I know it seems cliché to admit that Sex and the City is one of my favorite television programs, but in my opinion, its feminist undertones and emphasis on the importance of friendship make it a fascinating series. Six seasons and two films exposed us to the lives of four unique and interesting women: Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha. After analyzing the show for research in my senior thesis, I can honestly say that I’ve seen every episode of Sex and the City.
With every great television series, there’s a compelling main character. Carrie Bradshaw won the hearts of fashionistas and SATC fans alike—from her eclectic fashion and hairstyles choices to her acute analysis on relationships—she became the it-girl of television characters in the ‘90s and early 2000s. Yes, Carrie was not perfect, but her apparent mistakes, vulnerabilities, and constant quest for love made her human and a loveable character.
Here are my top 10 favorite SATC episodes / Carrie & friends moments.
- Season 4 // Episode 9: “Sex and the Country”
While I find Carrie to be somewhat annoying in this episode, it makes the top 10 because Aidan’s country house was located in the town of Suffern, New York, which happens to be where my dad (as well as RHONY star Carole Radziwill) grew up. I remember reading somewhere that the SATC writers chose Suffern, because it sounds like the word, “suffering.” Little did they know that most people who actually live there pronounce it like, “Suff-ren.” Anyway, the episode shows that Carrie has a Saul Steinberg-esque perception of Manhattan and is a fish out of water when she crosses the GW Bridge and ventures into unchartered territory—upstate New York. Ironically enough, Suffern is actually a typical suburb of the city—you can’t drive anywhere without passing a strip mall and clusters of houses built close together. I always find it funny when she goes to the fast food restaurant in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey (which, btw, still makes laugh when I read the town’s name). When she’s on the phone with Charlotte she says, “I had to drive to New Jersey to get cell service,” as though it was on a different continent. Suffern borders the New Jersey state line, so it is quite possible to drive down the street in Suffern and wind up in the Garden State. In the end, Carrie realizes that city girls and ‘country’ girls (her words, not mine) aren’t that different, except for the shoes.
- Season 6A // Episode 9: “A Woman’s Right to Shoes”
This is one of the first episodes of SATC I saw and many years later, I still love its message and the fact that Tatum O’ Neal guest stars in it as Carrie’s stingy, child-bearing, photographer friend.
I’ll give a brief synopsis of the episode: Carrie attends a party with Stanford at their old friend Kyra’s (played by Tatum O’ Neal) apartment. Carrie loses her $485 Manolo Blahnik heels after Kyra made her remove them when she entered her home. Kyra refuses to reimburse Carrie for anything more than $200 and makes it clear to Carrie that it’s frivolous to spend excessive amounts of money on materialistic items. Carrie is miffed because she has spent thousands of dollars on Kyra’s many milestones. Then, Carrie gets the ultimate revenge when she calls Kyra saying that she is marrying herself and registers at Manolo Blahnik in pursuit of getting her heels back. Kyra begrudgingly buys and gifts the new pair of shoes to Carrie. Carrie happily skips down the street in her new shoes. THE END.
The consensus of this episode speaks to the series’ overarching thesis: being a single woman shouldn’t be a pity, burden, or an embarrassment. This was one of the most empowering episodes of SATC, in my opinion, because it enforced the idea that single people should be celebrated for their accomplishments, regardless of their lack of a marital or parental status. As Carrie’s narrative so eloquently says in the last scene of the episode, “The fact is, sometimes it’s hard to walk in a single woman’s shoes. That’s why we need really special ones now and then to make the walk a little more fun.”
- Season 3 // Episode 1: “Where’s the Smoke”
Every time I see a ferry, whether it’s on a television screen or when I’m physically in New York, I want to start singing Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run.” This episode of SATC begins when Carrie & friends take a ferry ride to the forgotten borough of Staten Island. Carrie judges an event hosted by the FDNY where she meets Bill Kelley, played by the silver fox John Slattery (this is before his gig on Mad Men).
I love this episode for many reasons, the first being that Carrie’s disco dance moves are on point when she and the girls are in Staten Island and the second being that it contains two of the many great one-liners in the series.
