Friday, February 11

Season Four, Episode Eight: My Motherboard, My Self

The Summary:

Ah, painful computer-themed puns! Let us wallow in them!

So, the big, sad news of the episode is that Miranda's mother has died. Alas. This might pack more of an emotional punch if we had heard anything about Miranda's mother, or Miranda's relationship with her, in the show prior to this... which we have not. The writers (I know, from listening to the DVD commentaries... see, listening to them was time well wasted!) deliberately cut the ladies' families out of the show, choosing to focus instead exclusively on the family which they have created for themselves, with one another. (Fair enough, but it takes some of the emotional potency out of scenarios like Miranda losing her mom, writers, just so you know!)

Anyway--even though we get the sense that Miranda wasn't terribly close to her mother, we still have mourning--grief--sorrow. Those three things pretty much cover Miranda's plotline in this episode--grieving for her mother, and coming to terms with her death. (Cynthia Nixon often had the most scope to show off her comic chops in SATC--but lo and behold, she's also quite the powerful dramatic actress--she shows us Miranda navigating the shock and trauma of loss with complexity and nuance. Well done, Cynthia N.! Pleasure to see you flexing your dramatic acting muscles, rather than digging through the garbage, for a change!)

In addition to having to deal with her grief, Miranda also has to put up with her married siblings insisting that she walk with them down the aisle at the funeral... because heaven forefend that she should walk down the aisle solo, as an obviously single woman. THE HORROR. On the day of the funeral itself, however, Carrie does not leave Miranda to the mercy of her rather unpleasant-seeming siblings, but rather jumps up and walks with the sobbing Miranda down the aisle herself. Yay, friendship and support. And boo, crying and sad things.

What else is happening in this episode, you ask, in addition to Quality Time at Funerals? Well, Carrie is happily settling into her life of couplehood with Aidan (again), experiencing a veritable landslide of contentment. (Which you, sage reader, will know means that she is necessarily and inevitably headed for a fall here--a reality of which Ms. Bradshaw seems blissfully ignorant. Oh, blissful ignorance! What a help and a comfort thou always art!) She begins the episode by musing about why women sometimes seem to find couplehood difficult and resist it, when it is clearly so effortlessly easy and unfailingly delightful. Seriously, Bradshaw, that's like being in a horror movie and saying "Mercy, but it is nice being all vulnerable and naked and alone in my shower! La la la, so glad that I am totally safe!" Leaning. Into. The. Punch.

And the punch, of course, is not slow to arrive. Carrie's computer crashes, and she, correspondingly, has a meltdown of her own. Aidan tries to help her--going with her to the computer repair place, buying her a new computer when her old one seems beyond repair... but these very efforts to help set Carrie's teeth on edge. She feels invaded, taken over, and scared of both being offered, and of becoming dependent on, Aidan's support. (You're regretting writing all that stuff about how moving from singlehood to couplehood is seamless and totally un-fussy and mussy now, aren't you, Carrie B.? I rather thought so.)

In the end, they work/talk it out. Carrie tells Aidan that she's "been taking care of herself for a long time," and is scared about becoming too reliant on his help because... what if things go awry? What if they break up? How will she handle getting used to having his support, if there is a possibility that said support will ever be withdrawn? He kind of shrugs and says they'll just have to take it one step at a time--true, things might fall apart, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't take the risk of coming to depend on and support one another. Carrie agrees. This... only seems reasonable! Loves the new computer, by the way, Mistress B.--so pretty!

Charlotte, in the meantime... doesn't have much going on in this episode. She primarily spends her time chiding Sam for failing to reach out to Miranda (about which, more anon), and making arrangements for the funeral. She talks to the florist in Philly (where the funeral is to be held) at length about the flower arrangement which the ladies are sending to the church. Said arrangement turns out to be quite the disaster, alas (Carrie: "Well, I guess now we know what $500 worth of glitter looks like." Indeed.)

Other than that, we learn that having left the paid workforce and becoming a full-time homemaker has left Charlotte with more time to make gourmet sandwiches. Great, glad to know that the show's take on what full-time homemakerhood entails is off to a roaring start!

In the wake of hearing about Miranda's mother's death, Sam, in the meantime, finds herself unable to reach out to Miranda with expressions of sympathy. She avoids calling her, is dying (if you will forgive me the choice of words) to get out of going to the funeral, etc. This severe emotional repression and avoidance, unsurprisingly, is impacting the rest of her life, as well--she finds herself unable to have an orgasm, try though she might. (And rest assured--try she most certainly does.)

In the end (perhaps not entirely shockingly) it turns out that what Samantha really needs is not to track her down her elusive orgasm, but rather to grapple with Miranda's loss, and to help Miranda get through her grief. To that end, she goes with the other ladies to the funeral, and there finally cries, and tells Miranda how sorry she is. Hmmm. I guess that's as happy of an ending which we can expect from an episode about Sad Things!

The Analysis:

"Well, I'm Not Going To Find My Orgasm in This Town": Unnecessarily Slamming Philly Watch
: So when the ladies travel to Philly for the funeral, they find themselves distinctly unimpressed. Philly seems provincial and uninteresting to them, and Philly men distinctly unattractive and hick-like. (Hint: mullets are involved.) Now, I know that the show was written by New Yorkers, and that there is something of a New York vs. Philly thing--but that's no excuse for thus lazily (and inaccurately) slamming Philadelphia here. I grew up in north Jersey, so NYC will always be "the city" for me... but that doesn't mean that Philly is not an amazing, dynamic, cosmopolitan metropolis, worthy of both our affection and respect. Go to the Reading Terminal Market and try their vegan cheesesteaks, and then tell me that going to Philly is a waste of time! I defy you!

