Already seven weeks into the already great first season of Masters of Sex and the show springs something fresh and unexpected at us: a title sequence! It is a surprisingly cheerful and boisterous look at the more playful aspects of the series and a very welcome addition.
How can one encapsulate a show that is so enamoured with studying the human libido in just the opening credits? Through many obvious double entendres for penetration and orgasm, of course! Trains entering tunnels, corkscrews popping, fireworks exploding, flowers blooming… the list goes on. (It is quite the antidote for those who find a faceless man tumbling into an ad-filled abyss to coarse violin strings too bleak.) It is a bold, almost hilariously broad opening that is both delicious for the eyes and very misleading for anyone who keeps watching beyond the titles.
The opening sequence is buoyant and titillating, but why finally reveal it almost halfway through the season? It is almost a frustrating intrusion during week seven, since this episode is easily the show’s weakest hour yet, with clumsy dramatic exposition weighing down the uniformly excellent acting. If the sets had looked cheaper and more melodramatic strings played over some of the more shocked moments, this week’s episode could have been in the running for a Daytime Emmy.
In “All Together Now,” the episode bounces around between the fractured relationships explored prior and one new couple dynamic. The newest duo finding intimacy is Bill and Virginia, although it is (as they would label it) in the name of science and figuring out how to target their experiments. There is a sly juxtaposition with a tender love song played above the opening, an awkward sex scene – one of the many mismatches of tone that the series has used for maximum comic effect. Their first time together uses tight framing to bring the viewer right into the action, which is hardly sensual. This awkwardness is further clarified when Bill says the word ‘orgasm’ instead of experiencing one expressively.
Bill telling us that he climaxed instead of showing his emotions is characteristic of this episode. “All Together Now” ditches the axiom of ‘show, don’t tell’ and engages the audience in burdensome dramatic exposition. The poorest victim of this substandard writing is the burgeoning love affair between Dr. Langham and Margaret Scully, a woman who could pass as his mother – as he repeats more than once this episode, including to a therapist played by Alan Ruck.
Allison Janney and Teddy Sears’ scenes together look like a 1950s Douglas Sirk melodrama, but do not sound like one. The famed director did a finer job of using the costumes, props and music around the performers to express their states of mind. As wonderful as it is to have Allison Janney on Masters of Sex, she is a much more capable actor than a late-episode moment where her character encapsulates to Langham how he rescued her from a life of misery. It does not need to be said, as Janney has one of the most expressive faces on television. As a result, the moment is pure cheese.