In the first episode of Masters of Sex's second season, which starts up this Sunday, the sex gets good. The promise of steamy scenes has always been in the title of Showtime's series, but over the course of the first season the show delivered a more complicated look at the deed. That's not to say that we're venturing into purely lascivious territory we check back in with our researchers, but the show is exploring something it rarely did in the first season: satisfying, passionate sex. 

Season one ended with William Masters (Michael Sheen, doing just spectacular work) appearing at Virginia Johnson's (Lizzy Caplan) door, and it's not spoiler to say that we learn very quickly she does not turn him away. The premiere does not spend a long extended sequence on their sexual encounter. Instead, throughout the entire episode we flash back to it, jumping between their perspectives. It's emotional, fulfilling sex. It's an area the show hasn't much explored before. 

For a show that has the word "sex" in the title, much of the sex on screen hasn't been very, well, sexy so far. The show has spent more time around the rough edges around the sexual act. Masters and Johnson study how the body reacts during sex, so there's a clinical aspect to the way it is portrayed on screen at times. But even when the show has depicted sex outside of a lab, it has honed in on its messiness, and the fact that it doesn't always work. Take for instance a scene in the fifth episode of the series, where Ethan Haas (Nicholas D'Agosto) takes the virginity of Vivian Scully (Rose McIver), the provost's daughter. It's not a scene of a young girl learning the ecstasy of coitus. She appears clueless when he places her on top of him, so he flips her onto the bed and enters her as she grits her teeth in pain, trying, desperately, not to reveal how inexperienced she is. The scene ends with blood on the sheets. Even when the sex in the show is satisfying for the characters on screen, there's something slightly tragic about it. Vivian's mother, Margaret—played brilliantly by Allison Janney—has a look of sadness as she experiences pleasure the pleasure she has been missing out on her entire life when she gets together a car with lothario doctor Austin Langham (Teddy Sears).  

And then there's the relationship between Masters and Johnson. The episode in which Masters and Johnson finally have sex themselves opens awkwardly, with Masters on top of Johnson, humping her with his eyes opening, both of them hooked up to machines. "Love Me Tender" discordantly scores the scene. Later in the episode, the sex itself stays off screen as they discuss how they both climaxed. When we finally see them together again, at the end of the episode, the sex—which grows in intensity—is intercut with scenes of the two reapplying the wires and discussing business. Only when the sequence concludes do we realize they have felt something. 

Season two, as might be expected, is immediately a more intimate affair. That's not to say that the show is done exploring uncomfortable truths about desire—a scene in the season premiere between Margaret Scully and her husband, Barton (Beau Bridges) certainly proves that—but it is now looking at two people who have decided to allow themselves to be together. No wires attached. They still are technically engaging in research, but we—and they—know that they are fooling themselves, and the third episode of the season brilliantly explores how roleplaying factors into their encounters. (I can't wait until the episode airs: it's all I want to talk about.) 

The audience knows, because of the history the show is based on, that these two end up together. So, it's a testament to the actors—especially Sheen, who plays the more unlikable of the two—and the show's plotting, that their tryst is exciting.