After two seasons of the absorbing drama being centered squarely in the workplace tracking the professional and personal dramas of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Masters of Sex has taken a decidedly different tactic for season 3: focus on the family. The year is 1965 and the primarily fictitious children are supplying all kinds of challenges for both Virginia and Bill as they grapple with the impact their professional choices have had on their personal lives.
Welcome back Masters of Sex fans! If episode 1 is any indication, we are sure to be on a wild ride. The creators are clearly bent on exploring the contradictions between Virginia and Bill’s liberal-minded research with their reactionary parenting attitudes. Turns out you can study the clitoris at work but still be quite uptight when your son discovers his girlfriend’s at home.
Episode 1 begins four years after the end of last season—and is framed by Bill and Virginia’s presentation of their ground-breaking book Human Sexual Response to a group of skeptical academics and journalists. It’s the moment the duo has been working toward for 12 years, and it is vital to their future and the future of their work. “We are the sexual revolution,” states Virginia emphatically after being accused of capitalizing on the free-love culture burgeoning outside the conference room doors.
The episode flashes back and forth between this moment and four months earlier to a summer getaway the two families take together—a time Bill can perfect the manuscript while also pretending to be an interested father while his wife, Libby, seems to have reconciled Bill and Virginia’s relationship. The two women play the sister-wife thing all too well. Meanwhile Virginia is dealing with her temperamental teenagers while also obsessing ahead of the presentation about her lack of bachelor’s degree, and what will happen if those that are scrutinizing them find out she still hasn’t completed it.
Bill’s shortcomings in all areas but science are laid out before us in Sunday’s episode. That scene early on when they first arrive at the cabin spells it out well. He is a patronizing partner to Virginia, especially when he tells her: “Not completing your degree has been your decision, right?” as if the monumental sacrifices she’s already made for their work (i.e. leaving her children with her ex-husband, George) are not already abundantly clear. He has no command of nor appreciation for his children and the chaos that accompanies them leaves him completely powerless and confused. Watching him boil as they swirl around him is particularly entertaining, especially when held in contrast to how Virginia and Libby are navigating the scene. I for one was thrilled when Howie bit him. His self-important narcissism is particularly exhausting.
NEXT: He’s not all bad, though…