Sex and the City was a groundbreaking show. Offering a refreshingly honest and straightforward portrayal of female sexuality, the series challenged conventions and redefined the television landscape for the new millennium. Along with The Sopranos, Sex and the City also helped build HBO’s reputation, cementing it as the ultimate home for prestige entertainment on the small screen.
The show has six seasons, amounting to 94 episodes total. And while Sex and the City remains an acclaimed piece of television, not all its seasons are as good as the others, with some outranking others in storytelling, writing, and acting.
6 Season 5 (2002)
Sarah Jessica Parker‘s pregnancy resulted in a shortened fifth season of Sex and the City. It only had eight episodes, leading to a weirdly uneven season that struggled to create a cohesive follow-up to the dramatic season four finale. Season five sees Carrie publishing her book and starting a new romance with fellow writer Jack Berger. Meanwhile, Miranda adapts to motherhood and reconciles her lingering feelings for Steve; Charlotte begins a relationship with her unattractive divorce lawyer, Harry; and Samantha reconciles with Richard, but the shadow of doubt still lingers above them.
Season five is frustrating to watch; it features many compelling storylines that feel rushed because of the shortened length. Miranda’s struggles as a new mother would’ve allowed for more dramatic stories had the season lasted its usual eighteen episodes. Still, Sex and the City season five is a fitting prelude for the show’s final seasons, taking its carefree characters down a more mature road.
5 Season 1 (1998)
As the introduction to Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte, season one of Sex and the City presents the show’s main thesis and sets up the overarching conflicts: Carrie’s overly toxic relationship with Big, Miranda’s cynicism, Charlotte’s idealism, and Samantha’s independence. The season is also unique in that it features many supporting and guest characters outside the core four girls, a tradition that would become less common in future seasons.
Season one of Sex and the City feels like a different show. Multiple characters speak directly to the camera, giving the show a bizarre mockumentary feeling; Carrie herself breaks the fourth wall numerous times, taking her role as the show’s all-seeing narrator to a more literal level. Season one also features some questionable storylines that feel especially awkward from a modern perspective, making it a worthy but decidedly confusing and often uncomfortable viewing experience.
4 Season 3 (2000)
Sex and the City entered its third year with a fresh perspective. Season three introduces Aidan Shaw to the mix, giving Carrie her second most significant love interest after Big. Charlotte meets, quickly marries, and then separates from WASP doctor Trey McDougal, while Miranda’s relationship with Steve keeps evolving until it reaches its imminent ending. Samantha continues her trend of receiving only episodic storylines, although she does move out of the Upper East Side and into the Meatpacking District.
Season three of Sex and the City is when the show began to shift away from its early plots and gimmicks. The show forgot about everyone else and focused solely on the four girls, further developing their friendship and making it seem like they were each other’s only support system. Aidan’s arrival was a pivotal and game-changing moment, leading to the show’s most infamous storyline: Carrie cheating on him with a married Big. Season three saw the girls moving toward maturity by taking several serious steps; it also went deeper into their flawed psyche, especially Carrie’s, cementing itself as one of HBO’s most complex and daring shows, unafraid to anger their audience in service of a compelling and realistic story.
3 Season 2 (1999)
The saga of Carrie and Big returns for round two in Sex and the City‘s sophomore effort. Season two features the best version of this infamously unstable couple, with the two achieving an almost healthy situation before imploding once Big freaks out. Elsewhere, Miranda meets her most significant love interest, Steve, while Samantha’s attempt at monogamy backfires. Finally, Charlotte continues her pursuit of love.
Season two was the beginning of the Sex and the City audiences know and love. More confident than its predecessor, season two explores more taboo situations and breaks new ground in its already pioneering depiction of sex and intimacy. Season two also features arguably the show’s best season finale, “Ex and the City,” where Carrie apparently ends her relationship with Big on a high note. Sex and the City season two is everything the show became famous for, offering a sharper and funnier take on its premise.
2 Season 4 (2001 – 2002)
Aidan returns for a reloaded relationship with Carrie in Sex and the City season four. Unlike her second round with Big, Carrie’s do-over with Aidan is doomed from the beginning; he doesn’t entirely trust her, and she finds him obnoxious, even if she works very hard not to. Still, they get engaged, leading to an overly-dramatic break-up near the season’s end. As for the other girls, they all get compelling, multi-episode arcs that contribute to the season’s success: Charlotte reunites with Trey and struggles with conception; Miranda supports Steve through cancer and becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with him; and Samantha starts a relationship with Richard Wright, leading to some of her character’s most iconic moments.
Season four finds Sex and the City working at full capacity. Every storyline excels, with the four actors delivering some of their best performances. Kim Cattrall, in particular, shines as Samantha, with the show revealing new layers to her guarded character, allowing the actor to dig deeper into Samantha’s complicated psyche. The season also accentuates the importance of New York City to the show’s narrative, which becomes more poignant as its second part aired after the September 11 attacks. Compelling, often hilarious, and with a strong emotional core grounded in the girl’s friendships, Sex and the City season four is the show at its very best.
1 Season 6 (2003 – 2004)
Sex and the City reached its inevitable conclusion with season six, with the girls officially ending the party and entering new and exciting stages of their lives. Carrie’s romance with Berger crashes and burns, and she eventually gets serious with Aleksandr Petrovsky, a much-older Russian artist with a cold personality. Meanwhile, Miranda gets back together with Steve, marrying him and moving to Brooklyn; Charlotte marries Harry and once again struggles with conception before adopting a young Chine girl; and Samantha enters a committed relationship with young actor Smith Jerrod.
Finding the right mix between drama and comedy, season six of Sex and the City is the show’s finest hour. The twenty-episode season presents the best versions of its characters, with each girl getting a chance to shine. However, the biggest change goes to Charlotte, whose character development is arguably the show’s best, with the underrated Kristin Davis portraying it perfectly. Season six includes many of Sex and the City‘s best episodes, closing the show on a perfect albeit simplistic note, with an ending that might feel anti-climactic but succeeds in tying up every loose end in a neat and fashionable bow.
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