How does a fringe movement get passed down from one generation to the next? This is something that showrunner Jessica Goldberg often thought about while creating The Path. “Most cults are first generation,” she recently told Vanity Fair. “They revolve around a very charismatic leader and when that leader dies, the cult’s over.” This is why children are so crucial to a movement’s endurance: Long after the leader has died, the youngest followers to keep it alive. Then again, when parents rely upon ambivalent children to keep the faith, it’s also the quickest way to tear a movement apart.
We see the consequences of faith and doubt in two different father-son relationships this week: the literal one between Eddie and Hawk, and the spiritual one between Cal and his own “father.” During a visit to see Dr. Stephen Meyer, who’s dying in Peru, Cal confesses that he has always tried to be a good “son” to the doctor, to channel and fulfill his wishes. Now, he wants absolution. “If you’re unhappy with me, please tell me, because I won’t get another chance,” Cal says. “I’m sorry for everything that I have done that is wrong — and everything wrong that I do next.”
It’s not until much later that we understand what he really means: Cal wants Freddie Ridge’s wealthy father to handle the Meyerists’ investments. Offshore accounts are involved.
Cal’s confession to Dr. Meyer reveals so much about what makes his character so rich and his motivations so double-edged. On one hand, he’s a true believer. No one is watching him talk to the doctor, so he’s not just there for show. He’s truly seeking guidance. On the other hand, Cal’s ultimately going to do what he wants, even if he’s not working toward any kind of greater good. Can he really be a true believer if his actions don’t reflect the values he’s been taught?
Like Cal, Sarah thinks that pure belief can justify pretty much any act. While Eddie is away, trekking through the cold with Hawk, she arranges to meet with Alison, whose phone number popped up on Eddie’s cell one too many times. At first, Alison protects Eddie, claiming it’s not her place to say why they’ve been communicating. But when Sarah offers to trade Alison’s late husband’s diary for intel, Alison caves. She reveals that Eddie isn’t buying the ladder-in-the-sky stuff anymore, but so what? He loves Sarah. Does it really matter? It’s clear from Sarah’s livid expression that the answer is yes.
Obviously, these two women prioritize their husbands in very different ways. Alison heads into the meeting certain that she’ll stay loyal to Eddie, but once the diary comes into play, her husband’s welfare trumps her friend’s. Sarah goes into the conversation ready to trade top-secret Meyerist intel, but the second she learns the Eddie has lost his faith, she stands with the Meyerists. Both women are putting their families first. It’s just that Sarah thinks her real family is Meyerism.
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That’s ironic, considering that for Eddie, having a family is the closest thing to finding religion. Last week, he told Hawk that Sarah helped erase all doubt for him. This week, he tells Abe that Meyerism won’t save him, but his faith in his sick daughter might. When Eddie returns home from his 250-mile journey, he tells the whole congregation that he didn’t have any profound spiritual thoughts along the way. “The whole time I was thinking, How fast can I get home?” he says. “So I guess that’s what I found. No matter where I am, I just want to be home with my wife and my kids. They are my truth.”
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