Masters of Sex didn’t waste time delving into the repercussions of Bill Masters’ move to Buell Green, the city’s black hospital, in the fifth episode of Season Two, “Giants.” His colleagues aren’t thrilled with the additional office and lab space he was given; his patients — all white — aren’t thrilled with the area of town they’re finding themselves visiting. Dr. Hendricks (Courtney B. Vance) has an eye for integrating Buell Green, but a shared waiting room was quickly segregated once it was clear Bill’s patients weren’t keen on mingling — read: throwing punches and using the N-word. Hearing the racial epithet is jarring, and Masters of Sex isn’t shying away from confronting race and white privelege head-on this season. In fact, this Buell Green detour is fictional, but inserting it into the larger story of Masters and Johnson’s work is smart. It’s not revisionist history; it’s taking the opportunity to broaden the scope of the series and provide a more balanced look at life in the 1950s and ’60s.
Moving throughout the series are powerful stories of relationships — Lillian and Virginia, friends who have hurt each other but won’t forsake each other; Betty and Helen (Sarah Silverman), former lovers still longing for each other; Bill and Virginia, colleagues wrestling with the balance of their work, their personal lives, and their love for each other. And of course we have Libby, nearing hysteria and clearly not learning from her behavior toward Coral. Some have called the second season of Masters of Sex darker, but perhaps it’s a matter of it being even more adult. The early days of study participants giggling at the notion of sex for science are gone. That touch of lightheartedness may come back to a degree now that the study has been resurrected — Betty is certainly doing her damndest to bring levity to things — but the series this year has proven itself as a serious drama.
Join me as I discuss the show in the latest Podcasters of Sex episode. My lovely co-host Mallory Andrews is abroad, so filling in for her again is special guest Kristen Sales, of Movie Mezzanine.
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Join us next week for episode six, “Blackbird.”
Sarah Carlson is Television Editor for Pajiba. She lives in San Antonio. You can find her on Twitter.