Masters of Sex: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” Season 2 Finale Review

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Season 2 comes to a close with the return of familiar faces, and some surprising revelations.

Looking at the overall trajectory of Masters of Sex‘s second season, it’s safe to say that the theme of fixing difficult problems runs throughout almost every episode. What’s interesting about the finale, however, is that it ends with a possible solution to one of the season’s major issues—male and female impotence—and yet everything else seems to be on the precipice of catastrophe.

Last season ended with Masters making a grand romantic gesture towards Virginia, complete with mood music and pouring rain. This season ended much more subtly, but the ramifications of Masters’ actions are much more powerful. JFK’s inauguration speech is played in the background, and a sense of change is in the air. Change is coming for the study, which seems to be on the road to curing sexual dysfunction. Change is coming to both Masters’ and Gini’s personal lives, which are both slowly falling apart. Most importantly, change is coming to the show’s central relationship. We don’t see it quite yet, but Masters’ secrets will only make the journey ahead more difficult.

A large part of the episode deals with the upcoming CBS broadcast, and what it means for everyone involved with the study. Masters, and Lester, for that matter, are understandably upset by the dumbed-down, censored nature of the program after seeing a rough cut, but Gini remains unfazed. The point is to be seen as pioneers, and the only way to do so is to get the word out first. Masters might not like the fact that his word choices have been changed, but at least some version of his words will be broadcast into homes nationwide.

Gini has an alternative reason for wanting the CBS special to succeed: her kids. In one of the finale’s more agonizing progressions, Gini’s children are placed even further from her reach as George fights for custody of them. He even goes so far as to threaten to paint Gini as an unfit mother in court. Lizzy Caplan does some amazing work here, keeping a brave face on while making it very clear just how much pain is bubbling under the surface. During a brief interaction with Masters in which he bewilderedly wonders why Gini’s giving into George’s demands, she flits a smile at him and tells him it’ll only be a temporary arrangement. Her uncertainty, however, is very apparent.

Of course, things eventually come crashing down when the competing study airs their own network special—one that isn’t afraid to say the word “sex” on TV. To add insult to injury, it seems Dr. Ethan Haas is one of the researchers heading the project. Gini breaks down, thinking this may have somehow been her fault, and Masters goes to comfort her. This moment is incredibly intriguing. Earlier, Masters and Gini spent a lot of time in the hotel room working on non-sexual touching as a way to stimulate the senses and reinvigorate the body out of impotence. We’ve seen in previous weeks that Gini’s been able to comfort Masters by holding him, which, in turn, has helped him with his dysfunction.

Here, it seems like the roles are being reversed, but the truth of the matter is that Masters is a despicable, self-centered liar. A later scene reveals that Barton Scully—welcome back Beau Bridges!—is responsible for putting the competing study on the air at Masters request. Masters was so intent on doing things precisely his way, that he resorted to self-sabotage in order to stop things from getting out of hand.

But things got very out of hand, and the knowledge of his betrayal makes his comforting of Gini all the more unsettling. He obviously didn’t intend for her to get caught in the crossfire, but is still too much of a coward to own up to his actions. Masters and Gini have been fighting an uphill battle all season; both with their work, and with the complicated feelings they’ve developed during their relationship. Masters especially has made a lot of personal progress in opening up to others and letting them in. It’s too soon to tell if this plotline will carry over to the next season, but it’s a little disheartening that all this good work could be undone by Masters’ stupid ego.

One thing that will almost definitely be carried over to season 3 is Libby’s affair with Robert. The two mostly just continue sleeping together this episode, but what’s fascinating is Libby’s casual admittance that she’s known her husband has been having an affair for several years. There’s no telling exactly when she figured it out, but my guess would be that her quick offer to Gini to come on vacation with them in “Asterion” was about more than just being a help with the kids.

Libby has a conversation with Gini in which she states that there has to be more to life than just taking care of her kids. All season long we’ve seen her struggle to be master of her home, when all she really wanted was for someone to make her feel like she wasn’t trapped in her house. Her character changed course a bit after meeting Robert, but now that we know she’s aware of her husband’s discrepancies, it makes the shift seem much more believable. Her narrative arc is poised to allow for a split between her and Masters, which is inevitable, but I commend the show for doing so in a way that doesn’t make her the villain.

Over in their own corner are Flo and Austen, who finish up their supremely unnecessary subplot with the reveal that Flo comes from a powerful political family. Again, I’m really not sure how this ties into Masters, Gini, or the study, but at least it offered an avenue through which to introduce the JFK inauguration as a framing device. It’s really a shame for Masters of Sex to waste screen time on such an uninteresting storyline, especially when there are so many other characters who would provide much more compelling material.

By itself, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is an engrossing hour of television. Real tension has been set up for episodes to come, a new area of the study is opening up, and I’m left perplexed and curious about Masters’ actions. As a season finale, however, it’s a little underwhelming. Yes, there’s plenty to consider in the months until the show’s return, but with a season so striking and so tenacious, I guess I was just hoping for a slightly bigger finish. Grade: B+

 

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