"And Just Like That," Steve offers a chance at renewal – but did he have to be so mean about it?

It's time to let go of marriages and relationships (and ill-advised storylines) that don't work

By Melanie McFarland

Senior Critic

Published July 23, 2023 4:01PM (EDT)

David Eigenberg in "And Just Like That" (Max)
David Eigenberg in "And Just Like That" (Max)

The following contains spoilers from the "Bomb Cyclone" episode of "And Just Like That"

Every new episode of "And Just Like That…" reminds us of how much has changed since Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) were in their prime and ruled New York City's scene.

Carrie is reminded of this at the top of "Bomb Cyclone" when she sits for an interview with a social media influencer, to whom everything is "heh-larryus," and realizes the poor vapid child neither knows who she is nor has read her new book.

When she asks what it's about, and Carrie responds that it's about her husband dying, the young woman can only roll her eyes nervously while downing a massive glug from her Starbucks cup. Then she tries to recover by asking, "So, girl, what lipstick shades are you just loving right now?"

Life's a real twister at the best of times, stirring us up and throwing us off. But I hold that some things should be immutable in our favorite TV shows, especially ones that make the case that good lovers are hard to find. If the "Sex and the City" universe is a fantasia of materialist gloss tethered to reality by genuine truths, then the personifications of this idea should maintain a crumb of constancy.

With that, let's talk about Steve Brady (David Eigenberg). Miranda's jilted husband barely shows up in "Bomb Cyclone," which was directed by Nixon and written by Michael Patrick King and Rachel Palmer. But his relatively limited screentime makes an impression.

The title describes a severe weather event that empties the city streets, leading Charlotte, Carrie and Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker) to make Manhattan's streets their slick couture runway. Each struts to momentous events – Carrie to a reading at "Widow-Con"; LTW to an interview after her documentary screens at MOMA; and Charlotte to any place she can find for condoms so that Lily, who announces she's ready to pluck, can be deflowered safely.

And Just Like ThatSarah Jessica Parker in "And Just Like That" (Craig Blankenhorn/Max)

Adverse reactions to Miranda's midlife freak-out may be linked to a sense that we used to feel a little simpatico. Now every scene with her in it feels like a personal attack.

At the end of all that, we watch Steve stomp into his and Miranda's Brooklyn domicile from places unknown. His face is bitterer than the cold as Miranda asks him how his apartment hunt is going. Then it all slides downhill fast. He informs her that, contrary to what he said in front of their manchild Brady (Niall Cunningham) at family therapy, he's not leaving. This angers Miranda since, as she points out, her name is the only one on the mortgage.

Then comes the reveal I've been bracing for since that first glimpse of Steve pounding the speed bag in their bedroom: He screams at Miranda "This is my house. My house! … I made it! This kitchen, I built it. It was a s**thole before I did everything. I did everything here! This floor. The fireplace. The f**king bookshelf. All of it — it's my house. My house."

The proverbial body blows rain down after that. "You never wanted to come here to Brooklyn. You never wanted me," he says, winding up for the K.O. before spitting, "And you? You never even wanted Brady! So why don't you find a new place and get the f**k out of our lives?"

Our previous coverage of "And Just Like That" amply establishes my feelings on Miranda and Steve, but mainly Miranda, who has been on an irritating behavior bender lately. Recently Salon's Chief Content Officer Erin Keane pointed out to me that most of this site's readers probably quizzed out as Mirandas, too. (Guilty as charged!) Adverse reactions to Miranda's midlife freak-out may be linked to a sense that we used to feel a little simpatico. Now every scene with her in it feels like a personal attack.

Maybe she also has some of us wondering, Is this what we're like?  She's definitely provided a case study of how not to be throughout "And Just Like That." Not even Che (Sara Ramirez), whose ego is under the basement floor after losing their pilot, can put up with Miranda's trenchant insistence that they pull themselves out of their situational depression right this instant.

It is not for me to opine who should get the house. Sweat equity is a real thing, but so are mortgage payments. However, I'm not sure Miranda deserves that psychological pounding regardless of what she did. Your resident Steve fan may feel differently, though. Ask when they're done crying hallelujah at this display of their favorite guy nutting up! Where have you been buddy? 

