Masters of Sex has a problem, and that problem is subplots. The best episode the show has done to date, “Fight,” had a subplot, but it worked mostly as a framing device, leading to what was functionally a one-act play with only Bill and Virginia as its players.
Browsing: Masters Of Sex
“The Excitement of Release” elegantly weaves several subplots about the effects and potential effects of Human Sexual Response underneath its story of Bill and Virginia struggling to figure out how to finance their work so that the research might become self-sustaining.
“I believe whatever arrangement between grown, consenting adults, it must begin with the truth.” When we reenter the story of Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson in 1965, one thing is as clear as ever: Bill Masters is a self-righteous hypocrite, a prickly, difficult, deeply troubled man whose tunnel vision is rewarded with massive success scientifically and mixed results personally.
In “Parallax,” the premiere of this season of Masters of Sex, we watched Bill and Virginia fool themselves that they were communicating, even as they came to an agreement than meant different things to each of them.
There are so many versions of season two of Masters of Sex in my head. In one, we follow Bill and Virginia trying to make it work at Buell Green and dealing with the constant political tensions and ambiguities that entailed.
Bill Masters is afraid of himself. He’s afraid of the darkness at his core. He is afraid he’s so broken he cannot be fixed. This is what makes him so fascinating a figure to put at the center of a series.
We spend so much of our lives hiding ourselves. Not just little things, like tiny indignities that pockmark our days or minor thoughts that throw off our mood. We hide big things. We hide the things that drive us, the things that hurt us or help us to cope with the pain.
Sex is psychology. Freud knew it. Bill Masters knew it. And every person who has ever spent any serious time thinking about what it is they like and why they like it, what it is they need and why they need it, understands this deep down.
Season two of Masters of Sex cleaved itself neatly into two halves last week, taking most of its subplots to natural conclusion points and hinting at big changes to come. “Asterion” is a structurally innovative episode, tracking over three years in the partnership of Masters and Johnson, as they start their own clinic, continue the study, and fall out of and back into each others’ orbits.
A few weeks back, Masters of Sex gave us one of the best hours of television I’ve seen this year so far in “Fight.” On the surface, that episode bore a more than slight resemblance to one of the all-time great episodes of another great series, Mad Men’s “The Suitcase”: it was an episode taking place largely in one location on the night of a landmark boxing match, where an older man and a younger woman with a complex, contentious working relationship sorted through their personal and professional problems.