Sunday, September 28, 2014

REVIEW: 'Masters of Sex' - Virginia Battles Her Ex Over Custody & Old Faces Return in 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised'

Showtime's Masters of Sex - Episode 2.12 "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"

After watching an early cut of the study's documentary, Bill is disturbed by the portrayal of their work. Virginia moves to solidify a custody arrangement with George. Libby continues her relationship with Robert. Austin discovers Flo's family's wealth and connections. And Bill and Virginia feel they are ready to cure sexual dysfunction rather than simply diagnose it.

The second season of Masters of Sex was a lot bumpier than the first season. Most of the time the emotional beats won out over the plot mechanics - which only made those stand out even more. There were story beats that worked wonderfully. For all the ups and downs in their relationship this year, Bill and Virginia still work immensely well as did Lillian dying of cancer, the time spent at Buell Green and the CBS segment about the work. And yet, they were paired with inconsistent subplots. The emotional beats of the Betty and Gene story early in the season were strong even though it felt like a big diversion just to get her back into Bill and Virginia's orbit. And then, there's Flo and Austin's relationship which took over in the last handful of episode which didn't really have any redeeming factor.

Like most of the season, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" is erratic. With the race to be the first team to publish, it seems like the season is headed to the same kind of ending the first season did. The work will be put out there in the world with reaction to it determining where Bill, Virginia and company go next. It is not however - although it does feature Bill reverting back to a man who doesn't share or open himself up to anyone. In some ways, Bill has come incredibly far since the series began. And then in others, he is still the same man whose emotions trump the needs of others. While in other ways still, he has become distracted a bit. He's so focused on preserving the work that he'll do anything to make sure that how it's presented is the best way possible. So, he sets out to sabotage the CBS segment without informing Virginia who has placed her entire future in the hands of it.

The finale is emotionally devastating when it comes to Virginia and ex-husband George wanting to change their custody arrangement. The season has largely ignored Henry and Tess and that is to the benefit of the audience. We are as focused on Virginia and the work as she is and have simply forgotten how all of this must be effecting her family. Even though her priority isn't on her family right now, Virginia still loves Henry and Tess. She concocts this crazy plan of being able to win them back after gaining respect for herself and her work through the CBS segment. It's crazy but it's the thought she needs to grasp onto in order to be okay with this drastic upheaval. It's overwhelming watching her tell her children and them being happy about it. They don't know what's going on behind the scenes. It's heartbreaking watching as she is then forced to compose herself before answering the phone. If that wasn't enough, she heads into the office to learn that Dr. Joseph Kaufman has filmed a TV segment as well - and with the help of Ethan!

She is broken in a way that only Bill can comfort her. Unlike earlier this season, he is the one to build her back up after this big thing happens in life. Yes, he's the one who caused it. But he's willing to be there to help pick up all the pieces. He didn't set out to completely destroy her life. But it is collateral damage. He gets that wake-up call from Barton Scully - a very welcome return appearance by Beau Bridges. And now, the two of them are focusing on the work again. They are miles ahead on Kaufman in the actual work. They just have to put their heads down and focus on doing and listening to the work. The hour opens with the two coming up with a practical way of treating impotence. And the season comes to a close by the two of them offering their services again to Barbara and Lester. It will take lots of work to overcome their issues but Bill and Virginia are willing to give it another go - this time with respect. And that is evolution the characters needed as well as simplicity that the series needed in its final episode of 2014.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" was written by Michelle Ashford and directed by Adam Arkin.
  • The finale also confirms that Libby has known about Bill's affair for years now. That has been hinted at throughout the season and she has coped by just trying to ignore its existence. And yet now, it feels amazing to her to actually be allowed to feel something again. That was a marvelous scene for Caitlin Fitzgerald.
  • Hugh Hefner from Playboy called and left a message with Betty. I'm intrigued to see how that plot point will be addressed in the new season.
  • I'm sorry but it looks like the Flo and Austin relationship was utterly pointless. It was nice to have a historical piece to play off with John F. Kennedy's presidential inauguration. But I really don't care that she thinks her family will only seen him as a blonde with pretty eyes.
  • Season three is coming next year. I'm intrigued to see what lessons the show will learn from this year and apply going forward. Until then, it has been a pleasure writing about Masters of Sex this year.