Welcome back True Believers! Have you Seen The Light?
I hope your holiday season was peaceful and filled with goodness. I can only apologise for the delay in posting. I had to travel, and got sick in the process. I spent yesterday under a duvet with a cat and about a thousand gallons of tea, googling whether or not you can cough up a lung.
Here we are and The Path is back, and the intensity is turned up to eleven because it always is and … okay, frankly, this show might be falling apart. It’s not all the way there yet, there’s still a lot of good going on but things are getting … hinky. The clumsy approach to dispensing characters the writers have no role for, and their habit for just abandoning storylines they changed their mind about are out in full force, and it is not a good look.
Don’t hold your breath to see Hank, Russell, Noah, Bill, Abe, any mention of Alison, nor of Kodiak, who you know … kidnapped and nearly killed Eddie just a little while ago. They are all gone, some with explanations, others without.
Since Hulu made the decision to air three episodes — half the entire season — in one go, there is a fair amount to cover here, but let me try and get all the important stuff. Oh and before we go forwards, the episodes begin to delve into the details of Cal’s history with Steve. As such, this review features mention of child sexual abuse. Please read with caution.
Eddie is spared having to do any real work to earn his role as supreme leader of Meyerism after a random earthquake destroys the New York Centre and gives Eddie the chance to miraculously survive the explosion from the trailer. It’s all caught on video, Eddie goes viral and six months later, Meyerism is booming. They have bought an entirely new building in New York with what money, I can’t even pretend to know, and Eddie has even taken on Vera, a sexy, cool PR guru played by Frieda Pinto.I mean, I assume she’s a PR Guru. The show says she is. Could be nice to see her in action.
Vera claims atheism though believes in Eddie, just in general, and this fueling of his ego is all going to his head. Eddie wants Meyerism to be modern so has done away with much of the darker practices (the drugs, torture, imprisonment) and has promised to be open and honest — their new centre even has interfaith spaces for other religious groups to come and pray, mingle, and broaden some horizons, man! It all looks good for Meyerism but you see, friends, Eddie is a bloody terrible leader. I mean, disastrous, really. But, I’ll get to him in a second.
Hawk is glad to have his dad back, and has been appointed the new Youth Liaison at the centre, joined by the his cousin, Joy, who the show finally figured out a storyline for. The centre has interfaith rooms, and Hawk hires one out to a Christian group led by the adorable and charismatic Caleb, who in turn immediately befriends the younger Meyerists. So far, Eddie’s plan is working pretty well. Caleb is the son of a very renowned pastor, and relates to the difficulty Hawk now faces as the son of a messiah-like figure in a large religious group. Hawk, and Joy, are both amazingly oblivious to Caleb’s open flirting with Hawk at basically all times, but dear reader, I am not. I just hope if and when something happens, Hawk is able to roll with it. And that Joy handles it well because … aaw bless, she’s crushing hard.
While Caleb is basically wearing his heart on his sleeve, other newcomer, Vera has dark secrets. Though she claims to be secular, she is a raised Meyerist, just not the kind we’re used to. Along with her mother, Lilith and a fair few others, Vera runs an apocalyptic splinter group of the cult. They believe the end of the world is imminent, and that Eddie has to die in order that their group may live. Vera, having grown close to Eddie while she works with him, is conflicted, and time will tell which side of the cause she commits to.
And so to our main players. First, of course, is Eddie.
His commitment to his new way of running things is as blind as Sarah’s commitment to the old ways and it goes wrong about as quickly as it possibly can. Hist first screw up is insisting the up state compound be open at all times, with no security post at the gate. Literally immediately, someone sneaks onto the compound, tries to break into buildings, and starts slaughtering rabbits. Eddie refuses to get any form of security at all and patrols the place himself at night, because is is a doofus. For reasons I don’t understand, Eddie has incredibly intense conflict over this issue, when hiring just a single security guard would be the easiest way to solve everything. Regardless, Eddie eventually catches the intruder, a clearly 25 year old actor the show tries to pass off as 17.
