No one wants to waste their time on a bum show when they could be wasting their time on a good show. So here’s one worth your time:
“The Path” (Hulu) is a one-hour drama starring Hugh Dancy (Hannibal, Jane Austen Book Club) and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad). The show focuses on a Scientology-like cult called “The Meyers Movement.” Aaron Paul plays Eddie Lane, a long-time cult member married to one of the top directors in the Meyers Movement. Eddie and Sarah have a good marriage, good kids and a middle-class lifestyle. They are are warm and inviting, a happy couple with a happy family. They are also completely sold out to “Meyerism”, Sarah herself having been raised in the movement her entire life.
MILD SPOILERS AHEAD, BUT NOTHING SERIOUS
As it turns out Eddie is beginning to have doubts about the movement (don’t call it a cult!) that saved him from a life of drugs and rebellion as a teen. When he sneaks out to meet an ex-member who’s husband’s suicide may have been Meyerism’s doing, he is breaking one of the cardinal rules. Being caught exploring doubts could lead to nasty consequences and a reeducation program that sounds pretty gnarly.
As the show progresses, we follow Eddie as he wrestles with his doubts all the while struggling to keep his clandestine meeting a secret from his wife and fellow cultists (which leads to some stressful circumstances). We meet Eddie’s and Sarah’s teenage son, Hawk who is also struggling with the restrictions of their religion while navigating high school and a budding relationship with an IS girl named Ashley.
“IS” stands for “ignorant systemite” in Meyerism jargon and that’s another fascinating element of this show. The writers have made Meyerism almost an exact mirror of Scientology (I’m sure they have a team of lawyers at the ready). They use e-meter type machines to do the same type of auditing that’s done in Scientology. Instead of “moving up the bridge” they “climb the ladder.” They speak in the same sort of shorthand as Scientologists:
IS – ignorant systemite
Offset – doing a good deed to make up for a bad one
IRP – infidelity rehab
These are just a few but what is especially clever (and appreciated) is that the writers don’t explain anything. The viewer is invited to figure out himself what they mean as they are used repeatedly. We begin as outsiders, judging the strange and twisted logic and rituals of the cult. Then slowly, like any other cult member we become familiar with the movement and it’s people and even come to care for them.
This is in part achieved by some very solid performances. Aaron Paul’s Eddie is soft spoken and calm but a deep and choppy river runs just behind his eyes. He’s a man who loves his family but can’t square his beliefs with his sense of justice. Paul masters Eddie’s push and pull in nearly every single scene, with every interaction. It’s nearly exhausting to watch but it builds a sense of tension that permeates the entire show.
As Sarah, Michelle Monaghan (True Detective, Source Code) gives us a woman who is both likable and infuriating. She is a genuine true believer. She is also kind and truly has a desire to help others. Viewers will find themselves unable to decide if she is a villain or a protagonist as Monaghan’s performance is so dedicated and empathetic it’s hard not to find oneself thinking Meyerism might not be that bad after all.
Hugh Dancy also turns in a solid performance as Cal Roberts, a David Miscavige-type protege working desperately to position himself to head the cult. Cal is wise and kind on the outside but he also harbors a little bit of pschyo on the inside and as his obsession with leading the cult becomes more pronounced so does his inner psycho. Cal wants Meyerism into the 21st century by courting big donors, celebrity members and making public appearances. Like Monaghan, Dancy plays with the viewers emotions. He gives us a Cal who seems like he just needs and good hug and a beer, but who is probably also dealing with some deep mental health issues. His temper is short but explosive and we find ourselves rooting for Cal to get what he wants and at the same time, just be a normal guy.
The headliners are backed up by a solid, seasoned cast and some interesting sub-plots that still need a little fleshing out. So far there are only five episodes. It’s interesting that Hulu has decided to forego the “binge watching” model for this series and make it a weekly release. We’ll see how that changes the viewing habits of online consumers, if at all.
“The Path” is evenly paced and might even be considered slow by some but the performances are fantastic and the plot is enough to keep you coming back week to week. Ultimately, it’s a fascinating peek into the mechanisms of cults and how they prey on human nature.
You may want to wait until the first season has aired if you want to binge, but “The Path” is definitely a show worth watching.
“The Path” airs Wednesdays on Hulu.