — literally — the burden of Big’s ashes. Having toted them back to her old apartment in a Barneys bag, they’ve sat on a shelf in her closet for — as we learn in the finale — nearly a year since his death. After Big’s brother (James Naughton) offers both John and (eventually) Carrie a place in the Preston family plot, Carrie tells him that she needs to think about “where John might want to be.”

Shortly afterward, having half-convinced herself that Big is communicating with her through a lamp that keeps turning on — angrily, perhaps, since she went on another date with Peter (Jon Tenney) — Carrie dreams of Paris, where she and Big reunited in the series finale of “Sex and the City.” The dream is set to an other-worldly version of Todd Rundgren’s “Hello, It’s Me.” The song, played in different forms throughout the season, was what Carrie and Big danced to in the premiere of “And Just Like That” as they indulged in a classic-rock listening party — a habit they’d formed during the pandemic.

As has been written about previously, Noth was going to appear in this dream sequence. But in mid-December, sexual assault allegations were reported about Noth, causing his ouster from CBS’ “The Equalizer,” along with other fallout — and King decided to axe the actor’s cameo. It wasn’t 100% certain that Noth’s Big would have made the cut, according to King: “There’s an artistic element to this that’s not just political,” he said, and in the edit, King may have decided that it didn’t work, even without the baggage of what Noth has been accused of. “Dreams are always dicey,” he said.

“But the reality is,” King continued, “I really wanted the show to be focused on the stories of these amazing actresses and their efforts in these last 10 episodes. And I didn’t want the entire story to be about whether someone was or wasn’t in the show. And I could just tell that it was going to — Mr. Big and Chris Noth they’re not the same person, and that would’ve made them the same person.”

You do hear Big’s voice, though — an off-screen (and off-key) Noth sings a refrain from “Hello, It’s Me,” saying, “that you know you are free” to Carrie.

“He’s saying you’re free,” King said. “That’s what’s important.”

Carrie wakes up, and the light has turned on again. She’s heard Big — either through a possessed lamp or her own loving knowledge of him — and has been set free.

So she has to do the same with Big’s remains. To Charlotte’s delight and Miranda’s dismay, Carrie tells them at Rock’s They-Mitzvah that she knows where Big wants to be — in Paris. She’s bought them both plane tickets, but after Miranda can’t come, she decides to go on her own.

“I knew it was going to be Paris from the start,” King said of Big’s ultimate resting place.

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Carrie texting Samantha. Courtesy of HBO Max

Which leads to…Carrie and Samantha, together at last.

First came Carrie sending Big’s cremains into the Seine, King said. “Then, as we went, I was like” — he made a hmm sound — “well, Samantha’s in London. There’s the Chunnel — they’re right there.

“How’s she not going? They’re close!”

Samantha, estranged from the group by necessity — since Kim Cattrall has adamantly stated that she’s done playing the much-loved character — remains on the show through imagination: She’s texted with Carrie throughout the season. The communication between the former close friends, once non-existent as Carrie says in the “And Just Like That” premiere, has become more frequent and inviting — earlier in the finale, after Carrie texts Samantha about her disappointing kiss with Peter, Samantha says she’ll be ready to talk “soon.”

Feeling liberated on the bridge, Carrie takes her phone out, and once again texts Samantha. “I’m in Paris, want to meet for a cocktail?” Samantha answers immediately: “How about tomorrow night?” Carrie has all-caps response: “FABULOUS.”

In speaking with Variety, King made a few things clear: He adores Samantha, but Cattrall will likely never appear on “And Just Like That” — nor did they even ask her back, “because she’s said what she had said.”

“Magically thinking, it’s great to have Samantha,” King said. “I have no realistic expectation of Kim Cattrall ever appearing again.”

If some miracle were to happen, and Cattrall wanted to play Samantha again, would Parker be OK with that? “I don’t think I would, because I think there’s just too much public history of feelings on her part that she’s shared,” Parker said. “I haven’t participated in or read articles, although people are inclined to let me know.”

Keeping the character on the show via texts, however, solved the “normal writing problem” of Cattrall’s decision, according to King. And it’s a way to “respect the legacy” of Samantha.

Parker and King are on the same page on the matter. “We didn’t go to Kim for this, you know,” Parker said. “After we didn’t do the movie and the studio couldn’t meet what she wanted to do, we have to hear her and listen to her and what was important to her. It didn’t fit into what was important or needed for us.

“There’s a very distinct line between Samantha and Kim,” Parker continued. “Samantha’s not gone. Samantha’s present, and I think was handled with such respect and elegance. She wasn’t villainized. She was a human being who had feelings about a relationship, so I think we found a way to address it which was necessary and important for people that loved her.”