People of Color Watch: The snarky gent to whom Carrie initially takes her computer to for repair is of Indian descent... he is also Aasif Bloody Mandvi, which makes me happy. He only has a bit part in this episode, and a mere handful of lines, but he manages to make even these few lines quite entertaining and delightful. Heart you, Mr. M! Wish we'd bumped into each other at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Inspire Fear!

Yay, Nice Exes/Nice Gents Watch: Steve ends up going to Miranda's mom's funeral, even though she hadn't asked him to. As I type the words, I realize that this could potentially be seen as creepy and intrusive, but since they've stayed friends since their break-up, it instead seems quite sweet and supportive to me. Given the veritable parade of horrible men with whom Miranda has been entangled over the course of the series to date, it's nice to see someone as, well, nice as Steve being part of her life, and being a true and caring friend to her. Yay, Steve! Yay, niceness!

"You May Not Like It, But This Is How I Deal with Things": Couplehood As Not Entirely Uncomplicated, WHO KNEW, Watch: I also quite like the ongoing negotiations between Carrie and Aidan in this episode, about what their relationship is going to look like, and how they're going to figure out how to live their lives as a couple. I appreciate that the episode begins with Carrie in full-on Conventional Romantic Comedy Mode--she's back with the man she loves, and everything is therefore perrrrrfect. She doesn't know why she ever thought that relationships could sometimes be tricky, because clearly, once you're with the right guy, at the right time--they're not! Good to know!

Bless the writers' hearts, no sooner do they place Carrie in these Fluffy Dream Clouds of Romantic Perfection than they yank her out of them. [Off of them? Whatever, you know what I mean.] Do she and Aidan love each other? Yup. Are they really happy together? Yup. Does that mean that there are no snags or complexities in their relationship? Nope!

Carrie is used to, as she says, taking care of herself and handling things in her own way, and it feels really odd and uncomfortable for her to suddenly have someone at her elbow, offering suggestions about how she can best deal with a situation, and trying to help her out of all of her various crises by getting actively involved in them. Carrie is both freaked out by the prospect of coming to rely on Aidan for support and protective of her independence, and I appreciate the writers showing her grappling with all of this, rather than just happily accepting Aidan's gift of a pretty new computer with a smile and effortlessly moving on.

By the end of the episode, Carrie is learning to accept the innate scariness of coming to depend on a fellow complex and fallible human being (with no guarantees of permanence, in this ever-changing and changeable world in which we appear to live), and Aidan learning to back off a little, and not feel the need to sweep in and "rescue" Carrie with shiny new computers at the first hint of trouble. Excellent, yay for lessons learned, and for progress made!

"When I RSVP to A Party, I Make It A Point to Come": Delusional Fantasies About Female Sexuality or Realistic Representations Of Same--A Discussion:

Delusional Fantasies: This episode has a lot to recommend it, I must say.

Realistic Representations: Agreed!

Delusional [temporarily non-plussed]: Wait, wait... you agree? You agree with me?

Realistic [cheerfully]: Yup.

Delusional: But... we're natural antagonists! We're not supposed to agree! About anything!

Realistic [still cheerfully, despite Delusional's refusal to be similarly cheerful and obliging]: Well, I'm sorry if you find that upsetting, but I do agree with you... this episode is pretty darned good!

Delusional [talking to Realistic like it is a five-year-old]: Ummm... but you do remember the part where Samantha tells the ladies (as she's discussing her consternation about her AWOL Orgasms) that she can always come through penetrative, partnered sex?

Realistic [looking like a rather sinister smiley face poster]: Yup!

Delusional: [silently looks at Realistic like Realistic has officially lost the few remaining marbles which it had had left.]

Realistic [responding to this silent, implied criticism/implication of loopiness]: Well, see, that statement (which is totally ridiculous, but I don't want to get into that, "natural antagonists" or no) is followed up by both Charlotte and Carrie noting that this is totally not the case for them... that they actually don't have orgasms every single time they have sex with a gent, without fail, and that that... is normal!

Delusional: Huh. They do, don't they?

Realistic [almost maniacal in its persistent cheerfulness by this point]: Yup! I mean, Samantha is not meant to represent "real" women in the show, so much--she's always the sexually wacky one, so I don't think her assertion that she is the Consistent Orgasm Queen does much damage here. Carrie and Charlotte contradicting her, and offering examples of their own, rather more representative experiences of not always being able to come from the whole "penis in vagina, rinse and repeat" thing... I think actually works here! Yayyyyyy, me!

Delusional [edging away from Realistic, while trying to seem like it is not doing so, because Realistic's fixed smile is now starting to seem more than a little creepy]: I guess that's a legitimate point.... yeah, you've totally convinced me! Yay, you! Ummmm, Team Realistic!

Realistic [still smiling, but now using a rather unpleasant tone]: And don't you forget it, sparky.

Notable Quotables:

Sam to Carrie, on her disappearing orgasm crisis: "I lost my orgasm."
Carrie: "In the cab?!?"

Charlotte, on the incredibly garish, hideous flower arrangement which the florist ends up sending on the ladies' behalf to the funeral: "Those flowers were supposed to say 'We're so sorry, we love you,' not 'You're dead, let's disco.' "

Next Up...?:
"Sex and the Country," which features, well... you might just be able to guess from the title, now, mightn't you? I think that you might!

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