The ‘boy’, Logan has a swastika tattoo, but claims his brother gave it to him to make juvie easier, and it’s not something he believes in.. Eddie decides to invite Logan to join Meyerism, which everyone hates as much as the open gate policy, and even though the man utterly fails their standard psych evaluation, Eddie just flexes his Messiah powers and decides Logan stays. He utterly ignores the opinions of everyone, but particularly Nicole and Felicia, women of colour , who voice their extremely important and valid concerns and are utterly ignored; Eddie even makes Nicole eat with Logan.
So, later, Logan spits on Caleb, who is black, and then batters Hawk who leaps to his new friends defence. And it’s that last thing, specifically, Hawk getting hurt, that leads Eddie to finally take Logan back home.
At the New York Centre, Eddie is just as crummy in dealing with another situation. When a girl named Monica is nearly forcibly removed from the centre by her parents, Eddie is accused of running a sex cult by her distraught family. Rattled and not wanting to be viewed as such … Eddie throws Monica out. The poor, hysterical, hopeless girl has done nothing wrong, and Eddie claims he doesn’t want to break up families in his ‘new’ Meyerism. He never considers how many people come to groups like his fleeing their families; it turns out, all this time, Eddie has been chronically stupid. Once again, everyone thinks Eddie is doing the wrong thing, and it makes no mind anyway, because her parents begin a leaflet and billboard campaign accusing Eddie of abuse. Oh, and this includes targeting Summer’s school with fliers — his daughter’s school. Vera has to literally yell this in Eddie’s face for him to realise he needs to take action. His action is to let her go, and threaten to have Monica’s entire family deported if they don’t back off. PR Guru … okay.
Later on, Monica is back in the group, which is ostensibly a good thing … but, you know … Meyerism. Someone is still mad with Eddie. The last scene of the technically midseason episode, shows him receiving a mysterious package. When he opens it, hundreds of locusts swarm out and surprise him.
Then we have Sarah and Cal, who has always have the most tangled and twisted threads.
At the same time that Eddie survived the explosion, Sarah witnessed the suicide of a man she blackmails, who came to her home to kill himself in front of her. Six months later she is wracked with guilt and seeks punishment, finding a possible solution in some of Steve’s old notes — a disturbing sketch of a tied up … well, Cal, it looks like, taking part in something called a Hypoxic Cleanse.
Cal, meanwhile, survived the explosion and left with Mary for Florida, not able to handle living in Eddie’s shadow. In the six months that passes, Cal has become a Wellness Advisor to a deeply troubled former athlete named Harold, who lets Cal, Mary and the baby live in his poolhouse so long as Cal is on call 24/7 to deal with his regular meltdowns. Cal also tries to scrape a buck running his own seminars, a ripoff of Meyerism, which Vera is ready to sue him over.
Sarah visits Florida to warn Cal to stop his seminars, but mostly to ask him to help her with the binding cleanse — especially as he’s mentioned so often in Steve’s notes. Cal demurs , claiming he was just a kid when Steve wrote the notes, and has no idea what she’s talking about. Sarah, who knows what happened to Cal … presses the matter. Cal anxiously makes excuses and leaves, but when he’s later in Boston, and Harold has an episode that leaves him frustrated, Cal meets Sarah in a motel room to do the deed. How he knows how to do it is not explained, but we will see why, anyway.
And this is where things get deeply, deeply troubling. While binding Sarah more tightly, Cal is hit, literally knocked off his feet by powerful flashbacks to his own childhood, to binding, and being bound, by Steve. He flashes back to being photographed by a nude Steve. He is falling to his knees, shaking, nearly being sick. It is painfully clear these memories have been deeply repressed, and this is the first time he is recalling them. Oh, Cal.
Meanwhile Sarah is dazed and hypoxic, and admitting Meyerism doesn’t work.
