And Just Like That, It Was Time To Let Go

The problem with grief is that, while you're still adjusting to your new reality, you forget it exists. This week, Carrie came home expecting to see Big, forgetting just for a moment that he was dead. As strange as this may sound, it's actually incredibly common. For months after my Abuelita died, I'd periodically find my mom crying because she forgot for a moment and tried to call her. After my ex-boyfriend died by suicide, I spent months waking up happy, forgetting for a few seconds before reality came flooding in like a tidal wave. Even now, almost four years after my aunt Claudia's passing, I get winded whenever I feel the urge to tell her about new things in my life.

Over time, that pain of forgetting gets softer. But in the beginning, it can hit like a brick wall. It's devastating. A kind of crippling muscle memory in reverse — you're used to having that person there, and you need to unlearn the expectation that they still are.

This really informs the episode for Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda — learning how to let go of a part of ourselves.

Charlotte has to let go of her absurd and toxic notion of perfectionism; Miranda has to accept that she may have some regrets about her life, and Carrie has to make her way through her grief without trying to rush it or run away from it.

I couldn't help but wonder, in matters of grief, doubt, and facing our fears, can we eventually meet our real selves?

Some of My Best Friends

This week, we finally got to see a bit more of the famous Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker), or LTW as she's more famously known, and the truly fierce Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), while being introduced to Seema Patel (Sarita Choudhury), Carrie's new realtor. There have been concerns that these women wouldn't be afforded character arcs of their own, concerns that are valid and have yet to be properly addressed. It is still early days for the revival, but is that an excuse?

Including Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez), thus far they've all mostly served as foils for the central trio, which only stokes concerns of tokenism. This week, however, at least two of them were given some room to shine, especially Nya Wallace.

To refer to Karen Pittman's performance as outstanding feels like an undersell. Her characterization is effortless, but so much work goes into delivering these otherwise simple lines.

She reminded me of Cynthia Nixon in some of her more vulnerable moments as Miranda Hobbes. Like when she broke down in front of a salesperson while buying a bra for her mother's funeral in "My Motherboard, My Self." Or when she admitted to Carrie that she hid from her ex, Eric, in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" after a big declarative (and judgmental) speech.

Pittman's Dr. Nya Wallace has been positioned opposite Miranda because they both seem to have desires and ambitions that defy the status quo while feeling trapped by it at the same time. Miranda always relished having her own space, from when she bought her apartment ("Yup, it's just me.") to when she felt smothered by Steve, and even now, as she perhaps a little reluctantly admits to Nya that sometimes she'd love to come home to an empty house. Nya, meanwhile, loves her life with her husband but is clearly torn about whether or not she actually wants to have kids, a sentiment Miranda is no stranger to.

Pittman's performance gives so much weight to Dr. Wallace in a way we haven't yet seen from any of the other secondary characters. Sure, we've had Che's charm (and my god, the charm!) and LTW's impressive existence, but Nya is different. With minimal screentime thus far, Pittman has managed to create a full and compelling human being who I'm dying to spend more time with.

Nicole Ari Parker's LTW, meanwhile, is a perfect match for Charlotte. She's everything Charlotte aspires to — ambitious, independent, fascinating, cultured — without any of her neurotic hangups that make her truly problematic — perfectionism, obsession with appearances, status, etc. Hopefully, Charlotte's able to learn something from LTW besides how to host an effortless soirée. And fingers crossed that lesson doesn't come at LTW's expense.

Life is Imperfect

While Pittman's performance is outstanding and we are starting to see a bit more of the new secondary characters, the fear that they exist to be tokenized is very real. They're falling into that position while also being held responsible for Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte's respective awakenings, so to speak. Nya and Che are simultaneously helping Miranda realize that she may have more regrets than she lets on, she may want a divorce, and she may be profoundly unhappy in her hetero-presenting life. So far, in her first episode, Seema was made responsible for Carrie's self-awareness, calling her on her s*** and telling her flat out that she was hurtful, despite her intentions.

Worst of all may be Charlotte's relationship with LTW.

Clearly, Charlotte means well. But like Miranda on her first day of school, she's doing everything wrong, specifically when she tries too hard. I don't think she knows how else to exist, though. She's always been high-strung and determined, wanting everything to be just so and for things to go her way. And while she's been able to manage that for most of her life, that's more a mark of her privilege than it is the natural order of things. I've been worried that LTW was going to be little more than Charlotte's token Black friend, and while this week's episode did put me a bit more at ease, it wasn't quite enough to really convince me otherwise.

That said, when Charlotte started talking about LTW's art collection, defending her to her own mother-in-law, I was impressed. I saw a bit of that more relaxed Charlotte (yeah, relaxed) from the earlier seasons of the show when she was still working.

She was always at her best when she was working with art. It's something she's good at, something she gets, and something that gives her purpose. It was nice seeing her flex those muscles again and actually relax into the moment. Following that up with their coffee date was a lovely — albeit tiny — dip into the vulnerable pool for the otherwise uptight character. But I'm glad she was honest and took responsibility for overcompensating, even though she was awkward as hell.

