Hulu’s The Path
Season 1, Episode 2: “The Era of the Ladder”
Directed by Mike Cahill
Written by Jessica Goldberg
* For a review of the previous episode, “What The Fire Throws” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Homecoming” – click here
After the first episode, Hulu’s The Path continues on its ominous journey.
We open on Eddie and Sarah Lane (Aaron Paul/Michelle Monaghan) going through some type of couples therapy. They go, together, back in time to a different place in their lives. Turns out Eddie’s taking the rap for infidelity, instead of admitting the truth – he is doubting, his faith is crumbling, and he was in that motel meeting a woman named Alison (Sarah Jones). Although, he only goes so far. He adamantly refuses the “14 days“, which seems to be some type of reflective punishment.
Meanwhile, Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy) is off meeting with a possible wealthy donor to the cause. The family has an addict son who requires a last ditch effort to be turned around. Speaking of young people, Hawk Lane (Kyle Allen) is coming up against the religion of his family. He’s not supposed to spend time with young women outside of school, alone, things like that. Eddie sort of bands with Hawk against the rest of the family, which is obvious. He’s trying to slip out of the whole debacle as it is.
In the aftermath of the tornado also lies the aftermath of Cal supposedly protecting Mary Cox (Emma Greenwell). So then there’s Cal, pushing forward into his own agenda. He talks with Sarah, wondering how the couple therapy – branded with yet another Scientology-like name, IRP (Infidelity Rehab Program) – is actually going. Also, Cal continually presses into the life of Mary, as now they’ve got a bond over what happened in the previous episode. And she definitely, clearly, has a lust for Cal.
We’re finally introduced to Detective Abe Gaines (Rockmond Dunbar). He’s discovered the reach of the Meyerist cult, how they swooped in on the latest disaster area. This will provide an excellent, fun thriller element to the series.
Outside the community, in the real world, Cal and his minions help spread their word. Subtly, sly, they infiltrate the minds of others and casually rope them in.
Deeper down the rabbit hole goes Eddie. He and Alison have another meeting. “Maybe it doesn‘t matter if it‘s real or not,” says Eddie. Now he’s doubting his doubt. “Because it fucking matters,” Alison replies. She reveals her husband was killed after they tried to leave the cult, and though Eddie doesn’t believe it, there is an obvious fear in him. The elderly people she was going to meet were her grandparents. She’s on the run, “like a fugitive“, and all because of the madness within the cult of Meyerism. For now Eddie decides to halt on going any further with their clandestine activities.
Hawk’s trying hard to fit in with the little family of his maybe-girlfriend, Ashley (Amy Forsyth). He even eats meat. The whole situation is sort of odd, especially in modern times. He asks personal questions of the girl, the mother, he doesn’t like to have the door closed in the room alone with the girl. Such a noble, honourable kind of belief system, though, under it all there lurks darkness.
That darkness is defined in Cal. He appears so candy coated on the outside. But inside, there is chaos. He has huge ideas, wants to help humanity. Yet is he any kind of leader? He manages to keep the anger inside him at bay, at least when required. Then it rips out of him at times. A very Hubbard-esque characterization in contemporary times. One little thread slips out – Cal’s mother. He avoids talk of her completely when asked point blank if they see one another. Mommy issues, Cal?
Eddie and Sarah still struggle. There are tons of underlying bits and pieces to their relationship. He was a sort of outsider, one who found his way into the inner circle with the likes of Sarah and Cal, those who’ve spent their life in the cult. So there’s an aspect to Eddie that’s on the fringes to begin with, and now this bit of doubt pulsing in him only serves to put him further on the edge. But he and Sarah can’t talk too long before they tear one another’s clothes off for a steamy romp. Hawk comes home in the midst of their lovemaking and has a bit of an existential mini-crisis, throwing up the meat he’d ingested earlier.
One way or the other, the Cleary family tries to keep on keepin’ on.
The media are being courted as a new possible avenue for the cult. Cal claims Doc told him the message is ready to spread. It’s obvious there are chains, a hierarchy, one that’s as rung-like as The Ladder they tout – whomever is higher has more authority, more knowledge, supposedly. And Cal exploits that to a certain degree in order to further his personal agenda, where he wants things to head. I love that they’ve used Scientology as a basis for the cult, but steer clear from copying everything too readily.
At school, Hawk gets called “Jim Jones” and warned of bringing the “Kool Aid” too close to Ashley, by her boyfriend. I knew repercussions for this were coming. A fight ensues, no doubt bringing more drama to the Lane clan. Needed at the school, Eddie’s drawn away from investigation the claims of Alison, re: her husband Jason. Mostly here we get an examination of how these cults, these communities affect families, the children in them, their social relationships, and much more.
Closer and closer, Cal and Mary come together. And no longer can he control his urges. Well, sort of, sort of not.
After everything, Eddie wants to go through with the rest of therapy. He wants to normalize their relationship, to “get back” to the old way. It’s the whole fourteen days thing. And into the room he goes, a veritable jail cell, self-imposed. A place of introspection, of clarity. Two weeks in there? Very similar to a practice in Scientology, though, again – not lifted entirely.
The media’s eye is now finally coming down on the cult of Meyerism. On a set, Cal is interviewed by a reporter. He tries to delineate their cult from the very world itself. The power of persuasion is on Cal’s side, as he is charismatic, charming, intriguing. His skills of oration are impeccable, he can almost melt people into the palm of his hand.
With Detective Gaines watching on, Eddie straddling the fence and Alison on the outside fighting, when will the cult find themselves at direct odds with the outside world? Soon enough. I’d bet on it.
The finale of this episode sees Cal moving on helping the would-be-donors with their junkie son. Not just that, he’s making sure the donor professes his love and admiration for their religion. He wants true, faithful followers, and is doing whatever necessary to ensure that. “Cause I don‘t give a shit about your million dollars, Mr. Ridge,” says Cal: “I want your faith.”
At the same time, Eddie goes through the beginning of his fourteen days. It is a head trip. A one way ticket to absolute insanity. All billed as therapy, somehow. This whole sequence is almost terrifying, watching Eddie pace around the room, answering questions, painting, throwing paint, all kinds of things. Then, we get another glimpse at his revelation from Peru, behind the door, as Stephen Meyer (Keir Dullea) lays in a hospital bed, draped with a large snake. Back in the stark white room, Eddie loses his mind. Apparently he admits to an affair with Miranda Frank (Minka Kelly), and everything is fine afterwards. A few men go to pick her up in a cult van. What will be her fate?
Cal relays the new happenings to Doc in his bed, pronouncing their new era, “The era of the Ladder“, and now we know for sure what Eddie knew to be true really is true after all.
Where does The Path head from here? Let’s stay tuned together and find out.