Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” is so, so good you guys. We’ll presume you all agree, because you’re intelligent thoughtful individuals with distinguishing taste. It’s got everything: real-life roots, emotional intrigue, political relevancy, really amazing costumes and hairstyles, and – yes – super crazy juicy sometimes awkward but wholly entertaining sex scenes.
It’s been a while since Season One wrapped, so in preparation for tonight’s Season Two premiere – and for all you newbies (we implore you to tune in) – let’s recap.
The infamous human sexual response research pioneers Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) have been navigating their way through their work at Washington University in St. Louis during the sexually repressed late 1950s, along with all the funding roadblocks that come with it.
Most of their research has been conducted on the sly, as people back then didn’t even utter the word “orgasm,” let alone understand its inner workings. This was a time when sexuality and sexual response weren’t spoken about or studied, but the duo rallies forth, recruiting willing subjects from somewhat shady establishments (brothels), affixing video cameras to the end of rudimentary vibrators, and even eventually participating as an anonymous couple – anything to garner results.
The kicker is: Masters and Johnson have become emotionally and physically involved in their research – they’re not just watching participants climax, they’re also copulating across the boundaries of work and life. And this yields all the repercussions you’d expect, considering the fact that Bill is married and his wife (Caitlin Fitzgerald) is pregnant with their first child.
Season One leaves us dangling from two hugely dramatic precipices: having split from Virginia in the heat of their research, Bill debuts the results of their secret study to the hospital board solo, to disastrous effect – he’s fired. Then, he shows up on Virginia’s doorstep during a massive rainstorm, Ryan Gosling in “The Notebook”-style, to voice his regret over their professional split and to admit he cannot live without her.
Will they find a new home for their study? Will they resurrect their professional (and, let’s be serious, their insanely chemistry-laden personal) relationship? Will Virgina continue to don her swoon-worthy expertly-tailored era-specific skirts and pin-curled tresses? For these reasons and many, many more, we are tuning in so hard to Showtime tonight.
Truly, though – there are myriad interesting and surprisingly timely themes addressed in “Masters of Sex” – how society constantly tried to hide homosexuality, how tamed female sexuality was, the challenges of fertility, and the endless stresses that marriages face.
Virginia Masters is a heroine for the ages – a single mother in a time when divorce was deemed unacceptable, an unabashedly sexual woman and a fiercely intelligent, driven researcher. It’s enlightening to step back in time via this show and see how far we’ve come—even if the recent Hobby Lobby decision indicates otherwise.
One thing is certain: “Masters of Sex” shines a light on too many incredibly important talking points to be ignored. It also includes two of the best lead performances on television and Caplan’s recent Best Actress Emmy nomination for the show’s first season is just one indication of that fact.
It’s eminently watchable, socially conscious stuff – entertainment that makes you consider and begs you to converse. We could use more of it out there, don’t you think?