A Look at Masters of Sex- Season 2 Premiere: “Parallax”

In hindsight, maybe “Fallout” would have been a better title for this premiere if the name hadn’t already been used. The season premiere to the second season of Masters of Sex, “Parallax,” had a tall task. It had to deal with the aftermath of Bill’s disastrous presentation, as well as his confession to Virginia, advance character storylines and continue exploring the wonders of human sexuality.

Credit where it’s due, I think the premiere managed to accomplish all of this by taking its time with its storytelling. It doesn’t just try to reintroduce the characters all at once. It takes what we’ve been given, introduces new issues to tackle, and paves the way for what will be major dilemmas throughout the season.

Parallax- Bill sleeps on the couch

The season begins in the dead of night. Bill Masters watches his television, but remember this is at the point where television actually ended in the evening, so there’s nothing really to watch. As he overhears a baby cry, he settles on the couch, all while remembering the night he spent with Virginia Johnson after his confession.

Parallax- Langham comes in the ladies' room just as Virginia knees Dr. Crane

Speaking of, we then revisit Virginia Johnson, who catches the wandering eye of Dr. Crane, played by Jed Rees. She enters the ladies’ room, but a door is no match for Dr. Crane! He soon follows and corners her, admitting that he can’t stop thinking about her after the presentation. Langham, who has been watching this play out, goes in and tries to be a hero, but Virginia knees Crane in his goody bag before leaving in a huff.

Parallax- Virginia talks about her troubles, Langham proposes that Virginia sell Cal-O-Metric

In the cafeteria, Langham advises Virginia not to take guys like Crane seriously. That’s easy to say, hard to do, as Virginia has been propositioned quite often. Men have left notes on her windshield and she’s even found a dildo on her desk. Though that one she assumes a woman left for her. She never says whether she kept or donated it, but I guess that’s not important. It also doesn’t help that the money Virginia makes from working for Dr. DePaul doesn’t cover essentials. She stands no chance of getting a raise, so she’s in a tight spot.

Langham proposes something called the Cal-O-Metric, a product Elise once tried after she went stir crazy and got tired of junior league and scout mothering. Soon enough, she lost all of the baby fat. Virginia finds it all too surprising that Elise still cares for him. Quite frankly, so do I, but Langham insists that his wife deserves a medal for her for her forgiving heart. She deserves way more than that!

Parallax- Bill watches Barton undergo shock therapy

Elsewhere, Bill accompanies Barton to his first session. The doctors don’t want Barton to drive after the session. Since Margaret doesn’t know that Barton is still having the procedure, he wants Bill to keep this under his hat. Once Barton has his routine set, he’ll be able to handle himself.

With the pain clear on his face, Bill watches as Barton is given shock therapy and convulses.

Afterward, he wakes up, unclear where he is. He even vomits on Bill, who isn’t upset at that. The memory loss and confusion are only temporary.

Parallax- Virginia meets Flo Winters, played by Artemis Pebdani from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Taking Langham’s advice, Virginia meets with Flo Winters, played by Artemis Pebdani from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia! Nice. Flo gives Virginia the lowdown: Virginia sells the product and keeps some of the profit. Some will go to the Headquarters, which is Flo. But because Virginia can’t pay for it, the best Flo can do is give Virginia some pills right now, but the Flo’s cut goes from 20 percent to 50 percent. After all, you can’t make the poor richer by making the rich poorer. Virginia questions the effectiveness, and Flo responds by noting that she was once 198 pounds until she heard about the starving Chinese. Oh, and Virginia will have to go by a script. Even though she prefers to go off the cuff, Virginia has to stick with what she’s given.

Parallax- Bill wants Barton to stop the electroshock therapy

Barton is ready to drive home, but Bill shoots that idea down. He’s still against this form of therapy. Electroshock is unpredictable and the side effects could be permanent. More than that, there’s no hard data proving that this cures homosexuality. All Bill wants Barton to do is think about it.

Parallax- Bill checks into the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel, speaks with Thomas, played by Daniel Rubiano

At the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel, Bill checks in under a Dr. Holden. The clerk, Thomas, played by Daniel Rubiano, confirms the reservation and Bill heads to his room.

Parallax- Flashback, Bill and Virginia talk after sex

During his shower, Bill has another memory and we again flash back to the night they had sex in Virginia’s home. Afterward, Bill actually takes Virginia’s pulse. But since there are no instruments, there’s no clear way to interpret what just happened? Soon, the phone rings. Virginia knows that it’s Ethan, and he’ll keep calling until Virginia decides to pick up. She eventually does and heads to another room to talk. She apologizes and tells him that things have changed.

