Wednesday, October 13

Season Two, Episode Eighteen: Ex and the City

The Summary:

Oh my goodness, it's the season finale. However did we get here??? I feel like it was but yesterday that I was telling you about how Carrie was dating a fetching Yankees player
and we were pondering whether or not all straight men were freaks. (My answer is still no on that one, by the way. And I still retain the fervent hatred of the Yankees which my parents instilled in me from my infancy onwards, as well, in case you're interested. [Ducks to avoid any and all objects thrown at self by angry Yankeephiles.])

All right, so, why don't we start at the Least Interesting part of this episode, and then creep ever closer to the Least Least Interesting part of this episode, as we proceed? (I ask you if this plan seems suitable, of course, but since it's my blog, I fear that I shall arrange my summaries purely according to my own whims, even if you feel this is a very unwise/undesirable organizational schema. My apologies.)

All right, so, without further ado... I present:

The #1 Least Interesting Story Line in This, Our Season Finale: And the winner is... the one belonging to Miss Charlotte York! Give that girl a round of tepid applause! Turns out, Charlotte used to love going horseback riding when she was a girl. (Charlotte, engaging in an activity historically reserved for aristocratic lasses who have wealthy folks? You shock me.) But then she got thrown from a horse this one time, and never, ever rode again. So, she has decided to face her fear and get back in the saddle. [Insert obligatory, heavy-handed metaphors about how "getting back on the horse" literally can also mean "getting back on the horse" figuratively, in terms of taking risks in love after having been gravely wounded in the past, here.] She hits some bumps in the road, but by the end of the episode is happily cantering around Central Park. Happy for her and all, but still... not really all that interested. Pretty horse, though!

The #2 Least Interesting Story Line In This, Our Season Finale: Ms. Samantha Jones, come on down, the prize is yours! So Samantha picks up a handsome gent on the street. It must be her lucky day! Except... turns out, it's not, as said handsome gent is so very, very generously endowed that sleeping with him proves to be a daunting prospect/downright impossible proposition even for the intrepid Sam. She gives it a few tries, but, finding it all too logistically difficult, asks the handsome gent if they can try giving being just friends a shot, instead. Since we never see him again, I'm guessing their proposed friendship works out no better than their would-be trysting did. Buh-bye, Handsome Gent Who Is Rather Dehumanizingly Referred as a "Stallion" About Fifty Times Over the Course of the Episode!

The #3 Least Interesting Story Line in This, Our Season Finale: Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for... Miranda Hobbes, Esq.! Miranda's plot line is pretty interesting, actually--interesting, that is, if you have yet more stomach for the writers jerking you around by shoving one of our heroines back with a man she had previously dated earlier in the series. Which, given that this is Miranda and Steve (yay, Steve!) we're talking about, rather than Carrie and Big (boooo, Big)... I, for one, do!

So, Miranda sees Steve on the street, and rather than stopping and chit-chatting, Miranda flees (literally... as in... runs) from the awkwardness of having to see/deal with Steve/the memory of their painful break-up. (Miranda, explaining said behavior to her friends: "What are we supposed to talk about, the weather? The man has been inside of me, for God's sake.") Steve stops by her apartment to reproach her for said behavior, and Miranda breaks into teary admissions that seeing him is just too hard for her to cope with, since she misses having him in her life so much. He suggests that they be friends. Hmmm. I can't see where this is heading, at all.

But perhaps you, clever reader, are quicker on the uptake than I. Perhaps you have already guessed that their friendship quickly segues into them not so much embodying the ideals of Plato as it does them sleeping together? If so--give yourself a star, you are dazzlingly insightful, as ever! Soooo, in the wake of said sleeping together, are Miranda and Steve still just friends? Friends with benefits? Going to give dating another shot? They don't know! We don't know! And... end season. A nice puzzle for us to, er, puzzle over in Season Three...

The #4 Least Interesting Story Line in This, Our Season Finale: Prepare yourself for the least surprising victory in the history of BOCS' "Least Interesting Story Line" Contests, as the lady with the least least interesting story line is... one Ms. Carrie Bradshaw! I will add a twist of the unexpected to the mix, however, by noting that although Carrie's story line here centers around Big, I actually do not hate it! Amazing!

