At some point on Showtime's Masters of Sex—depending on how long it runs, we guess—Virginia Johnson and William Masters will get married, but how should we feel about rooting for them as a couple, right now?
The season premiere ends with Masters and Johnson hashing out the terms of their current relationship in a hotel lobby, deciding that they wouldn't have "an affair." Instead, they agree to continue their "work," studying a "psychological component" of sex by meeting in a hotel room under pseudonyms. It's clear that both of them are posturing. Yes, they will be continuing their work, but, no, this isn't really all about the study. Their sex scene in Johnson's apartment was, in some ways, steamier than the show has ever been. We know where this is heading.
Obviously, viewers should want Bill and Virginia to get together or there wouldn't be much of a show. But their marriage is not imminent—the two don't actually get hitched until 1971 and we're still in the late '50s—and the show did a great job last season of making the viewer feel conflicted about their sexual interactions. Masters' wife Libby was, blessedly, someone the show made the audience care about, so we feared seeing her pain on learning about Bill's feelings toward Virginia. Already, the show is wrestling with how to portray Libby this season. To Bill, she is an impediment, someone who gets in his way, but to Virginia, she is still a friend. The premiere episode scene in which she and Virginia chat in the hospital cafeteria makes Virginia's deception toward her seem even worse than Bill's. (Virginia joking that she's nabbed the most eligible bachelor while holding Bill's son? Sort of creepy.)
So as Virginia and Bill become more intimately involved, is it becoming harder to be morally squeamish about their interactions? On one hand, no. Bill's confrontation with his mother in the premiere—in which he declares that he is just like his father by admitting his affair—shows how he sees himself becoming a villain he always feared thanks to his relationship with Virginia. On the other hand, Bill can be an easier character to like when he's with Virginia. He's passionate, and, in some ways, more emotionally available. And, of course, their tryst is exciting to watch develop.
This is only the beginning of the season, which will include a time jump at some point to 1961, and Virginia and Bill's relationship presumably won't go off without a hitch.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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