Month: January 2014

Sex and the City Re-watch Recap: The Awful Truth

We begin with Carrie and her motor-mouthed friend Susan on the eve or two of Carrie’s birthday. While oohing and aahing over cashmere that Carrie plans to exchange to pay the rent, Susan’s jerk of a husband kicks out Carrie and this spurs the tough spot many singles face: giving their opinion on someone else’s relationship.

The girls empathize with Carrie, and we also learn that Samantha is still pretending with James and Miranda is dating a guy who likes dirty sex talk. “Sex is not a time to chat” and I agree. A couple comments are fine here and there, but life is not a porno, and porno is not an accurate portrayal of life. There’s no need for commentary like we are on TV or something. But even Samantha is shocked when Charlotte admits to some sexual cheerleading using certain expletives.

This leads into Carrie’s theme du jour: are there things we shouldn’t say? It also shows us our last interview montage. These were fun at first, got a bit campy later on, and we will no longer see them again. This one is a decent farewell, however, and the segue is great as Susan  tells the camera/Carrie that she left her dicky husband Richard, and the practically adores Carrie for telling her the awful truth.

Truth is something that Samantha is avoiding, as well as sex with James, and he suggests couples’ therapy for them, hoping that she will speak up on the their problems.
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Speaking of speaking up Miranda finally tests the sexy chit chat waters with some monosyllabic responses to her man’s verbose comments. She eventually warms up to some more expressive language with makes the guy feel even hotter.

Carrie and her squatter Susan spend some time with Charlotte and her new dog. She’s decided to replace men with a pet dog, hoping she can manipulate him more easily. The next day Carrie wakes up to a birthday surprise in the form of flowers at her door. She immediately calls an emergency session with the girls.

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Charlotte comes up with something out of her big book of relationship bullshit called “the grand gesture”. Apparently, Big may want to get back with Carrie, and this is his first attempt. She has to leave, though, because her new pet is being uncooperative.

Carrie takes the opportunity to call Big and thank him for the flowers. Turns out it was kind of a mix up, and that his secretary already had the flowers pre-ordered, and they were more or less sent automatically. Carrie, embarassed, worsens her shame by inviting him out to her birthday soiree. Big says he’d love to and that he’s bringing someone. Uh oh.

Samantha and James are about to finish up their first and fruitless session with the couples’ therapist. Fearing further torture in this way, Samantha finally comes clean and calls out James’ tiny penis and the source of her unhappiness.

Yeah, it’s a bitchy thing to do. James can’t help it. It is a brave thing to do, though. Samantha isn’t doing James a favor by staying with him unhappily. There’s probably a woman out there who won’t mind a tiny package, and James will be happier with her than he will with Samantha.

Think what you want, but Samantha did the best thing she could have. Sometimes you have to suck it up (even if there’s not that much to suck) and be the “big” person and tell they truth of the matter.

Besides, even the therapist likes ’em big.

Miranda is also feeling liberated by speech. Dirty speech. Unfortunately mentioning the awful truth her man loves to be fingered violates his sacred heterosexuality and they split up. Miranda mentions this at Carrie’s b-day dinner where Big shows up with his “date”, his asshole friend Jack. Susan puts the moves on him, is rebuffed, and realizes that she misses her abusive husband. Carrie watches Moroccan women dance in Big’s face while suffering jibes from her friends about why she invited him.
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Some women can’t let go of their exes.

As Charlotte returns home, her dog has successfully managed to shit on her life just like any real guy would, and so she promptly gets rid of the dog. He winds up with Susan and helps bring her and her husband back together. Happy ending?

Carrie ends on a mysterious ending after Big walks her home. They don’t kiss or anything, but Carrie must face an awful truth of her own: she’s not over Mr. Big.

While I like the theme of this episode, and it’s well implemented one too, the plot falters in some places. The whole dog story with Charlotte is a bit too silly and doesn’t really go anywhere except to provide a meaningless ending to Susan Sheridan’s brief estrangement from her husband. It’s not the last we see of her, but her marriage’s fate is never mentioned again anyway so what does it matter.

