Hulu’s The Path
Season 3, Episode 12: “A New American Religion”
Directed by Jessica Goldberg
Written by Julia Brownell
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Bad Faith” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 finale, “Blood Moon” – click here
Dr. Jackson Neill (Raúl Esparza) is on television talking about the “new religion” of Meyerism, Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul) and his “mystical experience,” plus more. The doc has used all of his time with Sarah Lane (Michelle Monaghan) not to cultivate a relationship, but rather to cultivate his opinions on the cult. He’s not as ethical as he seems. All the same, Sarah fucked up giving him access to those journals.
Meanwhile, Eddie denies to Cal (Hugh Dancy) he knows Dr. Neill. The good doctor tells the media about a second writer of The Ladder, Dr. Steve Meyer’s seminal Meyerist text. So, it sends the movement into a tailspin. Gab (Deirdre O’Connell) believes it’s libel, and Russel (Patch Darragh) wants to take legal action. Of course, Vera (Freida Pinto) is trying to soothe the leader’s worries. Everybody pressures him to go onto the show to defend them and their beliefs.
What concerns Eddie are the revelations concerning Dr. Meyer. This prompts Cal to offer to go out there himself, to “own the narrative.” What the formerly abused boy does not understand now as a man is that he’s only going to go out there and defend Steve.
Elsewhere, Mary (Emma Greenwell) is being offered a job by Congressman Buck Harbaugh (Vincent Kartheiser). Seems she’s genuinely helped him out and prevented his self-destruction. He believes in her efforts. What we’re seeing is that there’s another avenue, a way out of the life she and Cal live in their cult. But I’m not yet sure if she wants to abandon that totally. If so, this is the way to start leaving it behind. Even if Harbaugh’s a bit sketchy.
Eddie goes to see Lilith (Sarita Choudhury). They about the differences between “imagination” and “dreams” and the apocalypse that’s meant to be coming. She reinforces that Eddie will die; she frames it as he “gets to die,” as if it’s a worthwhile sacrifice to help the world. And the Meyerist leader? He wants Lilith to go free, unwilling to be part of why she’s stuck in that psychiatric hospital. Hmm, that seems… unwise.
At home, Lilith and her daughter confront their changed relationship. Mom seems to know things already that she shouldn’t, such as the plans for Bali. However, Vera only sees it as a manipulation by her mother, that she’s somehow already planed all of this and an assassination on Eddie could be imminent.
“We are not a cult”
We see how Cal’s not going to reveal any truths on TV, he’s going to go out and defend Dr. Meyer; the man who raped him. He’s intent on having all the glory, now that Steve is dead. He doesn’t want to change anything, or subvert Meyerism away from Steve’s hideousness. He’s determined solely to use Meyerism for his own benefit, as a form of compensation for what he experienced. It’s an internalised form of abuse Cal perpetuates against himself.
Back together, very tenuously and only because of necessity, Eddie and Sarah look over all the information they have, piecing together the timeline of Meyerism. They put Lilith on the compound around 1980, when Steve transcribed the “9th and 10th rungs.” Simultaneously, Vera calls to warn Eddie, believing something bad concerning her mother will absolutely happen soon. The leader ignores this, which is a huge oversight. Although he wants to unravel the truth, and somehow pick up the pieces afterwards.
Poor Hawk (Kyle Allen) is having a lot of trouble with the latest developments out of Dr. Neill and his upcoming book. He sits at a bar, drinking away his sorrow, when a girl named Astrid (Kelsey Lake) introduces herself. He talks about being in a cult – a “nice cult” – and how his dad is the cult’s leader. This interests her to no end, so they keep chatting.
On her own, Vera goes to Gede (Jojo Gonzalez), and cancels the deal for Bali. It’s not only that, though. She’s done some nasty, illegal-legal shit, and this also puts the nail in Bali’s coffin thoroughly. Oh, lord. Doesn’t do anybody any good later when Vera walks in on Eddie and Sarah talking intimately, looking through Steve’s writings.
“Well, that‘s what happens when you consider yourself a god, you assume that you‘re leaving behind a legacy.”
Cal worries about his relationship to Mary. Therefore, he’s decided on asking her to marry him officially. He gets down on one knee and asks, to which she replies with an enthusiastic ‘yes.’ A new step in their relationship. Or, does marriage merely serve a function for him? Seems so. And Mary is smart enough to know that. She tells him if he can’t get better, if he can’t leave Meyerism, she won’t be able to love him. She’s taking the job with Congressman Harbaugh, leaving a gaping hole between her and Cal (for which I don’t blame her one bit).
In class, Hawk works towards convincing others in the movement they are not a cult. What I find compelling is that, the way Hawk presents it is not particularly cult-like to me. He seems to want to have a Meyerism that’s inclusive, that engages in critical thinking, and one that does not shun those who want to leave. There’s a parallel to the idea of moderate religion. Such as Catholics and Protestants alike who don’t follow bigoted teachings, rather they stick to the basic fundamentals of love and community (et cetera). I hope and believe Hawk wants a Meyerist faith of this sort. We’ll see.
Before Cal goes on TV, he gets a call from Sarah. She gives him all the personal ammo necessary to make things more difficult for Dr. Neill in front of an audience. It doesn’t mean things are easy. Jackson trots out mentions of “hc” – the hypoxian cleanse – and its violence. This starts Cal on the changing face of Meyerism for a new generation. He also wears that moderate face of faith, even if the Meyerist movement is anything but moderate at its core. Neither does Mr. Roberts balk at the word cult, invoking the word by subverting it to his own rhetorical use; if anything, he’s a slick talker.
Then comes the killing blow, as Cal talks about the exploitation of Dr. Neill using Sarah to his own gains. He calls Jackson a “cult leader.” At home, Eddie feels no relief about it. He mostly feels anger towards Dr. Meyer, wanting to “purge” the movement of his influence.
Eddie and Sarah go to Cal about this, and the leader tells him that he’ll write a new book to rewrite the history of Meyerism, as well as face the damage Dr. Steve Meyer inflicted, from individuals to the whole of the movement. Naturally, Cal pushes back against this, and it nearly shatters him to pieces. This is now presenting a vast divide between these two men, just as it always was before.
What does Cal do that night? He buys himself a gun. Maybe Lilith’s prophesy will still come about, Bali or not. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, set into motion unknowingly by Eddie in his latest plans. This is so intense I can barely handle it. Never saw it coming; it’s simply a logical conclusion to what’s erupting out of Cal and Eddie’s continually rocky relationship.
Fantastic chapter in Season 3, directed by series creator herself, Jessica Goldberg. Really revs things up hard before the finale. “Blood Moon” is next. We’ll discover what’s next on the road to recovery for Meyerism: will the movement be saved, or will it implode/explode?