All right, so, Carrie has been thinking a lot about whether or not she might be able to be just friends with Big. (All together now: "NO. YOU. CAN'T. Did someone replace your breakfast cereal this morning with crack or what, woman???") She calls him to suggest that they give friendship a shot. He agrees. They are having a lovely "isn't it delightful being just friends?" brunch, when it emerges that Big is engaged to his new, 26-year-old girlfriend Natasha, whom he has known for a mere handful of months. Of course he is.

Faced with such news, Carrie unsurprisingly (as the kids like to say nowadays--or as they liked to say in my day, anyway) completely loses her shit, upbraiding Big in the middle of the restaurant in a "not-lovely-friendship-brunch-time" voice for refusing to commit to her for two bloody years, and then proposing to some 12-year-old he's just met. She then storms out of the restaurant. [Blogger, sitting at home on her couch, mimes opening a bottle of champagne, and subsequently toasting the vacant air with her imaginary glass.]

Big subsequently calls Carrie to apologize for dropping this Engagement Bomb on her so abruptly. Carrie accepts said apology. Big subsequently invites her to attend his and Natasha's engagement brunch. (What is it with these people and brunch???) Your move, Bradshaw! She declines to go to the actual event (good girl), but walks by the venue (The Plaza, of course--beloved venue for shotgun engagement events for the rich and famous throughout the ages!), and bumps into Big. Of course she does.

Swallowing hard, she asks him why it ended up being Natasha, and not her, who got the engagement brunch (as opposed to the "I am going to tell you that I am engaged to someone else" brunch, which--not as much fun, even if the food looks just as tasty.) Big says it was just too hard being with Carrie, and that being Natasha is just sooooo pleasant and easy. Of course he does.

Carrie then has an epiphany--the problem with Big wasn't that she somehow "wasn't enough" for him, it was rather that she was too much for him--too independent, too complicated, too challenging--for a bloke looking for a lady cut from a much more soothingly traditional, "I will happily defer to your wishes at all times" cloth.

Musing that one day she'll find a man who will delight in her complexity rather than be terrified by it, Carrie turns her back on Big and WALKS AWAY FROM HIM. Halle-bloody-lujah. (Don't you dare even think about the Big plot lines which await us in Season Three, people, this is my happy time, will you not allow me one brief moment of joy???)

The Analysis:

Person of Color Watch
: The hostess who seats Carrie and Big at their fancy-pants "we are just friends, please observe how friendly we are, oh my goodness, I hate you, who tells their ex-girlfriend they are engaged to someone else out of the blue, in public, anyway???" brunch, is African-American. So she quasi-counts for our tally--physically present, but with no meaningful lines/role in the episode... and of course, represented not as a peer and fellow diner at the restaurant, but rather as a member of the staff. Lovely.

Friendship Between Women and Men: Impossible? Watch:
In the ladies' discussion about whether or not Carrie and Big can be friends (which... why is this even a discussion??? An inanimate carbon rod could tell you that they can't, for Pete's sake)/straight women and straight men can be friends in general, Samantha declares that "women are for friendships, men are for fucking." (Awwww, can I get a pillow with that embroidered on it for my next birthday? So touching!)

And in many ways, this episode seems to bear out the accuracy of this statement--Carrie and Big: cannot be just friends. (SEE, I TOLD YOU SO.) Miranda and Steve: cannot be just friends. Butttttt - I don't think that we are actually lost too deep in the thicket of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" style malarkey where we have so often lost ourselves in before. Carrie and Big can't be friends, not because straight women and straight men (even straight women and straight men who once dated) are constitutionally incapable of so being, but because Big is pretty much incapable of being anyone's friend. You can be his exasperated ex-girlfriend or his dewy child bride (I pick option one, I pick option one!), but his friend... no.

And Miranda and Steve can't be just friends, because their feelings for one another are actually quite a bit messier and more complicated than simple friendship allows for. Fair enough! Such things happen, to be sure, both in the world of fiction and the world beyond it. I'll allow it.