Still, it was good to see some plots from last season conclude or return, and from here on out silly-ness drops away (mostly) while we get more deeply involved with the girls’ lives instead of being constantly reminded that we are watching shock-comedy on HBO.

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Meandering Ponderings: Matter and Time Travel

Contrary to the previous content on my blog, there are other things I do than just watch TV and listen to 90s music. On these sometimes rare occasions, I wonder about things like science, our society, or whether to get frozen or canned vegetables (I’ll save that one for another time).

My recent thoughts have been the implausible notion of time travel and it’s effect on the matter within the universe.

Basically, time travel should be possible if one were to travel faster than the speed of light. That person would then speed ahead of light particles, past ones that occurred in all previous moments, and into the past itself, leaving the present behind.

This leads me to two questions.

The first question I have in this situation is, if I were to speed ahead of light into the past, slow back to normal speed and stay there, would I be able to affect the world and happenings around me, or would I be reviewing a lifeless light show that is barely more than a three-dimensional hologram of the irrevocable past?

This leads to my second and bigger question, which is: is the universe flexible enough that matter can slide around it at will from one time to another, or is matter (or also energy) set firmly within a network of time and space?

I shall begin out of order with the second question and elaborate with an illustration of the issue.

First thing about matter is, it can be neither created nor destroyed. Hold onto that thought.

Imagine the universe as a loaf of freshly baked bread, light, airy, and delicious. It has air pockets and bubbles as well as the soft white fleshy part. Though not with the same proportions, this is like our universe with the galaxies dispersed within the vacuum of space. Everything within that loaf of bread was there in one form or another as an ingredient in the dough from which it rose.

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Now imagine you have a photo of this bread from a few minutes ago and pretend, for the purpose of this example, that that picture is a proxy version of our bread from the past. Pinch a piece of your current loaf (and don’t let your mind wander to nasty thoughts of loaf pinching), and add it to your past-version proxy.

Now we have a paradox. The piece you pinched still exists in the past version, in addition to its future piece at the same time. Furthermore, future version is missing some of its total mass, while the past is in excess.

To be a most accurate example, this all should have happened within the same loaf of bread, but that would be invisible to us, as well as impossible. However, it brings up my point.

The universe has always included the mass that is you, just in different forms. We all came from our parents’ genetic data, and grew in the womb from whatever food our mothers ingested, but that matter has always existed, just as something different throughout time.

If I were to drop dead, my body would remain, it would decompose, its mass continuing to exist as different things. But if I were to pop into the past, our current time would have a void. Like that loaf of bread, there would be a hole in space and my past would have surplus me. So the big question is, space itself is imbalanced, but would time find a way to incorporate excess mass? Does time care? Furthermore, what happens to space if pieces of its mass begin to disappear completely. If humans time traveled en masse, would we leave our present as a crippled universe riddled with holes while we punched holes through the rest of time and space with our travels?

This leads back to my first question. Upon successfully traveling through time, how would our foreign mass interact with its new surroundings? Would we wedge into the current time, stealing space from mass that rightly belonged, or would we be snapped back through time from whence we came, or squeezed out by the time we were invading?

Perhaps I have this all wrong and Time is infinite, and matter can never escape time so it doesn’t matter what chronological sequence it occurs, and rules of causality be damned.

I don’t know. I’m not a scientist, officially. But I’d welcome any insight or discussion on these ponderings.

Video Game Ranting: Total War: Rome 2 Review

I’ve been trying to sort out my puzzled feelings about Total War: Rome 2.  I had waited for it for so long, like many others, and bid my time as best I could playing previous installments of Creative Assembly games, games like Medieval 2: Total War and Rome: Total War.  It’s easy to get hopeful when playing an older game, imagining optimistically what that experience will be like with newer and better things.