Exhibit A: Charlotte is frustrated with her single-girl status and in a hung over state, she exclaims to the girls, “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen. I’m exhausted. Where is he?” Carrie then poses the question are they the white knights of their lives. There is a constant dichotomy between Charlotte’s traditional ideals/romantic optimism and Carrie’s defiance of those societal norms that I think is really interesting.
Exhibit B: In the Staten Island scenes, disco plays in the background the whole time. Carrie’s narrative was perfect and makes me laugh every time I watch this episode: “After the contest, I began to realize that Staten Island was like a quaint European country: the American music was twenty years behind and you could smoke wherever you wanted.”
- Season 6A // Episode 4: “Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little”
I cringe every time I think of Carrie’s relationship with Berger (who can forget their infamous breakup via a Post-It note?); however, in this episode, we have Jack Berger to thank for putting the “he’s just not that into you,” concept out in the open. Books and movies were derived from this simple concept that resonated with Miranda and viewers, alike. Almost as infamous as the Post-It fiasco was Berger and Carrie’s argument about the scrunchy detail Berger includes in his book. Berger shows his inferiority complex for the first time in this episode, which marks the beginning of the end of their relationship. This was a truly compelling episode, because Carrie questions if it’s better to give honest, constructive criticism to her boyfriend or to downplay her opinion for the sake of his feelings.
- Season 1 // Episode 1: “Sex and the City”
For those who are true SATC fans, you’ll know that the first season, specifically the pilot episode, is structured differently than the rest of the series. Carrie often cheats out, as if she is talking to the camera/audience and the dialogue is exceptionally fast paced. When the four women are first seen having dinner, their conversation is more like a round table than the discussions they have in later seasons. While I enjoyed SATC throughout its run, even when the episodes became highly produced, I love how the writers introduced us to the lives of Carrie and her four friends in the first episode. Its original structure was almost as unique and interesting as the show’s premise. Also, Mr. Big’s classic line: “absofuckinglutely” is said for the first time at the end of this episode. It was the beginning of a beautiful series.
- Season 1 // Episode 8: “Three’s a Crowd”
From her distinctive walk to her tendency of turning every reflective thought she has into a rhetorical question, Carrie Bradshaw has left a lasting impression on viewers in more ways than one. Carrie has perfect cadence when it comes to delivering witty one-liners and stories, especially in this episode when she visits Big’s ex-wife and pitches her a ridiculous idea for a children’s book.
CB: “Well, my story is about a little girl named Cathy. Little Cathy…Yes, “Little Cathy and her Magic Cigarettes.” And whenever she lights up, she can go anywhere in the whole wide world. You know, Arabia…New Jersey. I mean, that stuff is all going to be worked out.”
I also love this episode because it’s the first time viewers see Charlotte as anything more than a hopeless romantic, neo-traditionalist. Charlotte’s character develops throughout the series, but in the first season, her wisdom is often shown through single lines of dialogue. CB explains it best:
CB: “That was the thing about Charlotte. Just when you’re about to write her off as a Park Avenue Polyanna, she’s say something so right on that you’d think she was the Dalai Lama.”
- SATC: The Movie: New Year’s Scene
Despite Carrie’s quest for love (and many suitors that come and go) the true love story of SATC isn’t necessarily between CB and any particular man, but between Carrie and her three besties. My favorite scene (and favorite CB outfit) in Sex and the City: The Movie is when Carrie spends New Year’s with a lonely Miranda. In an attempt to find deeper meaning of this scene, I think it explains Carrie’s relationship with her friends. When Carrie trudges through the icy streets in her fur coat, booties, and pajamas, and takes the subway downtown to surprise Miranda on New Year’s Eve, it shows that she’ll go to great lengths in order make her friends feel loved. When Miranda opens the door of her apartment and Carrie greets her with a hug and says, “You’re not alone,” I get teary eyed every time I watch it. The scene is also great because it features the AMAZING version of “Auld Lang Syne,” sung by Mairi Campbell.
