***Spoilers for The Path, Season 2 follow.
Did anyone entertain the idea The Path would dial back the intensity at all between seasons?
Yeah, neither did I. Across two episodes — “Liminal Twilight” and “Dead Moon” — in the season 2 opener, we learn the lesson that if you’re a Meyerist? It can literally always get worse.
We dive straight in to the fray, picking up where we left off with Eddie discovering Steven Meyer risen from his apparent death bed. We see the scene from Steven’s point of view, mostly to establish that he didn’t have some miraculous recovery but awoke suddenly from a sleep, and is still pretty unwell.
He’s not entirely there, but not entirely delirious, and seems to be lamenting choosing Cal as his successor, recognising the danger there. Somehow, despite his months long, cancer induced coma, Steven Meyer scurries up that mountain they’re so obsessed with, Eddie hot on his heels, begging him to come home and figure out how to tell the people the truth about all the lies. Steven turns to Eddie and tells the younger man he in fact is ‘the son’ and then they’re struck by lightning.
Five months later, Eddie is returned to the US and making his life outside the cult. He has a decent job as a builder and is even making friends at work. And though it goes against their ways, Sarah is letting him secretly spend time with the kids.
On one such outing for his birthday, Eddie runs entirely by chance into Chloe, his dead brother’s former girlfriend. She has a son by an old friend of theirs but named for Johnny, and she’s delighted to run into Eddie.
Meanwhile, we learn two very important things about Eddie; he has electrical burns scars, the kind you get from a lightning strike. And, it looks like he might have begun to rediscover his faith.
He tries to reach out to the still frosty Sarah (who, guys, brace yourselves), who he senses is in trouble but when, and maybe because it descends into a fight, he ends up on a date with Chloe.
They have a beautiful talk about Johnny, touching on Meyerism and though Eddie initially freaks out thinking Chloe is just digging for gossip, she sincerely tells him she doesn’t judge his actions after Johnny died, and is in fact happy he found something. He emotionally tells her how wonderful it briefly was, but how when you lose your belief, the whole world ends. It’s heartbreaking and we haven’t seen Eddie really grieve his loss of faith this openly.
They bond, and of course, they end up in bed together. The next morning, he dreams of the day he married Sarah, in a picturesque ceremony overseen by Steven Meyer himself.
Richard, the U.S. based Shaman, has remained in Cuzco with a new old arrival, Kodiak (the always amazing James Renner). Kodiak is a controversial figure who has been in Siberia for a decade (can we get a spin off?!), whom Sarah appointed during the fallout of her confrontation with Cal. She makes it clear to Cal that Kodiak is around because she needs someone to trust. Because Cal, she now knows, is a dirty rotten freaking liar.
She tells him this at the memorial for Steven, who in their eyes, vanished from his death bed because he Ascended.
Richard and Kodiak are contacted by the local natives whose culture and spirituality they have buffet picked for their little cult, because the locals have found a dead body. Steven’s dead body.
Richard calmly asserts they must destroy the body to save the movement, but he and Kodiak are inclined to investigate. They find a local family who have drawn a sketch on their wall of Steven being pushed from the cliff by … yeah, kinda pretty much Eddie.
Hawk is having his own … weird, weird experiences, but he’s growing as a person and it’s a wonderful thing. Studying for R1, the first formal level of Meyerism, he befriends The Girl With No Name, a new and eager recruit. The young woman is political and fired up, seeing Meyerism as a means to save the world, but she’s frustrated by their basic outreach programmes and wants to do more.
She and Hawk bond over weed and breaking the window of a man whose company has poisoned a local towns water, a la Flint, Michigan.
In between conversations with his new friend, Hawk uncomfortably visits with Eddie, colluding with Sarah and little Summer to lie about the ongoing contact. He’s grown up enough to approach Sarah and point out how it’s all terrible, but it’s especially awful making little Summer lie to her entire family, a girl raised in a cult of total honesty and truth. Good for you, Hawk.
She and Hawk take an R1 trip together, spending the night in the woods on the darkest night of the year when there’s no moon at all. She’s terrified of the dark because of her unbearably sad childhood and sweetly talks about how Hawk’s childhood must have been idyllic, to grow up with people who care so much they dedicate their lives to it. He opens up about his current confusion and turmoil and how what they’re doing will help them both, and they bond pretty hard, but if it’s romantic yet she’s holding back.
I like this girl, but I also want her to be working with Abe or the feds, or something.
The next morning after their little vision quest, The Girl With No Name (seriously) is emotional and has had some sort of revelatory moment overnight.
Hawk…floats. Yeah he levitates.
I … okay.
Speaking of Abe, he appears fully integrated into R1 training and hey don’t you know he’s having the beginnings of an affair with Nicole, Sarah’s sister in law. ABE!
I am disappointed. We also learn, to my absolute horror, his beautiful little girl died between seasons, her heart condition claiming her life after the all clear was given.
…. I went and spoiled myself as soon as I saw this scene, I had to know.
