After the brief, beauteous idyll of “Fight,” Masters of Sex returns to the cold hard light of day this week, as all of the characters are forced to contend with the idea of doing things that they find distasteful in the hopes of seeing a greater good achieved or, if nothing else, just getting through another day.
Browsing: Masters Of Sex
Masters of Sex has never been about subtlety. It is a show that is happy to beat viewers over the head with its subtext (like the show it most closely and intentionally resembles, Mad Men), and never fears being a bit too obvious.
Fittingly for a season premiere, “Parallax” takes place in the space between two moments, the time between the cliffhanger and its inevitable resolution. For the characters, this is a fairly short period, but one in which Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson are operating on completely different wavelengths about what, exactly, happened that night after he showed up on her doorstep declaring he needed her, that she was the one thing he couldn’t live without.
In a lot of ways, “Manhigh” feels like the finale that the pilot of the show was building towards. All of the predictable conflicts come to a head, from Masters presenting the study to him finally confessing his love to Virginia, and everything becomes tied up. “Manhigh turns the season into a neat bow, which is slightly disappointing because Masters of Sex is at its best when its as messy as lust and love tend to be.
December 8, 2013, 10PM (EST), SHO A pyrrhic victory is one with such a devastating…
Over the course of its first season, Masters of Sex has repeatedly proven adept at fleshing out its characters and their relationships so fluidly they feel completely natural and fully realized. Even characters who were weaker early on, like Ethan, have developed to be relatable and sympathetic. This allows the show to lift us up with its characters when the succeed, when they fall in love, when they succumb to lust. We feel elated as they do. It also primes us to be emotionally devastated when they are hurt. “Involuntary” involves a lot more of the latte than the former, as Ethan breaks off his engagement, Libby tries to save her marriage, Essie wants to save her son from becoming his father, and Bill distances Virginia because of the man he fears she is making him.
Marriage is a delicate, complicated subject, both for those within it and for those barred from its protections. Marriage can mean any number of things—political alliances, social mobility, convenience, a way of keeping up appearances, or even, in some reported cases, love. Though the old song makes an appearance, sung by Vivian as she cooks for Ethan, “Love and Marriage” is less about the aphorism at the ditty’s center (“you can’t have one without the other,”) and more about exposing that sentiment as, if not a lie, then at least a gross misunderstanding.
Sex is complicated. Its about itself and yet sort of about everything else as well. Its about connection and intimacy, but its also about how much of ourselves we can and should hide. It is one of the most mutual acts we can engage in, and yet it is also possible to approach it incredibly selfishly. Sex changes us, the way we think, the way we behave, who we are and who we pretend to be. In its first season, Masters of Sex has approached this complexity head on, and in “All Together Now,” the ground work it has been laying since the pilot starts to truly pay off.
Early in its run, Masters of Sex was forced to spend a lot of time building up the rules of the game it was playing, developing the characters, yes, but also developing the society in which they live and setting a somewhat complex plot in motion. “Brave New World” is aptly named in that Masters of Sex has finally and fully arrived where I hoped it was headed, to a point where all of the characters are clicking and all of the plotlines flow together seamlessly. The show is great at capturing the magic of a moment, the ineffable spark that attracts two people toward each other regardless of anything that stands in their way.
There are silences that are louder than screams. People go through their lives shrouded, separated, by their own boundaries and by the boundaries of others. People yearn for connection, seek desperately to be accepted and understood. Many of our anxieties in life (including, yes, those about sex) are actually worries about being misunderstood or failing to understand. We want to express ourselves. We want those we love to express themselves. We hope our expressions will become something more, will bind us, will tie us together in the darkness and pull us through until dawn. But we fear opening ourselves up, letting ourselves be vulnerable. We fear what might happen if we are completely open and totally honest, and another person recoils in fear, repulsion, or worse, disinterest.