When Bill emerges from the shower, he sees that Virginia has arrived.

Parallax- Libby takes the baby to see Dr. Begner, played by Chris Conner. Begner demeans Bill

In the present, Libby Masters takes her baby to Dr. Begner, played by Chris Conner. Begner is surprised. Not because Libby has come in for the baby’s first major checkup, three weeks after he was born, but that she dared to even show her face at the hospital after her husband’s presentation. But hey, you never know what you’re in for after you say “I do.” Libby shouldn’t blame herself. She doesn’t, though. In fact, she defends her husband.

Parallax- Virginia tries to sell diet pills to Yvonne, played by Lauren Pritchard

So Virginia isn’t a natural salesman, judging by her shop in the cafeteria. Most of the women give her cold stares, except for one: admissions newcomer Yvonne, played by Lauren Pritchard. Virginia goes by the script, which mentions a baby- something Yvonne hasn’t had. Needless to say, the attempted sale turns into a train wreck and Yvonne leaves Virginia with her pills.

Parallax- Libby offers to let Virginia hold the baby

Luckily, Libby arrives, so the two are able to talk. Libby’s received her fair share of scorn and pity. I’m guessing she hasn’t received any surprise dildos, though. Libby would like nothing more than for Bill to return to work. She asks Virginia for advice on how to go about it, but they agree that trying to force Bill to do anything will backfire. If Virginia were in her shoes, however, she’d care for the baby, then herself.

Parallax- Bill and Libby prepare to leave for gala while Essie watches the baby

At House Masters, Libby prods Bill to attend a gala for the St. Louis Community Chest. Her plan is to get close to Doug Greathouse so she can talk him into giving Bill a job. Greathouse is head of the Obstetrics Department at Memorial Hospital, so it’d be a big deal if they could just talk to him. Luckily, Mama Masters is there to take care of the baby.

Parallax- Dr. Doug Greathouse, played by Danny Huston

At the gathering, Bill drinks in a corner while the man of the evening entertains the crowd. We then meet Dr. Doug Greathouse, played by Danny Huston. They are all gathered, he says, to help eliminate Rubella- German measles. German because they were discovered by a Kraut. But hey, at least the measles weren’t discovered by a Jap. Otherwise, we’d be calling it Fried Rice!

His words, not mine.

Libby is anxious to speak with Doug one-on-one, while Bill would rather be boiled in oil. It’s a tough call, to be sure, but no matter. Bill doesn’t have to talk to Doug.

Parallax- Betty and Gene, Annaleigh Ashford and Greg Grunberg, run into Bill at the gala

He can catch up with Betty and Gene, with Annaleigh Ashford and Greg Grunberg reprising their roles. Gene is there because the hospital loves his money, but Gene would love a family, so he’ll be paying Bill a visit to discuss that. When pressed about his future work, Bill is confident that he’ll be able to work at a hospital more receptive to his study.

Libby, unfortunately, did not talk to Doug one-on-one, but Bill says he’ll call him tomorrow.

Barton takes a look at some nude male figures before heading to his beloved Margaret. To her surprise, Barton wants to stay there, with her. Just to prove it, Barton has Margaret feel his erection. Something is definitely happening down there. The two strip down and get intimate, but things go south when Barton turns Margaret and plants butterfly kisses up and down her back.

Parallax- Margaret tells Barton that he can't pretend she's someone else

Margaret stops this, telling Barton that he can’t pretend that she’s someone else. And that means Barton should be willing to look at her. Only a shred of her feels like a woman and damn it, she won’t let him take that away from her. Barton insists that Margaret let him try things his way. He insists that he can change, but they have to try harder!

Parallax- Virginia and Jane talk about their futures

Virginia catches up with Jane, who is making future travel plans. Lester works as a production assistant for a studio out in California, which means that he’ll be a director very soon. Jane, you don’t go from production assistant to director in a short amount of time, regardless of how well you can capture vaginal walls on film. But anyway, Jane wants to be in pictures- ones where her face can be seen. Oh. She should follow her dream. As should Virginia, who Jane insists should come with her. After all, no kid could turn down a trip to Hollywood.

