To the average teenager watching The Carrie Diaries and dreaming of a day when his or her parent would let him or her move into a killer loft with a friend a train ride away from his or her childhood home, well, the second season premiere snaps you into the reality that it's not all glitz and glam immediately upon return. Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb) may finally have her foot in the door with an awesome job, and she may be dancing and drinking it up at some of the city's best nightlife, but she's still a kid mending a broken heart, and memories of Sebastian (Austin Butler) and how he and her supposed BFF Maggie (Katie Findlay) betrayed her keep finding their way to seep into her subconscious. Furthermore, though, she's still just a kid in general. So she makes dumb mistakes that have consequences that hit her hard. It's how she will recover from them-- with a little help from some new friends and a fresh, mature attitude that will matter most. There is room to grow alongside Carrie just as there is room for her-- and the show by extension-- to grow as well. But the second season is off to a strong start by already paying off some of that potential for quite a few characters.
The second season premiere of The Carrie Diaries is almost like watching two separate shows mushed together into one. This should greatly epitomize the divide within Carrie herself as she struggles to stay connected to her old life while diving deeper into her new one. But in truth, right now, there doesn't seem to be much past obligation tying her to her old life at all, and that makes it hard to watch without wishing she'd just cut the cord. She's still high school aged, so she can't actually cut the cord, and once school starts again and we sit with her through the B.S. she has to "get through" in order to fully, really start her "real" life, we're bound to feel this pull even stronger. For now, though, it's summer, so it's easy to lose yourself alongside Carrie in the fantasy that she's an independent, single young woman not trying to nurse a broken heart but just shove it aside so she can be fabulous instead.
The fantasy doesn't quite come crashing down around Carrie in the season opener, but it certainly begins to show cracks. For one thing, Sebastian shows up in her dreams to prove she's not okay with how she left things with him, and then he shows up on her door again. Her way of dealing is to run deeper into Manhattan. She's deflecting, and of course that leads her to be careless and to lose something from her old life that actually still holds a lot of meaning.
Needless to say, Carrie is certainly still the center of this show and much of the second season premiere episode revolves on her friends trying to make sure she's okay after they hear how horribly wrong her night out alone in New York City went after she was just trying to prove she was doing better than okay to Sebastian. She's not quite an anti-hero but she's certainly still flawed, still something of a cautionary tale. And that needs to be balanced by those who are figuring things out a bit more successfully. So while Carrie is playing pretend at being grown up, her friends around her are actually growing up. Dorritt (Stefania Owen) is still in a(n increasingly serious) relationship, as is Mouse (Ellen Wong); Maggie has gotten herself a job and is trying to make amends, at least with some of her friends; Walt (Brendan Dooling) has come to a place of comfort an acceptance about who he is and even manages to share a nice if brief heart to heart with Sebastian about it; and even Donna (Chloe Bridges) is doing her part to help those around her move on-- in her own, very Donna sort of way.
In a slightly odd way, just how okay everyone else seems to be when Carrie's not there to lean on shows just how adaptable they are but also how she can easily lift right out of Castlebury. If they're not careful-- and if they don't work hard to stay in Carrie's ever evolving life-- they, along with Castlebury, will become satellite characters until they're just a distant blip on her childhood radar. This becomes especially more true with the introduction of Samantha Jones (Lindsey Gort), a wise (in a big sisterly way), tough, "make anything happen" type of woman who Carrie is immediately drawn to upon meeting. Samantha is every bit as outwardly free-spirited and ball-busting (though not yet as dry) as you'd expect her to be from the woman she grew up to be, but she has a deeply kind heart and a seemingly sad past that implies she sees Carrie as someone to protect.
Carrie's heart is in Manhattan; all of her time (minus a slightly begrudging weekend trip home) is spent in Manhattan; her whole world is now Manhattan. But she still has a somewhat smaller town innocence that may just need to be shaken out of her to truly succeed in that big city. Samantha is just the girl to help her do that, though she may prove to need Carrie's influence just as much as the other way around. The summer (and this Carrie Diaries premiere) started out with Carrie and Walt against the world in the city, but adding wildcard Samantha (remember, she's Donna's cousin) into the mix is sure to tie Carrie's worlds back together in the most unexpected and most fun ways.
The Carrie Diaries returns to The CW on October 25 2013 at 8 p.m.
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