Monday, August 25, 2014

Masters of Sex: More then a Feeling

On the hunt for a new show to watch, I was implored to look into Showtime's, Masters of Sex. What I thought was going to be a fun and candid look at the real life story of Dr. William Masters and his research assistant, Virginia Johnson, ended up being a whirlwind drama about their lives, their wins and their losses. Making me feel more than I ever expected to about a show that talks a lot about sex. I think I cried twice in this far. I'm sure there is more tears to come.

Now before you go, "Ah lawd, she's pushing smut now!" The title is simply a clever play of words for the name of Dr. Masters and the study of subject matter. It is also based on the book of the same title. This is a show that may seem raunchy simply by title alone, but it has much less to do with actual sex and more to do with the examination of relationships, vulnerability, the study of sex through science and the struggles of people during such an interesting time in history. The sex is well done and less graphic than what I expected, as well as fairly short as it seems to take a back seat a lot to the story itself.


This is typical "happy/angry" look. You get use to it quickly.
Michael Sheen as Dr. Masters is brilliant in his role. He makes you like a character that is hard to like at all. Dr. Masters is powerful, intellectually curious, and can be charming the very few times he cracks a smile. However we often see his cold, biting exterior toward others. He is demanding, ruthless, and sometimes emotionally mute all together. You are dying to know what is going on in his head, but what you do see is a man who has morals. Breaking the rules several times in the show to help others without taking a word of credit for it shows he is a man who deeply cares, but has an impossible time showing it. As the story progresses you see him open up more and become more balanced as a character, a nice personal growth. However you also seem him revert back a few times. Sometimes Dr. Masters can just be a total ass and for some reason I find that increasingly hilarious instead of cruel knowing the characters better.

I'm assuming this magazine is for men....
Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson on the other hand is the opposite, yet curiously similar in certain instances. I think Bill sees in her what he once was, ambitious, optimistic and bright. Virginia comes to him as a secretary, but she becomes more than that, involving herself as an assistant to his work through her strong work ethics and ambition. From there she formed a bond that earned Bill's trust, which seems like a herculean feat in itself. Virginia is also ethical and seems to know when to pull the monster of Bill back or just circumvent his decision all together [severely pissing him off]. She is one of the few people that has the balls to stand up to him when his wrath is flung around. The interesting thing is we get to see Virginia move in and out of a lot of relationships. It seems she is trying to be stable, but she is not quite stable herself in what she wants. There is a parallel between these two, but also a magnetic quality where you want to see them together more.

Of course there is a whole host of other characters of varying degrees of people. Bill's wife, Libby, who we spend season 1 feeling sorry for and less so during season 2 where she had a weird distrust/lust for "colored" folk. Dr. Ethan, who is what we consider the hopeless romantic. Dr. Austin, who is a well known man slut around the hospital and not particularly ashamed of it. Betty, a lesbian prostitute who eventually marries a man that fell in love with her. There are so many different types of characters that it would take a long time to explain them all.


The real Masters and Johnson on the right.
Even though there are moments that could be stronger or rewritten better, there is a surprising sentimental value to Masters of Sex. The moments when you see the characters without the influence of the outside world are much more interesting then the facade they put on for everyone else. They become more endearing, real, and lovable. Which makes their more vulnerable moments powerful and enlightening to the watcher.

Bill is actually quite charming and strong once you get to know him better. Yet, like the old saying goes, behind every powerful man there is a woman...or two. lol. Bill's character is outrageously controlling, but seems to soften with Virginia as time goes by. The trust these two form is something so far reaching and amazing that you can't stop watching it. Who knows how true this relationship was in the real life of Dr. Masters and Dr. Johnson, but its still a great story.

But this isn't just about these two. The stories of the many others involved in their study have become an important part of the story itself. They are all interwoven between each other like a web of drama and humor, spurring fun and lighthearted awkwardness at the hard to talk about subject of sex.

For New Watchers:

The show takes a lot of time to get into. It takes building of momentum, set up and then you get to see all the joys of what its about. The first 3 episodes are mainly establishment of the era, characters, dynamics and the beginnings of the study. By episode 4, things start to come together and become more intriguing.

Hello there, may we speak to you about our lord and savior?
5-8 are all consuming as you are now completely invested in these characters. Which by the way, are not good, nor bad people, but just people. That is what I love about the show. Nobody is glamorized, they all have their problems.  Once you are past the threshold, 9-12 get a little dry. But the last ten minutes of episode 12 make up for it all when you finally get to see what you knew all along.

Also the actors are very expressive facial and movement wise. I always know a good actor by their ability to create tension through small movements. Its important to watch the show with no distractions since these movements create much more of the story than even the story itself. Masters of Sex is not a sitcom you can do the dishes while watching and its not as fast pace as shows like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad where every moment is highly charged. But there are a lot of implied moments that give the story a huge amount of depth and hooks you in.

By Season 2, the pace has quickened and the drama begins to heighten in different ways as Bill and Virginia's world become more personal and are separated quite a bit for the first half of the season. The bad part is that the experimentation of the study has hit one stagnation after another. So yet again we are stuck with building up momentum. Probably a downside, but it does get better and yet again we are back for more.

Season 2 is currently in mid-season at the time of this blog post and Masters of Sex has just been reupped for a third season!

Things I Could Live Without:

That's a mighty big tripod you got there, Lester.
1. Time Skips - 

These are not always defined and confuse the hell out of me when they happen. They often happen in the beginning of episodes where time has passed, but we don't realize it. Or sometimes in the middle of the damn show. I mean I understand that maybe nothing seriously important happened, but the fact that they don't define the time skips sometimes is very bad practice. It takes 5 seconds to introduce a time skip....use it damn it.

2. Title Intro -

All intros are important and so is the beginning music. The only downside to me is the very obvious sexual implications of the montage with the ritzy song going with it. I actually liked the simple black and white title of Masters of Sex, until they switched it up by episode 6 where they finally introduced this silly montage. I usually skip through it...its just weird and really makes the show look worse in my opinion.

3. Dry Parts - 

I hate to sound crude, but in my opinion the show gets a bit dry at times or loses momentum. I think they put too much focus on too many characters at once and some people's story is more interesting than others. It doesn't mean the show is bad all around. Its still pretty good, but the writing could be tightened much more into more impactful scenes. Not that all of the scenes don't contribute as part of the whole, but sometimes it does feel like they don't relate very well in my mind.

Its not what you think! Its not what you think!!!
What show should I review next? Comment below!

If you like my reviews, please subscribe today!

DnD Rating: 8.5/1O

Season 1 DVD: Currently Available

No comments:

Post a Comment