Now it’s settled into its groove The Path is beginning to unfurl the story and really let us see the inner workings of Meyerism, how manipulative every single character is and with that, just how dark and sinister things can be.
Last week saw Sarah lose her damned mind over the affair she has imagined between Eddie and Miranda and it was Miranda, utterly innocent of anything, who shouldered the worst of the fallout and this week we finally see if she survived.
Refusing her drug laced smoothies dropped her blood sugar, and girl collapsed so hard she broke her arm and was hospitalised outside the compound. It’s in a clever moment doped up on morphine, meds she considers poison, and under the heady gaze of Hugh Dancy at full Dancy, that she actually Unburdens; She doesn’t know what Eddie saw in Peru but what she heard him say clues Cal in to Eddie’s revelation. Before he leaves, Cal makes a point to tell her that even if she and Eddie didn’t actually have sex, she’s still to blame, somehow. Poor, poor Miranda.
In other rebel hearts, Hawk’s relationship with Ashley is developing. Ashely’s borderline homelessness is apparently on hold; last week she was digging final day eviction notices out of the mail but this week she’s got a party to go to and she wants Hawk to join her. I guess the bank just got super cool all of a sudden.
But she and Hawk are spotted talking by Hawk’s true believer cousin, who calls out his dishonesty about his contact with Ashley and encourages him to Unburden. She even makes a not terrible argument that Hawk is of an age when he can easily confuse infatuation for love and then make bad decisions.
Later that night Hawk sneaks out to make out with his girlfriend at a bonfire party.
But his parents barely notice their son’s gentle foray into teen rebellion. Eddie spends all his time trying to have that conversation with Miranda that her collapse interrupted, but Miranda leaves the hospital and vanishes before he can get anywhere near her. When Eddie sees her next, Cal has gotten his claws into her and it’s terrifying. She’s a dead-eyed zombie who meekly begs forgiveness but strongly asserts her guilt in the imaginary tryst. Miranda leaves New York a husk of what arrived there and Eddie is rightly spooked. We all are, Eddie. We all are.
In the meantime, he is in demand from all sides and it’s as if everyone smells defection on him and wants to drag him so deep they drown him.
Suspicious Cal decides to invite Eddie to Ascend the Ladder to 7R only weeks after his return from 6R and the mad drama that followed him back.
There are so many reasons Eddie can’t say no, even though Cal clearly intends to use the process to either learn what Eddie knows or screw with him so much one way or another that Eddie no longer poses any kind of a threat. Eddie, clearly terrified, has to say yes and even act pleased about it when the news helps him finally reconcile with Sarah.
But Eddie doesn’t have a lot of choice anyway. Meyerist elders, the co-founders of the Movement are stopping by to visit with Cal and the gang, only by visit they mean ‘fuck with literally all day’. The eerily omnipotent Bill(Brian Stokes Mitchell) and Felicia (Adriane Lenox) are suspicious of Cal and recruit poor Eddie as their man on the inside, figure he and Cal working towards 7R will give Eddie valuable insight into Cal’s thinking which he can then report back to them. It doesn’t even come across like he’s being groomed for leadership. They just need his intel.
Sarah, meanwhile spends her week dealing with the Ridge family. Super rich patrons of Meyerism, they begged Cal for help in rehabbing their druggie son in exchange for a million dollars, and more importantly to Cal, legitimately endorsed visibility for the Movement. Freddie has made great progress and Freddie’s true believer mother wants them to do everything for her son to make him well.
His sceptical father pulls up short when he learns the active ingredient in basically all of Meyerism, and especially his son’s ongoing drug treatment is ayawaska, a spiritual medicine utilised by indigenous peoples of Amazonian Peru. Traditionally ayawaska is used to achieve spiritual revelations and personal insights, hence its popularity amongst our little gang, and curiously, most people who use the compound report overwhelmingly positive results. But in another of those brilliant strokes, we have only ever seen Eddie trip and he’s only ever had terrifying experiences. Context is everything.
