The very first episode of Hulu’s The Path introduces us to Meyerism, a religious sect dedicated to finding the truth and spreading “the light.”
First things first: Meyerism is a philanthropic religion. To illustrate this, the series opens with the survivors of a brutal New Hampshire tornado. It’s a dismal tableau: Babies are screaming, people are wandering around dazed, and one woman in particular is just looking for water to drink, with little success (detergent doesn’t do the trick). Luckily for them, a cadre of Meyerist trucks roll in. Volunteers in identical blue T-shirts pass out water, reunite families, and load some of the people onto their trucks for further help at their religious compound.
The story then moves to Parksdale, NY, where a gathering of Meyerist family and friends say a prayer before dinner: “Thank you for this gift of bread to sustain these vessels, our bodies, so that we may have the energy to create a more beautiful world and break through our blocks and barriers in this life and ascend the ladder of enlightenment so that someday we may be free of these earthly forms and live as light together in the garden. We express deepest gratitude for this day, and every day, for the gift of this passage, and that we found the ladder. There is one spirit whose name is Truth.” A couple of the men have just returned from a religious retreat; most speak of it in glowing tones, but Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul) seems a little weirded out by it. His wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan), suspects he may have had an affair with one of the women who accompanied him on the retreat, so that night she puts on a sexy slip and seduces him. This doesn’t stop him from sneaking out of bed to make a secret phone call; Sarah tries spying on him, but doesn’t catch much.
The next day, Sarah meets up with her old friend Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy). Cal, Sarah, and Eddie go way back, apparently. They used to passionately discuss how to fix the world, but while Eddie and Sarah have settled into family life, Cal maintains that religious fervor. He’s now the de facto leader of Meyerism in the absence of its founder. Meanwhile, Eddie drops off their son Hawk at high school. Like any teenager, Hawk wants out of high school and he thinks taking the vows of a Meyerist priesthood would be the way to do it. Eddie cautions restraint. High school sucks for everybody.
Back at the compound, some followers partake in spiritual and physical exercises, while the New Hampshire tornado woman, Mary, watches. A self-described novice approaches her and notices she seems sick. He fetches a doctor, who gives Mary some morphine to help with her drug withdrawal. “We’re going to bring you back to the self you once were,” the doctor tells Mary.
At school, Hawk and his Meyerist friends suffer some bullying during their pre-lunch prayers. It’s not all bad, though: A girl named Ashley Fields won’t stop staring at Hawk. His friends think she’s plotting some more bullying, but it sure doesn’t seem like it. Who needs a sexless priest’s life when girls look at you like that?
Flash to another quick scene, where a woman named Alison observes an older couple. Before she can say anything to them, three men approach her, wanting to talk. She quickly (and mysteriously) drives away.
Sarah tries teaching Mary some of the basic ideas about Meyerism. Like real-life Scientology, it provides an outlet for followers to process their past traumas. “Everyone has pain, but we try not to carry it with us,” as Sarah says. She explains that founder Dr. Stephen Meyer, currently in Peru finishing up the last of his religious writings, is so holy, so full of truth, that he’s literally surrounded by light. Sarah was born into the sect, but that wasn’t the case for everyone. Cal, for example, came to the organization as a young boy and climbed up the ranks. Further episodes will probably complicate this analogy, but so far Cal sounds a bit like David Miscavige, L. Ron Hubbard’s protégé who took over the Church of Scientology after the founder’s death.
Meanwhile, Eddie is telling a group of people how he came into the church. He had a rough early upbringing, with only his older brother for company and protection. One day, however, he came home to find his brother had committed suicide. This still makes Eddie break up, so Cal chimes in with details about how the tragedy drove Eddie into the arms of Meyerism.
Later that night, Mary hits up Cal. She takes off her clothes and tries to seduce him, but he can tell something’s wrong, that her relationship with sex is a fraught one. He’s right; she admits her dad used to sell her to his friends. Cal says they can help her make it better.
They’re not the only ones up to something that night. Eddie sneaks out, and Sarah follows up. When she watches him drive to a motel and enter a room, it appears to confirm her worst suspicions about his affair.
This prompts a flashback to three weeks earlier, when Eddie was on the Peru retreat. Drugs appear to have been involved, judging by Eddie’s red eyes. One of the women does try getting friendly with him around the bonfire, but then Eddie sees a vision of his dead brother. Ghosts of dearly departed siblings are always a buzzkill. Eddie follows the apparition, which appears to lead him down a mysterious hallway to a door emblazoned with Meyerism’s eye sigil.
NEXT: The other side of the door