Even when Rome 2 was finally (and some say prematurely) released, I didn’t get to play it. At least not fully. It was poorly optimized and had several critical bugs that made it literally unplayable. I hadn’t had so much trouble with a game crashing to desktop or freezing since the days of Windows 95.
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After the first hurdle was successfully jumped after a few patches (and more than a few weeks) I finally got to play the game without worrying that it would crash any time a screen loaded (it took me quite some time to not feel on edge about that). I was finally free to dig into the game, take my time to explore my options, peel back the layers of depth, and get into the nitty gritty of the gameplay that had taken me months or years to discover in previous Total War games.

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What I found is that this game went about as deep as a puddle on the street, at least compared to its predecessors. Despite the improved graphics and a handful of new features like province management, naval battles, and a host of new factions that really make the world feel alive,  all the immersive qualities I came to expect from a game in this franchise were gone.

Most bothersome, the political system changed greatly:

No more family trees. No more intra-faction politics among competing generals (at least as you are used to it). No more princesses to marry unrelated generals or princes of other factions. No more brothers vying for leadership, and no more watching your generals descend into madness or alcoholism or even experimenting with other men or women.

Instead you get randomized generals that belong, arbitrarily, to your faction. Said faction is one of at least two that compete within your kingdom for percentage points of favor, and eventually for obvious reasons and yet mysteriously random circumstances you engage in a civil war against those other factions.

Why does this matter?

If you are looking for ancient world combat and strategy, then you won’t care. If you are looking for the same immersive experience provided in all the previous titles, then it does matter.  Sure there are other games you can play if you want to simulate dynasties and things like that, but I guess I’m used to not settling for less with a Total War game. I enjoy strategy games, the conquests against odds, the cooperation with allies, the lucky chances that provide narrow escape from disaster.

But the randomly named and irrelevant generals provide no sense of progression. A son will never take up arms against the Gauls that slew his father, for instance. Instead  Quintus Maximus is replaced by Marcus Brutius unceremoniously and all of the previous general’s accolades are swiftly erased by his likely early death (which comes sooner since now all turns are 1 year instead of 6 months, a minor quibble, but still…)

So what does this mean for me?

It means I am caught in a holding pattern. A game for which I paid lies before me, tempting me with adventures that I can’t have because it isn’t as well equipped as older games. At the same time, playing older games is a sure bet to provide me with the things that are familiar even if they aren’t new, but those older games are a bitter reminder that a newer incarnation exists, and so the cycle repeats.

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Creative Assembly developers have promised many things and delivered a few, including many patches to improve technical gameplay as well as operation of some of the features, and a mini-expansion of sorts that centers around the campaigns of Julius Caesar in ancient Gaul. However, they have been silent on matters pertaining to complaints that many of their customers have, and we are left hanging without any hope.

At least modding tools are being released soon, and we can make for ourselves what we deserved to get in the first place.

Sex and the City Re-watch Recap: Take Me Out to The Ballgame

Season 2 of Sex and the City. Ready, set, go!

Carrie is looking like shit. Her fur coat has nicer texture and color than her own hair. She worries about running into her ex, which is why the girls come to abduct her from her apartment.

Charlotte mentions “the breakup rule”, some silly equation that Miranda debunks with her own quick recovery from a man who left her. On their way to wherever, they pick up Samantha who is canoodling with her tiny-noodled man. Still together, eh?

He actually calls her princess. Ick.

“Me, James, and his tiny penis. We’re one big happy family.”

And that’s how you know this season is off to a roaring start.

Later at a baseball game, Carrie is drinking and smoking, listening to Miranda ramble on about rookies and numbers while Samantha uses the last bite of her hotdog illustrate James’ shortcomings.

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While pondering her own stats, Carrie catches a fly ball, which leads to their visit to the locker rooms for an autograph. Samantha can barely contain herself in the presence of athletic cups that can barely contain their contents when the decupped rookie emerges, flashes a winning smile, some wit, and before you know it Carrie snags the hot guy for a date.

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Girl just turned an out of bounds ball into a hot rebound.

Oh, and Samantha peeks into the locker room to glimpse at long things she’s longingly been missing.

We are also treated to another interview montage featuring people sharing their thoughts on how to handle break ups, including a cantankerous woman serving food at the game. Okay, this one was funny.