Jane also knows that Virginia shot down Ethan’s proposal. You know, Ethan needs more guy friends if Jane was his go-to person. To Jane, Ethan offers stability. Virginia won’t get anywhere selling diet pills or working on pap smears with Dr. DePaul. She certainly won’t get anywhere with the study, seeing as she only remained at the hospital because her name is on it. Regardless, Bill Masters is gone. And the study? It’s not real. Not anymore. Virginia can’t pin her hopes on something that can’t be. Buzzkill much, Jane?

Parallax- Flashback, Virginia checks into hotel

We cut to Virginia checking in at the Chancery Park Plaza Hotel as Mrs. Holden.

Parallax- Flashback, Virginia tells Ethan that things have changed

As Virginia enters the elevator, we once again revisit the night Bill arrived at her doorstep. However, when Virginia goes to take Ethan’s call, we stay with her and hear the rest of their conversation. Things have changed, and Ethan guesses that Bill is the reason that Virginia is calling things off. But Ethan promises her the life that she wants. All Bill can offer is work. It just cannot be. But, Virginia says, it is.

Parallax- Dr. Ditmer asks Virginia for advice on his use of cold light illumination for esophageal study

Back in the present, Dr. Ditmer approaches Virginia. Thinking he’s making a move on her, Virginia lashes at him, but turns out that Ditmer isn’t interested in drinks, a quick romp, or dinner, nothing of the sort. Actually, he’s received a grant to use cold light illumination for esophageal study, similar to the technology Bill and Virginia used for their study. Ditmer is just looking for some advice and maybe Virginia could apply her skills to the study. And the study is well-funded, so Ditmer is able to pay Virginia, as well.

Virginia apologizes, and while the offer is enticing and for a good cause, she’s already working for Dr. DePaul. However, Ditmer is willing to accommodate to whatever fits Virginia’s schedule, not his. That’s actually pretty nice of him.

Parallax- Bill buries himself in work while Libby heads to brunch

Libby prepares to meet with Tatti Greathouse, who included Libby in her Women’s Auxiliary Brunch. It’s important that she go. This means Bill is in charge of Baby James- he has a name, now- while she’s gone. Sounds easy. Plus, Bill is a doctor, so he knows about babies, right? Nothing he can’t handle.

Parallax- Dr. DePaul and Virginia talk about pushing pills and medicine cabinets

Virginia heads to her desk, only to find Dr. DePaul already at it. She was looking for a stapler, yet found Virginia’s desk filled with diet pills, which are really just off-market amphetamines combined with sugar paste or talc. Hey, the pills are just for extra money since Virginia’s salary isn’t enough to support her family. Virginia calls attention to the giant shiner under DePaul’s left eye. DePaul says she ran into a medical cabinet, but Virginia knows better. She also knows that DePaul doesn’t date, so what really happened?

Parallax- Langham rushes into DePaul's office to hide from his wife

No time for that! Langham rushes in like he’s running away from Death.

Parallax- Elise storms in and demands to know where Austin is hiding

She’s not Death, but I guess his wife is close enough. Elise storms in with the kids and demands to know where Austin is hiding. When no one answers, Elise hands Virginia the baby and takes the microphone, which is conveniently right there. On the intercom, she puts out an all points bulletin for Austin Langham, the hospital’s resident philanderer and insufferable cad. This cad spent the last two months fornicating with his sister-in-law, Rosemary, who must have been the last woman Austin didn’t skewer like a pig!

Really, Austin? I mean, really?

Bill calls Doug and apologizes for not speaking with him, but offers to visit him later that afternoon.

Parallax- Bill unsure how to deal with the baby

Before this, Bill must deal with the matter of his son. The crying continues and Bill can’t bury himself into his work. He approaches the baby’s room, but stops short before heading to the record player. In one of those moments where Masters of Sex is about as subtle as a train wreck, Bill plays The Everly Brothers’ “Bye, Bye Love.” The music does drown out the baby’s crying, but soon, all is silent.

Parallax- Bill tells Essie that he has become his father

Essie got a call from Libby to stop by and check on how Bill faired. Bill’s certain that he did as well as she did when Bill was a young boy. Bill admits that what he makes is intolerable. Essie thinks that Bill is talking about parents and babies, but Bill has nothing to hide from his mother: he’s been having sex with Virginia on a regular basis and has no intention of stopping. Just like real magic, he’s turned into his father. Heck, he’s turned into her as well!

