Season 2, Episode 4: They Shoot Single People, Don’t They?

“What’s the big mystery? It’s my clitoris, not the sphinx” – Miranda
“I think you just found the title for your autobiography” – Carrie

new yorkWELL this episode feels racist. It centres around the question of whether it’s better to be alone than in a relationship built on lies, but it includes a couple of wince-inducing scenes that detract from what is otherwise a strong and thought-provoking premise.

First, some context. Carrie agrees to be photographed for the New Yorker’s “Single and Fabulous” issue, but after rolling into the shoot late and allowing some test shots to be taken of her bleary-eyed and puffing on a fag, she’s horrified to find one of them on the cover, with an invidious question mark added to the strapline.

Naturally she’s mortified, and also forced to question whether she really is fabulous, or just pretending to be comfortable with her singleton status. Her rock-bottom moment comes when the south-east Asian man at the news stand recognises her, his eyes darting back and forth from the magazine to her face. “And there it is – pity” she says. “Pity from the man who sells me my Malboro lights. It was the final straw.”

Now, you might be thinking that just sounds like snobbery, and that the man’s ethnicity is irrelevant. But not sooner would you have given the writers a pass than Samantha finds herself stood up on a date and crying on a waiter’s shoulder. In comes Carrie’s voiceover: “Samantha let the Pakistani bus boy kiss her – after all, he’d been so sweet and attentive with the bread”. Well wasn’t he lucky! However, after a few seconds of slumming it with a brown peasant Samantha decides not to take him home, because it’s better to be alone than to fake it. Err, fake what? A lack of distaste at men of the wrong ethnic group or socio-economic status?

Elsewhere in the episode there are some entertaining scenes and on-point observations. Miranda notes that the New Yorker article is just one of many churned out every couple of years “as a cautionary tale to scare young women into marriage”, and they certainly seem even more regular these days. The women want to rubbish it, but it’s clear a nerve has been touched.

Carrie’s column: Is it better to “fake it” than be alone?

Fashion: Carrie wears pink metallic jeans to a salsa club. I cannot mock, because this is exactly the sort of thing I would have done in the early noughts. She then puts on a silly hat, because she’s in hiding while the magazine is still for sale – but if she really wanted to avoid attracting attention on the streets of New York she should probably have worn a more substantial bra. Samantha and Carrie both wear lovely dresses for dates in the latter half of the episode.

Puns: None, but some good banter before things take a detour to racistville.

Season 2, Episode 3: The Freak Show

“If a man is over 30 and single, there’s something wrong with him” – Miranda
“OK, what about us?” – Carrie
“We’re just choosy!” – Miranda”

freak show

This episode starts off boldly, with the above exchange challenging the show’s core assumptions about our four (anti-?)heroines and the men they date. We also get a glimpse into the conversations their male counterparts might be having over brunch in another part of town – relaying tales of the woman who sleeps with her shoes on, the cat lady and the plastic surgery addict.

Admittedly, the first two alleged freaks hardly qualify, and highlight the curiously vanilla attitudes of our supposedly enlightened foursome. It seems a little hypocritical for them to tease Charlotte about her reluctance to date Manhattan’s “Mr Pussy” (so-called because of his talent for cunnilingus) in the same breath as Samantha expresses dismay at discovering a date’s penchant for S&M.

However, Carrie’s subsequent trio of dates deserve the circus-themed music played over their scenes. The first is a ruthless money-grabber, the second prone to random bursts of aggression and the third a kleptomaniac.

Which is why when she randomly meets Ben, “an editor at a hip political magazine”, Carrie suspects he’s too good to be true. So what does she do? Regular readers/viewers may recall that our characters have no qualms about breaching the privacy of the men they date, so naturally Carrie turns his apartment upside down while he’s out. Only this time – hurrah! – she gets busted in the act and Ben dumps her on the spot.

