We Need to Talk About Miranda

And just like that, the most rational character on Sex and the City has become someone totally at odds with her former self.

Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes in "And Just Like That"
Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max

This article contains mild spoilers through the final episode of And Just Like That.

With the debut season of And Just Like That, we really did have it all, at least if you understand “all” to be public vomiting, kitchen fingerbangs, podcasts with “woke moment” buttons, flash periods, and a sherbet-colored couture Valentino gown that made me think of Princess Diana’s wedding dress covered in Tropicana. The show was strange, for sure. There were highs (Seema, the glamour-puss real-estate agent; Charlotte dealing with her child’s gender identity) and lows (Carrie’s vexed boss, Che; the episode-long subplot about an apartment beep). I watched it every week, which is more than I can say for lots of other television series. But I still haven’t quite processed what the show has done to Miranda.

Miranda was always supposed to be the rational person’s Sex and the City character. While Carrie et al. were accidentally getting paid for sex, trying to seduce clergymen, or exposing their vulvae for Art, Miranda was investing in real estate, training for a marathon, and working long hours to the detriment of her personal life. The most scandalous thing she did was have a baby. She moved to Brooklyn before even Maggie Gyllenhaal. (I shudder to think how much her house is worth now.) She clapped back at a catcalling sandwich. She gained weight (a cardinal sin in SATC-land) and then attempted to lose it by doing the most sensible of diet plans: Weight Watchers. Caught as she was in the miasma of narcissism and judgment and towering heels that somehow defined female friendship in the late ’90s and early aughts, Miranda cared enough about her friends to essentially tell them when their lovers were wormy ego monsters.

And Just Like That, though, has presented a different version of Miranda. How to put it? She’s, well … awful? Awful in ways I am struggling to really define individually, because they’ve blurred aesthetically, emotionally, and illogically into one big mess of plaid and infidelity. But here’s the biggest worst thing about Miranda: She’s done Steve wrong. I’m not talking about leaving him, even though the series showrunner, Michael Patrick King (call him MPK, I now know after enduring And Just Like That … The Documentary), seems to think that’s what’s most offended viewers about Miranda’s arc this season. Of course there’s more to life than a stable romantic companionship and a shared love of sweets. But there’s still something distasteful about Miranda giddily demolishing a 20-year relationship without shedding so much as a single tear for the person she was wrecking in the process.

At the start of the series, Miranda was clearly in the throes of a pandemic-exacerbated midlife crisis; she was drinking too much and sick to death of everyone living in her house, which, who among us? But each story beat that continued felt less like the character of old, and more like the writers were struggling to sketch out sufficient ennui to justify things they’d decided she would do. Midway through the season, Miranda became irritated when Steve couldn’t find his way around a farmers’ market. The moment was nonsensical for lots of reasons—David Eigenberg is the same age as Keanu Reeves! Hearing loss does not a geriatric make!—but I was chilled when someone suggested on Twitter that the show was setting up a story line where Steve got early-onset Alzheimer’s, like his ma.

Nope. The writers were not so ingenious. Something more mundane was happening: Miranda had simply decided that the person whom she’d loved, who’d loved her, was a less exciting life prospect than a comedian and podcaster who’d “done a ton of weed” and told her to “DM me if you wanna chill again soon.” Miranda, like lots of people, fell for someone who made her feel alive, who offered her really good sex, a social life not oriented around ice cream, a vape pen. This is all fine. But she couldn’t seem to step out of her orgasm haze for a minute or two to feel even minutely sorry for Steve. Loyal Steve, weeping and wearing his wedding ring until the end. Loath as Sex and the City was to admit it, we occasionally owe things to other people, and feeling bad for hurting them is a basic one.

Not helping is the fact that, no matter how many times I’ve tried, I can’t make sense of the Miranda and Che story line. I get what Miranda might see in Che, her polar opposite: a vibrant, uninhibited performer rejecting every box people try to place them in. But what, exactly, does Che see in Miranda, an ex-lawyer and self-professed Mama Bear who reads anti-racism books and can’t seem to stop talking about them? Their relationship just doesn’t make sense to me. Which is, I know now, because it wasn’t originally written to. The most crucial of the sparse revelations in the And Just Like That documentary, other than that MPK doesn’t like hats (which, God bless him), was that Miranda was originally supposed to have her sexual awakening with Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), her professor. The awkwardness of blending professional and personal spheres aside, this pairing would have made sense! They have things in common. They have good chemistry. It would have given Nya a story line beyond vague maternal ambivalence and her exhaustion with IVF.

Alas, as Nixon describes in the documentary, “Nya was a straight character, and Miranda was a straight character, and I was like, Well, that doesn’t sound very sexy at all, do you know what I mean? Two women who’ve gotten to this age and who are now just fumbling around.” (Well.) Instead, Miranda came under the thrall of Che. Whether there’s anything more to their relationship than sex remains to be seen, but I can’t imagine so. The finale rather self-consciously positioned Miranda—who’d decided to abandon a highly coveted internship and follow Che to Los Angeles—as mimicking the mistake of Carrie’s move to Paris for a guy, choosing lust over real life and fated for a rude awakening. (“What are you gonna do in L.A. all day?” Carrie asked her. “Sit in an audience and laugh?”)

What was clear about Miranda this season was also clear about And Just Like That as a whole: Rather than think about its characters as real humans doing recognizably human things, albeit with unexplained fortunes at their disposal, the writers saw them as dolls with which to act out charades they wanted to stage. This meant that consistency went out the window. But Miranda suffered the most, because she’d always been the person most proximate to real life. Once so devastated by Steve’s infidelity that she left him, she cheated on him without batting an eye. Once so enraged at Carrie for failing to help her after Miranda threw out her neck, Miranda neglected her bedbound friend after hip surgery in favor of drinking tequila and having sex in the next room. Each arc for Miranda on And Just Like That contradicted the person she’d once been and the things we watched her do. More than her cringiest assertions of woke bona fides, more than even her treatment of Steve, this is the thing that’s hardest to swallow.