Masters of Sex Season Four: “Let’s Make it About Us”

WTF happened on season four of Masters of Sex?

Okay, so remember how, last season, I got all bummed-out because it looked like the show was going to be about polyamory and it was just more of Bill and Virginia being assholes to their children and each other? Well, this season was also more of that, but with swingers this time. Plus, it was two episodes shorter than usual, which somehow made it feel both like it ended prematurely and like it wasted too much time on random side stories that didn’t go anywhere.

Here are some things that happened in the fourth season of Masters of Sex:

  • Literally every other character, including HUGH HEFNER, made it their personal mission to get Bill and Virginia back together after their extremely wise breakup last season.
  • A new doctor/psychologist couple named Art and Nancy – the swingers – moved into the A-plot and briefly cast doubt on whether Bill and Virginia would get back together before somehow also becoming obsessed with Bill and Virginia.
    • Nancy was the best one, and she gave some real talk about how she didn’t want to make a lifetime commitment to Art even though she had no plans to leave him right now, and then the show treated her like a villain.
    • Also, the show acted like Art was being victimized by Nancy because she wanted to have an open relationship and he didn’t… even though he never told her he didn’t want to have an open relationship and actively lied to her on an ongoing basis not just about what he wanted but also about what he was actually doing.
    • Also, this is the second thing I’ve watched in the past three months that tried to convince me it’s wrong for women to make unilateral decisions about whether they want to be pregnant. It sucks that Nancy lied to Art about whether the unwanted pregnancy was caused by his sperm or someone else’s, but, if she doesn’t want to have a baby, I’m not sure what the show is expecting her to do – have it anyway so Art can be happy?
    • Also, Virginia went on a rampage where she tried to prevent Art and Nancy from practicing sex therapy (or whatever they do) in their own clinic, because she thought of it first, and everyone acted like Nancy was a monster for thinking that’s bullshit.
    • I like Nancy a lot, mostly because she’s the anti-Virginia and everyone hates her.
  • Bill went to AA meetings but turned them into an excuse to talk about Virginia, even when the AA leader tried to make him stop.
  • Also, he ruined his sponsor’s marriage. It wasn’t really his fault, but he’s Bill, so I blame him anyway.
  • Bill’s ex-wife, Libby, was the best one, and it’s interesting to see how she transformed into a warm, open-minded, free-spirited person once she had the chance. The show is sort of not very interested in the time period it’s set in most of the time, but Libby’s story is more interesting to me, because she seems like a product of her culture. She lived a small life until the world opened up and offered her more possibilities for who she could be, and it’s beautiful to see how she’s changed.
    • At the same time, it’s a dick move to tell Bill all of a sudden that she’s unilaterally decided to move away with the kids. I can’t remember if she ended up with full custody or not, but, even if she did, that’s really mean. Trying to dress it up as her way of not being controlled by Bill anymore is misguided.
      • I also don’t totally understand why Bill cares, because it seems like he and Virginia live in a bubble reality where their children don’t exist most of the time.
  • There was a random curveball where Betty’s partner, Helen, died in childbirth and then Helen’s bigoted parents kidnapped their child and wouldn’t let Betty see her. It was basically the most gutting thing that’s ever happened on the show, and then Betty hatched a crazy plan to get the baby back and that’s the last we heard of it.
    • Somehow, it also became about Bill’s trauma because he was one of the doctors operating on Helen when she died.
    • Like, there was a scene where Virginia was like, “How’s Betty?” and didn’t listen to the answer before quietly and supportively holding Bill’s hand while he wrestled with his sad, tortured feelings.
      • Remember the first season, when he started to cry and then covered her eyes? That still cracks me up.
  • Speaking of Bill’s trauma, there was a really weird episode where the couple he was treating was tepidly into rough sex and it somehow turned into a story about how Bill was abused as a child, and I get that that doesn’t go away, and that it’s a problem that continues to affect your life forever, over and over again, across situations – but from a story-telling perspective, the show keeps coming back to it without telling us anything new and, after a while, it starts to feel like we’re supposed to enjoy it a little.
  • That said, my least favourite scene was the one where Bill and Virginia went on a trip together and Virginia got jealous because Bill was reconnecting with an old flame and then, instead of expressing vulnerability, she used her jealousy as a lever to get Bill to unzip all his feelings for her again so she could poke through them like carrion, and it felt super icky.
  • At the very end, Bill and Virginia got married and, before the actual ceremony, Bill said, “Let’s make it about us.”
    • LOL

Was that good or bad?

I don’t know anymore. I remember saying that last season was unusually good because it was less memorable than the previous two seasons – the same could be said of season four. The story’s still not great, but it also doesn’t have a scene where Bill starts crying and covers Virginia’s eyes. Or a B-plot where Libby’s racist until she falls in love with a black man and then joins the civil rights movement and then doesn’t care about it anymore once the black man dies off-screen between seasons.

Between Bill/Virginia, Libby, and Betty, I felt like I was watching three different shows, with three different moods, about three completely separate things. I liked Libby’s show the most, because it involved character growth; I found Betty’s show the most politically relevant since it really drove home why gay people need to have legal rights in situations where their partners die; and I found Bill and Virginia’s show just as annoying as always.

I’ve already written about how creepy I think it is for the show to objectify Bill’s suffering, and how weirdly pornographic it is when he’s forced to display his feelings to people whether or not he wants to, so I won’t do it again, but those elements are still there. They’re, like, the core concept of this show.

The truth is, it’s very hard to render judgement when I don’t remember half of what happened this season or last. I guess it was okay. I hung around for it because it came on after Westworld. Westworld is a much better show. I remember what happened on Westworld. What door. I look forward to writing more about that.

Image: Masters of Sex; Showtime | November 26, 2016