While the episode concludes with Carrie admitting everyone is a freak or some sort, including herself, she annoyingly lets herself off the hook for her bad behaviour by calling herself “the frightening woman whose fear ate her sanity” rather than “the empathy-deficient snoop who likes to make excuses for herself”.

Carrie’s column: Are all men freaks?

Fashion: Carrie wastes a series of nice outfits on her trio of dud dates, and a statement print skirt for her meet-cute in the park, but follows that up with two blah, conservative ensembles for her “non-dates”. Not for the first time, it seems as though she’s style-matching herself to a man (in this case, an “editor at a hip political magazine”).

Puns: None, but plenty of snappy one-liners.

Season 2, Episode 2: The Awful Truth

“Telling a friend to leave her husband is something you just don’t do”  Miranda

awful truth

IT’S hard to know where to start with this episode, in which the hook is the abusive relationship of Carrie’s friend Susan-Sharon, and the moral is: don’t interfere.

There’s not a lot of ambiguity to the way Richard behaves. Carrie calls him “a very mean man”, we hear that since their marriage she only sees her friend once or twice a year, and he screams the house down when his wife and Carrie wake him up after their night out (see puns, below).

Carrie’s reaction? Initially she asks “Could Susan-Sharon’s marriage be that bad? Or was their fighting just a form of foreplay?” Um, no, it seems pretty obvious that it’s not. This is confirmed moments later when Susan-Sharon phones, whispering, to apologise, saying: “I don’t know what to do.”

Carrie lights up a cigarette and says that maybe there were “special circumstances” that justified Richard’s behaviour that evening. Which is pretty much the worst thing to say to a woman in an abusive relationship. When pushed about what she would do in that situation, Carrie says she would leave.

This is an extremely clumsy way to build up to Miranda’s line above, and the women’s brunch-time chat about secrets and lies in relationships. The double-bind described – if she leaves it’ll be your fault, if she doesn’t she’ll never speak to you again – is hardly applicable here, especially since the pair are barely in contact anyway. It’s a really disappointing treatment of an important subject.

I can’t help but feel it’s significant that Carrie envies Susan-Sharon’s plush, “grown-up” apartment – presumably funded in part by whatever work Richard requires his precious beauty sleep to do well – and in a horribly gauche move reminiscent of her moaning to a date about her financial situation she asks if she could perhaps return her expensive birthday gift because she “could really use the cash”. Is Carrie really just looking for a cash cow of her own? Is that the secret to Mr Big’s appeal?

Later in the episode Carrie muses to herself that Richard is probably right when he tells Susan-Sharon (in classic abusive husband style) that she’ll never find another man and will be single forever. The overall suggestion is that she should put up and shut up, lest she lose her plush apartment and face the dismal prospect of spinsterhood. Of course, our heroines don’t feel they should have to settle for any old man – they just feel like their emotionally fragile, pill-popping married friends should.

Meanwhile, Charlotte gets a puppy who shits all over her expensive sheets, Samantha finally blurts out the truth about her boyfriend’s shortcomings and Miranda talks dirty.

Plus Carrie is forced by politeness to invite Mr Big out for her birthday after he sends her roses, and he not only shows up but acts like a complete clown. I should point out that I’m currently obsessed with The Good Wife (hence these posts being a little less regular than they should be) and I can say with some certainly that Chris Noth is not an unattractive man. Mr Big is just an unattractive character.

Carrie’s column: Are there still certain things in a relationship one should never say? (even this sentence construction is awkward)

Fashion: Miranda is in colour-clash mode again, but avoids the full-blown crimes against fashion of recent episodes. There’s generally a lot of chunky knitwear on show. Carrie wears a fabulous glittery dressing gown on her birthday morning, and a nice floaty pink sequinned number for her Arabian Nights-themed party.

Puns: “It’s a cash-miracle!” explains Carrie upon opening her present of a cashmere scarf. Just before asking if she can return it to the shop where it wasn’t even actually purchased from. Stay classy.