Masters of Sex: Flaccid

I hate nothing more than a television show that peters out in its season finale. There is some unwritten theory that some showrunners seem to follow where the major plotlines/story arcs are largely resolved in the penultimate episode, leaving the final episode of the season as something of an epilogue.

But, too often, our expectations of the language of finales – the grand gestures, the bold statements, the big surprises – led us to expect the same of every show when, in reality, some finales just wrap things up and hint at a direction for their next season.

Disappointingly, in my opinion, Masters of Sex did just that in its second season close.

The major drama of the episode involved the emotional destruction of Virginia Johnson. First, her ex-husband, George, finally makes a move to obtain full custody of their children after discovering she never had him sign their previous custody agreement. Using her status as a sex researcher as leverage, George cons her into completely reversing their agreement. Now, Virginia is the every-other-weekend parent.

The irony behind all of this is that she readily agreed to the change to protect the sex study and benefit from the eventual publicity that the filmed CBS interview would offer her. All of this happened just as Masters and Johnson’s main competition in sex research first aired an interview, publicizing their own study as supported by Virginia’s ex Ethan, based on a tip planted by Bill Masters himself. Bill wanted to sabotage the airing of the CBS interview that he never liked, and, at that, he succeeded.

Coupled with all of this was the comically awkward love life of Lester and Barbara, two wrongs trying to make a right. Due to his impotence, Lester has given up on the sexual component of a romantic relationship, and Barbara appears satisfied lying in bed next to him. But, given Bill’s renewed vigor (ahem) and Virginia’s lack of options, Masters and Johnson refocus their efforts on attempting to cure sexual disorders at the end of the episode with Lester and Barbara as prime candidates.

mos12 1

Libby 2.0 also coupled with Robert again, finally admitting that she has known and ignored for years the sexual relationship between Bill and Virginia. She has found a new purpose and love/lust for Robert and his civil rights cause, and I’m very interested to see where this goes for Libby 2.0 in season three. Libby 3.0 anyone?

Bizarrely and somewhat out of left field, Masters takes a political slant where it hadn’t in previous episodes save the occasional references to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and staged much of the episode against the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, Jr. It’s a page ripped straight out of the Mad Men textbook, and, frankly, Mad Men did it better.

That’s sort of been my whole take on season two, to be honest. Even in the best of the season, and there were many great moments, stands in the shade of what Mad Men was able to achieve at its peak. Particularly strong are the comparisons between the “Fight” Masters episode and “The Suitcase” from Mad Men.

By dipping into socio-political concerns over season two, Masters has done little to distinguish itself from AMC’s great show. I don’t regret the path Masters took, but I do wish they’d handled it more gracefully and more uniquely, leaving out massive blemishes like Libby, Coral, and head lice.

After all, multiple shows have given us vantage points on the racial conflicts of the 50s and 60s, but only Masters of Sex has given us the Masters and Johnson story. It’s what we’ve tuned in for and what’s piqued our interest.

Pretending to be anything else just gives us blue balls, frankly.

And that’s not what we’re coming for.

Sign In

Reset Your Password

Email Newsletter