While scrambling to get ready, Carrie stumbles onto and old picture taken with Big using an ancient device called a disposable camera. Should have disposed of that too, but moving onto the fashion party Carrie is attending with the hot Yankee, we also meet Charlotte’s man du jour, some slimy music biz guy who can’t stop scratching his crotch.

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Classy. At least Carrie’s date made it to first base that night.

The next morning Carrie learns she’s in the paper with Yankee boy. The girls can’t help but gush about how that will really get back at her ex. Except Miranda, who wants to talk about her palm pilot, or anything except exes because she is in denial about her own. Or maybe she’s pissed about her crappy haircut. Regardless, she storms off petulantly because the girls want to talk about boys, and balls, and tiny penises.

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Ironically, Miranda poses a question as to why they always talk about boyfriends. Because if they didn’t, the show would just be about sex which would make it porn, so don’t throw stones because your glass house is our television and we like hearing you gals bitch about boys.

In a valiant effort, Samantha attempts to make sex work with her miniscule-manhooded boyfriend. She tries everything she can to coach him and this results in one of the funniest sex scenes you will ever see. In an attempt to make do, she pulls out a toy of her own, only to arouse James’ jealousy, which isn’t small.

Charlotte also attempts to make her boyfriend more palatable, and gives him the gift of underwear in hopes that he will stop scratching too much. Seething with anger, almost itching from it, he misses the point that his puerile pant picking turns off Charlotte and he storms out like a whiny toddler.

Miranda, meanwhile, is attempting to cool off her temperament with a walk in the city. A big city. New York City. So why the hell are you wearing the ugliest back water overalls ever, Miranda? Come on. She realizes Carrie’s worst post-break up nightmare: running into your ex while looking like shit. She nearly dies.

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Carrie has a close encounter of her own. Very close. While learning dugout games from the hot rookie, she sees Big. She, however, looks great and has perfect arm candy. But instead of feeling victorious, Carrie feels all her break up pain all over again. Turns out her fly ball rebound isn’t enough, and despite his cuteness, Joe the Yankee is not enough for Carrie and she isn’t ready to move on.

After this Carrie makes a mysterious phone call, which turns out to be Miranda. Having relived memories of a break up herself Miranda is now all about the sympathy, and is ready to be a shoulder to cry on instead of a cold shoulder. They bond over break up pain while snacking on fries.

With a great mix of humor, story, character, and drama, this episode marks a great start for the season. Only Charlotte’s story was on the weak side but it at least plugged in some appropriate laughs. My big question is why the character of Miranda is made to look like such crap?

There’s still a tinge of season one here, but only the good parts, and it was great to see the episode cover so much in so little time. It’s tight writing like this that packs such a great punch.

Ninety 90’s Songs: What A Good Boy… Yes, you are! Yes, you are!!!

I had a room mate for about a year who was also a very good friend of mine. She was in between relationships, and we both could have used a a year to share some costs and pay off some debts. I’m not sure how successful that part of the venture was, but we did spend a good amount of time together, which included many nights of living room karaoke via Youtube.  Among the songs she sang was one that I was vaguely familiar with, but became enamored with when she sang it. To this day I still curse her any time this song gets stuck in my head.

#57 “What A Good Boy” by Barenaked Ladies. Shocked I was when I discovered several months ago that this songs hails from way back in 1992 from the group’s album “Gordon”.  As big as they made it later with several hits like “One Week” and the theme song to TV’s wildly popular “Big Bang Theory”, poor little me was oblivious to music when I was a child and I never really knew how long the boys in Barenaked Ladies (none of them ladies, mind you) had been kicking it.

Their album “Gordon” was actually produced in part with monetary winnings from a local radio station in Canada. Now that is some good old fashioned enterprise.  Their style has always been on the eclectic side, and this song shows it.

“What A Good Boy” is a charming little ballad that showcases the funny group’s softer side. They still have their signature quickly sung verses and wordplay, but they keep things moderately paced and sweet with some stylish acoustics and the invitation to “be with me tonight” is hard to resist.