See, later on, we see Abe sneak to a house … his own, where his wife and children and yes, the beautiful baby girl, are safe and well.
Holy goddamn heck. My heart was racing. I’d have been so angry.
Abe is working with the Attorney General and might be pretty much full blown undercover. He talks up land purchases Meyerists have made, and Cal’s attempt to have the group recognised as a religion and declared tax exempt. His new boss is all the way on board with Abe and encourages him to go further, throwing out help in every way he possibly can. Abe’s realisation he’s been validated after all this time is a brief, gorgeous piece of acting.
Lady Mary Macbeth The Broken is happily married to Sean and five months pregnant. Exactly five months, meaning the baby could be Cal’s. Oh shit.
She, Cal and Sean are all living and working together at a new Meyer centre in the nearby city, which is … so awkward but also mostly horrible and sad; not only is Cal there, the couple he made get married have to live in terrible conditions. Oh, and Cal is there as a punishment from Sarah so you know he’s just a joy to be around. But, things look up when Cal arranges for the couple to live in an apartment, rather than the uncomfortable barracks the other acolytes are dumped in. But, all is not well.
Mary knows the baby may not be Sean’s which of course may be obvious when it’s born, as Sean is African American, and Cal is not. Oh, Mary. After Cal creepily trots the pair out at a fundraising event, Sean has a minor freak out about the creep weirdness of it all, and it’s just gut wrenching. These kids. These kids.
Now, we get to the meat. And, oh my word.
Sarah ended last season suspecting Cal knew what happened to the shaman, Silas. She also learned he wrote ‘The final rungs’, the last chapters of their holy scripture which have previously all been penned by Steven Meyer. Cal wrote them because Meyer was dying but of course, being Cal, he was trying to exercise his own wills rather than advance the message, and Sarah saw through it at once.
The revelation came as she was losing Eddie and by season 2, Sarah is barely holding her shit together. In her own words, Cal took her world away, took the truth away from her. And he did and it’s awful, and he should be ashasmed. As I discussed last season, Eddie thought he was failing to make her see it his way, while in fact, he was failing to see it hers; Sarah was born a Meyerist. She’s never known any other reality. She does not believe in Meyerism. She knows it is all there is. The same way she knows water is wet.
So, she’s brittle.
Cal spends the first episode blowing the very last of their money, 5 million dollars that they only have 4 million of, buying a building in New York. He had been banking on tax exempt status to swallow most of the debt but when that idea is killed good and dead, he and Sarah spiral into their own cycles of utter panic.
Sarah, gripped at all times by anxiety, accidentally kills a wee baby deer on the road. Life long vegetarian and animal lover, she is understandably absolutely devastated and has a breakdown right there on the side of the road, clutching its little body.
She calls Cal and blames him for it, for having her so damn worried, calling him out on his role on destroying everything she knew. And. then demands to know about Silas.
Cal shows her the body and because Cal is the way he is, he talks about how it was an accident that he cut the guy’s throat, making sure Sarah knows Silas insulted him. He talks about his guilt but in a way like we’re meant to think living with it is so terrible. He’s subtly trying to position himself as the victim here, because Cal.
Sarah is having a terrible, slow free-falling meltdown. At a session with Richard later, she’s obviously holding back the truth about Silas and Richard senses this, but thinks it’s about Eddie. He reveals Eddie was in Peru when Steven died, which Sarah rejects, but later drags out of Eddie when he balks at her questions.
Cal also reveals that failing to get that religious status is bad news. Like, they’re going to lose the Meyer compound bad news. Sarah looks ready to burst into flames so Cal smugly twists her arm into attending fundraiser being thrown by the Ridge family from season one.
It’s exactly, exactly as much of a disaster as you’d expect. It’s like watching a crime unfold.
Cal is parading Mary and Sean around in the most uncomfortable way, talking up Mary’s tragic past without any clearance from her. Later, poor broken Mary is literally happy he even talked about her, never mind how he just told a room full of strangers she’s a sex abuse survivor and recovered drug addict.
Sarah drinks. Ha! She sips enough champagne to get tipsy ,and we can see hints of how good she could be if she was comfortable in such situations. She’s flirted with you Man Bun Don Draper, while nearby, Cal seethes.
Later Cal learns the ‘fundraiser’ is really more like a meet and greet and literally grimaces at a suggestion they ask for donations so they can do charitable works for people. Cal seethes.
He has another weird creepy encounter with Mary, who is so enamoured with him, yet sees right through him, entirely. She sort of prods at him, at having to prostrate himself for cash and with Mary, it’s hard to tell if she knew he’d blow up in some way, but entirely possible. I love her.
Cal does indeed do something, taking the floor at the party to be hilariously rude to the rich folks there. He smiles wonderfully even as he takes apart their selfishness and asks for money, but it goes over like a lead balloon and people begin to leave.
