Can you fault the makers of Sex and the City for wanting to send their girls off into the sunset in a blaze of settled-down contentment? Everyone wants the best for their children, especially if those offspring are this quartet of fashionable women who were the object of such a stunning level of obsessive fandom. In the second half of the sixth and final season of the series the writers provided each of the girls with a very satisfying exit strategy in which they move on into the future, remaining friends to brunch and cocktail with, but now having a man at their side, and possibly a child to boot. It may not be the most unconventional way of resolving things, but it gets the job done and leaves the show’s producers without a mob of disappointed fans baying for blood.
When we last left Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her faithful trio of Manhattanites in the first half of the last season, she was falling head over Manolos for the famous Russian artist Alexsandr Petrovsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov). Carrie’s friends aren’t too happy about the arrangement, especially the always perceptive and refreshingly realistic Miranda (Cynthia Nixon, like a scotch neat in this cosmopolitan and appletini world), as they can see it wresting Carrie away from them. You see, these women may be high-paid professionals with stunning wardrobes and the ability to seemingly blow hundreds of dollars a night on drinks alone, but they’re determinedly not snobs. Which causes no small amount of friction when the icy and remote “Russian” shows precious little interest in their world of Conde Nast publications and instead insists on taking Carrie to the opera and reading her Joseph Brodsky poetry in his to-die-for loft. Then comes the offer to move with him to Paris. Cue anguished cries of “Paris?!” and the fortuitous arrival of Mr. Big (Chris Noth), whom the girls formerly despised for stringing Carrie along and then never committing, but given that he’s back from California and looks ready to chuck it all for love, they send him off to Paris with orders: “Bring back our girl.”
While all these machinations are going on, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte have been going through some changes of their own, and seem ready to finally maybe settle into that adult lifestyle. Perhaps not surprisingly, these mini-storylines are much more satisfying than the primary one, as they actually show some change in the characters, unlike Carrie, who in dashing off with Petrovsky is simply doing what she has done throughout the show, namely, acting like a complete tool when a new guy comes along. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) spends the last eight episodes battling breast cancer, as well as the rumors that her hot young model boyfriend is gay, while Miranda is forced to finally break down and admit that with a baby and a live-in boyfriend, she might actually not be an army of one anymore. Best of the lot is Charlotte (Kristin Davis), who in the early episodes was the least human of the four, and was often made the butt of the writers’ desire to vanquish her old-fashioned decorum and priggish preppiness behind an onslaught of humiliation. Although her storyline doesn’t differ all that much from what came before (that is, she’s still trying to have a baby), it’s at times the most engaging because the show has finally allowed Davis to cast off that tightly-clenched, Burberry-wrapped shell and reveal a generous measure of depth, humor and maturity.
Sex and the City was always at its heart a valentine to New York City, something that becomes especially apparent toward the end of its run, with the restaurant/club/bar of the week settings giving way to a collection of postcard images, fall shading gloriously into winter. The self-consciously naughty dialogue is still here, of course, though the boyfriend-of-the-week issues have been traded in, since all the characters have a steady at this point (thusly, no Samantha anecdotes about some guy’s funky-tasting spunk and no more dissections of the etiquette of anal penetration, and so on). This means the final episodes lack the punch of the show’s earlier days, when Sex and the City seemed truly revolutionary, venturing into unknown territories of open sexual dialogue. Such claims, of course, turned out to be mostly hype—Has any show managed, or even really attempted, to replicate Sex and the City‘s style or daring? And was it even that daring to begin with?—but that doesn’t mean that one had to pair off all the characters. There is something to be said for the fact that this was a show that always made a number of men uncomfortable, what with the male characters showing up for no more than a quick date and screw that revealed some grotesquely humorous and irritating quirk that got dissected at the girls’ next brunch. But though Sex and the City‘s women were picky—and more power to them for it—it was only Samantha who truly never needed to have one around for more than the quick screw referenced above. A truly revolutionary show might have left one of the girls without a man, happily independent and still sailing contentedly into middle age.
Just as in the broadcast version, there's a shocking amount of grain to the image in this transfer. As a plus, the overly saturated colors are ably represented, bringing the colors of the city truly to life. With the importance of the dialogue here, the sound is fortunately deeply resonant, bringing forth every nuance of every line (at the expense of making that by-now-annoying title music ear-damagingly loud).
While there's a few more extras here than on the average set from HBO, it's all likely a bit much for the casual viewer and far too little for the true obsessive. The best thing about the commentaries (on four of the eight episodes) and the two saccharine-laden farewell tributes is the show's executive producer, Michael Patrick King. He handles all the commentary and is the primary voice on the farewells, so if the guy was a preening ass, it would quickly become a slog through self-promotion hell. But thankfully King avoids the tendency in DVD commentaries for self-aggrandizement and cuts his expected enthusiasm for the project (the subtext behind just about every line of dialogue, the significance of particular outfits, and so on) with a welcome desire to just slightly take the piss out of it all. King's winking descriptions serve as nudging reminders that, fannish protestations to the contrary, this was simply a TV show and not a manifesto for the new millennium's liberated urban female.
Pretty and neatly wrapped, if Tiffany did television, this is how it'd be done.