- Season 6B // Episode 8: “An American Girl in Paris, Part Deux”
It’s no secret that Carrie Bradshaw loves New York, but when she dates Aleksandr Petrovsky, she has a brief loss of her identity. The loss of her “Carrie” necklace is a metaphor to describe this phase in her life. When Carrie moves to Paris, she sacrifices her friends, independence, and career to be with the man she loves—something she never did before in the series. However, this doesn’t stick for long. The series finale takes a turn when Carrie retrieves her necklace from the inside of her Dior clutch as she sits on a bench in Petrovsky’s art studio, in lieu of attending a party that was thrown in her honor. Although Big brings her back home to New York, Carrie explains that the best relationship a woman can have is the one they have with herself.
- Season 2 // Episode 18: “Ex and the City”
I love a good movie reference, so it seems only natural that one of my favorite SATC moments is when Hubbell Gardiner and Katie Morosky’s love story in The Way We Were is used as a parallel to describe Carrie’s tumultuous relationship with Mr. Big. This episode is a turning point in Carrie’s relationship with him, because she realizes that Big tying the knot with Natasha means her relationship with him is truly over (which, unbeknownst to viewers, eventually turns out to be completely inaccurate). As Carrie & friends talk over rounds of cosmopolitans, CB poses the question that I’m sure almost every woman has asked herself or her friends at one time or another: “Why her?” Miranda, being the most level headed of the group simply points out that Big is Robert “Hubbell” Redford who loves K-K-K-Katie “Carrie” Morosky, but finds the relationship to be too complicated (just like her curly hair) and instead marries a simple “Natasha” girl.
There are so many great parts of this episode, I can’t even narrow down which one is my favorite:
Exhibit A: Carrie confronts Big in a restaurant, voicing her frustrations regarding his inconsistent behavior, after learning that he is engaged to Natasha.
Exhibit B: Carrie telling the maître d’ that “these steps are very dangerous” in the aforementioned restaurant after she yells at Big and nearly falls down the stairs when stage exiting the venue.
Exhibit C: Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte’s “Oh my God!” moment when they learn Samantha has never seen The Way We Were.
Exhibit D: Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte then preceding to serenade Samantha with their rendition of “The Way We Were” in the restaurant, attracting the attention of other patrons around them.
Exhibit E: When Carrie pays a visit to the Plaza (Streisand-style) and recites the same words Babs says to Redford at the end of the film.
CB: “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.” (Brushes Big’s hair to the side)
Big: “I don’t get it.”
CB: “And you never did.” (Walks away)
CB Narrative: “Then I had a thought. Maybe I didn’t break Big, maybe the problem was he couldn’t break me. Maybe some women aren’t meant to be tamed, Maybe they need to run free until they find someone just as wild to run with.”
- Season 4 // Episode 2: “The Real Me”
Carrie is constantly evolving throughout the series. This episode is my all time favorite because she learns to accept herself, despite making mistakes. Short synopsis: Carrie is asked by Lynne, a fashion show producer (who reminds me of Kelly Cutrone and is played by Margaret Cho), to walk in an esteemed fashion show that features New York style mavens and big time models. Throughout the episode, Carrie questions if she is good enough to participate. Eventually, Carrie bites the bullet and shows up to the show. Backstage, the Dolce and Gabbana designers (one of whom is played by Alan Cumming) dress her in a scandalous pair of jeweled underwear and a blue trench coat, causing Carrie to doubt her appearance again. Midway down the runway, Carrie’s foot falls out of her high heel and she tumbles to the floor of the catwalk. As she collects herself, Heidi Klum walks over her, as directed by Lynne. Stanford says from his seat, “Oh my God, she’s fashion road kill!” Embarrassed, but not broken, Carrie stands up and finishes strutting down the runway, receiving a collective applause from the audience and high-fiving Heidi.
What can I say? My mom and I have a knack for reciting TV/movie lines and “Oh my God, she’s fashion road kill!” is still in the repartee rotation. Usually when one of us says this, we both start singing the chorus of “Got to be Real” by Cheryl Lynn, a.k.a. Carrie’s runway song. SATC references fashion trends and designers quite frequently, but this episode was refreshing because it shows the women overcoming their fears and insecurities while accepting their flaws.