Well, that was the best season premiere of any television series in quite some time – except that it was not quite at the beginning of the season.
“Asterion,” the seventh chapter in this 12-episode season of Masters of Sex, felt like a rejuvenation of the show’s solid, but frustratingly inconsistent season. Last week’s episode, the finest thus far this year, brought some big storylines to a head – Bill and Virginia kissing in the hotel room, DePaul meeting her fate, an argument between Betty and Gene – but little of those matter in this most recent hour. From the start, we skip the chipper opening credit sequence and jump five months later. By the episode’s end, we are another two years ahead.
Remember how Breaking Bad was meticulously paced over its first five-and-a-half seasons and then during “Gliding Over All,” the mid-season finale of its fifth season, it surged ahead with a time jump? Well, “Asterion” is even higher-octane, switching the show’s trajectory and timeline three times within 58 minutes. It is an exhilarating episode and one of the top three hours in the show’s run thus far.
With a more spritely tone, the launch of several new storylines and with several recurring characters returning, this Masters of Sex episode feels like a new start. Masters and Johnson now have the study back on track, at a clinic in a nearby suburb. Betty is onboard as their aide and secretary, while filmmaker Lester (Kevin Christy, always a treat) is back to use a clapperboard – a device that cleverly shows how time has sped forward – and film some of the new office developments.
The study is so far underway at the episode’s start that the researchers at its helm are running out of spaces and bulletin boards to post their findings about topics as intriguing as ejaculate trajectory. (You would think they would have a less scattered system by now.) However, despite the quick pace of their careers, Bill still has not gotten over his let-down of seeing Virginia’s beau, Shelley (7th Heaven’s Barry Watson), at her doorstep. “That is a wife that cannot be forgiven,” Bill tells one character, although he will make sure to try his best to let her atone for her sins and have him back a few scenes later.
Regardless, one constant has remained and that is the sour demeanor between Bill and Libby. Frustrated by her husband’s lack of interest in trying for another kid or giving his new pursuit security by accepting his mother’s loan, she confronts him in a fight, one of the most bitter we have seen. At one point, when Virginia and Dr. Langham show off their partners at a swanky lounge, Bill lies in bed, the camera looking down on him as he dreams of what could be. Libby, blurred and sleeping in a separate bed, pouts that she envies him for reaching his goal to continue his work, leaving her unfulfilled and needy of another child. It turns out they have not had sex in more than a year.