Bill is an asshole. We’ve been building up to this for a while in the latter half of the season, but this finale proves Bill is a certified monster. What he did to Virginia is inexcusable and makes him a character impossible to empathize with, impossible to root for. Let’s revisit what exactly he does:
He purposely sabotages the ready-to-air CBS special by acquiring their competition’s book, “Man and Sex” written by UCLA’s Joseph Kaufman, from none other than Barton (the return of Beau Bridges!) who then, by Bill’s request, leaks the book to a competing network to air their own special before poor Shep even has a chance to blink. And Bill’s decision comes on top of knowing Virginia has just signed away custody of her kids to George to keep him from disparaging her and the work inside a courtroom, in hopes that once their special airs, she’ll be able to win her kids back by showing how wholesome the work really is. Bill makes a conscious decision to not tell Virginia he’s killing the film, therefore enabling her to follow through with losing her kids.
Coupled with the fact that Kaufman’s partner is Virginia’s ex-lover Ethan, she flees from the airing of the competing special and retreats to have a very necessary private mental breakdown. When Bill consoles her in this moment, and he says how sorry he is for what has happened, it could be considered a tender (if not still horribly depressing) moment. But then once Barton later enters as the moral compass to Bill’s extreme selfishness, and we find out the awful truth, the moment is disgusting viewed in that new lens. “I never meant to hurt Virginia,” Bill tells Barton. Enough already, Bill.
Now it may sound like I’m taking this all too personal, like I am Virginia’s emotional surrogate or something. But consider this: Bill and Virginia Masters are a duo we’re supposed to be able to get behind and enjoy watching them together. I don’t know if I can anymore, well-knowing what Bill has done to Virginia and also well-knowing that she has so completely lost herself and her life to this man and to this work. I want to shout, “Virginia, is it worth it?!” History tells us it ends up being worth it, but damn if it’s not hard to watch right now. Turns out that light at the end of the tunnel never came after all.
The season finale is titled “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” and it certainly is not. Although the episode closes out on a different revolution: the swearing in of president John F. Kennedy. The characters watch as history is made with JFK giving his inaugural speech, and it cuts over to Bill and Virginia speaking to Barbara and Lester (who have officially become a thing; that is, without the sex) about their new breakthroughs in curing sexual dysfunction. It’s meant to be powerful and poignant, but unlike “Mad Men” which successfully ties in historical moments with the themes of its characters, somehow here it doesn’t quite land. Maybe it’s that on-the-nose syndrome striking again.
Meanwhile, the Langham/Flo dynamic continues to not only exist but also befuddle. She comes from an extremely powerful family, and he suddenly wants to get into politics? I liked it better when Betty had her own storyline. Where’s Sarah Silverman?
It’s most interesting that Libby comes out at the end of this season as the most enlightened character. Lying in bed with Robert, she reveals she has known all this time. “I know my husband has been having an affair for years. And then I focused on my children. And then I met you, and I know. I know that this thing that we have, I know that I want it. I know I want to feel.”
Also, random thought: why in the world didn’t Bill take the call from Hugh Hefner, and what in the world did Hugh Hefner want with Bill? I guess season three is for us to find out.