Parallax- Libby returns to find the baby asleep

Libby later returns, astonished at Bill’s baby magic. Bill tells Libby that Essie is returning to Ohio for good. And despite how much Libby depends on Essie, it’s time that she starts looking for a sitter, preferably one that can start as soon as possible. They will speak of Essie no more.

Parallax- Rose McIver returns as Vivian, talks with her mother about college

To my surprise, Rose McIver is back as Vivian. And more than that, she’s having an actual conversation with her mother instead of being limited to a mere mention! So yeah, Vivian talks about going to college, even though her parents want her to stay close. After hearing a thud, Vivian heads downstairs.

Parallax- Margaret and Vivian find Barton trying to hang himself

Upon hearing her daughter scream, Margaret rushes down and finds that Barton is trying to hang himself. Vivian holds onto her father for dear life while Margaret brings over something for him so stand on.

Vivian rushes to find a knife, which Margaret uses to cut Barton down. They all fall to the floor and Margaret breathes breath into her husband’s body until he revives.

Parallax- Bill and Libby have dinner with Doug and Tatti Greathouse

Bill and Libby have dinner with Doug Greathouse and his wife, Tatti, played by Rya Kihlstedt. It’s time for a new beginning. Or, it’s time now, after Gene made a sizable donation to the hospital, with a few strings attached. Libby’s just glad that Bill is going back to work, but she’s equally curious as to whether Virginia will be joining him again. Tatti wants Doug to play no part in this study whatsoever.

So when the ladies go to powder their noses, Doug admits that he let too much information slip. Gene’s donation came with the condition that Bill be allowed to work. He’s very interested on what happens behind closed doors when it comes to Masters’ study, and wants to be kept in the loop.

Later on, Bill heads to the Scully residence to talk with Barton and share the news, but Margaret tells him that Barton is on a long distance call and could be tied up for a while.

Parallax- Dr. DePaul offers Virginia a drink

DePaul is still hard at work, despite Virginia’s advice that she should turn in for the night. So the good doctor’s proposal is alcohol! As the two drink, DePaul finds it sad that no one would ever think her black eye was because of a jealous lover. Hey, you brought that perception on yourself, Doctor. But Lillian DePaul is never reckless. But then, as Virginia notes, it’s not bad to be careful.

Parallax- Flashback, Bill and Virginia talk about how to proceed with their affair

We flash back- first to the end of Virginia’s call with Ethan, and then we cut to the hotel where Bill and Virginia meet to discuss how they’ll move forward after their encounter on the previous night. It’s no surprise that they came to a hotel in Alton, Illinois, a half-hour’s drive outside of town. Virginia is certain that Ethan must be taking the breakup pretty badly, and getting some distance won’t help him make sense of it. Rarely, Virginia says, does a man understand why a woman would choose love over work.

Hey, here’s an idea! The two could have an affair! What they’re doing is completely pedestrian and the story always ends the same. This time, however, it’s much more than that. They have the work. At the apartment, there were no wires. As Virginia noted all along, there are some aspects of sex that are immeasurable. This opens up an entirely new line of inquiry, Bill says. It would be a mistake to end what the two of them have right now. They will continue whatever it is they have, but with terms- Bill doesn’t want Virginia to feel like she’s being led on.

With that, Bill talks to the hotel clerk and wishes to check into a room. He reserves it under the name of Dr. Francis Holden.

There’s a lot to work with in this premiere, and what the show gives us, I think, is handled very well. Out of the gate, the season is taking a much darker turn, but not as in everything looks dreary and unpleasant. Even the first season handled mature subjects with care, but with moments like Barton’s attempted suicide, DePaul drinking and Bill’s home life, the premiere’s tone is noticeably darker and sets the tone for the rest of the season.

Parallax- Barton looks at male figures

Characters are pretending to be people that they aren’t. Like last season, the masks they wear only show that the happiness they want can only be attained outside of their own skin. Living a lie worsens things not just for you, but the people close to you, made very clear through Barton and Austin’s personal lives.

And as before, we see characters struggle with either maintaining the status quo because it provides stability- as Ethan would like Virginia to do- or stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something out of the ordinary. As DePaul and Virginia noted, there’s nothing wrong with being careful. But if careful becomes too routine and ordinary, you want some chaos in your life to help shake things up. This includes going off-script, and we see many a character deal with that. Virginia likes to go off-script because she relates to people better that way, while trying to get Bill off-script is asking for trouble. Some reverse and find the status quo to be preferable, as is the case with Jane, who now favors pictures with her face and a happy future, believing Masters’ work to be over.

