Thus far, Masters of Sex has been a bit of an enigma for me. I may have period piece exhaustion, as I’m continually finding myself thinking that I’ve seen these characters before. Bill Masters as an emotionally underdeveloped scientist hopelessly devoted to his craft is particularly problematic, since that archetype has been ridden to death over the past few decades. I know that I’m personally guilty of holding all shows to an impossibly high standard when it comes to character originality, but I need something fresh, especially from a main character. And in this third episode, there are scenes that begin to show cracks in Masters’ egotistical facade. He’s now shown to be unbendingly rigid in matters of science, but as he is confronted with new social situations he is gradually opening his mind to new possibilities. This is all happening while it is becoming increasingly clear that his personal life is heading for a horrific crash that he is directly and solely responsible for.
Love triangle plot lines are also something that can be passé when nuance is lacking, but the same driving force behind the subtle development of Masters’ character makes the show’s love triangle unique. Libby Masters is obviously on a crash course with her Young Buck doctor, Ethan Haas. Ethan miraculously helped Libby get pregnant, after she and Bill had years of difficulty. Bill and Ethan have a smoldering hatred of each other, now boiling over after Masters’ delivery of quadruplets and the resulting fame and glory. Bill Masters has yet to explain to his wife that it’s his low sperm count that contributed to the pregnancy difficulties, not Libby being barren. Ginny Johnson told this to Libby in confidence, but Libby has yet to reveal to Bill that she knows. And in the pilot, Bill proposed to Ginny that they fuck, “for the good of the study”. Yes, yes, if told poorly this has the potential to spiral out of control into some serious soap opera shit, but the pacing and the acting performances combine to make it work. It’s been heavily implied that Libby is going to fuck Ethan, and now that she is overflowing with anti-Bill venom, she has a vested interested in allowing him access to her vagina.
There are still some questionable moments. The flashbacks of a young Bill Masters receiving bits of wisdom from the younger Barton Scully (still played by Beau Bridges, and for some reason I keep getting a creepy vibe from him. And this has nothing to do with Masters threatening to out him for soliciting male prostitutes at the end of this episode) have got to go. They remind me of the young Dexter/Harry scenes from Dexter, and anything that reminds me of Dexter right not is immediately infuriating. I almost want to go back and watch a few of the Dexter episodes from the Jimmy Smits season to remind me it wasn’t always as terrible as it ended. Aside from that, this is the second straight week in which the director has used a cheap visual storytelling technique that could have used more effective methods to get the same information across. Visual flashbacks are fine, but present them in a creative way, not just with fake Technicolor and some makeup. Don’t emulate Dexter. Please don’t emulate Dexter. I was disappointed in the resolution of the head of the brothel wants children plot line. It seemed rushed and needlessly depressing. Why crush the hopes and dreams of a promising character three episodes in? I hope this isn’t the last we see of her.
At this point, viewers of the show are waiting for the blowup between Bill and Libby Masters. I don’t think Libby has been featured enough at this point (not nearly as much as her season 1 of Mad Men counterpart, January Jones as Betty Draper), but her role has expanded a little and should continue to as the season progresses. I think extending the explosion of the marriage is a mistake at this point, if it’s going to happen. Nine more weeks of demure, passive Libby Masters isn’t something I’m looking forward to. I’m rooting for her to demand to be part of Bill’s study. Here’s how I would set it up: Libby finds out that Bill wants to fuck Virginia as part of the study. So she then demands to be allowed to fuck Ethan, also as “part of the study”. Ethan of course agrees in order to get back at Bill for stealing his quadruplet-delivering thunder. Trust me, I got this shit locked tight, with brass knuckles and flashlights. See you guys next week.
Oh shit! I almost forgot the prostitute masturbation montage!