Shrewsbury, Massachusetts- After Mad Men’s popularity, networks everywhere began to develop their own period dramas to compete. Some, like The Playboy Mansion, did not last very long. Others like Michelle Ashford’s Masters of Sex managed to stay afloat. The first season was one of the best debuts of the year and quickly began to shape into a worthy successor to Mad Men. Now the show has returned for a second season to show that their first time was not a fluke.
After showing the results of his sex study to his colleagues at Washington University, Doctor William Masters has resigned in disgrace. Now a father with his wife Libby, Masters struggles with fatherhood and getting his study back up on its feet. Meanwhile his partner Virginia Johnson maintains her position at the University while constantly facing scrutiny after the study while also continuing to see Masters. Soon Masters finds a new home for the study and tries to get adjusted to his new surroundings and to get Virginia back to work.
Like most shows going into their sophomore year this year, Masters of Sex returns in perfect form, maintaining and improving the quality of the show from its first season. The writing is still on point, perfectly melding the stuffiness of the time period with the freedom and naughty bits of the subject matter. The pairing of Masters and Johnson was part of the first season’s success, but this season proves that both characters are strong when separated from the other.
That is largely thanks to the undisputed talent of the cast. Michael Sheen is impeccable as William Masters. Differing from the more guarded persona of the first season, Sheen presents a Masters at odds with himself and slowly coming apart at the seams. In contrast with that is the remarkable Lizzie Caplan as Virginia Johnson and is quickly becoming one of the best characters on television. There are also some great new additions such as Breaking Bad’s Betsy Brandt and Danny Huston as Will’s supportive, but overly excited new boss.
Masters of Sex is a show that could have easily gone stale once the novelty wore off. However, Michelle Ashford and company have avoided this pitfall by continuing to grow on what they have already presented. It’s a show about the complicated study of sex, but it is also about the equally complicated duo who spearheaded the field. The drama is sizzling, the writing spot on, and the acting engrossing. With Mad Men coming to a close, Masters of Sex is proving to be a worthy and possibly better successor.
Masters of Sex airs Sundays @ 9 pm on Showtime