Parallax- Elise wishes more women stuck up for each other

The premiere addresses loyalty, or lack thereof, when characters can’t commit to the people they supposedly love. This is mostly for the couples, however, as with Langham and his philandering. Most of the actual unity comes through while talking to members of the same gender. For example, Elise chastised Virginia for not sticking up for women everywhere when she refused to give up Austin’s location. In instances like this, men and women are expected to be there for one another, regardless of how messy the situation. It’s hard to remain loyal when you’re hiding something. And this is further exemplified with DePaul hiding the truth behind her shiner or Doug secretly being interested in the sex study, against his wife’s wishes.

Parallax- Dr. Ditmer benefits from Bill and Virginia's study

For all the negativity still surrounding Bill’s presentation, it was refreshing to see something positive come out of it. Recall that because of Ditmer’s lackluster presentation on diverticulitis last season, Bill realized that he needed something exciting to maintain audience interest. Here, Ditmer is being given a chance to apply the same technology that Bill and Virginia used for something that will also be of some good. More than that, because of Virginia’s intellect, she may be able to make some extra money out of it, should she accept the offer. Even if she doesn’t, I was glad to at least see Ditmer make the offer, despite, Virginia at first, thinking he had ulterior motives.

Michael Apted’s on this episode really allowed us to get inside the character’s heads this week. This has been done before, but from the opening shot of Masters staring blankly as he watches television, Apted takes time with scenes and lets viewers fully take in what we see as opposed to just jumping from scene to scene.

Parallax- Bill takes Virginia's pulse after sex

This also applies to the sex scenes, which are still filmed with the same close-ups we saw last season, but because Bill and Virginia’s session doesn’t have any of the wires or schematics that they’re used to, more focus is put on their facial expressions and reactions. As such, the scene feels more visceral and real. In fact, a lot of focus goes onto facial expressions and we can tell, words or not, exactly what they’re feeling, whether it’s Margaret and Vivian’s shock at finding Barton trying to kill himself, Elise’s rage at her husband’s continued philandering or Masters’ smug grin when he tells his mother that he has become just like his parents.

That’s not to say the episode is completely dark, as there were plenty of comedic moments, the highlight being Elise’s very public summary of her husband’s affairs.

I did like the use of flashbacks. I enjoy nonlinear storytelling when it’s done right. While the flashbacks could have been done in one sequence, showing them from different perspectives added something each time. We didn’t just get the exact same flashback- the episode built on what we’d been shown.

With all that said, let’s dig into the characters.

Parallax- Dr. Austin Langham does his profession proud

Come on, Austin Langham! You’ve learned nothing from the past season. So since Jane is indeed with Lester, it’s clear that Langham won’t be able to pursue her anymore. I like that he’s able to talk with Virginia about dealing with the advances from men at the hospital. And while the plan may not be worthwhile, he does provide Virginia with another opportunity to make some extra money. Clearly he wouldn’t want to put the moves on Virginia since she could, if she wanted to, spill the details about a certain woman named Flora Banks.

But his sister-in-law? How does that even happen? I mean, what happened to the lady from the jewelry store? The man is as much of a dog as he was last season, but there’s one minor difference. Before, Langham went after women without worry of what would happen to him. Now he’s actively hiding from his wife, and for good reason. Not that it mattered since she put his philandering- which most of the staff probably already knew about- on public display for everyone to see.

Parallax- Elise on the war path

Having said that, I’m glad Elise is showing some backbone. When we first met her, she found her husband’s behavior to be typical of his character. She lamented the women who Austin eventually left, but now, enough is enough. And if other women won’t back her, she’ll deal with her cheating husband on her own. Austin played around with family. Literally played around with family. That’s entering HBO territory. As many familial conflicts as we have already, I would actually like to see more of Elise, given this is only her second appearance on the show. And now that she’s on the war path, I’m sure she’ll still be out for Austin’s blood.

Parallax- Jane tells Virginia that Dr. Masters' study isn't real anymore

Jane seems to be on her way out, which, to me, is a good and bad thing. Good in the sense that she’s following her dreams and still has feeling for Lester, but bad in the sense that, you know, Jane is leaving! Along with Allison Janney, Heléne Yorke has been my favorite female actress on the show, and with her leaving, this means we won’t get to hear any more of her great lines. Side-note, I’m not really upset that we don’t actually see Lester since he wouldn’t have had much to add after Jane told us what he’d been up to. Plus, he kind of hit his high point in “Manhigh” when he admitted that Jane had beautiful vaginal walls. I mean, how do you top that?

