Showtime’s black comedic period drama is back from its impressive first season prematurely than when it debuted. Season two coverage begins here on Tube Talk!
Masters of Sex: Season 2: Episode 1: Parallax: GRADE: A-
A fresh start is what Williams Masters’ (Michae Sheen) mother (Ann Dowd of The Leftovers) describes his child with wife Libby (Caitlin Fitzgerald). A miracle baby indeed given the circumstances they were in last season, but that’s what the season two premiere of the Showtime hit of last fall feels like in some regards, a fresh start.
Well one fresh start is the departure of season one cast member Nicholas D’Agosto as Dr. Ethan Haas and the promotion of Annaleigh Ashford as Betty DiMello. D’Agosto does have a cameo via telephone voice but is set to be a guest star for the season.
Also a fresh start for Bill given last seasons events in the finale, out of a job and trying to raise a newborn child, life is certainly different for the good doctor as well as Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) in a new job herself and now hawking some diet pills to raise up her income in order to just get by. Yet both are stuck in the same place as last season as we get flashbacks to the end where the did in fact conduct their own private research and among that was Bill’s son being born and Virginia breaking up with Ethan and running into each other in the hotel they are occupying under assumed names. That scene happens towards the end but is an effective scene, hell any scene with these two are, its a great chemistry that hasn’t diminished at all between the break.
Sheen and Caplan have such a great dynamic off each other that its half the reason the show made it so high on my top ten shows last year, and the preview for the remainder of the season shows this decision of theirs will continue to complicate their lives, as Bill says when he scoffs off having an affair with Virginia, he’s a happily married man though Virginia masks her own feelings saying she’s about the work over love.
They refuse to call it an affair even thought lets see, out-of-town hotel, lobby cocktails, assumed fake names, goddamn it, just admit you love each other. Things shall get more complicated as Bill will try to bring Virginia in and keep her on the research, even if it means in secret.
Oh yeah Bill found a job! Thanks to connections of Libby and pretzel man himself Gene Moretti (Greg Grunberg) to hook him up with Dr. Douglas Greathouse (Danny Huston) at Memorial Hospital.
Another way a fresh start takes place is with Barton Scully (Beau Bridges) working without Bill for the first time in about 20 years and undergoing electroshock aversion therapy to cure his homosexuality, remember this is still an era where is was horribly deemed a “mental disorder” by the American Psychiatric Association, without Margaret’s (Allison Janney) knowledge and man Beau Bridges just earned the hell out of his Guest Drama actor nomination, which counts for last season, but here makes it more evident with not just how he acts after waking up, confused, sick, and begging for Margaret, but when he attempts to make love to her. It starts out well enough until he turns her around and Margaret won’t pretend to be someone else to help get his rocks off. As much as I love Sheen and Caplan together, last season had something amazing as well with Bridges and Janney in their storylines and their acting together. Its genuinely a heartbreaking scene and just gut punching with the amazing acting.
This also brings up something I have noticed, the women are in control more so already than the men are. Virginia in her attempt to move on and take a risk with the diet pill selling and having more control over herself, including batting off everyman who wants her because of the study, Dr. Austin Langham’s (Teddy Sears) wife straight up has had it with his philandering ways, her sister being the straw that broke her back, and embarrassing him in one the episode’s funnier episodes, wives are securing jobs for their husbands, being way more evident in children’s lives, also shown by Bill just drowning out his child’s crying with music and becoming like both his parents it seems, making paths and steering their husbands from paths, and saving their lives even when Margaret halts Barton’s suicide attempt, also happened in front of their daughter, yikes!
Direction here is very well done and is yet another reason why I love the show so much, though some scenes could be cut, I didn’t care for Virginia and her friend catching up and also, I’m confused as to why Margaret wouldn’t let Bill in to see Barton after the attempt, he of all people would keep it secret and help his best friend get the care and attention that he needs in that time. It feels somewhat odd, I mean I get after finding out your husband is gay, you’re already gonna be chatted about and gossiped about. Also not much to the Lillian DePaul (Julianne Nicholson) storyline, other than a possible domestic abuse storyline, but its the premiere so I can slightly forgive it here as its really time to set up here, which the episode well establishes its setup in spades towards the end.
We have a strong set up for the season, despite some missteps, but here, its not too big a deal. Masters of Sex was one of last fall’s best debuts and the fact its back this early makes me delighted because it means less waiting. This show will take it nice and slow, and everything will just come together.