They go their separate ways; Sarah, back to New York, her guilt lifted for the time being. Her anxieties over change are raised again when she’s given the job of dispensing ‘sacred juices’ as wellness kits on college campuses, but all is not lost. She meets Dr. Jackson, the adorable Raul Esparza of Hannibal and Law & Order: SVU. Jackson is a professor in what amounts to cults, and he gently teases her, but they quickly bond. She visits a few of his lectures, speaks to some of his students and in the end, he charms her into a sushi dinner. Damn, son! Later, somewhat at Jackson’s urging, Sarah digs through more old Meyer stuff. Cal was flashing back to being photographed. She’s going to find something awful.
Cal … Cal is not doing so well off the back of their session — horrifying opposite, in fact. Returning home from Boston he … well, he Cals, and directs his confused sexual energy at Mary. At least this time she thinks he has just missed her, and seems to have a pretty great time of it. But only a few days later, Cal is coming apart. While taking a bath, he flashes back to being a child, locked in the bathroom while Steve hammers on the door, apologising for hurting little Cal. In real time, Mary finds Cal cowering on the floor, near hysterical. He barely keeps it together, and any efforts he makes are for nothing because eventually, Sarah calls. She wants him to bind her again, and the question is too much for his already fragile psyche. Cal bolts. Later, he returns to a terrified Mary and rather than explain where he was, is only able to mutter about something terrible happening to him as a child. Mary, herself a sexual abuse survivor, looks like she might understand, but she doesn’t push it, just lets Cal have the space he needs. Eventually, Cal tells Mary they need to leave, as he feels suffocated. She worries about money and Harold, but Cal feels trapped so she agrees. Poor Mary.
Cal breaks the news to Harold, who takes it about has badly as he can, inviting the couple to a ‘goodbye’ dinner party which turns ugly inside a couple of minutes. Harold drinks, eats meat, burns a few thousand dollars in cash, and then tries to drown Mary for calling him out on it. He threatens to kill himself if they go, but Cal is 10000000% done and they leave. As they go, Mary helps herself to two of Harold’s diamond encrusted championship rings.
No way that can come back to haunt them.
In the car, Mary asks where they’ll go, and Cal admits they’re going to New York. He’s going to take back what is his, which is to say, Meyerism. In his own sad, disturbing words … Cal earned it.
So, a lot to talk through. I am really, really confused, to be frank. After so much of a season was spent suggesting Eddie was the true and right leader of Meyerism, he had abruptly turned out to be a total wash, and kind of a colossal asshole. It’s just a bad, wrong decision for him to shout down women of colour in defence of a possible Nazi. It’s even worse for him to be proven wrong, and for him to apologise not to Nicole, Joy or Felicia, but to Hawk, and Logan. I am a little taken back, I really am.
The same is true of Sarah. I am just deeply troubled by her behaviour towards Cal in the wake of what she knows. I am torn between thinking she’s in denial, so has not made the disturbing connection between Cal’s knowledge of the binding ritual and his abuse by Steve, or thinking she just might not care. Neither answer sits right with me and speaks to a Sarah either so dumb or so callous, that she’s very hard to root for in any capacity.
That said, I was curious about her digging around in old photos and video reels. I wondered last year how many of the cofounders knew what Steve was doing with Cal, and if its why Cal has always been on the edge of things — particularly if Steve was so manipulative as to lay blame with the boy himself. Will Sarah uncover evidence that they knew?
I have to admit, I was surprised at the revelation Cal had repressed his abuse, though it makes a perfect sense looking back, so I have to give kudos to the writers, and to Hugh Dancy for the work they have done, in that respect. Dancy is always the best thing in the show, but he was amazing in these first three episodes, as he slowly peeled back the horrible layers of Cal’s memories. And while Cal has always been frightening, since before he killed Silas, that was before he … knew. It was before he understood himself, understood his anger and fear, and where it comes from. Now he knows. And, there is going to be a reckoning.
The Path returns to Hulu next week!