... or "My GOD, Cell Phones Were Huge Twelve Years Ago."
So here we are, at the very beginning! (A very good place to start, from what I hear.) So... what have we here?
The Summary: The pilot episode introduces us to the four women central to the series, Carrie (narrator of the show, sex columnist, possessor of madly curly hair, presented as a kind of "Everywoman" for we lady viewers to relate to), Miranda (a cynical lawyer with an unfortunate haircut), Charlotte (a dewily romantic art gallery manager with a penchant for flowy ballgowns), and Samantha (a public relations guru who is the Voice of Sexual Voraciousness throughout the episode/the series.)
So, what are these womenfolk up to? For her column, Carrie is musing on whether or not it's possible for women to "have sex like men." Which means, of course, "without feeling." (Oh, how heartless the Y chromosome makes the gents!) She initially concludes that it is, after an "experiment" (is that what the kids are calling it these days?) with an ex-boyfriend, but in the end, has her doubts. (Those lady-feelings, they are persistent!) These doubts are exacerbated by a series of chance meetings with the dashing "Mr. Big" (tycoon and overall muckety-muck whom you may have last seen on Law and Order: Just Cancelled Unit) with whom she flirts and discusses the Nature of Sex and Love. Gosh, but Mr. Big is DEEP--also, he has a really, really nice car.
Meanwhile, Miranda has been set up by Carrie with Carrie's sweet young friend, Skipper, who is just so darned nice that he can never get the ladies to notice him. (The ladies expect their men to be heartless, Mr. S. Work with us.) Miranda is, indeed, just about to dismiss him as too nice, when he ends their date by cutting off her protests that she's "just not that into him" with a masterful kiss (very romance novel of him)--thus ensuring that he'll return for at least another episode. Charlotte goes on a date with Capote Duncan (do people have names like that in real life, by the way?), a "toxic bachelor" who is fiercely cynical about love and unerringly sexually opportunistic. (Sounds like a great match for Charlotte!) Their date seems to be going just grandly, until she gently turns down his sexual advances--at which point, he tells her that he likes her and all, but he "needs to have sex tonight"--which he later proceeds to do with Samantha (staying true to her "having sex like a man" creed.)
The Musings: The show begins with Carrie speaking the immortal words "Once upon a time..." and telling a seemingly fairy-tale like narrative about a young woman who moved to the city and fell in love with a seemingly-charming gent. This relationship, of course, falls apart spectacularly, a fact which Carrie uses to conclude that love is dead in New York (and, presumably, everywhere else--but who cares about everywhere else?) This beginning starts a kind of push-pull dynamic which permeates the entire series--on the one hand, raising fairy tales so as to rip them to shreds ("And her prince turned out to be a JERK. So THERE.") --and on the other, drawing upon and echoing them (at the end of the episode, after all, Big "rescues" a crestfallen Carrie from having to walk home from a party by offering her a ride in his pumpkin-shaped carriage. I'm sorry, I meant--limo.) It's a central question which permeates the entire show--are the kinds of love stories which we grew up with (I'm looking at you, Disney empire) dangerous fairy tales which distort what real relationships and real love are like? Or... do they actually come true with the right person, in the right place, at the right time? Huh. Carrie doesn't know... and neither do the writers. So keep that one in mind for the next five seasons!
Thing That Drives Me The Most Bats About This Episode: The whole "Skipper is so nice, let us therefore question his masculinity and desirability" angle. (Not to say that one need find Skipper desirable, of course--the actor is very talented, I'm sure, but those granny glasses... off-putting.) For instance, consider the moment when Skipper (pondering why he has had so little success with the ladies in recent years) declares to Carrie "I'm too nice. I'm a romantic. I just have so much feeling." To which Carrie responds--what, you ask? I'll bet you can guess! "Are you sure you're not gay?" Ah, of course, because only the gay gentlemen can feel, I had forgotten! Silly of me. It all just seems rather tiresome--the whole "all women only and exclusively want manly men who are dominant, take charge, and don't muck about with those icky, feminizing feelings.)
Thing That Drives Me Moderately Bats About This Episode: During one of the ladies' discussions, Samantha declares that this is the first time in the history of New York that "women have had as much money and power as men." Now, this is a small moment, I'll grant you, and perhaps you will find me petty for being bothered by it, but it plays into an overall idea that I've heard a lot (i.e., too much) from my students--namely, the "Equality Has Been Achieved, So Please Stop Your Bloody Whining, You Irritating Feminist Nutbag" idea. ("There are more women than men in law school now, and a few women are CEOs, and look, that one chick in the pantsuits ran for President, therefore women are already equal to men, so please stop with the feminist nitpicking, geez, you are harshing my buzz.") It's an idea which pops up throughout the series--this notion that we are living in a post-feminist age--that our society is, indeed, a level playing field--that women have already achieved equality to men. Forgive me, but... I doubt it.
One Specific Thing Which I Quite Like About This Episode: Surprisingly, it's actually Big who cuts through some of the "this is the way all men are, period, the end" malarkey. When Carrie tells him about her "having sex like a man = having sex without feeling" hypothesis, he instantly denounces it as rubbish, and declares that he, for one, isn't like that. (And him an alpha male, what with the cigars and the posh suits and the oodles of money and the limo and all... still comfortable saying that he feels things. Fancy!) It's quite a charming moment, I think--to have Big (who is stereotypically masculine in just about every way) insist on turning the conversation towards love, and denouncing the idea that all men are emotionally catatonic wretches, as pure balderdash. One point to you, Chris Noth. Give yourself a star.
Relatively Inconsequential Thing Which I Feel Compelled to Note About This Episode: In one scene, the ladies are out at a restaurant to celebrate Miranda's birthday, and her cake is brought to her by a group of drag queens. They don't have speaking parts or any meaningful role to play in the episode (in and of itself significant, perhaps...?), but since I want to be sure to note how gender non-conforming folks are represented in the series, please note that I am noting that they were there. Their dresses are pretty. They have amazing wigs. They don't have great singing voices, but then how many of us do? I reckon the primary interesting thing about their presence here is that they seem to be being used primarily as a means for the writers to position the show as "daring" and "cutting edge" in the pilot episode. "Do YOU have drag queens serving you YOUR birthday cake at Denny's, or wherever the heck it is that you eat, people watching this show in some boring state like Kansas? WE THOUGHT NOT. "
Immortal Lines, Memorable Words: When Carrie asks Big if he's ever been in love, he replies, "Absa-fucking-lutely." That little phrase keeps coming up in the series, and so I note it here. (Chris Noth delivers said little phrase very snappily, too--it's about 4:30 into this clip if you want to see him do so. [Insert obligatory note about how dashing Chris Noth looks in a suit here.])
Next Up?: An episode entitled "Models and Mortals," in which we contemplate the nature of female beauty, attend a fashion show, and reflect on whether or not it is morally acceptable to tape people's intimate moments without their consent. (I'm going to go with... no!.)