Bill and Virginia’s personal lives, both secretive and otherwise, factor into all of the major developments in the season’s first two episodes, as some decisions from the past come to light that could very dramatically change their dynamic moving forward.
Virginia has already been faced with having to defend herself to the media and anticipate rumors that she and Bill are engaged in sexual depravity, and that only intensifies as their book nears completion. Her character is faced with the biggest life-changing decisions this time around, and Caplan manages to carry all of that weight in a believable, relatable way. She never slips into melodrama, and Caplan manages to be the anchor for the series against the ever-enigmatic and uncomfortable Bill Masters.
All of the show’s stars shine in these first two episodes, though many of the series’ guest stars and supporting cast members are left on the sidelines in favor of a hyper-focused look at Bill and Virginia and the effect that their work has had on their families. FitzGerald once played the happy, bubbly housewife to Sheen’s quiet and reserved Bill, but she has sunken into a naive depression and is only hoping to keep her family intact in wake of some pretty major changes. Whether or not she’s still involved in her own affair remains to be seen, but I’m interested to find out how she navigates through this even more complicated familial landscape.
As for Sheen, he plays Bill better than ever, as the doctor is struggling to keep his family in check while paying attention to the only child he’s ever willingly and lovingly brought into the world: Human Sexual Response. The fact that that “child” was conceived not by his wife, but by his sexual and business partner, is one of the series’ many clever subversions of expectations that will drive the series forward into bold, exciting new territory. As Bill’s children get older, he’ll have to come face to face with his own fears about parenting. If these first two episodes are any indication, that will not be an easy task.
The Hunger Games actress Isabelle Fuhrman and relative newcomer Noah Robbins (Orange is the New Black) do well in their roles as the older Johnson children, especially since they’re swiftly thrust into a story that has been steadily moving without them for two years. Like almost all children on television, they serve as plot devices that mirror the deeper emotional and psychological facets of their parents, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if handled well.
Overall, the new timeframe, raised stakes, and more complicated character developments all make Masters of Sex‘s return revolutionary indeed and find the series better than it has ever been before.
In its season 3 premiere, Masters of Sex is revolutionary indeed, managing to subvert expectations while dramatically raising the stakes for its title characters.