Masters of Sex changed for me two episodes ago.
The rookie series, which airs its first-season finale Sunday, Dec. 15 on The Movie Network and Movie Central, had been humming along, so to speak. Set in the late 1950s and starring Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as renowned sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Masters of Sex struck me as good, but not necessarily gripping.
At one point I almost dropped it from my personal viewing calendar, not because there was anything wrong with it - there wasn't - but you know how it is, there's a lot of TV out there.
But I'm glad I stuck with Masters of Sex, which originates on Showtime in the United States. The past two episodes have been truly great, especially the installment two weekends ago, which ended with a stunning conversation, pulsing with sexual tension and hurt feelings and icy coldness, between Sheen's Bill and Caplan's Ginny.
The hard part when writing about Masters of Sex is the double threat of spoilers. There are the usual story-line considerations, but in particular with this show, there are real-life spoilers to consider, too.
I literally had never heard of Masters and Johnson before Masters of Sex. But I looked up some of the facts about their lives after seeing the first episode.
Point being, I know where some of the stories are headed. But maybe you're enjoying the show and you've never looked up anything about the real Masters and Johnson. So ... what to do, when I want to make a point about Sheen's take on Masters, without accidentally revealing something.
Well, let's put it this way (and consider this a dual SPOILER ALERT for story details and also if you're nervous about deducing something more expansive): The way Masters has been presented so far, he's an awful dude, save for his work ethic and his brilliance as a doctor and researcher.
Yes, he grew up with an abusive father, and we feel sorry for him in that regard. But he is a monetary provider and virtually nothing more for his wife. He blackmailed his boss. He blackballed a colleague. He is a grumpy tyrant with his new secretary. He now is considering cutting corners on research to further his needs. And going against his own implicit instructions, he clearly became emotionally attached to Virginia, as well as being sexually attracted to her, and she called him on it the day that she quit.
"It was never really about the research," Caplan's Virginia said, calmly but accusingly. "We were having an affair."
I just hope that when Bill is redeemed in some manner - which he necessarily must be - that it's believable, and isn't an abrupt personality about-face. That's my only concern with Masters of Sex as the first-season finale approaches.
Otherwise, I have come to love this tale of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the original sex pistols.