But moving on, Jane seems to have put the study behind her, which I get. While she was initially interested in the subject matter, it wasn’t until she saw the footage of herself that she concluded that what she did wasn’t sex. She sees that nothing worthwhile can come out of a study that few respect, so may as well do what she loves- where her face can be seen, anyway. Jane is still the same confident woman that she was last season, unafraid to call out Virginia on selling diet pills when she’s capable of so much more. And, from a narrative point of view, I did like her line about not pinning hopes on what can’t be.

Parallax- Betty, Gene and Bill catch up

This leads me into Betty. Before the season premiere, we’d been told that Annaleigh Ashford would be returning to the role. But it doesn’t appear that we’ll be returning to the brothel. That still upsets me, but nothing I can do about it. Betty was the one who told Virginia that women must hitch their wagons to men if they want to get ahead. Since Betty can’t bear children, she’s pinning hopes on what she can’t have: a family with children. She already said she had no intention of telling Gene about her chronic salpingitis, so at this point, she’s still leading him along with the impression that she’ll be able to conceive. Betty does appear to at least be financially secure thanks to Gene’s position and power, so that’s at least something. And despite how she and Bill came off during their run-in, I do hope they maintain the mutual love-hate friendship they developed up through “Standard Deviation.”

Parallax- Dr. DePaul finds it sad that no one thinks her black eye came from a jealous lover

Dr. DePaul seems to have lightened up since last season, and for the better. She’s dripping with sarcasm and open to drinking at work. After hours, anyway. Plus, it was a bit funny for her to feel insulted that absolutely no one would think her shiner came from a lover. I’m sure we’ll get the story behind that later, along with her cancer, but for now, I’m glad she comes off as more personable.

Parallax- Barton and Margaret's attempt at sex doesn't go as planned

And man, did the Scully clan have a horrible couple of days. Every single one of Barton’s scenes were uncomfortable to watch, whether seeing a nun hold him down while he convulses, when he loses his memory and when he tries to convince Margaret that he’s different than what he truly is. The symptoms he shows after the treatment are exactly what Dr. Ellenburg predicted what would happen, and now we’re seeing this play out.

Barton is absolutely desperate to rid himself of his homosexuality. He’s doing this at a point when America didn’t- and to an extent, still doesn’t- fully understand homosexuality. Against Bill and Margaret’s wishes, he undergoes surgery that could potentially kill him, and watching him try to make love to Margaret was just awkward.

Parallax- Scully family all falls down

And the literal image of the Scully family falling to the ground shows that the family is crumbling because of Barton’s behavior. Not his homosexuality, mind you, but his attempts to get rid of it. When Margaret and Vivian find Barton trying to kill himself, there’s real concern not just in their facial expressions, but at how frantic they are when trying to cut him down. They ask no questions. All they know is the man they love wants to end his life, and they’ll be damned if they’re going to let that happen.

Parallax- Rose McIver as Vivian

Allison Janney and Beau Bridges, as always, turn in great performances, but I was more surprised to see Rose McIver return. Last time we saw Vivian, Ethan had broken off the engagement during “Involuntary.” After that, Vivian’s character had been limited to mentions. Now she’s actually having a full, open conversation with her mother. And, you know, helping save her father’s life. I am glad Vivian looks to have put Ethan and the proposal behind her, and good. She deserved better than that.

We already knew the Scully family was headed in a dark direction, but talk about throwing it right at you from the start. At this point, Barton could use a friend, so I’m not sure why Margaret wouldn’t let Bill in, but I guess this is a family matter for now. It’s going to spill out eventually, though.

Parallax- Libby and Virginia talk

Libby should take a page from Elise’s playbook and be more assertive. She shouldn’t have to scrape, beg and plead for Bill to do something that he’s fully capable of. After all, the fallout from Bill’s presentation has affected her, too, as she must endure the scorn directed toward Bill. But to see her drag Bill to a gala is frustrating because she ought to know that this won’t work. She had that moment in the episode where Virginia mentioned that trying to force Bill to do something wouldn’t work. Not saying Libby shouldn’t try at all, but take a different approach.