Sarah rushes off to freak out, but Man Bun Don Draper follows and for a few minutes she seems pretty damned down for some hanky-panky in the billiard room. But, she’s freaked out by the savage hunting nature artwork on the walls, and runs out to find Cal.
Cal is getting a telling off from his hosts as Sarah tries to leave, and that’s when Man Bun Don Draper decides to be just enough of a douche about making out with Sarah that it’s really satisfying when Cal smacks the smug out of him.
They leave together, looking like they just left Carrie White’s prom.
In a total side note, it doesn’t look like anyone tries to help Man Bun Don Draper up off the ground. Hee!
The next day, Sarah wakes and Cal is going Full Call already, talking about people he can call before they tell the council that he just completely and totally and utterly destroyed Meyerism, like, forever. Sarah suggests she just turn him in for that murder he definitely committed, but he says she won’t, because then it’s all over.
But, Sarah, girl, you should tell on him anyway. In spite of how ‘it’ will be, do definitely still tell someone that Cal murdered Silas and buried him in the woods.
She asks how on earth he can live with himself and again, he’s Cal, so he talks up his horrible wretched guilt because of course, no one is suffering Silas’ murder more than … his murderer. He’s Cal, he’s that salesman Silas called him, so he takes Sarah downstairs to see Meyerist acolytes tending to the poor and needy. It’s beautiful and what everything could be if people could figure themselves out and do the right thing.
There’s a feeling of ‘what could be’, as Cal cuddles a baby and Meyerists wash the feet of homeless people, serving warm meals and offering love and acceptance.
Sarah looks on, touched, moved. Whether or not she remembers he’s a salesman, adept at pretending he’s not a monster, or she believes his lie, is not clear.
Oh, Sarah. You in danger gurl.
Guys…Cal is the goddamned Devil.
Where do I even begin?! That’s how you open a season, holy shit.
Meyers’ real death and Richard’s easy decision to cover it up made me squeal, that we got to see the darker side to the man hinted at in the more intense In House scenes from season one. Felicia, who reminded us of her bug-eyed true believer credentials in her ponderings about Silas, was happy to keep Steven’s very normal, mortal cancer a big secret. But, could she handle this level of truth? Probably not. The fact Richard, and Kodiak, know that and are acting on that instinct, speaks to a dark side of the cult they had played with in season one. The scariest stalking behaviour of the Meyerists in the first season was chasing down Alison, but that turned out to be about money she stole.
Richard so quickly taking control harked back the idea Meyerists are dangerous, and that Abe’s growing concerns about the group as a whole are entirely valid.
The idea Eddie pushed him, or could be accused of killing the cult’s freaking Messiah is a wild one. I don’t know if I think Eddie pushed on purpose. It seems to me Eddie had some kind of profound spiritual experience, but he’s handling it far better than Cal and Meyer ever handled their own.
If he did? If Eddie Lane tossed that old man off a cliff? That would be huge.
Abe’s lie about his daughter made me sick until I could find out the truth, and I’m glad to see he didn’t drink the Meyeraid after all. That said, he seemed … pretty ready to make out with Nicole and that makes me sad. His marriage has been fairly solid, even with its ups and downs. I was so happy they didn’t kill the baby; it would also be nice to see their family unit not destroyed. Please.
I’d love to learn Hawk’s new friend’s name, but mostly what I’d like to know is, did that boy FLOAT? It’s hard to say. The show has a thread of The Other with the prophetic dreams, spirit guide animals and the like. But, we also know these visions are often projections of something that character feels is happening; Eddie’s early visions of Steven were both real things he saw influenced by the massive amount of hallucinogens he had ingested.
So, maybe Hawk floated, or we saw Hawk feeling like he was … it’s hard to say.
Mary’s pregnancy is enormous, and she is just as damaged as before, but I remain slightly afraid of her. I can’t shake that look on her face from the season one finale, after she finally bedded Cal, that Lady Macbeth glower. She is predatory. But, I am so sad for how damaged she is and how good she and Sean would be together in any other circumstances. Damn you, Cal!
And as for Cal, and Sarah … I’m half lost for words. Sarah was always a little scary and intense, but this is the first time her hidden fragility has been laid so bare. She’s barely holding together, and what’s really frightening is what might happen because of it. In her own way Sarah is as ruthless and driven as Mary. Mary has it a little more figured out, but Sarah is more than capable. It depends if the breaks or weathers everything to come.
If the show heads in the Jonestown direction I sort of think (hope?) it might, it will certainly be Cal leading the ghoulish parade, though what I’m here for is to see who will stand by his side. Mary or Sarah?
Because this is me, I do have one question; Where is Alison? Last we saw, she was retaking her vows in the same ceremony as Hawk did, that then served as Mary and Sean’s wedding party. She was in the main compound; now she’s absent and unmentioned two episodes in.
Considering Eddie’s experiences, I am genuinely curious to see them meet again after everything that’s happened in the last few months. Not to mention her discovery about Jason and what it means for what Eddie experienced and the mysticism running through the show. She’s still around, right?