Charlotte has no idea how to function in normal situations when she's out of her depth. She's worked so hard to curate her life to be just so that the idea of showing one hair out of place or even being perceived as having dropped the ball sends her into a frenzy. It honestly shouldn't be surprising to any of us, especially when you consider the hell Bunny MacDougal (Frances Sternhagen) put her through. She was never good enough, neither was her inability to conceive, nor her desire to adopt, nor the immense lengths she went to in order to make that woman happy without losing herself. And then she lost everything.

At the end of the day, we're all at our best when we're not pretending. When we admit to what scares us instead of just trying to keep up appearances. I love that we're getting some of that from Charlotte, and I seriously hope that LTW is afforded the same luxury. There's clearly more to her than we've been shown so far, and I want to see it all ASAP. I want her to have the space to talk about the pressure her mother-in-law puts on her, for example. If anyone can empathize with that, it's Charlotte!

The Truth is Hard to Swallow

Despite their best efforts, Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda are at least starting to face their issues now. Miranda's drinking problem is making its way into the foreground, along with her potential life and relationship regrets. Charlotte has to let go of her genuinely f***ed up notions of perfection and recognize that imperfections can make life beautiful.

At the same time, those changes in expectations and plans can be terrifying.

Nya admitted something really heavy to Miranda during their dinner — that she felt a sense of relief when her first attempt at in vitro fertilization didn't take. She's having a hard time reconciling feeling obligated to have children with the actual desire (or lack thereof) to have them at all. There's brutally unfair pressure put on women to procreate as if our lives are incomplete without babies.

When Miranda got pregnant with Brady, she seriously debated having an abortion. She didn't know if she ever wanted to be a mother, and it wasn't a decision she was ready to make at that moment. She'd always been careful, and despite having a lazy ovary, Steve having one testicle, and them sleeping together one time, she somehow managed to get pregnant. So she kept the baby, and eventually, got back together with Steve who she genuinely loves. But now, while Miranda's clearly missing something in her life and she's a little scared to explore what that might be, the notion of regret is rearing its ugly head.

With that comes an unavoidable amount of guilt both women are familiar with. In my experience, when you have a visceral and instinctual reaction to something like a breakthrough in therapy or, say, a miscarriage, you should really listen to your gut. But that truth can be brutally hard to swallow, and both Miranda and Nya are currently standing at the edge of a defining precipice from which there's no coming back. They're both having to question some very intimate parts of themselves, and whatever they find out will unavoidably change the rest of their lives while potentially altering their relationships in the process.

We haven't seen her side of things yet, but Miranda is clearly not ok. When Carrie comes home to her now beige apartment, she says "There's no sign of me." "Sometimes," Miranda responds, "I look around this house and there's no sign of me, either," glass of wine in hand, vaguely swollen eyes like she's been crying. She's realizing something about herself that she's not quite ready to handle.

You Can't Hide

Meanwhile, Carrie admits to being attracted to Seema likely because she's able to be herself and ignore what's happened — ie: Big dying. Like periodically forgetting that someone's gone, you may deliberately or subconsciously evade grief by just trying to feel normal, something that's hard to do around people who know you, like Miranda and Charlotte.

This isn't to say that Carrie's using Seema, but rather that there's something really lovely about getting to just exist without constantly being looked at with apprehension and pity. It's exhausting to feel like a charity case. Especially when you just want to live your life.

At dinner, Charlotte undersells herself as "a full-time mom" who's also "active on the events committee at our daughters' school," which is how she met Lisa. "Charlotte is just being modest," LTW interjects. "She's not just a stellar mom and killing it at school, she's on the board at the MET." That was her cue to stop trying to be this prim proper person and just do what she's good at and be herself, something she seems so reluctant to do.

Throughout the episode, as Carrie reclaims her old apartment, we see landmarks from her old life. When she puts Big's ashes in her closet (for the time being), you can see her pink ruffle shoes that Miranda destroyed when her water broke. Those very specific shoes represent a missed opportunity with Big — a date night gone awry as he made the impetuous decision to move to California — and the day Miranda's life changed forever as she became a mom, a role she wasn't sure she even wanted. It's fitting that, even in each other's lives, you truly can't hide from your past.

That's made abundantly clear when Carrie sees the broken picture frame that stood on Big's nightstand. "The glass is not replaceable," she says, her voice straining, suddenly breaking a little while she lashes out at Seema for an accident.

The problem with trying to feel normal while you're not actually ok is that, eventually, the pain bubbles to the surface, whether you like it or not. You can't rush healing, and you can't hide from your pain.

While Charlotte and Miranda will always be honest with Carrie, they also may not call her on certain things because of their proximity. Seema, on the other hand, has the benefit of distance and sees Carrie's life and her privilege in a totally different light. She's able to offer perspective, and simultaneously holds Carrie accountable for her s****y behavior.

At the end of the day, I think that's a huge part of what this episode comes down to. It's an exploration of stepping outside of your bubble and expanding your world, even if only a little at a time. The more you open yourself up to imperfection, to grief, to doubt, the more you allow yourself to truly grow as a person. That seems to be what they're all trying to do — shed the skin of their past selves for the sake of a better relationship with their future.