The future is coming, inevitably, just as it always is. Not everybody is happy about that. This episode of The Path finds its characters looking to the future and being a little unsure about what they see there.
First, though, they have to deal with some things from the past — namely, the apparent overdose of Miranda Frank. After Eddie told everyone he’d had an affair with Miranda to divert blame from his own doubts about Meyerism, he visited her cell and found her comatose on the floor. She’s since been rushed to the hospital and finds herself one-on-one with Cal. She tells him what really happened in Peru, or at least what she saw — Eddie muttering “there is no light” to himself after a drug-induced vision of his dead brother.
The past’s major intrusion on the events of “The Future,” however, is a visit from Bill and Felicia, two Meyerist elders who have worked with founder Dr. Stephen Meyer since the beginning of the movement. They’re in town for the annual Ascension Day festival, putting a slight crimp in Cal’s plans to mold the movement’s future in his own image.
Bill and Felicia aren’t amused with Cal’s vision of the future, but several rank-and-file members of the movement are. Some of the younger ones grill Hawk at school. The future is coming — what does he know about it? But when it comes to the battle inside Hawk’s soul, the horny teenage boy side is finally starting to win over the wannabe ascetic monk side. He can’t stop staring at Ashley. Who cares about the future when you’ve got a girl like that with you in the present?
Ashley invites Hawk to a party the same night as Ascension Day. He’s wishy-washy, but she goes the Garden State route, converting him to secularism via a specially deployed indie rock mixtape… Arcade Fire, in this case. Unfortunately, “Rebellion (Lies)” does not actually play in the episode (licensing rights, y’know), but one can only imagine the effect it might have on a boy like Hawk, torn between his restrictive upbringing and the adolescent daydream of sex and partying.
Sometimes thinking about the future is nice because the present is such a constant struggle. Freddie Ridge, for instance, has been dealing with drug addiction on top of aloof parents for years now. After being forcibly taken into the movement by Cal, Freddie seems to be doing better, but Sarah isn’t convinced. She thinks Freddie is faking his conversion, saying whatever his parents want to hear. She wants him to try Meyerist “medicine,” but to the Ridge parents that sounds like just another drug. Over Sarah’s protests, they take their son with them. Cal is on their side, it turns out — he doesn’t want the Meyerists messing around with that “medicine” anymore, especially when the son of such a powerful potential supporter is at stake. Drugs were a big part of Meyerism’s past, but not the future Cal has in mind.
Cal is rehearsing another big speech for Ascension Day, probably in the mold of that premiere-ending barn burner, but it gets interrupted twice. First, by Eddie; he wants to know where Miranda Frank is, after finding her missing from the hospital. Cal won’t tell him, and the divides between these two old friends are starting to become clear even to them. Eddie and Cal were once close friends, but as with The Wire’s Avon and Stringer, later developments have set them on separate paths. Cal has a solution to this strife: Eddie should attempt the next rung of the ladder (7R) with Cal as his guide. According to Sarah, this is an intense, revealing process. Something tells me the things Eddie and Cal learn about each other on this course will drive the rest of the season — or at least the next few episodes.
NEXT: Ascension Day
Cal’s next interruption comes from Felicia, who tells him she’ll be delivering the Ascension Day oration instead. After all, she was there when Dr. Meyer ascended and has the burns on her hand to prove it. She’s a living embodiment of the past.
Cal takes out his frustrations by visiting Mary. She’s dating fellow novice Sean, just like Cal instructed — probably so Cal can use Sean as his own psychic surrogate. He asks Mary to tell her where Sean kisses her. As she obliges, Cal starts to physically convulse, as if they were having in-person phone sex or a virtual hand job (not too different on an emotional level, actually, from the one Amy Adams gives Philip Seymour Hoffman in that other great Scientology pastiche, The Master).
Cal and Mary’s relationship remains psychically and emotionally complicated, but luckily Eddie and Sarah’s seems to be getting better. They get a few minutes to relax and play together by the lake.
Soon enough it’s time for Ascension Day. Felicia preaches passionately about that legendary event when Dr. Meyer ascended a ladder so hot it burned at Felicia’s touch. Later, she hangs out with the other gray-haired veterans of the movement, reminiscing about old days with Bill and Hank and the others. Joy saw Hawk with Ashley earlier and confronts him about it now, but it’s too little too late. Same, apparently, with Freddie Ridge. Sarah finds him drugged out with a needle in his arm, just like she predicted when the Ridges left early. Maybe Cal’s futuristic methods don’t work as well as the time-honored ones after all.
Detective Abe Gaines, in disguise as a potential recruit, wanders around confused for a while before finally hearing Mary’s story of the abuse she suffered from her father. Since Abe’s entire distrust of Meyerism was based around the idea they had kidnapped Mary from her father, he has some recalibrating to do.
But just as Abe’s doubts about Meyerism are wavering, others are increasing. Felicia tells Eddie that he should climb 7R so that he can keep an eye on Cal for the elders. They don’t like where Cal is headed and tell him as much later. Cal is angry that Dr. Meyer is dying and the other elders don’t have any plan for the future of the movement other than praying for a miracle. He takes them to see Miranda Frank, now peaceful and singing Cal’s praises. He tells them that he has “the gift” — they may have been important to the foundation of Meyerism, but he’s going to take it in to the future. Only he has the ability to convert new followers, he says. Cal goes even further, declaring in no uncertain terms that he will finish Dr. Meyer’s work. He will write the last three rungs of the Ladder and declare himself the chosen one.
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Bill and Felicia seem at least placated by Miranda’s healthy status, but they’re not taking any chances leaving her with Cal. They’re taking her out West with them, making her Meyerism’s new “director of outreach.” Before they go, they show her to Eddie and remind him to keep an eye on Cal for them.
Against everybody’s expectations, Hawk does go to the party, where he passionately kisses Ashley beside a bonfire. Hormones always win, friends — over religion, over tradition, over the past, over the future.
Meanwhile, Hawk’s father is also taking a big step. After Bill and Felicia leave, Eddie meets with Cal in the middle of the night, in a forest, to start 7R. Cal gives him a shovel and tells him to start digging. Because if there’s one thing Cal loves, it’s taking metaphors and beating people over the head with them. Until next time.