MASTERS OF SEX Season One Finale Recap: “Manhigh”

     December 15, 2013


The moment of truth for Bill and Ginny’s study on Masters of Sex proved to be a 100% ringer … for an attendee named Ethel.  For everyone else, it was a complete bust.  A big day of big decisions weighed heavily on both Bill and Ginny, and neither came out of it very satisfied.  The news of a launching of a man into the upper regions of the atmosphere paralleled Bill and Ginny’s own perilous ascent into regions not yet explored by anyone — regions that include copious film shots of vaginal walls.  Predictably, their decent to Earth was swift and unceremonious.  Hit the jump for more.

masters-of-sex-posterLast week it was clear that Masters of Sex would finish up with major decisions being made on both the professional and personal fronts, and in most ways it didn’t disappoint.  After brief, prurient and martini-filled interest, the doctors turned on Bill once they perceived his material (particularly the video of Ginny) shameful and smutty.  Despite the general one-on-one acceptance of those who participated in and learned about the study, seeing the results en masse was too much for the uninitiated, as Libby wisely pointed out later.  Rather than be discouraged by these results though, Bill naturally compared himself to Darwin and was bolstered by the very controversy of his findings.

Bill is an interesting subject here, because in “Manhigh” he did two largely uncharacteristic things that seems unearned.  Maybe it was the buzz from the flop presentation, or the leftover martinis, but Bill both fell on his sword for Barton and braved the rain to tell Ginny he loved her and couldn’t live without her.  The what?  Both made certain sense and had some precedent, but Bill showing up at Ginny’s door seemed a particularly shoehorned and strange moment for him.  Did he dream it?

Of course, despite the fact that Ethan has offered her the perfect life of her choosing with her kids in tow, Ginny is drawn to Bill, full of complications and sexual attraction that make him far more interesting than Ethan.  Still, for everything he has put her through, was putting her name on the study really enough to make her forget the rest?  He refused to acknowledge her participation during the presentation (although that might have been a blessing, considering.  Then again, everyone thought she was a part of it anyway with the video, which she was …)

masters-of-sex-manhigh-michael-sheen-beau-bridgesIn any case: Bill is out, Ethan is considering the west coast, and Ginny is caught in between.  It was a very soapy ending that ignored exploring lots of other very interesting things — like Libby giving birth at a black hospital — in favor of Bill showing up in the rain to declare his love for Ginny (with lots of awkward run-ins in between).

Luckily, we had the Scullys to maintain one of the most emotionally engaging plots, with Margaret’s desire to learn more about Barton’s homosexuality as much as he wants to repress it by any means.  Her revulsion to the extreme nature of the therapies though showed that she still ultimately cares the most about his well being, and not the appearance or lie of their marriage.  For him, the same thing drives him to want to consider these therapies.

Off on her own is the poor, lonely DePaul, the unwanted female OBGYN (a pioneer!) who received no great happiness in this episode or any others.  Already, Ginny is trying to jump past her pap smear campaign to focus on breast exams and birth control pills, while DePaul stays the course with her pet project that Ginny doesn’t seem particularly interested in.  It’s all the worse since Ginny is the only person who DePaul can entrust with her program focus after she can no longer carry on.

Masters of Sex didn’t have many victories for its characters in its first season, and the outcomes of its two biggest plots — Ginny’s relationship status and the future of the study — were left uncertain.  The show largely dropped its focus on the explicit sexual acts and unusual relationships that dominated its first few episodes, in favor of more plot movement and character development later on, with mixed results.  The emotional payout of that development was, by “Manhigh,” running on fumes.  There hasn’t been enough energy or an injection of newness (or even stakes for what already is) to make the finale particularly Earth-shattering, like say, Joseph Kittinger’s balloon ride and space jump.

masters-of-sex-manhigh-kevin-christy-helene-yorkMaybe because, for all the development that was seen regarding Ethan, Libby, Jane and other peripheral characters, it was Ginny and Bill who dominated the final episode, and somehow, they (particularly Bill) just haven’t been that compelling.  It’s reminiscent of another costume drama — Boardwalk Empire, whose secondary characters have always been the most interesting to follow.

All in all, Masters of Sex has been an easy watch, with plenty left to unpack through another season.  Whatever growing pains it may have had this year can be easily remedied, and while some shows start out gangbusters from the start (like Homeland), Masters of Sex may go more of the way of the oft (and wrongly) compared Mad Men, which saw a flourishing of growth and creativity in its second season.

Episode Rating: B-

Season Rating: A- 

Musings and Miscellanea:

— Is Libby the only person on the show who interacts with any black characters?  Who even sees any black characters?

— “I can spot a statistically average masturbator for a mile away” – Bill.

— It was so typical that the doctors all left after the suggestion of female sexual superiority.

— How much does Libby really know?  Seems the entire hospital is abuzz when it comes to the significance and depth of Bill and Ginny’s collaborations …

— Where has Vivian gone off to?

— “That’s like firing God!” – Lester.