Episode Title: Manhigh
Renewal Status: Renewed for season 2
Pre-finale Thoughts: It’s not a secret that Masters of Sex has been one of my favorite shows of 2013. I love the subject matter and even more than that, I’ve come to love so many of the characters. They are all brilliantly acted and written and every single one of them deserves recognition. I may not always like them (especially Bill, who is difficult to love) but I believe them and that’s what I have been most thrilled with. I don’t like Ethan – I started warming up to him when he was with Vivian and then lost that all again in the last episode – but I think he’s an interesting character.
I also love the variety of women portrayed on the show. Libby is very different from Virginia but also very different from Dr. DePaul and all are portrayed sympathetically and given complexity. Betty was written as a very likable character, which has not always been the case for sex workers on TV. For a show that I expected to predominately be about Bill Masters, it’s really been the female characters that make me love it as much as I do.
Finale Thoughts: Like the rest of the season, the finale was very well done. I have a couple small things that I didn’t love but I’ll get to those. How fantastic were Allison Janney, Beau Bridges, and Michael Sheen in this episode? It was amazing work by actors who have continuously been good this season. I just really love the subplot with Barton and his wife. It is so heartbreaking and it’s truly been one of the highlights of the season. It makes everyone involved hurt, including the viewer.
Though I probably should have seen it coming, I was devastated for Bill when everyone rejected his work and meaningless pornography. Virginia was right, he could live without everything else except his work. It is his life’s passion and the study revealed revolutionary things that he was so proud of even though (or maybe because) they went against the thinking of the time. It hurts to see someone’s passion ridiculed that way. The scene of him trying to get into his old office then dejectedly walking down the hallway afterward was so effective in showing that he had lost everything and it was nicely juxtaposed by Libby holding their baby and not wanting to call him yet. The separation between those two worlds was so pronounced and foreshadows what is to come for them.
The one thing I was least happy about was that Virginia’s story in this episode was mainly to be in the middle of a love triangle that she didn’t ask for. Professionally, we can see her passion to make a difference in women’s sexual health and lives. It was obvious that being included on the study papers meant the world to her. But her plot in this episode was really to be proposed to once by a man who loves her but doesn’t see her and to be told that she is the one thing that her married ex-boss can’t live without. I haven’t read the book by Thomas Maier that this is written on so I don’t know how much was condensed into this one episode, but unlike the rest of the season, it felt artificial for the sake of drama. I also didn’t love the choice to have Bill standing in the rain while he made this declaration. It was just a little too over-the-top for me.
I don’t want to end without a shout-out to Lester and what may be the most awkward pick-up line in the world. He made it work, even if complementing the appearance of a woman’s vaginal walls is unconventional. I don’t know how I feel about him and Jane but that scene did make me smile.
Hopes for Season 2: I want Virginia out of this love triangle more than anything. Given the little I know about the real lives of Masters and Johnson, that should also mean getting Ethan out of the picture, which I wouldn’t mind. Nicholas D’Agosto did do a very nice job of getting me to see him as Ethan Haas instead of West from Heroes but Ethan just rubs me the wrong way.
Other than that, I want more of the same. I want updates on how the Scullys are doing and I’d love to see more of Vivian if all of their shooting schedules allow (assuming all their network shows are renewed). I’d obviously like to see more of the work that Masters and Johnson did. I’d like to see Libby happy with her baby. I’d be happy to see Betty (and her husband) back, even if it’s just a small appearance.