You know that feeling when you watch a show that is so good that you get intimidated by the person behind it?
Creator and Showrunner Jessica Goldberg has gone all in on her Definitely-Not-Scientology cult themed drama The Path, starring Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan and Hugh Dancy as just three of many key figures in the fictional Meyerist Movement.
The layers, guys.
Over the first three episodes of Hulu’s latest offering we’re introduced to a raft of characters on the inside and outside of the ‘we’re not a cult, guys’ cult of Meyerism, a pseudo religious cabal of light worshippers and at first glance, largely harmless hippies, the kind of people you’d happily buy fruit from at a Farmers Market.
Meyerists live on a neat little compound in Upstate, New York and eat vegan meals made from their home grown fruits and vegetables, which they nurture with collected rain water and organic compost. They utilise solar and wind power, anyone who drives is in a Hybrid or trying to be.
Their hobbies include yoga, guided meditation, rescuing the needy, taking acid induced vision quests that bring them closer to God and their constant unending quest to transcend their earthly bodies and become beings of pure energy and light.
With some murder thrown in for good measure.
Welcome to Meyerism!
Eddie Lane, a formerly devout Meyerist has suffered a profound crisis of faith after one of those vision quests Meyerists love so much. Eddie ( Aaron Paul, as excellent as we’ve come to expect from him) was meant to see something that would bring him closer to some inner truth of Meyerism, he was supposed to ‘Ascend the Ladder’, Meyerist Cultspeak for graduating through the complex, convoluted ranks of the groups spiritual and literal hierarchy, but he didn’t.
Eddie had to be different. Eddie had to be special.
Eddie had to go ahead and see something that shatters the reality he has cultivated around himself for fifteen years, the only reality his wife and children, born to Meyerism, have ever known thus setting into motion a chain of events that threatens to destroy them all.
Without spoiling too much about the first three episodes, there are just so many things to talk about in the show. The script is clean and to the point, but then it has to be as every other line of dialogue is liberally scattered with the Meyerists cultspeak.If you’re paying attention the basics are relatively easy to follow but subtly hint at the complex of belief that these people subscribe to. We can follow along but we can’t hope to understand, not unless we delve much deeper but that’s ‘How to Cult 101’ –show a little, enough, to tempt people in-and the show cleverly utilises techniques like this throughout; to reflect Eddie’s transition from true believer to Doubting Thomas the first episode’s timeline and narrative fractures in the last half an hour, jumps back and forth between key scenes, disjointed, detached from any grounding, emulating his hallucinatory state back in Peru and building towards the same startling revelation Eddie had there.
That dialogue, that cultspeak and the casual slang the cult uses in every day conversation is handled with absolute aplomb by the collected cast but no one is outshining Michelle Monaghan. As Eddie’s born Meyerist wife Sarah Lane, she is equal turns vulnerable and terrifying, a loving wife and mother but above all, a devout and loyal Meyerist who if pushed, can and will push back.
When Eddie returns from Peru distracted and distant, Sarah follows him around and is wrongly led to believe he stepped out on their marriage and girl is piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissed. Hell hath no fury like a Meyerist (thinking she’s) scorned, because she’ll have you and the woman she (absolutely wrongly) thinks you banged imprisoned for fourteen days and force fed drug loaded ‘Juice’ designed to lower your resistance and open you up to some good old fashioned brain washing.
Sarah’s a boss ass bitch and an utter terror if you back her into a corner.
But more importantly she’s an acolyte who when faced with a crisis folds her beliefs around her like a safety blanket and lashes out at anything she perceives as a threat. She will be the end of someone.
Hot on her heels in the ‘gonna eff you up’ stakes is Cal Roberts as portrayed by the astonishingly beautiful Hugh Dancy, most recently of Hannibal. Dancy absolutely shone as the rumpled and vulnerable Will Graham but The Path may be his true calling.
Gone is the stuttering uncertainty and ruffled curls, the layered jackets and the affinity for stray dogs and sexy cannibals. If Will Graham was still around he’d run to the ends of the earth to get away from Cal Roberts.
Cal is the kind of person who obsessively listens to tapes on how to be more engaging, more interesting, how to be impossible to ignore when you’re sharing ideas with someone. He’s the kind of person who rescues a woman from a tornado ravaged trailer park, recruits her at once to his cult, rejects her subsequent confused sexual advances but later takes her back to her trailer park so she can watch him beat the ever loving shit out of her sexually abusive father.
He’s the kind of person who Sarah thinks is incapable of loving, who can’t spend a day around his mother (Kathleen Turner who-do I even need to tell you how good she is?) without drinking and nearly shoving her across a room. He’s the kind of person who has convinced himself utterly that he is being guided to a much higher calling than rehabbing drug addicts and sheltering the homeless; he is going to share Meyerism with the world.
I could write a series of books on the first episode alone just trying to break down the layers and untangle the web which surrounds these people. The Path is all about layers, and truth and honesty and deception and the lies we tell others and the lies we tell ourselves. It’s astounding. Even the open credits are a study in layered story telling as they appear to recount the history of Meyerism but when watched back yields vital clues about the ongoing story.
To compare it to any other show would be a mistake but the closest comparison is True Detective S1 for philosophical introspection, for the need to re-examine everything more than once to get the clearest picture, for the sheer density and depth of the created world.
Don’t miss out, don’t let this pass you by.
Do you see the Light?