Or Nah? is a feature where we watch and review the first episode of a new TV show. We’ll let you know if it’s worth checking out. As always, these reviews are the opinion of the reviewer, but we’ll try to adequately explain why you should or shouldn’t give the show a chance and provide shows for comparison.
The Path S1E1 “What The Fire Throws” | Starring: Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan, Emma Greenwell, Sarah Jones, and Hugh Dancy | Created by: Jessica Goldberg | Network: Hulu | Season: 10 x 60 minute episodes | Air date: Wednesday, 30 March – new episodes debut every Wednesday
“There is no light”
In a world where some sections of society find themselves marginalized, neglected, and cast aside, it’s no wonder these people go in search of somewhere to feel safe, wanted, understood, and to have their needs met – material and spiritual needs. Often they’ll find safe haven in a church or a community of like-minded individuals. And sometimes such a church or community will come in search of the beaten, the down-trodden, the addicted. It is how it grows.
A tornado has ripped through the town of Ringe, New Hampshire, and among the frightened citizens is Mary Cox, desperately seeking a source of clean water. Rescue comes from the Meyerists, a religious community (read “cult”) who follow the teachings of Dr Steven Meyer, whose philosophy of The Ladder will lead its adherents to the “Light”. Many of the former inhabitants of Ringe, namely the youngest, are brought to the group’s compound in New York, where they are fed, watered, offered medication (Mary needs help with her withdrawal symptoms), and a bed to sleep on. Indoctrination quickly follows suit.
At the centre of The Path, a new drama series from Hulu Originals, created by Parenthood’s Jessica Goldberg, is Eddie, his wife Sarah, and the group’s leader-in-waiting, Cal. Eddie (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul) has just returned from Peru, where he completed a process known as 6R (6th Rung of the Ladder): basically taking a lot of hallucinogenic drugs and having visions of the brother he lost through suicide, a loss that still traumatizes him and ultimately led him to Meryerism.
While in Peru, though, his visions lead him to a door, behind which is something that begins his doubts of the Meyerist way. We’re not privy to what he sees straight away. That particular reveal is saved until the end of The Path’s premiere episode. His wife Sarah (True Detective’s Michelle Monaghan) knows immediately that Eddie has been affected by his trip to South America, and thinks that he has transgressed, i.e. having an affair with a girl called Miranda (played by Almost Human’s Minka Kelly). Making sneaky phone calls in the middle of the night, and leaving the house abruptly, also in the middle of the night, seems to suggest to Sarah that Eddie’s straying from the path (pardon the pun). In fact, Eddie’s meeting Alison, whose website promises the answer to Eddie’s question: Is Meyerism real?
Cal (Hannibal’s Hugh Dancy) is heading the group while the Leader secludes himself in Peru, translating the final three Rungs of Meyerism. He is anxious to raise the Meyerists’ profile and a board meeting suggests that they have apocalyptic beliefs. More than that, we don’t know. But he’s by far the most intriguing character in this pilot episode. Cal has a charm about him, so much so that drug addict Mary knocks on his door one evening and proceeds to disrobe in front of him. Without falling into temptation, Cal finds out from Mary why she acts the way she does: her father sold her to other men as a sexual plaything. He then takes it upon himself to exact a brutal revenge for Mary, who looks on approvingly as he beats the living shit out of her father. Cal’s innate violence is at odds with the feelings he still holds for Sarah, who chose Eddie over Cal to be her spouse. (I don’t think they’re married in the strictly legal sense, despite having two kids and wearing similar rings.) He’s the Steve Jobs of Meyerism, giving a passionate motivational speech on Plato’s The Cave that brings “energy and light” to the devoted attendees (apart from Eddie, who doesn’t appear convinced at all).
There are many elements at play here in What The Fire Throws. Not only is there a family dynamic at the centre of the drama, but there is a quasi-supernatural undercurrent that pervades Meyerism. There is no doubt that it’s all a con, that none of it is real, but a good bulk of the characters believe otherwise. The main thrust of The Path should be, I hope, what happens when people’s beliefs shatter all around them. And what will those in charge do to maintain the status quo? It will be interesting to find out.
On the strength of the opening episode, I will check out the second. So right now, The Path is clear. I’m going to stay on it, for now.
The Path series premiere
Plot: It’s an intriguing premise, and while Meyerism has nowhere near the political clout of say Scientology or the pull of Mormonism, I have always been interested in why people fall for something like this. I hope the show delves further into the reasons why people search for solace in less than obvious places.
Action: From the first scene to the last, The Path is more about symbolism and vision than outright action. Mary’s desperate search for water after the tornado devastated her town is echoed by her search for hope and meaning and ultimately revenge through Meyerism and Cal. The final scene itself – the reveal of Eddie’s vision – is truly disturbing, and I’m still wondering if what I saw – what Eddie saw – is real.
Dialogue: The episode is engagingly written, and while the scenes between Eddie and Sarah, especially the ones depicting Sarah’s growing suspicion are hardly trail-blazing, I could still find something to latch onto.
Performances: This is a cast from heaven. I’ve been looking forward to seeing what Aaron Paul and Hugh Dancy got up to after their respective highly-acclaimed roles came to an end. This is will do for starters. I expect and hope that Michelle’s character gets more to do than just to be a spurned wife. She’s a better performer than that and deserves close attention. Of the supporting roles, Shameless’ Emma Greenwell lights up the television screen. From her startling introduction to the look on her face as Cal violently beats up her father, she’s the one to look out for.