In a brief phone conversation, she tells Carrie that owing to a flight delay, she will not, in fact, make a surprise appearance at a dinner celebrating Carrie’s last night in her old apartment. Samantha then asks to be put on speaker phone to pay her respects to the place. The call ends with Samantha still 3,500 miles away. Maybe that was the only London-to-New York flight, ever? In sum: Hello, I will not be arriving. Please let me talk to a room. Goodbye.
Even knowing that Cattrall’s cameo would be quick, it felt bizarrely superfluous. Carrie probably delivered more lines to her kitten over the course of an episode that also included a senseless rupture with her briefly on-again boyfriend Aidan — played by John Corbett, the season’s other big returning star — and a sex scene sans lingerie. (Maybe people really can change!) At least she and the kitten were in the same frame.
The open secret of “Sex and the City” was that it was never really about the sex. And with the exception of sleekly interchangeable brunch spots and nightclubs, it was not about the city either. Throughout the seasons, men and bistros came and went, most often within a single 22-minute episode. What endured were the friendships among the women, with Carrie at the chatty center. Though the characters were a study in high-heeled contrasts, they sustained one another through loss, grief and weird hookups. The final episode of “Sex and the City” saw each of the women coupled up, but the essential romance of the show was always sororal.
Each of the characters had an archetype to inhabit: flighty Carrie, career-minded Miranda, marriage-minded Charlotte, libertine Samantha. Samantha was a caricature of licentiousness, but Cattrall’s enthusiasm for the role — the husky voice, the double-dare-you smile, the symphony of sex noises — made her irreplaceable. Crucially, she liked her life. She often seemed to be the only woman in New York consistently having any fun, which made her irresistible. The finale’s drive-by Cattrall, dressed by Patricia Field in gold and red, didn’t remotely replace that.
In a way, this listless cameo points up the new show’s sobering, unglamorous moral lessons: that middle age, no matter how well appareled, has its forfeitures and costs; that friendships may not retain the same luster after marriage and children; that the past, like the fashions of a few seasons ago, can never be wholly returned to.
So pour one out, preferably a Cosmopolitan, for what was. Just don’t let it hit your Manolos — does anyone still wear those? — on the way down.