Plateau Stage: Masters of Sex Figures Itself Out

Via: Tuned In

One thing that Masters of Sex had going for it when it premiered was there was no confusion as to the subject matter: sex was right there in the title, and the hilariously unsubtle title sequence drove the thematic train right into the tunnel. But beyond that, what was the show about?  What plot would drive the series forward? We knew, or Wikipedia told us, that William Masters and Virginia Johnson carried on years of research into human sexual response, and that about a decade after the series picked up, their study would revolutionize the popular understanding of how sex worked. But could you really build years of a drama series around a long-term scientific study? What was the show, beyond sex, electrodes, and a dildo camera? As the saying goes, when they say it’s not about the sex, it’s about the sex. Specifically, halfway into its first season, Masters of Sex is both focusing in on the lives of Masters and Johnson while expanding outward to look at how the physical act of sex–function, dysfunction, orgasms and the lack thereof–affect character’s lives and relationships, their identities and sense of self-worth. At the same time, it’s evolving into a kind of sexual detective story, with Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan prepping to investigate a series of carnal mysteries: it’s Bones, but as a verb. In last night’s “Brave New World,” the last episode I saw before writing my advance review, this played out in the poignant subplot about Margaret (Allison Janney), the unfortunate collateral damage of her husband’s closeted life. The idea of sex as pleasure rather than duty is charging the air around her: in the larger culture through Peyton Place, in the university community though the study. It’s tantalizingly close and yet so far, and Janney (currently playing a much less inhibited character on Mom) is affecting in showing her taking tentative steps toward a life that she’s never been allowed to live. Like Mad Men, Masters of Sex is a period piece that uses a specific part of

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