They have a point. Not too long ago, Steve was handy around the house and, according to Miranda's reports of having the best sex of her life, pretty darned skillful with other body parts too. But sometime in the years between the "Sex and the City" movie and this show, the writers forgot Steve's role in this fantasy's ecosystem. Steve is the sensible, sensitive mate who evens us out as opposed to the kicked hound dog who waits by the door for his mistress. He returned to us as a hard-of-hearing grampa putting up with his kid loudly banging his girlfriend in the other room, morosely insisting to Carrie that he was fully devoted to the promise of 'til death do us part.

And Just Like ThatCynthia Nixon in "And Just Like That" (Craig Blankenhorn/Max)Cut to a couple of episodes ago, with its lingering shot of Steve knocking around the old punchball and launching many admiring headlines celebrating his "revenge bod." It's not as if Eigenberg ever slacked off in maintaining his physique; he also plays a main role in "Chicago Fire."

But that reaction tells us how effective "And Just Like That" has been in propping up the illusion that Steve's testosterone cratered over the years. Steve's biceps were so hypnotic that Miranda's observation to Carrie moments later – "It's the silent agreement Steve and I cosigned," she said of her living situation. "He's not allowed to punch me in the face, and I'm not allowed to take up any more space than the couch" – may not have turned enough sensors red.

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Nobody's implying there was ever any danger of Steve physically assaulting Miranda. But as all the discussion of the whole Jonah Hill soft boy misogyny business reminds us, emotional manipulation counts too.

Right after Steve's outburst he apologizes and blocks her from leaving, persuading her to lay with him on their bed as he spoons her – and she finds a condom wrapper, confirming that while she's been finding herself, he's been shopping for a hot side dish from their local Whole Foods.

Our verdict? ESH – everyone sucks here.

But he doesn't own it immediately. "It's not what it looks like," Steve says, before Miranda points out that it looks like he's been screwing someone else in their bed. "No! . . . I mean, maybe."

Good for Steve, right? . . . Right?

Another useful societal innovation we've gained in the 25 years since "Sex and the City" debuted is the popular subreddit "r/AmItheA**hole." This is where people with moral dilemmas can crowdsource judgment. It's an excellent arbiter in situational conflicts.

Miranda (56ishF) didn't only cheat on Steve (57ishM), she cheated on him with someone the Internet couldn't stand. Steve stepped out on Miranda too, but it was in the distant past, and since we never met the person, we can't be sure if we should despise them.

But for all of Steve's insistence to Carrie that he was never taking off his wedding ring, as Miranda points out, he sure has been fine with Miranda's maid service. "Who said I was a victim? That's in your head," Steve says when she calls him on the rubber discovery. "You've moved on. I've moved on. I ain't a f**king victim."

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Miranda is spiky and no-nonsense, so when she throws everything out the window in "And Just Like That" it is entirely contradictory to what we expect of her. Even so, it fits our picture of what would happen if someone who spent their whole life trying to avoid mistakes leaped off a cliff, mainly out of curiosity.

We've grown accustomed to Steve being her harness, holding steady and ensuring a safe return. Their first reconciliation after Steve's transgression was beautiful; also, maybe it was a pause on a ticking time bomb.

Our verdict? ESH: everyone sucks here. The thought of this storyline continuing makes my head hurt. Apparently King and Palmer agree, because a few scenes after Miranda exits Brooklyn, announcing that she's drawing up the divorce papers, she gets dumped by Che too.

"Two back-to-back breakups," she mutters next to Che. "I'm killing it over here." Yes. Finally. In the spirit of the winter, some things need to fully wither before we can welcome renewal. Maybe it's a decades-long relationship that has descended from dormant to moribund. Maybe it's a new romance that never felt entirely right in the first place.

Either way, to salvage Miranda, it's time she shed everything preventing her from replenishing her character, including a guy that was always too good for her but ideal for us. "And Just Like That" has the potential to do better by all of them and its audience. So in the spirit of "Widow-Con," let it die so all of us can move on.

By Melanie McFarland

Melanie McFarland is Salon's award-winning senior culture critic. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision

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And Just Like That Commentary Cynthia Nixon David Eigenberg Max Tv