And so if I am the judge in the case of "Do the Writers Need to Be Slapped Smartly Upside the Head for Irritatingly Suggesting That Heterosexual Women and Heterosexual Men Are Either Dating/Sleeping Together/Married, Or Rightly Have Nothing Whatsoever to Do With One Another?",
I rule in favor of the writers. (I know, for once, in my life.) But only for the purposes of this episode, mind you, after this... all bets are off!

Ambiguity and Untidiness, Let Me Enfold You in My Arms and Press You Close to My Heart, For I Love You So, Watch: So... I actually really like this episode, and I am not offended by it in any meaningful way. (I know, what is going on with me?) One of the things which I really like about said episode is that it (much as the Season One season finale did) defies the conventions of romantic comedy, and ends with our heroines not neatly paired off, nor with their lives neatly resolved, but rather with them all complex-ly in flux. And goodness knows I love me some flux.

Now, I heart Jane Austen's novels as much as the next raging Anglophile with a nineteenth-century bonnet fetish, but doesn't it get a bit monotonous that they allll end in weddings for allll of their significant female characters? And I don't mean to single out Aunt Jane alone here--the majority of narratives about heterosexual women's romantic lives (past, present, and likely future) tend to end with our heroine happily settled down with The Right Man, and embarking on a pleasant life of Happily-Ever-After... after which we never see nor hear from her again.

Perhaps this explains why I am so pleased that for many a season, SATC resisted this push to tie things up in a neat, conventional bow for its audience, instead showing our heroines having learned, grown, changed, about to embark on a new, intriguing phase in their lives... but not necessarily paired off. Indeed, oftentimes (in the case of Carrie, especially) actually having newly made their peace with the fact that they are not paired off.

Now, I am aware that a large part of this desire to leave loose threads a'hanging at the end of each season is less "let us subvert dominant narratives about women's romantic lives!" and more "we need to hook viewers to come back for the next season! I want to buy that second boat, dammit!!!" But still... I find it quite pleasing.

SATC in some ways certainly follows the fairy tale model of story-telling, to be sure (especially as the series progresses), but it also subverts it in some intriguing ways... among these, making these heroines' story arcs less Jane Austen than they are Real Life. Miranda doesn't know where things with Steve will go... maybe they'll become a couple again, maybe they won't--she's just going to have to take that one one messy step at a time. Carrie doesn't know where her life is headed next... except that it is away from the toxic mess that is Men Who Treat Her Badly. And I'm much happier with this ambiguous "let's just see where life takes us, trusting in ourselves, our friends, and the hope of a love which does not crush our spirits and blight our lives" ending than I am with the typical "let me run through an airport to propose to you in the last five minutes of the film, to be shortly followed by a wedding montage during the credits" type narrative one sees, alas, all too often in Romantic-Comedy-Ville.

Pat Field, Sometimes You Make Me So Happy With The Clothes You Pick Out Watch: And in that whole "SATC disrupting conventional romantic narratives/expectations/imagery" vein, I feel compelled to note that Carrie wears a white dress to her "I'm not coming in, I just wanted to take a moment to feel relieved that it's not me who's about to marry you" drop-by of Big's engagement party. WHITE DRESS, people. What better way to say "Although playing with the traditional iconography of brides, weddings, and marital bliss, I stand here as an unmarried lass, pleased that I am not marrying a man incapable of loving me, or anyone," after all? The sartorial symbolism there might be about as subtle as a sledgehammer, but still... love. It.

Notable Quotables: Miranda, musing on the different ways in which ladies handle their ex-boyfriends: "I would love to be one of those people who's all 'We loved, you enriched my life, now go, prosper!', but I'm much more 'We didn't work out, you need to not exist.' "

Carrie, walking away from her run-in with Big at his engagement brunch, reflecting on why things went wrong betwixt the two of them: "Maybe some women aren't meant to be tamed. Maybe they need to run free, until they find someone, just as wild, to run with." Sweet cracker sandwich, that may be as cheesy as Velveeta, but I adore it, nonetheless.

Next Up...?:
We take stock of Season Two before diving head first into Season Three. How many queer characters of note were there in Season Two, you ask? What were the charming high points and dreary low points of Season Two, you inquire? What ought we to make of Season Two in the final analysis, you demand? Return to me on Friday, and these (and all other questions not actually asked by you, but rather by me, pretending to be you) shall be surely be answered!

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