The Path: Season One Premiere – A Cult by Any Other Name (Review)

The Path premiered on Hulu Wednesday bringing season one out with a flourish of foreboding and tendency to disturb. The Meyer Movement, a cult by any other name, may not rely upon the Almighty to bludgeon believers into behaving, but it does have a “Jim Jones” feel to it.

Aaron Paul as Eddie Lane in The Path

The Path premiered on Hulu Wednesday bringing season one out with a flourish of foreboding and a tendency to disturb. The Meyer Movement, a cult by any other name, may not rely upon the Almighty to bludgeon believers into behaving, but it does have a “Jim Jones” feel to it.

The founder, we learn, is comatose in Peru while his “right-hand” man Cal  Robertson (Hugh Dancy) tells the members that the man is “on lockdown” transcribing the last three rungs on the ladder.  Sarah Lane (Michelle Monaghan) was born into the movement and could be seen as “royalty” per se. 

Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul), Sarah’s husband, returns from a Peruvian  retreat, the same place that Dr. Stephen Meyer is laying unconscious hooked up to medical machines and a drip,  where the participants take hallucinogens in order to feel the light. Lane’s trip is not a pleasant one.

His dead brother, who committed suicide, shows Eddie, through an “out-of-body” experience that the leader is either in a coma or brain dead in a hospital bed. This trip upsets Lane and he returns from the retreat with his faith badly shaken.

He contacts someone who tells him that the movement is a lie and Sarah believes that Eddie is cheating on her which is called “transgressing” by members of the movement. Cal is the charismatic yet disturbing leader of the “East Coast chapter” of the cult.

The man is deep and capable of great violence. Cal is also, apparently, taking lessons on salesmanship, or selling techniques, to make him a more potent recruiter to the cause. Robertson has history with Sarah, the two were lovers before Lane came on the scene and he offers to help Eddie’s wife if she needs him.

The Path feels more “evil commune” than religious cult.  It fact, the “movement” is not, in essence a religion at all, hence its title of movement. Based loosely, it seems, on a variation of meditation, the “I’m okay, you’re okay” therapy of the ’70s and 80’s and a sort of zen psychiatry (with a measure of vegetarianism and warped “flower power) the cult, or movement, feels like Waco on E.

There is, however, an undercurrent present from the start, when the Meyer Movement group go to aid victims of a  community leveled by a tornado  in New Hampshire. A small convoy of three SUVs  roar into the flattened neighborhood, horns honking. Mary, a girl who is either in shock or suffering withdrawal (later it is proven to be the latter) watches the vehicles approach.

Once the movement members arrive, they begin to pick and chose survivors to bring back to their town. One of these “adoptees” is a young lady going through withdrawal and she along with a baby and few others are taken to the movement’s compound, in essence  they are kidnapped.

Monaghan’s character believes that her husband has cheated on her and insists he take the “program” a 14 day brainwashing exercise. Eddie denies an affair as he is in fact meeting with a former movement member whose husband was murdered, she says, by the cult when he attempted to leave.

Eddie does not reveal this to his wife.

Abe Gaines (Rockmond Dunbar) is intrigued about the movement and its taking people in from the tornado struck community.  He places the group on a special watch. In the movement, Mary tells Cal that her father sold her to his friends for sex starting when  she was a child. 

After this, Cal takes Mary to  see her father  and beats him into the hospital. Eddie learns that his contact’s husband was murdered.

Robertson is called to a rich believer’s house where the couple ask his movement to cure their son of drug addiction.  The boy’s mother is the believer and her husband is not. By the end of the program, Cal kidnaps the young man and tells the father that he does not want money, but his faith.

Hawk (Kyle Allen) Eddie and Sarah’s son wants to leave school and gets into a fight after visiting a female classmate’s house.  Eddie verifies that   his contacts husband  is dead, although records indicate he committed suicide and   Lane  panics.  He  decides to admit to the “affair” rather than keep talking to the late Jason Kemp’s wife. 

Cal does an interview on local television and later tells the unconscious Stephen Meyer about it.  Eddie completes his 14 day brainwashing program and admits (lies about) having an affair with an old flame.  Three men from the movement arrive at the house of Miranda Frank (Minka Kelly), the old flame in question, and take her away. These look to be the same three men who met Jason Kemp’s widow at her grandparents. 

Mary, who has been obsessed with Cal from day one, shows up after the beating of her father and performs oral sex on Robertson. He stops the young woman and suggests that she join up with another young man, a novice named Sean Egan.

The group target the miserable  and lost of society in order to grow their membership.  Using a method called the “ladder” the members climb metaphorical rungs to get closer to enlightenment.

The Path is a disturbing look at a pseudo religion based on sociology and psychiatry where the members attempt to be so open with their feelings and emotions that it mimics a sort of hive mentality.

Dancy proves to be mesmerizing as “the man who would be king” and Paul is convincing as the member whose vision has placed him in danger. Monaghan is forceful and equally convincing as the lifelong member of this movement.

Show creator Jessica Goldberg gives the viewer an unsettling look at organized brainwashing and what feels like a not too far-fetched story of new-age religion. Director Mark Cahill manages to frame many shots as though  the camera is spying voyeur, a move that makes the audience feel slightly uncomfortable.  It adds to the ambiance of menace quite nicely. 

The Path airs Wednesdays on Hulu. This promises to be an excellent little thriller try not to miss it.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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