I’ve been digesting “Fight,” this week’s stellar episode of Masters of Sex since Sunday night. Without a doubt, “Fight” is going to be the one that gets all the Emmys.
“Fight” spends the bulk of its time on a single night in the hotel room where Virginia and Bill go, masquerading as a married couple. It’s an episode where the entire creative team is firing on all cylinders. The writing is so delicate and raw, and the lead actors give performances that are so honest they’re hard to watch at times. We finally get a peek inside just how this “relationship” they have now works.
Bill arrives at the hotel first, still fuming from a run in with the father of a baby BIll just delivered. The infant is born with a rare condition that renders its sex organs as ambiguous, however the blood test shows the sex to be male. The father would rather Bill just cut it off than have a son who’s a sissy, which pushes Bill to an emotional state that recalls his own treatment by his father. By the time Virginia arrives, Bill takes her forcibly in the bathroom, and she enjoys it.
From here on out, the two spar with their words and bodies. They craft extravagant backstories for their nom de plumes, and these narratives open a door for them to share deep truths about themselves to each other. Virginia tells a wild story that ends with her basically telling Bill she’s in love with him while at the same time sharing her philosophy of locking her heart away.
Bill opens up in ways we’ve never seen, divulging his past abuses at the hands of his father. We see how this shaped the man that stands before us, and suddenly it’s clear why he’s such an ass. Virginia rejects that the abuse should define him, he was just a boy after all, but Bill has been defining masculinity differently. Coming face to face with the Bombeck baby’s father forced his issues to the surface.
Gender roles are a huge theme in “Fight.” Virginia tries hard to convince her daughter that princesses don’t need a prince, but doesn’t get far. Bill’s revelations prompt Virginia to offer a different perspective on being a man, one that doesn’t involve the necessity of violence.
Still, for all its rawness, the episode ends rather clinically as the two “Holdens” part, returning to their worlds closer than they’ve ever been.
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