If you’re not watching the excellent Showtime drama Masters of Sex, you should be. It’s fantastic television and one of the smartest, most well-rounded series to come out in quite some time. I’d even argue that it rivals Mad Men back when Mad Men used to be fantastic week in and week out.
If you’re not watching Masters of Sex, you need to leave now, because this post will have huge spoilers for the entirety of the series thus far. As I write this we’re just past the middle of a stellar second season, with another episode airing in just a few hours. So, bookmark this page, catch up, and come back!
Okay good. You’re back. That was fast. I told you it was good, didn’t I? You can thank me later, because now we have to get to the matter at hand: What the hell has happened to Libby Masters this season?
The Libby Masters in season 1 was kind, a bit naive, and a nauseatingly sweet woman. The Libby in season 2 is always at her breaking point, melodramatic, and a bit racist. She wasn’t racist in season 1 (remember the dance she had with the handyman?), so what happened?
I have a theory. The theory may crumble by tonight’s episode, but I’ve been mulling it over and am anxious to see what you guys think. I believe that the transition from sweet, lovable Libby to “What the hell are you doing?!” Libby is intentional. Some shows lose the grip on their characters as they go along, “jumping the shark” as it becomes convenient for the larger plot, and allowing side characters to fall by the wayside in favor of the “leading” players. Libby is hardly a side character, but she’s certainly not as important to the story as Bill or Virginia. She does, however, factor largely into the relationship we the viewers have with both of those characters, which is why it became increasingly important for her character to go through some changes this season.
If you’re not caught up on the show and kept on reading, you’re going to be incredibly sorry because here it goes: Bill and Virginia are sleeping together. They have been for quite some time now, under the guise of “The Study,” but we all know that they’re just kidding themselves. Their “affair” began toward the end of last season, hit a peak halfway through this season, and faltered a bit over the last two episodes. But, now that the show has jumped forward three years, Bill and Virginia have forgiven their past transgressions and resumed “The Work” with each other.
Over the course of this season we’ve seen Libby become increasingly paranoid, seen her crumble at the very thought of her life not being a symbol of perfection, and struggled with her black nanny, Coral. The situation with Coral grew worse week to week, as she began distrusting her, started ordering her around and judging her personal relationships, and went so far as to force-wash her hair when she believed that Coral had given her son lice.
In other words, Libby has become a bit of a bitch this season. In fact, before long she may back her bags and move to BitchTown with Jane. Yes, there are logical reasons why she would behave this way. She’s chronically depressed, has a horrible marriage, a husband who won’t interact at all with their children, and she feels completely powerless in her own home. But as I said, I think the lengths at which the writers have gone to make us distance ourselves from Libby is more intentional than that.
Libby’s character has been turned into a sacrifice. The writers and showrunners have taken her down a few pegs in our hearts for a very specific purpose: to soften the blow of the relationship between Bill and Virginia.
Think about it. If Libby was still the angel this season that she was last season, Bill’s affair with Virginia would be the ultimate betrayal. However, the writers have made her just unlikable enough that we don’t turn on her completely, but don’t hold her in such high regard as we did last season. We’re supposed to get invested in Bill and Virginia’s affair and the burgeoning feelings they have for one another. Without giving Libby a few bad qualities, it would have been harder for us to do that. We’d constantly be berating Bill for going behind the back of his angelic housewife.
Now, we may not be outwardly thinking it, but the thought is definitely in our heads: “Well, Libby is kind of an unreasonable bitch, so…”
As I said, that theory could come crumbling down tonight when the new episode airs and we see some miraculous character development that happens and puts Libby back in our good graces. But until that happens, I’m believing that the slow decline in her character has been an intentional way for us to go from Team Libby to Team Bill & Virginia.
What do you think? Am I off base here? Sound off in the comments below.