And as Carrie was in the moment, King felt swept away by the scene on the bridge. “From the minute those ashes go, when she lets go of the past and then she starts texting Samantha and that music starts coming in — it’s like my heart goes, ‘Oh my God!’”

For Parker, it was time for Carrie and Samantha to reconcile. “Because a friendship with that amount of time underneath it is really valuable,” she said. “Carrie experienced a life-altering and devastating incident, and it’s changed her perspective and how she loves and who she loves.”

As far as what the two friends talked about, now that they finally sat down together to reconnect, Parker has imagined what it was like: “I think that the conversation was grown up. I think it was a détente. I think it allows for comfort on all sides.”

But who met whom — did Carrie go to London, or did Samantha travel to Paris? “I think Carrie goes to London,” Parker said. “Did you ask Michael? Ask Michael. I’m so curious.”

After being told Parker thinks Carrie went to London, but that she’d asked his thoughts on the matter, King responded over email.

“Well,” he wrote, “Carrie knows how she got there.”

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Courtesy of Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max

Charlotte gets They-Mitzvah’d.

In “And Just Like That,” King wanted to show how Charlotte, “the one who tried to be perfect,” as he put it, would face the challenges her teen-aged children — Rock (Alexa Swinton) and Lily (Cathy Ang) — present her. In the case of Rock’s They-Mitzah, so named after Rock tells Charlotte and Harry (Evan Handler) that they don’t feel like a girl, and want to be called Rock, Charlotte is trying to be open to what her child wants.

But Rock is 13, and doesn’t know what they want – other than that they don’t want to participate in any religious ceremony at all. “I’m only 13,” Rock says. “Can’t I just be me?”

King said the writers worked with Nick Adams at GLAAD on crafting Rock’s story, and learned “the new edge isn’t gender — the new edge is not wanting to be labeled any gender.” So Rock tells their crestfallen parents that they don’t identify as anything yet — even “a New Yorker,” they say to Harry and Charlotte’s gasps — but that they certainly haven’t studied their Torah portion at all.

After Charlotte receives a pep talk from LTW (Nicole Ari Parker), she asserts “Somebody is getting They-Mitvah’d today!” When it turns out that someone is her — since she was studying as much as Rock wasn’t — Charlotte proudly takes her place on the bimah, flanked by her loving family.

Charlotte’s arc for the season, King said, “was that she stops being a child.” Even more pointedly, “Her children help her not be a child anymore.” He cited the show’s sixth episode, when Charlotte is forced to get rid of her old dolls because Lily and Rock are embarrassed by how culturally inappropriate they are. “She literally had to put away her dolls because she had real live beings who were judging them,” King said with a laugh.

On the bimah, Charlotte has shown her maturity — proving it even to herself.

“She becomes, for the first time in the series, a woman in her eyes,” King said. “She grew up, because of life.”

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Cynthia Nixon as Miranda. Courtesy of Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max

Miranda goes to L.A. to be with Che.

“Red flags, red hair,” King said about Miranda’s newly dyed hair, coupled with her impulsive decision to ditch her hard-won summer internship to go to Los Angeles with Che, who’s doing a pilot.

One of King’s main ideas for the season was that “Miranda had to explode,” he said. Having blown up her marriage, and destabilized her friendships by falling head over heels in love with Che, Miranda finds herself in the finale heading west to follow her heart. “Am I not allowed to change a little bit?” Miranda yells at Carrie, as they argue in the bathroom at the They-Mitzvah.

“Miranda’s never, ever been swept away by anything — so we thought it would be interesting if she was,” King said. The writers weren’t sure, though, King said, whether Miranda might “come to her senses” in the finale. Especially since Che, even as they were inviting Miranda to come with them, simultaneously told Miranda exactly who they are: “I’m a fucking narcissist!” Che says after their performance of “California Girls” that served as their announcement of their pilot deal.

“A standup comic is right there, saying they love you, and then saying, ‘I’m a fucking narcissist!’” King said. “Miranda is following her heart, something, quite frankly, that Carrie did for six seasons on ‘Sex and the City’ without any proof — no proof at all about Big. That was not a forward moving relationship with Big.

“She just followed her heart, and she was banged up and damaged along the way. And for some reason, people were with her — because they believe Sarah Jessica as Carrie is smart and knows stuff.”

King loves the Che character, whom he acknowledged has become a lightning rod — which he thinks is due to the audience’s feelings about what Miranda has done to Steve and her life. “Che is, in my estimation, honest, dangerous, sexy, funny and warm,” he said. “What everybody else is projecting on that character has a lot to do with what they want to have happen to Miranda in the story. It has so little to do with Che.”

