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Masters of Sex “Pilot” Review (1×01)

30 Sep

627There’s something infectious about the new Showtime drama. It draws us into its rich world of complex characters and its sexual intrigue. It’s not devoid of humor. It establishes a compelling tone that challenges us, excites us, questions us. It is, far and away, the best new show of the season.

Let’s face it, though. Sex runs rampant throughout television, and in most cases, it’s gratuitous. Masters doesn’t, and shouldn’t, shy away from sex, but not once does it feel like the show is portraying it in a gratuitous nature. It’s an inherent and essential aspect of this layered world the show has created, and it’s portrayed in a very matter-of-fact way. It’s dangerous, yet it’s not. It’s fun, yet it’s not. It’s necessary, yet it’s not. It just is, and that’s a refreshing take on the topic.

The show’s heart is kept beating by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, two fantastic actors whose characters are on opposite ends of the spectrum; Masters (Sheen) comes off as cold and distant, while Johnson (Caplan) is warm and likeable. Yet, this is what keeps it interesting; a battle for supremacy seems to be arising, but there’s also a mutual respect and attraction that may go beyond the science of sex. Masters is a scientist, but he’s also a human being. His desires for control seem to permeate both his professional and his sexual life, and his final request in the pilot paves the way for some intriguing storylines.

The supporting cast is weaker, but that’s usually what happens to shows right off the bat. Betty (Annaleigh Ashford) is the first volunteer for Masters’ revolutionary study of sex, Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald) is Masters’ wife, and Ethan (Nicholas D’Agosto) is one of Virginia’s flings. I do have a few problems with these characters. The intricacies of Masters’ home life are a bit muddled, and while I expect that to improve later on, the whole subplot about his wife doesn’t quite make me care. Ethan comes across as a complete jerk, and while I guess that’s kind of the point, his final scene with Virginia doesn’t work for me thematically. Their sexual relationship is a good way to explore Johnson’s character, but Ethan calling her a whore comes across as dickish, not enlightening.

Masters of Sex

Still, Caplan and Sheen anchor the cast, and they’re good enough to keep this show compelling. One thing that’s fantastic about the show is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s not Ray Donovan or Low Winter Sun. It has adult storylines and poses complex questions about our sexual and mental states, but there’s a general playfulness there that’s been missing in the new cable dramas. It’s funny! Shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men know when to get serious and when to get hilarious, and that is what I want to see on television. Masters is not an anti-hero. The show does not try too hard. We do not get thrown into a pit of despair. That, in itself, makes Masters a fantastic show.

GRADE: B+

Other thoughts:

-So, Lizzy Caplan is gorgeous.

-The directing of the pilot is magnificent. Those overhead shots during….okay, I’ll stop about Lizzy Caplan now.

-The scene with the dildo and the head of the university is fantastic. It’s just the right amount of awkward and weird. Caplan holding it enthusiastically in front of his face is a sight to see.

-“Best seat in the house.” “But not too close, or you’ll get poked in the eye.” “You’re saying watch out for the dildo.”

-The sex scenes are pretty nice, though. That last one between Langham (Teddy Sears) and Jane (Helene Yorke) is something.

-“What does the woman you’re sleeping with want? The riddle of life itself can’t come close to the unfathomable mystery of that question.”

-“Some can accommodate big better than others.” Ain’t that the truth, Caplan.

-“I wouldn’t get too in your head about it.” “Too late.” “Your other head.” Line of the night.

Credit to Showtime and Masters of Sex for all pictures. I own nothing.

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One Response to “Masters of Sex “Pilot” Review (1×01)”

  1. カシオ レジスタ

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