TV Review: “Masters of Sex” – Television’s Sexiest Hour

Written by Brian Wilcox September 29, 2014

Masters Of Sex

When “Masters of Sex” premiered last year it quickly became a critical darling, and was hotly talked about when the conversation of “best new series” would come up.  Critics took note of the stellar acting and writing, among other aspects, and audiences did too. At least a million viewers tuned in each week to watch.  With this second season all wrapped up, none of the episodes even got close to gaining the viewership its previous season did, but it’s not because of what you may think. For the viewers that did tune in, however, they were treated to not only the best season of the series thus far, but without a doubt one of the best shows on television in 2014.

“Masters of Sex” is a period piece that’s set through the late 1950s through to the early 60s in St. Louis, Missouri. The show follows Dr. Bill Masters (played by Michael Sheen) and his partner Virginia Johnson (played tremendously by Lizzy Caplan) as they explore the untapped world of sex and sexual behavior. They’ve been working on a medical study for the past few years and after its premature reveal in the first season, they’ve now taken it into secrecy, working out of a hotel late at night.  The study at this point, though, is non-existent and is used mostly as a clever cover for Bill and Virginia’s affair which ends up creating much of the basis of the plot.

Masters of Sex

The Cast of “Masters of Sex”

 

This season focuses much more on characters and their development than plot, a luxury the show can now afford since it has a season behind them as a jumping off point. While the study is very much at the forefront of the series and its premise, it takes a back seat for the better part of the year. Audiences instead got to watch Sheen and Caplan chew dialogue week after week as their personal struggles slowly bled into their work struggles to create one giant mess for the two leads.  “Masters of Sex” only benefited from moments like this, as the seemingly uptight Dr. Masters was slowly broken down over the course of the 12 episodes with light being finally shed on his upbringing. As the main character of the show this is a welcome insight as it is compelling to watch him break down to Virginia in the hotel over his sexual problems (another weakness brought up this year) or another time when he confronts his brother Frank to tell him that he is weak.  Throughout the show Michael Sheen has played Masters as a perfectionist and a control freak; watching him this season lose control of everything was a much better arc for his character. The character’s possible developments for next year’s “Masters of Sex” will make the third season even more highly anticipated.

“Didn’t know they had postcards in Bitch Town.”

Speaking of big developments, Lizzy Caplan’s Virginia also had a big year. She had to fight to get back into the study, and ends up spending long hours working (which is a nice way of saying that she was having sex with Bill). This raises a problem, though. Her ex-husband starts looking to see his kids, and they end up getting into a custody battle.  When things don’t work out in the end through a number of different means, Virginia is ultimately left with nothing, and will have to pick up and somehow attempt to carry on in the next season. Her character arc is another exciting development to look forward to in the future seasons of “Masters of Sex”. Caplan is clearly the star of the show and reason enough to tune in each week. Her range is astounding; she can be driven and fierce one second, and within the same scene become sensitive and comforting which totally changes the entire mood of a scene or sometimes even an episode.  While Michael Sheen has done an impeccable job, he doesn’t hold a candle to Caplan’s standout performance.

Masters of Sex

Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson

 

While the first season was very much hit or miss week to week, this season has certainly found its groove and has delivered weekly, something it better hope it keeps up in the years to come. It’s been mentioned the pacing is a bit slow – maybe slower than what the common viewer is used to -, but it is definitely a conscious choice as this isn’t the type of show that needs to get anywhere fast. One such highlight is the third episode of the season, entitled “Fight”. The chapter is a bottle episode, taking place in the hotel with just Bill and Virginia.  Easily the best episode in the series so far, it showcases the best aspects of “Masters of Sex” while not really doing anything at all for the plot.  It was almost as if the writers were seeing how much they could get away with by doing so little, and it paid off in spades.

“Some men come home to fame and fortune, some to measure ejaculate.”

The second season of “Masters of Sex” is simply the best the series has been so far in every aspect. The storytelling is much more ambitious. The main cast, and even the supporting characters, all get their moments to shine throughout; the sheer acting prowess of its leads has only gotten stronger in a year’s time. The show finally garnered some Emmy attention this past year; hopefully that opens up the show to a new audience that wasn’t aware of it before. As 2014 gets closer and closer to ending, it is beginning to look like the best show on television was a show barely anyone saw at all, and that’s a real shame.

My Rating: 8/10

Masters of Sex

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About Brian Wilcox

Brian can usually be found watching movies, talking about his vinyl collection or eating Ring a Wing chicken wings. Sometimes all three at once. Follow him on twitter (@mcchub) for his ramblings and comedic genius.

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