Compared to its premiere episode, Masters of Sex this week was positively Puritan. After the initial shock and awe of copious sex and nudity (though not enough from the men, never enough from the men!) things got down to business. The show remained stylish, but seems to still be figuring out its visual tone (“are daydream sequences things we want to do?”) as well as its balance between the sex and the science. That’s also a struggle Ginny and Bill face, and while the latter remains an emotional cripple devoid of any likability, Ginny at least gives us a reason to put up with him. For now. Hit the jump for more.
Does Masters of Sex have the most unlikable protagonist of any new drama on TV? Some anti-heroes like Walter White or Don Draper start off at least as sympathetic figures. They are flawed, but there are still reasons we like them. Bill Masters gives us nothing to go on. He’s cruel to his wife, he’s cold with Ginny and Ethan, he’s pompous and creepy with the prostitutes, and he appears to have no desire to make any of that change. He’s an honest character, and for all I know, just like the real Bill Masters. But if the ultimate goal is to have him slowly begin to redeem himself, I’d have to say I think he’s starting too far in the hole, without enough evidence that things will ever be different.
So what is the show trying to tell us with this? Ginny is another interesting case. Do we champion her, feel sorry for her, chastise her, or all of the above? She seems to get plenty of chiding from the show itself. Bill lambasts her for her relationship with Ethan, firing her because she “ruined everything.” Ethan calls her a whore and slapped her last week (though apologized this week), and her babysitter essentially tells her she’s an unfit mother.
She’s ignited by the excitement and possibility of Masters’ project, and it uses her obvious high intellect and people skills in a way nothing else she’s done so far has. But as the final scene clearly showed, it’s that old chestnut: is what I’m progressing to worth what I’m leaving behind? In this case, her children are suffering her absence. Then again, it looks like her mind has always been elsewhere. She had kids she really didn’t want, so now what?
Does that make Ginny sympathetic, or not? When it comes to her work there is no question. She schemes to get herself back to working with Masters, who clearly needs her (though has trouble admitting it, or anything). Her resourcefulness and desire to truly help women is inspiring, and her talent is obvious. Does she save Masters, too? It seems like too much to ask. And right now, not anything that looks even remotely appealing. Hopefully the show’s great trick will get us to care about Bill and root for Ginny to save him from himself. For now though, I’d rather see the show be given over to its women.
Episode Rating: B
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I did like the daydreams, because it was a smart way to reveal so much about Ginny and Bill’s desires regarding that “proposal” (she was against it, occasionally vehemently, and he was obviously for it). It’s something Six Feet Under employed a great deal, but it felt a little off here for some reason.
— Ethan is a mess, isn’t he? He can’t get the sweet nurse to suck his dick, and though Bernadette was a wild thing, she still wasn’t Ginny, who he’s obviously still obsessed with. Other than that though, Ethan is a really good guy. Again, not sure what the show is setting up him for or as.
— Bill is the worst. He has absolutely no feelings towards his long-suffering wife, who is so savvy she even tries to interpret his bizarre behavior into repressed desires. I don’t know if she wanted Ethan back as her doctor because she knows something is up, or because she really didn’t want to “fail Bill twice,” but if it’s just the latter, that is fucking tragic. Damn you, Bill, damn you. (Although it will make the eventual revelation that much better).
— “I’d like control of the wheel in case I decide to veer your side of the car into a tree” – Libby. Do it!
— I really love Betty. She’s a little broad (that phrase works too ways!), but I like that she tells it to Masters like it is, and blackmails him for her own purposes.
— Bill: “But why would you want to have children?? You’re a lesbian and a prostitute!” Betty: “A little respect.”
— All hail secretary Jane for standing up to that lecherous doctor wanting to have sex with her on the sly because, “I’m a doctor [like Masters], too!” Her reading to him and Ethan from The Second Sex was my favorite part of the episode.
— I think we all knew that prostitute needed glasses, but it was still a nice moment. “Don’t borrow trouble.”