And be more up front with your husband! Libby already suspected last season that the naked woman in the presentation might have been Virginia and even questioned Bill on it. With Virginia potentially working with Bill again, she has good reason to be curious about the nature of his work relationship with Virginia. Like Vivian and Elise, Libby deserves better than the man she has. She can’t handle the baby by herself and she shouldn’t have to. However, I’m glad Libby at least still has a friendship with Virginia, even if it could be on the verge of ending.

Parallax- Bill in the dark

Then we come to the man himself. Like Martin Freeman’s work on Fargo, I’m surprised at how well Michael Sheen is able to transform into this despicable character. His facial expressions show something deeper than Bill lets on. He’s not entirely a bad person, as he does show concern for Barton during the shock therapy. As a doctor, he’s still trying to rationalize everything with scientific jargon, but that doesn’t apply when it comes to his relationship with his family. He tells Virginia that he’s a happily married man, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Parallax- Bill tells Essie that Baby James isn't Jesus

He seems absolutely disgusted by the baby, as if he doesn’t even want to acknowledge its existence. Trying to drown the crying with music was a nice callback to what Essie did when her husband beat Bill, but also shows how much Bill is becoming just like his parents. It’s disheartening to see, but Sheen’s performance in the scene where he faces off with Essie was well done. The smug grin on his face, how he rambles openly about his affair with Virginia, this is a man with many burdens and his only way to work out his feelings is to cheat on his wife. Granted, Bill doesn’t have a new job yet, but at the same time, he has a decent amount of money, a wife and child. The problem is that he doesn’t fully appreciate them. He probably never will until he suffers another huge loss, as was the case with the miscarriage. He’s as emotionally distant as he was before. Bill sits on a lot of rage and because he has few outlets to express it, he lets his anger build until he explodes.

And just like Bill to try and tell Virginia that it would be a mistake to end their affair. Always the doctor, aren’t you, William Masters? He’s a little condescending when he tells Virginia that he doesn’t want her to think he’s leading her on, but he has to know that this affair is having a negative impact on her life. When Bill overhears Virginia talking with Ethan, there’s real regret on his face, as if he knows that his involvement is keeping Virginia away from Ethan. More than that, when the two have sex, Bill has nothing but absolute relief on his face, as if he’d been working up to this moment and Virginia needs to be there with him.

Parallax- Virginia talks with Dr. DePaul

So that leaves Ms. Johnson herself, who has her own personal problems to deal with. Luckily, like last season, Virginia has never let her problems weigh her down and get the best of her. She still walks and talks with complete confidence like a woman ahead of her time- a testament to Lizzy Caplan’s performance.

Despite the propositions, a meager income and affair, Virginia isn’t about to let the world get the best of her. Like Dr. DePaul, she wants to get ahead on her own steam. She’s managed to do it and still has open opportunities, as we see with Ditmer’s offer to use her background to help with his project.

Parallax- Virginia fails at selling diet pills

Completely opposite from Bill, Virginia is not one to do things by the book. Heck, that’s what made men like Bill and George so interested in the first place. She thinks outside the box and plays by her rules, not society’s. This is nothing new, but we see here what happens when she’s forced to conform, when she tries to advertise the diet pills. Disastrous results abound, but only because she did what she’d been told to do, not what she wanted.

And at the end of the day, they still have the work. Virginia still talks with Bill like the two have been a couple for years and she shows a playful side around him that we’ve never seen her show around Ethan. It’s funny how open Virginia is about the idea of her and Bill having an affair. To an extent, she’s right: the stories surrounding affairs usually end the same, but most probably don’t involve coworkers who have partaken in their own study of human sexuality and showed their coworkers some footage of a naked woman masturbating. It’s the little things that matter.

Parallax- Virginia talks about affairs

It would be easy for Virginia to hitch her wagon to Ethan because he offers the status quo. Bill keeps things interesting, when he’s not being an absolute prick. But it’s his dedication to the work that draws Virginia to him. And as we’ve seen, Virginia shares that passion of doing work for the good of science, so in a sense, the two are perfect for each other.

“Parallax” is a strong start to the second season of Masters of Sex. It continues the storylines from the first season, builds on them and paces its storytelling so we’re able to fully grasp what we’re shown. It introduced new characters without feeling forced, made good use of already established characters and gave them something to do instead of just shoving them on screen. This episode set the stage for this season to make a darker turn as these already complex characters prepare to deal with more problems. I can’t wait.

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