Kent Smith

Carrie (Clare Danes) and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) have commanded much of the attention on this season of "Homeland" (Showtime / December 12, 2013)

"Masters of Sex." Showtime's docu-drama depiction of iconic sex researchers Willam Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virgina Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) comes to its season, um, climax on Sunday. What seemed in early episodes as a sexed-up answer to "Mad Men," all retro-wear and midcentury repression, has become an increasingly nuanced exploration of sex as both physiological mystery and symbol of the many ways in which Americans are confined by ignorance and expectaion.

In many ways, it's the ultimate romantic odd-coupling conceit. Sheen's Masters is a buttoned-down obsessive researcher, his nose in his notes even as couples moan and writhe a few feet away, unable to connect what he is learning in the lab with his own life; one of the show's most frustrated characters is Masters, wife, Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald). On the very other hand is Caplan's Johnson, a free-spirited, truth-telling divorced mother who unapologetically accepts sex as an act of mutual pleasure rather than the permanent, life-changing bond the times demands it to be. Midway through the season, the two began participating in the study together, and since we all know they eventually marry (and later divorce), much of the narrative is devoted to bringing their opposing forces together.

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But mercifully not all. Caplan's performance is certainly the crown jewel of "Masters of Sex" (that Sheen received a Golden Globe nomination and she did not is proof of the silliness of awards season), but "Masters" is spider-webbed with all manner of provocative B-plots and studded splendid acting — Beau Bridges as a closeted gay provost, Allison Janney as his wife are reason enough to watch. Showtime, Sunday, 10 p.m.

"Grimm" In back-to-back episodes, NBC's monster procedural marks its midseason finale and celebrates the holidays (the second episode is titled "The Twelve Days of Krampus"). And apparently an alligator-like creature haunting the sewers is part of the program! Also, and more important, Alexis Denisof, alum of both "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" will be making his series debut as the scheming cousin of Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz) out to make a European power grab. (Name another network monster show that toggles between English and French, Portland and the capitals of Western Europe.

Police detective/Grimm Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) has just discovered his kickass mother is still alive, his formerly comatose-then-spellbound girlfriend Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) has become a full-fledged member of the Grimm team, while the ever witty and wise Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) has moved in with Rosalee (Bree Turner), making them the power couple of the Wesen world.

A unique and entertaining blend of creature-feature and domestic drama, with epic overtones, "Grimm" has become a beacon of solid narrative and a weekly reminder of why monsters matter, as both entertainment and symbol of human fragility.

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 Homeland. So now what? Carrie (Clare Danes) is now obviously pregnant and Brody (Damian Lewis) has redeemed himself by offing a super-terrorist, but it's difficult to imagine a happy ending for one of the most conflicted and controversial couples in television history.

If anyone can get Brody out the scene of the crime, and Iran, it's Carrie, but in this tale of two broken people, one has always been more irrevocably shattered than the other, and this season the narrative focused more on Carrie's relationship with Saul (Mandy Patinkin) than Brody. A hail of bullets seems more likely than some sort of Saul-approved protection plan, but who knows?

The only thing predictable "Homeland" has been its willingness to swing for the fences. Showtime, Sunday, 9 p.m.


[For the record: An earlier version of this post identified the actor portraying character Nick Burkhardt as David Greenwalt. Greenwalt is "Grimm's" executive producer. David Giuntoli plays Nick.] 

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Review: "Masters of Sex" slow but smart