As far as the video is concerned, I’m not really sure what is going on. There are some shots and montages of a boy and some teen-aged kids doing some stuff, but I think those images are merely there to provide a minimum of context to what the song is about. Aside from looking younger, they look pretty much like they do later in the decade, and you could fool me into believing that this song is a more recent release. The highlights of the video are the band members with their various instruments and, for some odd reason, one of them dressed like a Mountie.

Oh yeah. They’re Canadian. I guess they just wanted to remind you.

Overall, it’s a melancholic song, a serenade from one lonely person to another, possibly in  dive bar somewhere. Maybe it’s about when times were better, like when we were children. Or maybe it’s like when my friend sang it in our living room, as an ode to old lovers who didn’t stay but you wish that they’d return for just one more night. It’s hard to poke fun at a song or even a group that pokes so much fun at everything, but this is a side of Barenaked Ladies that gives you an earnest glimpse into their tender and artsy qualities. Behind the humor and wit is some love. Or something.

Or maybe someone was just really depressed when he wrote this.

Re-watch Reviews: Sex and the City Season 1

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So that’s it for the first season, eh? It was definitely an exciting ride and I can see why it hooked so many people, but I don’t think that this season portrays the series at its best.

Yet.

Like so many shows, this one suffers from First Season-itis. It is inflamed with unnecessary elements and identity issues.

Let’s start with the identify crisis. Some shows are lucky to know exactly what they are when they start and their first season is always one of their best (Glee, Desperate Housewives were great starters but lost their ways). Sex and the City, however is torn between two things: sex and relationships.

I won’t deny that sex is a great hook, but when you’re main characters are basically mannequins that you throw into different sexual encounters every week, it gets boring. Thats when the relationship portion gets introduced, but that can be a problem if things get a bit too soap opera-ish.

While the show does eventually focus on relationships (actress Sarah Jessica Parker actually emphasises this later in the series’ run), and soap opera shenanigans ensue but with HBO’s signature edginess, in the first season we get an uneven mish mash. Some episodes are sex heavy and plotless, while more plot based ones are rather dry and not very sexy.

Let’s also talk about some unnecessary elements. I enjoyed the journalistic approach for the first few episodes, I admit. It’s a much different tone than what we get later on in the series, but it’s fun. However, once we start to get to know our girls a bit more, I found that the random interviews were more distracting than informing. I would rather hear the main characters’ opinions on sex rather than some innocent bystander.

While the series does juggle its slew of guest stars rather deftly, this season was a bit too haphazard with the supporting characters… oh, who am I kidding…

I can’t stand Skipper. Even his name!

You either love Skipper or you hate him. While the writers eventually found some usefulness for him in the last episode, he was just a really bad concept. Some of you might find his nerdiness endearing, but he just clashes too much with the girls. He’s not sexy, and is a bit too immature.

But here’s where I change my tone. Sex and the City is a show I really enjoy, and for all its faults, I consider the first season to be a prototype for the seasons that follow. There are several themes that are reused and expanded upon, namely sex, but also things like marriage, pregnancy, strange men and women and their sexual kinks, and of course, relationships.

It’s the last one which divides most people about this show. Season one gives us all this sex and a sense of adventure into a topic that many people find difficult to discuss. Don’t worry that it disappears because we get more of these adventures throughout the show, but many people were turned off when relationships got involved.

Ain’t that always the way? Samantha would agree.
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But seriously, we have all kinds of shows about relationships and the drama they cause. Why did Sex and the City have to become another one?

The switch in focus is just drawing the conversation this series started with the public into more mature and deeper topics, and sex was just the pick up line. This show became famous for bringing a modern, and, more notably, a female perspective to what sex means in our modern world. The switch to relationships also mirrors our gals maturing into women as well as fleshed out characters that get actresses nominated for all kinds of awards…

It can be seen as a rough start, but the show gains traction soon enough. Everything you got in this season you get exponentially more later on, minus some needless details.  Besides, some of the most beloved shows had a rougher start than Sex and the City. Star Trek: The Next Generation, for example, had *two* seasons of mostly crap before becoming one of the best sci-fi series ever.

Did I just compare Sex and the City to Star Trek?  Oh yeah, because that’s how I roll.

