First and foremost, ‘The Path’ is a show about family. It’s about the fundamentals of what it means to belong somewhere, even if the group undertones are filled with conspiracy and drama. However, it’s also about the evils of submitting oneself over to a cult, and the implications of what toxic undeniable belief can do to blood and marriage relatives. The characters ultimately want to belong somewhere yet there is no way to find happiness through man-made means.
So is the basic emotional premise of ‘The Path,’ a new original series that airs on Hulu. Its cult-based premise is not the most original, but through sheer talent the show attempts to draw in viewers. Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul), his wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) and their daughter belong to a cult called the Meyerist Movement, who, in all their glory, preach a amalgamation of various real-world cult beliefs, although one can see the similarities to Scientology in their message. The cult, which resides in upstate New York, is temporarily led by Cal (Hugh Dancy), a devoted but volatile member of the cult who takes the reigns from its creator, Dr. Steven Meyer, while he is away.
The first episode opens on a natural disaster, a fire of some sort, in which the survivors are devastated after losing their homes. Cal and his team roll up in white vans and hurry to the rescue, saving many people and a girl named Mary (Emma Greenwell) in the process. Mary is at first assumed to be the show’s way of drawing viewers into this cult; a set of fresh eyes to see all the craziness as it is. However, the show begins slowly but surely to alienate the viewer through both her and Aaron Paul’s Eddie, who begins to have doubts after being brought to the cult earlier due to a family tragedy. We never feel connected to either of these two characters even though it’s established that they are the ones to follow. This alienation is a part of the bigger problem with ‘The Path’: its slow pace.
Although only two episodes are up on Hulu right now, the streaming service is releasing episodes weekly, a practice it follows with all of its original content. This may help other shows, but it will undoubtedly hurt ‘The Path,’ a show with a ten-episode order already lined up and a plodding pace. There is plenty to speculate on, as clues to the history of Meyerism are scattered in the first two episodes, but the reveals happen at an uneven pace. One second a major revelation is about to be revealed, but the plot continues poking and plodding around before getting to the end of the episode and finally telling the audience what it is. Unfortunately by the end, we no longer care; things just seem to fall slowly to their conclusion.
What keeps the show truly moving along is its element of mystery. The entirety of the first episode sees Eddie secretly evading his wife, implying an affair – until we learn that much more is brewing in his world than originally thought. Intrinsically, the story is about secrets, and when the reveals finally do happen, they leave enough sense of brooding to make the wait for next week’s episode a little harder. Even if the thematic qualities falter, there is still much to admire from the actors. ‘The Path’ has a solid cast who, for the most part, make the best they can out of the material. The script doesn’t give them much to work with, and sadly the performances don’t end up being impactful as a result of the show’s sluggish nature.
As Hulu rolls these episodes out, the mystery of ‘The Path’ is what will keep viewers watching. There is very little else to admire about the series thus far, but maybe the slow burn will speed up in the coming weeks. If you’re looking for thought-provoking meditation on religion, look elsewhere; for now, ‘The Path’ runs only on the strength of its acting and occasional sidestep alone.