Mr Ridge, smart man that he is, hauls his son out of the compound and chews out Cal over Sarah’s suggestion. Cal stuns her by agreeing with Ridge and ordering her not to use the compound on the son, despite it being a cornerstone of their entire Movement. The unspoken suggestion here is that Meyer was using ayawaska when he had his ‘visions’ and conceived Meyerism. Its importance to what they do isn’t traditional, it’s vital. Give someone enough powerful drugs and convince them you’re close, personal friends with God, and they’ll follow you anywhere.
Sarah has more of those moments this week, where her iron clad belief in the Movement is challenged by those around her and she’s shaken by it. She opens the episode utterly baffled as to why Miranda wont Unburden, she’s later visibly distressed by the Ridge family refusal, by Cal’s planned changes to the Movement. Her relief is palpable when Mrs Ridge calls a day after the family storms off the compound and begs for help. She goes against Cal’s direct order to help the woman, but earlier in the episode we learn Bill and Felicia consider Sarah too close to Cal to be a useful plant. What these people don’t know about each other in their world of absolute truth could fill a book.
It’s this caring side of the group that trips up FBI Agent Abe Barnes (Rockmond Dunbar). Still playing the part of would-be-recruit while trying to assess the cult’s grip on recovering addict and sex abuse survivor Mary, Abe gets an eyeful of both her horribly sad story and the beautiful and judgement free acceptance she gets from her new family. He’s moved enough by her experiences to wonder if the group is all that bad, really, and cracks start to show in his gruff façade. It’s a few scant scenes that tell a huge story, suggest profound loss in Gaines past and quite possibly still more to come, and suddenly raises questions of how vulnerable he in fact might be to recruitment.
But it’s Cal who, once again, takes the prize for…I don’t know what, but he doubles down on being weird and creepy and more than we have before we see his mask starting to slip ever so slightly.
First of all he coaxes the truth out of Miranda but reports a total lie back to Sarah and Eddie, then as we learn he smuggles Miranda off somewhere until we finally see how ‘effective’ of a leader he is by her lobotomy like personality change. The scene in which he challenges Eddie’s newly acquired emotional distance before offering to go 7R with him is best for a robotic moment in which we actually see wheels crank in Cal’s head when he figures he’s not being human enough. Then when his leadership is challenged by Felicia and Bill both, Cal has another of his little tension expressing visits with poor, sweet, terrifying Mary who is both utterly enthralled by him and being mistreated so horrendously. He sits on her bed and jerks off while she talks sensually about her burgeoning relationship with Sean, a fellow Meyerist who Cal basically ordered her to hook up with. But Cal won’t let her touch him at all and leaves her quietly weeping after he’s done.
Cal has some deep sexual repression at work and he’s expressing it to a sexual abuse survivor in a setting that can only be profoundly triggering for her. Due to the complex emotional territory this pushes her into, Mary is going full Manson family for him and Meyerism and I am curious to see what he’ll have her do and what side she’ll fall on if and when shit finally hits the fan.
When he’s not being the creepiest man alive, Cal also stages a mini coup. He calls out Bill and Felicia on their waffling over preparing for Steven’s death. While they reel from his very suggestion Steven is mortal, Cal declares that he has been called to finish Steven’s work in transcribing the last book of Meyerism and leading the group to some kind of enlightenment/the apocalypse, probably, which they call ‘The Future’.
Another sterling entry that moves the story along just enough without racing too quickly, the fourth episode peels back the layers a little more and starts to really reveal the twisted vipers nest that exists beneath the surface of Meyerism. Even what we’ve seen so far in terms of the locked cells and forced drugging are troubling, disturbing, but with the right amount of squinting and positive thinking and just so much denial, someone could argue it’s the same as when people take up some super intense fitness fad. Not me, but someone.
But the appearance by Bill and Felicia, Sarah and Cal’s obvious fear of the pair, and their immediate assertion of control and Meyerist order is a stark reminder that this isn’t a group of friendly hippies. These people are scared, of their leaders and each other, and there’s no smoke without fire.