What happened with Masters of Sex?

Careful: this text contains more spoilers than my average review.

Ok, I know I’m a bit late for this one, but I’m still trying to process what was this second season of Masters of Sex and I’m not sure what to think. A show that I absolutely loved has turned into something that when it wasn’t tedious, it was straight out annoying.

The first season was a triumph in including interesting, engaging and intelligent plots into a story about sex that could have easily become no more than an excuse for naked bodies on prime time otherwise. Season one showed us real dramas of real people connected to a historical background that made us see how our mentality as a society has not evolved as much as we would like to believe. Season two had Bill and Virginia having sex.

I never thought the chemistry between Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as Dr. Masters and Virginia Johnson was that great to begin with, but in this second season it just seemed to grow weaker by the episode, despite of them both being amazing actors on their own. When the characters first got together I had hope they might break up, but this is not Reign, historical accuracy actually matters to these people and History tells us that Masters and Johnson eventually get married (what, haven’t you wikipedia them yet?), and that’s a tough one to swallow. With that bleak destination in sight, it’s hard to expect nice things on the road.

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Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as Masters and Johnson

To be fair, the first half of the season was very good. Virginia and Bill’s struggles to keep their careers on track and maintain the respect of their peers after the presentation of the study was badly received seemed like a great beginning. The first three or four episodes, which included the stories of the baby with ambiguous genitalia and the girl who could not control her sexual urges, were compelling to watch. For a moment I was sure that Masters of Sex would become closer to a procedural, with a new case every week to serve as a background to the development of the main characters, and that might have been a nicer alternative to what we actually got on the season’s second half.

As Virginia and Bill’s encounters got more and more awkward, all hopes fell on the sub-plots. Dr. Masters working at a Negro hospital in times of extreme segregation in the US? That might be interesting — an episode latter, he doesn’t even work there anymore and we are set on a couple of years ellipsis. He decides to go on a independent venture and open his own clinic, rent is high and he is in on the verge of bankruptcy. Ok, now something might happen and — another couple of years ellipsis, everything is fine, now Masters is the landlord. Time just flies by, does it not? Yet strangely, Virginia’s kids stay always the same age.

While Virginia and Bill still use “work” as a synonym for “love”, and Bill still insist that he is a happily married man, this thing that they have between them will be forever awkward. Master’s of Sex’s second season wasn’t all bad, not at all, but it definitely lost a lot of its power while dwelling on Masters’ obsession with his own penis and his refusal to look an inch beyond it. Yes, characters are more interesting when they have some ambiguity, some contradictions between what they say and do, however, Virginia repeating to herself the lie that to screw her boss is to help his marriage is pathetic at best. She is way smarter than that, I mean, C’MON! 

Most engaging plot-points of the season: Betty; Dr. Masters fighting ignorance and prejudice to help the baby, the girl and other patients (he might have one decent bone in his body after all. A bone that completely disappears on the season’s second half); Call-O-Metric’s inventor and boss Flo Packer; the relationship between Libby Masters and Coral, and Libby finally having some fun with Robert; Betty; Lester and Barbara; Virginia learning she can’t have it all and, of course, Betty.

Most disappointing elements of the season: the ellipsis, no more Allison Janney, Bill Master’s endless obsession with himself.

Since ellipsis seems to be a favorite of the producers now, I have a request for the third season: can we please just skip to when Masters and Johnson get divorced? (Oh, just wikipedia them already, goddamn it).

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4 thoughts on “What happened with Masters of Sex?

  1. Hi, I found your post through the community pool. Very interesting points. My main issue with this season is the lack of integrating research with the lives of the characters, which they did no effectively in the first season. If it wasn’t for the clinical aspect of it, I wouldn’t have been interested in a medical drama. If I wanted to know how sex socially affects people’s lives, I’d watch Sex and the City! This season was just overly focused on relationships and betrayal, and not enough on why we care for Masters and Johnson anyway. I personally don’t care when they marry or divorce(which occur a lot later, don’t they). I just want to see the wonder of their scientific contribution rendered dramatically.
    I missed Betty and her husband though. I wish they showed more of them.

  2. I watched the first season, but I have not yet seen the second. Don’t worry, I saw the spoiler alert. I might still watch the series, but it is not very high on my “must watch list”.

    I personally believe that if you are going to cheat someone, have the decency to tell them and leave them. I found it difficult to relate to Masters and Johnson, not because I haven’t experienced pressure or attraction, but because I have and I made very different choices. The intrigues of a prolonged secret affair just does not appeal to me.

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