Sunday, September 13, 2015

REVIEW: 'Masters of Sex' - Virginia Confronts the Reality of Her Life While Libby Celebrates a Birthday in 'Through a Glass, Darkly'

Showtime's Masters of Sex - Episode 3.10 "Through a Glass, Darkly"

Nora and Lester both have missteps in the surrogate protocol, leading to Virginia's overt objection to the program. Libby's birthday approaches and both men in her life try their best to please her. Tessa explores what sex really means to her, having grown up on the fringes of Masters and Johnson's clinic.

Virginia really hasn't been genuine with the people in her life lately. She is so concerned about herself and her job that she doesn't even realize what is going on with her daughter. She knows that there's tension but she doesn't want to admit that more problems are fueling that dynamic. She is so happy in her relationship with Dan, but she remains adamant that nothing is or has ever happened with Bill. Meanwhile, she continues to have a working relationship with Bill where she says she wants things to be just like they used to. And yet, Bill has his suspicions that Virginia is pulling away from him. Virginia is doing everything to keep her life as it is now. But that's not a completely genuine life. She is keeping herself at a distance from the people closest to her. In fact, that creates so much pain for everyone involved - something she doesn't even realize until the very end of "Through a Glass, Darkly."

Tessa knows that her mother has been sleeping with both Bill and Dan. Dan knows that Virginia has had a sexual relationship with Bill. Bill knows that Virginia and Dan are much more than friendly work associates. Virginia believes she's doing a good enough job keeping all of these things from affecting the other aspects of her life. And yet, her need to balance everything and keep everyone happy is destroying all of these relationships. It's a fascinating character study for a season that has been pretty aimless all year long.

All of these things come crashing to reality for so many characters in this episode. Virginia learns just how much Dan and Tessa know about her sex life. It's devastating for her to learn just how much she has ruined those relationships by trying to keep things simple and pristine. That hasn't created real and happy relationships for her. Sure, Dan is there for her no matter what. He continues to be the most amazing guy ever to exist. He's almost too perfect - which means the other shoe is about to drop soon. But Virginia and Tessa have been allowed to go years without knowing how to understand and talk to each other. Both have been keeping huge secrets from the other. They are a direct reflection of how things are in their relationship. Tessa has known for so long what her mother has been doing. She has raised herself. And now that she has reached a sexual age, she is using it as a way to hurt her mother. No matter what Tessa hears about the subject from Bill or Virginia, she still refuses to act responsibly because she doesn't view them as respectable role models. Dan is able to strike some fear into her boyfriend, Matt. He seems much more concerned about her well-being now than when they went to the dance several episodes ago. But they still have sex. Things continue to spiral downward with no indication of how things are ever going to heal. That will be a consequence Virginia and Tessa will have to deal with.

Meanwhile, Bill is so desperate to make things go back to the way they used to be with Virginia. It is literally all he can think about. He is being manipulative and deceitful in his pursuit of this passion. He is so blinded by it that it's crippling to him. It's so devastating for him to see her grow so close to Dan. Bill doesn't know Dan. He's just upset that Virginia would choose someone instead of him. He's adrift and lost at the moment. Sure, he has Libby and his children at home. But Virginia is his entire world. Without her, the research wouldn't be as successful as it has been. He's at this point in his career because of Virginia. The threat of taking her away from him is so destructive. He is willing to lash out at everyone until he gets his way. He almost crosses the line with Nora. He and Nora have had an easy rapport filled with talk about sex. It was easy - and somewhat expected - for talk to lead to action. But it's also meaningful that he pulls away from her. He can't even pull away from Virginia and be with another woman. That's how destructive this relationship has become. He is so dependent on her being an intimate part of his life that he can't think straight. He stands motionless in the end as he's realizing how much he needs her and how she no longer feels the same way towards him.

The same thing is happening elsewhere in Bill's life with Libby, but he has long since given up all kinds of intimacy in that relationship. They interact on occasion. But Virginia is the woman he is in love with. That has been debilitating to Libby in the past. But now, she is on the road to finding happiness with someone new. Paul is a man who can give her the life she wants to be living. For a moment, it felt like domesticity would ruin their relationship. Now that they've admitted their true feelings, Paul would start treating her like a typical wife. Instead, something beautiful and happy happened. Paul put together meaningful gestures for Libby. For her birthday, he got her children to stage a story for her. And then, he actually proposed to her. That will certainly be complicated for the future. But he represents something better than the life she has been living lately. Bill is capable of still being thoughtful of her. But he's not able to do quite enough. That's his failing in this relationship. There is such a divide between the two. And now, the action is being set up to make Bill even more isolated and alone in the next few episodes.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Through a Glass, Darkly" was written by Steven Levenson & Esta Spalding and directed by Jeremy Webb.
  • Barton agrees to go out with his ultrasound technician Jonathan. But as soon as a cliche conflict emerges between the straight and gay men at a bar, he runs. He remains so scared about what these feelings will do to his life. And yet, one conversation with Betty may be enough for him to take that risk.
  • This is another light episode for Betty. And yet, she makes the most of her screen time through that conversation with Barton where she's asking him to be Helen's OB-GYN. She is nervous to tell him the whole story but she does want to tell him everything about their unique circumstances.
  • Bill and Virginia do their best to figure out a proper protocol for the surrogacy program. And yet, things fall apart quickly after Lester decides to quit. 
  • That also means this will be probably be the last the audience sees of Nora, who goes out crying in her car with the religious fanatic who has been sulking around the lobby of the practice. That was a very weird way to end her story. Not quite sure how to read that scene. Who in their right mind would just leave their car unlocked for a stranger and then allow him to stay?