Airtime: Wednesdays on Hulu
Episode: Season 1, Episode 1-2 (S01E01-02)
Tweetable Takeaway: Hulu’s new cult drama #ThePath will convert you into a believer.
THE PATH, Hulu’s latest original drama, is the streaming service’s bid to win an Emmy, starring critical darlings Michelle Monaghan (True Detective), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), and Hugh Dancy (Hannibal, oh how I miss you), and it seems like they might have a real shot at it. The show is engaging, extremely well-acted, and beautifully shot. There’s a lot to like in the first two episodes, as well as room for the show to grow. Right now, I’m converted and can’t wait to take this journey.
The show centers on the followers of Meyerism, a religion/cult/movement based on a compound in upstate New York, focusing particularly on one couple, Eddie (Aaron Paul) and Sarah (Michelle Monaghan), as their marriage starts to crumble as Eddie begins to question his faith. Meanwhile, Cal (Hugh Dancy), the movement’s second-in-command and Sarah’s former lover, is determined to seize control and bring it to the masses, despite the fact that the movement’s founder is in Peru, supposedly transcribing the last three “rungs on the ladder” that will give his followers spiritual perfection. What exactly Meyerists believe in could be better explained. It seems to be some mix between Scientology, Judeo-Christian religions, veganism, and vague hippie notions of living in truth and harmony.
The series opens with scenes of devastation in New Hampshire. A freak tornado hit, destroying the community. Meyerists, lead by Cal, help the survivors, arriving before even FEMA, taking some of them, including Mary Cox (Emma Greenwell), back to the compound. Meanwhile, Eddie eats dinner with his family, including his young Heath Ledger lookalike son Hawk (newcomer Kyle Allen). He’s just returned from Peru on a retreat, but has been acting distant ever since.
Fans of Hannibal won’t be surprised to hear that although this seems to be marketed as Aaron Paul’s return to television, Hugh Dancy is the one who steals the show. His charismatic cult leader seems to be wrestling with some inner demons, which come out when he snaps and beats Mary’s abusive father bloody. Side note: that has to come back to haunt him, right? I thought he might be dead at the end of the first episode, but in the second we see EMTs talking to him. The sequence where he practices facial expressions in his car while listening to an audio book about winning over people was also great. It seemed like something a psychopath would do, mimicking human emotions, but Hugh Dancy is such a charming psychopath.
Sarah is convinced that Eddie is cheating, but really he’s been sneaking around, trying to covertly talk to a Meyerism defector, as he’s been questioning his faith ever since his ayahuasca trip in Peru lead him to discover that the founder is in a coma, not writing more literature. He isn’t sure if what he saw was real or not, but at the end of the second episode, Cal visits the founder. What he saw was for the most part real. The cult is called Meyerism, after their founder Steven Meyer, so it’s clear that losing such a central figure before he’s done with the literature could destroy the movement. Cal isn’t about to let that happen.
Cal gives an interview on the local news about the movement’s philosophy, charming the reporter and hundreds of online viewers. Unfortunately, it also raises alarms at the FBI, which has now put the movement on cult watch, as some refugees of the tornado haven’t contacted their families since joining. The woman Eddie meets with claims that the movement murdered her husband and stalked her to San Francisco after he started having doubts. While Eddie doesn’t know if he believes her, there is definitely something sinister underneath the movement’s lovey dovey, world peace philosophy.
Eddie’s son, who goes to the local public high school, as he can’t take his vows until he turns sixteen, visits a classmate who needs help. Her father died in a drunk driving accident, and her mother hasn’t been paying any of the bills or the mortgage. He gets in a fight with the girl’s boyfriend the next day at school, leading Eddie to realize that the dysfunction between him and Sarah is affecting his children. He agrees to spend fourteen days locked in a cell as part of an Infidelity Rehab Program, figuring it would be easier to admit to cheating than it would be to questioning the faith. Sarah is a true believer, born into the cult. Meyerism is her entire world. Eddie lies and said he cheated with Miranda Frank (Minka Kelly) while in Peru. A trio of Meyerists show up at her home, to forcibly rehabilitate her.
Visually, The Path is a beautiful, intriguing show, down to the gorgeous, evocative opening credits, which are a series of animated paintings. The first episode ends with a particularly striking scene of Cal lecturing on Plato’s cave as black and white images flicker across the screen behind him and the second with a brilliantly shot and edited sequence of Eddie slowly descending into madness during his fourteen-day exile, smearing the walls with the green juice he’s given. I’m excited to see what next week brings. It’s still early, but Hulu has made a believer out of me.
Jennifer Trofa lives for two things: spreading the “Superstore” gospel and themed “Law & Order: SVU” marathons on USA. When she’s not binge-watching her favorite shows, she’s reading any book she can get her hands on.
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor