The Path brings its piercing gaze at cult life into a second season on Hulu on Wednesday. Some of the mysteries of the Meyerist Movement are solved early on, and other mysteries, both new and old, deepen. The acting remains first-rate. It’s too bad, therefore, that the show proceeds with its various, intriguing subplots at such a slow pace.
Aaron Paul’s Eddie is now splitsville with Meyerism; he’s out in the world, pounding beers with a construction crew, but haunted by what he left behind — his family, and whatever spiritual faith he’d mustered within the Meyerist compound. Michelle Monaghan’s Sarah is in some ways stronger than husband Eddie, able to come to terms with their separation and an effective co-leader of the movement. Hugh Dancy’s Cal is under ever-increasing pressure to expand the outreach and success of the Meyerist Movement, taking on the mantle of responsibility from founder Dr. Steven Meyer (Keir Dullea).
Cal has become a problematic character for The Path. Without giving away plot details that should not be spoiled, I can say that Cal is not coping well with the opposing directions in which he’s being pulled. In the season’s early episodes, he is rarely in tip-top leader form — he seems too obviously frayed, even unstable, to be leading a Boy Scout troop, let alone a movement. To this viewer, it seems almost unbelievable that even the lowliest, most vulnerable-to-influence recruit would be attracted to what is now his anti-charisma.
By contrast, Sarah possesses, in many scenes, the strongest character in every sense. Monaghan is terrific at conveying the way Sarah buries her own fears and insecurities beneath a confident, at times steely, surface that is very convincing, both to the Meyerists in the show and the Meyerist-watchers gazing at Hulu.
But the draggy pacing starts to make it feel as though The Path is biding its time to give the audience bigger reveals in the second half of its 13-episode season. Two subplots seem especially languid: the ongoing efforts of the FBI undercover agent Abe (Rockmond Dunbar), and the adolescent-angst rebellion of Eddie and Sarah’s son, Hawk (Kyle Allen). Sometimes, too, the dramatic structure of the show is simplistic and obvious. I’m thinking, for example, of the moment in the second episode in which a woman comes on to Eddie, and The Path cuts to a man coming on to Sarah — the parallel, and the irony it’s meant to underscore, is too easy. There’s a lot that’s good about The Path, but you have to chop through an underbrush of tedium to remain on its trail.
The Path Season 2 begins streaming Jan. 25 on Hulu.