Separately, he said, “There’s an unhinged impulsiveness to Miranda leaping that I think will make people nervous.” But that’s the whole point, King said: “The most important thing that we did say for Miranda, and it was a great struggle in the writing room, was, ‘Am I not allowed to change? And then change back again if I feel like it?’”

As far as Miranda’s return to red hair, King said: “She changed back again! She felt like it.” And even though he’s the one who makes these decisions, he has a theory about why: “I always thought it had something to do with the fact that she was sitting in the club, and she looked over and both those grandmothers were gray,” King said about Miranda meeting Che’s grandmothers. “Subliminally! But she returned to her fiery self.”

King was also amused thinking about the previous association between Miranda’s reckless life choices and her hair. “What I love about it is that Charlotte knew it: ‘You should have just dyed your hair!’ Charlotte says.”

In her final scene of the season, Miranda stands with her son Brady (Niall Cunningham) outside of their house, waiting for a car to take them to the airport: He’s heading to Europe with his girlfriend Luisa (Cree Cicchino), and she’s on her way to California. “So are you ever going to say anything about my hair?” Miranda asks him. He says, “It’s cool,” but asks her where her “gray pride” went. “It’s still there,” Miranda answers, laughing. “I just felt like changing it up again.” Brady grumbles good-naturedly, “I thought you were just copying my look, to which Miranda replies, “Hey! I had it first.”

King called that line “very important” to underscore what Miranda is doing right now.

“Here you have somebody who’s 55 and someone who’s 17,” King said, “and they’re both going on a journey.”

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Courtesy of Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max

Carrie becomes a solo act with her “Sex and the City” podcast — and a possible new romance emerges in the season’s final moments.

Let’s start with Franklin (Ivan Hernandez), the podcast producer hiding in plain sight the entire season, who shares a kiss with Carrie at the very end of the episode. “My goal with Ivan, who plays Franklin,” King said, “was to put an actor behind that booth that the audience would say, ‘Who’s that sexy extra?!?’” King was so intent on keeping the plainly hot Franklin a side character that he eliminated a scene early on in the season. “The wife of my editor had said to me, ‘I think she’s going to get with that engineer guy,’” King said. “And I was like, ‘Uh-oh, pull it back, pull it back!’ People are going to feel it coming too much.”

Earlier in the episode, Franklin tells Carrie — flirtily, to be sure — that he thinks she should start her own advice podcast, now that Che is ditching theirs. “I’m serious!” he says. “I’ve been watching you since you got there. I’ve seen you open up, come into your own.”

“Plus,” he says, lowering his eyes at Carrie. “You have that voice. I’d like to produce you.” Carrie is sold.

The season could have ended on the satisfying note of Carrie’s reconciliation with Samantha, King said, as he said the words “the end” in a sing-song voice.

“But that’s poetry,” King said. “And what we wanted to show was you’re back in the real world, you’re helping people, you’re moving on with your life, you are just doing — I hate to be cliché, but you’re just doing you — and somebody is there. And it’s unexpected!

Franklin and Carrie kiss in the elevator, each taking a step toward the other. “It’s what she was missing from the first kiss — it has that surprise that she wasn’t expecting,” King said. “So that was for the audience too, it was like, ‘You never know!’”

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Courtesy of Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max

But before that, we see Carrie delivering heartfelt advice to a caller, and doing it well. “If there’s anything I’ve learned from my recent loss, it’s that you will laugh again,” she says. “Especially — especially — if you have one or two good friends in your corner. And as for love — well, anything’s possible.”

After the caller thanks her, Franklin gives Carrie the sign to wrap up. “Well, that’s it for my very first podcast — I’ll get better,” she says, with a smile both on her face and in her voice. “Til next time, I’m Carrie Bradshaw, and this is ‘Sex and the City.’”

Gasp! And Parker is even looking straight at the viewer as she delivers those words.

Even Parker was shocked. “I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m saying!’” she said. “What’s the word? Is it meta?”

“It reminded me of ‘Abso-fucking-lutely,’ when she said, ‘Have you ever been in love?’ in the pilot,” Parker said, remembering the famous ending of the “Sex and the City” pilot, as Carrie bids goodbye to Big. “Which I thought was the very thing that would bring the viewer back. It just felt really soothing and thrilling.”

King became emotional as he talked about Carrie’s podcast being called “Sex and the City,” and about Parker’s delivery of the line.

“It is the most down-the-barrel shot S.J.’s ever done,” he said. “And it’s saying to the audience — ooh, I could start crying!  It’s saying to the audience, ‘It was always here. I am that in different clothes. I’m still that. No matter where I am, no matter who I’m with, whether they’re alive or dead or kissing me in an elevator, I’m still that person who’s trying to solve relationships. And I embrace it.’

“Even now after everything she’s been through this season, she claims her ultimate title.”

Ramin Setoodeh contributed to this story.