Masters of Sex regains some of its footing, but goes for the big emotional moment without enough build up for the audience.
Libby has been regulated from, “give me a baby” to the matchmaker to daughter-in-law and now the show has taken the baby away. The loss of baby Masters was clearly designed to be the emotional centerpiece of the season so far, but the inconsistency with Libby’s characterization and the speed at which they get to the loss of the baby reduced any impact the show could of had for the moment. The loss of a child is tragic, of course, but the show never lets us get to know Libby enough to really connect with her in a moment like this. Libby, and now Bill’s mother, are being used more as a cypher for Bill’s emotional arc and not being built as individual characters, this is a problem. It doesn’t help either that they are really dragging out Bill’s backstory, as more character build up would have been preferred to this protracted reveal around Bill’s father. Also of note, showing the stillborn felt unearned and like a cheap cry for the audience, unless the show was trying to be clinical, then o.k., I guess.
Virginia continues to be saddled with some lackluster material as well and I am sick and tired of her family struggles already. Again, a lot of this might be true, but it is written so poorly, with such cliche and done by such a terrible child actor, it is becoming unbearable. We need to pull a Bobby Draper on Virginia’s son; and fast. The whole, “Dad is the best, you are the worst” routine is so played out and tired that I couldn’t help but laugh and I have been shocked they’ve done next to nothing with Virginia since the pilot. They continue to try and suck Ethan back into Virginia’s life as well this week, and while Nicholas D’Agosto turns in possibly his best scene yet on the show opposite her son, the show is still no where near redeeming Ethan in my eyes.
Speaking of Ethan, the virgin relationship with the Provost’s daughter seems like another piece of history that has to be met, but the show doesn’t do a whole lot to make it interesting. Vivian might be an interesting character, but she is stuck working against mostly Ethan it seems going forward and no one wants to see more of him. Her plot, again, like the idiot religious couple, seems only there for the sake of pointing out how sexually square the people of the time were. Instead of fools who think they can conceive by simply sleeping next to each other, Vivian is no deeper as the young girl who thinks she can fall in love and have her high school crush if she wants to. I’m really glad they hired the great Allison Janney to play Vivian’s Mom just to reinforce these behaviors; what a waste of talent.
Masters even has a ho-hum episode this week with most of his plot revolving around his relationship with the Provost. Yes, Michael Sheen gets to show off his acting skills with the stillborn stuff towards the end of the episode, but nothing was terribly unexpected from Bill at this point. The breakdown at the end of the episode was a big moment for Masters to show such emotion, but Sheen playing the awkward and clinical Masters to perfection only can carry a show that has almost no engaging stories so far.
If this episode did anything it showed us that Jane and Austin (God I hope that isn’t a joke with their names) need to be on the show a lot more. Heléne Yorke is probably the second best thing going on this show behind Sheen and she has barely been on screen for more than five minutes with her clothes on. Still, the Jane/Austin relationship is the most compelling thing on the show outside the Masters patient cases from week to week, but we didn’t get one of those in this episode; our loss.
Not focusing on Ethan was a good start, but I was obviously able to pick away at this show quite a bit this week. I’m probably being overly negative, I did enjoy watching the majority of this episode, but the show is not surprising and the plots continue to feel tired from week to week. I’m still in, but I find myself doubting Masters of Sex might have me coming back for a second season.