Sex and the City S1E3/4: Bay of Married Pigs/Valley of the Twenty-Something Guys

by thethreepennyguignol

Look, there’s one thing that I need to get out of the way right upfront here, and that’s this: the wrap-up to this week’s first episode, Bay of Married Pigs, involves Carrie comparing the divide between married and unmarried people to the ongoing Troubles in Northern Ireland. You know, The Troubles: the Northern Irish Conflict, the thirty-year conflict that left more than three thousand people dead and more than a hundred thousand injured, a conflict that would not even begin to be considered over till the Good Friday Agreement, which happened the year that this episode came out. What kind of deranged, America-centric, insultingly minimizing bullshit is this? I can honestly say that I rewound the episode, certain that I had misheard this particular I-couldn’t-help-but-wonder, but no, there it is: Carrie’s dating troubles are comparable to the actual Troubles, apparently. There’s hyperbole for effect, and then there’s straight-up jaw-dropping ignoramity. I couldn’t help but wonder: what the fuck?

Which is a real shame, honestly, since this double-hander is actually pretty good other than that abject bullshit. Sex and the City is not a sitcom that relies on an A-plot and then a sprinkling of amusing one-liners elsewhere; no, we’re talking full-blown all-plots for everyone involved, and that makes the show go down real easy. I think it helps that the two premises for these episodes – the first being, is there a divide between single and married people, the second, are twenty-something guys or forty-somethings better dating partners for women in their thirties – are pretty straightforward, and allow for some fun exploration in the sidelines.

Sex and the City, at it’s best, has a few specific recurring factors. A decent guest star (in this case, Timothy Olyphant, who I am legally obliged to tell you could Get It), a significant smattering of Samantha, and the presence of Patrick Bigman himself. Now, bear with me here, because there is a qualifier to this – Mr Big is a neccessary part of the show, especially at this point in the story, because he’s our endgame, something to tie the disparate stories together, but he’s also a very, very fucking annoying one. Chris Noth is not an actor I particularly dislike, but Big is such an example of the Kind of Man That Men Think Women Like, and he drives me fucking mad as a result of that. He’s mysterious, you can’t just get him to talk to you like a real person, he doesn’t value your time so that you can value his, and he is rich with a good job so we all put up with his bullshit because we just need that American Psycho dick so badly. Even though every woman I know would have fired him out of a canon as soon as they got the chance.

So the question becomes – how does he actually fit into an episode in a way that works? The second episode here is the answer to that, because it’s one where Carrie is pretty distracted by other things. Which is how she best seems to work with Big, story-wise – I hate their interactions in their initial meetings, which seems entirely driven by Big and what he wants from their relationship. Getting one over on Carrie by inviting her distaste about men who date models, before revealing he’s on a date with one; telling her that she’s never been in love, turning up late for a date with little in the way of apology or explanation. For a show that’s meant to be about women, Big is the one calling the shots for a lot of this, and that leaves Carrie, who’s meant to be our way in to this, looking kind of floundering as a result.

But here, with T-Ozzle as a distraction, Carrie doesn’t seem as buffered around by Big as she has in the rest of the series, and I like her a whole hell of a lot more. I think a lot of my dislike for Carrie as a character comes from how irritating I find her relationship with Big for the majority of SATC’s runtime; the show tells me that she’s an independent and modern woman, and then sends her running around after a man who clearly spends at least some of his time shoving rats up vaginas. Away from Big, she actually seems to fulfill that side of her personality, and it’s nice to see her flourishing a little.

And more than that, it’s nice to see the main four spending more time together in these two episodes. There’s a scene where all four of them end up in the back of a cab, debating the pros and cons of Charlotte having anal sex, and it’s nothing close to reality, but God, it’s entertaining. Though the cast might have had their issues off-screen, there’s a warm chemistry between the four of them in these early days that feels scrappy and real in a way that almost nothing else in the show does. A big part of this, no doubt, is because the casting is really spot-on for these characters, and at least two of the leads (Cynthia Nixon and Kim Catrall) have proved themselves to have real acting chops, and they bring that to SATC in a way that enhances even the silliest little scenes.

I’m really enjoying getting back into the show these last few episodes; I have to admit, SATC goes down easy, especially in these early episodes when there isn’t an absurd amount of Dating Lore to deal with. Big is still a Big-Ass Problem, but he’s a neccessary evil right now and I’m willing to work with that; in the meantime, as we roll around the city with some good guest-stars and some fun sub-plots, I’m happy to stick along for the ride.

(header image via Pinterest)