SLIPPING PAST FREUD
The series tells the story of Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) as they research human sexuality at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1950’s. As they research the subject, they are met with the challenges of getting their research off the ground. The researchers also learn a thing or two about the opposite sex and encounter various types of relationships.
It’s been described as Mad Men meets Kinsey. Certainly the subject of sex is titillating but the fact that these two pioneers decided to explore it at a time when it was considered taboo to speak out loud about it makes it a fascinating sociological study. I like that the show delves into all kinds of stories about couples, relationship, attitudes towards sex and love from married couples to husbands with extracurricular activities to women pleasuring themselves. The list goes on and on. In this day in ages, the various stories don’t really comes as a shock anymore. In fact, the most shocking thing I’ve seen so far (or heard rather) is a scene that’s completely innocent (and amusing). A married couple comes in to see Dr. Masters wondering why they’re not able to conceive after literally “sleeping together”.
As far as Dr. Bill Masters, he’s not a very likable character but he’s a sympathetic character. I love when a character makes me feel conflicted about them because they’re tangible and relatable. With each new episode, we get insight into who he is and what he’s become and how that affects the relationships around him. I want to root for him and hope that through all this he’s able to find peace for his demons. That’s what makes him so engaging.
At the same time, Ginny is also lovely. Although she’s isn’t able to juggle everything gracefully, she’s way ahead of her time as a working mom. Bill has the degree and understands the anatomy, biology. But she’s got the experience, approachable and understands the emotions and motivations. He’ll elevate her intellectually and she’ll motivate him emotionally.
Along with the provocative storylines, the show also balances that with a lot of sadness. In that way, the drama balances the light and dark sides of sex, love and relationships. It was heartbreaking to watch Betty (Annaleigh Ashford) feel like she had to conform to the societal norms of the time.
Though the episode that really made me appreciate the show’s writing was “Standard Deviation” as we got to learn more about Bill’s history with the University’s Provost Barton Scully (Beau Bridges). We also learned to what lengths Bill was going to go to advance his research.
The rest of the characters add little things here and there to the story. Dr. Ethan Haas (Nicholas D’Agosto) is annoying but I am delighted to see that he’s digging his own grave when it comes to his relationship with the Provost’s daughter, Vivian.
As much as Dr. Austin Langham (Teddy Sears) is promiscuous, he’s also needy. The only one who can put him in his place is Jane (Heléne York) who is a modern thinking woman. I’m delighted to see that Allison Janney is guesting as Scully’s wife, Margaret Scully. As the wife of the University’s figurehead, she’s got to keep up appearance and what she does out of public view is going to present interesting things for the Scully’s.
There are so many things I want to know that I can’t talk about here with a quick review. However, the drama has so many interesting characters that makes me want to know more and more about them. Just exactly why does Bill have a disdainful attitude towards his father? How will Bill and Ginny’s personal relationship evolve? Will Provost Scully and Bill be able to renew their friendship? How will the relationships of the other characters affect the study? So far the first half of Season 1 has given us so much food for thought that I’m eager to see what the second half will offer, not to mention what we’ll discover in Season 2 as it has already been renewed.