Sex and the City Re-watch Recap: Oh Come, All Ye Faithful

The finale for Sex and the City’s inaugural season… What will happen, and will we like it?

So Miranda is dating someone. They have hot sex, but the guy instantly needs a hot shower. I’m all for cleaning up afterwards if things get messy, but leaving your partner in the lurch while you wash off the sin is creepy and rude.

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He blames the nuns from Catholic school. He’s this week’s monster: Catholic guy.

While doing research on religious people one Sunday, Carrie spots Big escorting a lady from church. Just as Carrie is fearing that her man fears God and has another gal, he confesses his atheism and that he always takes his mother to church.

His mother. Whoa…
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So now extended family is entering the picture.

Semi-freaked out, and overly caffeinated, Carrie vibrates away to write up her revelations.

Over the cocktails the girls are catching up on their religious experiences when Samantha shares an event of biblical proportions: she just had a five hour date with a wonderful, sexy, and perfect guy. Just everything about him is heavenly, and they haven’t even had sex yet.

Samantha passed up sex. She thinks she’s in love… Another whoa.

And she blames Charlotte for it. She even say the “M” word: marriage.

Holy shit.

Charlotte is so shaken by this event that she tries new age religion to help her discover why Samantha can get married and she can’t. A fortune teller plainly says she won’t find marriage.

Whoa again.

Later, Carrie launches a full scale invasion into Big ‘s personal life by mentioning his mother. He quickly deflects her with the promise margaritas and vacation. Booze and escapism… yeah that’s healthy for a relationship

Then Miranda tries to deflect her boyfriend from showering her sinful smell from his pure Christian body.

“There’s nothing sinful about sex,” she says which launches hell itself and results in their swift schism from each other. Talk about, “ex” communication.

Meanwhile, Samantha’s ready to give herself to James and she makes a fatal mistake. They exchange the “L” word before testing each other’s equipment. James’ love for her may have been great, but his endowment was less so.
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Adding further to Carrie’s list of shitty things she does this season, she drags Miranda along to church to stalk Big and his mother. By dropping a hymnal from the rafters or whatever, she blows her cover.

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Waiting to see Big, she blows his cover when she discovers that Big ‘s mother knows nothing of their relationship. He once again tries to dazzle her with talk of vacation to distract her from her lack of importance in his life.

Later that night Carrie is invited to gay church (not the gym) which is a disco club in an old church. Hallelujah!

She meets Stanford’s new man, while Miranda meets one of her old ones: Skipper.

Ugh.

At least he actually enjoyed wearing Miranda’s post-sex fragrance.

Samantha on the other hand is lamenting in the bathroom where she expresses her disappointment with James’ miniscule manhood. At three inches, in an excited state, there is very little the girls can do to console her, even Charlotte’s innocent inquiry in his kissing skills.

Samantha has even downgraded her love to mere like. Apparently, her love of length is greater.

Once again Charlotte tries to innocently help by asking, “How good is he with his tongue?”

That girl can really surprise you…

Hoping that she can get better fortune, she visits a phony voodoo priestess who offers to charge her to remove her marriage curse. Oh Charlotte.

While Charlotte is exploring her future, Miranda revisits her past by hooking up with Skipper, all while Samantha dreads her future with James.

The next morning, just about to leave on her vacation with Big, she asks him to tell her something that can give her more faith in their future. “Tell me I’m the one.”

Big is more concerned with missing the flight.

Now that Carrie sees his true priorities, she lets him leave her right there on the street. After all their near misses, they have finally stumbled on the final challenge: Big won’t commit to a future with Carrie.

And that is how we wrap up this season of Sex and the City. After much first season-itis and tug of war between this series’ identities, we end on a strong note that combines sex and and plot and the city all together with something that leaves us wanting more.

Charlotte wants to get married.

Miranda gets back together with Skipper.

Samantha attempts to settle down, but with a guy who can’t please her sexually.

Carrie breaks up with a man who accepted all her quirks and issues, except that he won’t make a place in his future for her.

Where do they go from here?