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Additional Reviews

More reviews are pouring in as we countdown (4 days!) to the premiere of The Path on Hulu. I have included highlighted moments in quotes below, once again they are all singing praise for Hugh’s performance in the series, and with each review our excitement is building. Have you joined the movement yet? If not, follow ThePathOnHulu on twitter to keep up with everything “The Path”.

Dancy has never done better work. His Cal is a tinhorn messiah hampered by all-too-human frailty and desires. –

Dancy delivers a surprising vulnerability as the series moves Cal forward in his power-grab.

have assembled a superb cast, with Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Michelle Monaghan (Gone Baby Gone, True Detective) and Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) going all in with exceptional performances. –

“They have assembled a superb cast, with Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Michelle Monaghan (Gone Baby Gone, True Detective) and Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) going all in with exceptional performances. Dancy is effective at being both ominous and generous, and when The Path gets around to delving into Cal’s backstory, Dancy delivers a surprising vulnerability as the series moves Cal forward in his power-grab.”
Note: The reviewer on THR seems to have edited, see here for an original quote.

Among them, the acting group leader Cal (an outstanding performance by Hugh Dancy), a man torn by the demands of loyalty and his drive for control. –

posted on March 24, 2016 over at
by Dorothy Rabinowitz

In “The Path,” a drama about a cult, conflict roils beneath surface harmony and the group’s ardent believers contend with the menace of those among them who have begun to harbor doubts. Not that this group, encamped in a leafy compound in upstate New York, tolerates being described as a cult. They’re proud members of an organization called the Meyerist Movement, named after their revered founder, and they’re dedicated to good works like social-welfare efforts, helping out in disasters—all in addition to the daily practice of the movement’s tenets. The shining goal ahead—won only through arduous stages of advancement known as The Ladder—is survival in a future glorious life, after mankind’s ultimate destruction, and achievable only to believers who follow the force known as The Light. The Meyerist symbol, on display everywhere, is an eye—a reminder that the members operate under scrutiny; there is judgment and there is also guidance for any looking for answers from The Light.

The Movement, it’s nonetheless obvious, is in all its essentials a cult, and one whose tone and character derive from most of the lore we have on such groups. Its disciplines and language, if not its mystical, apocalyptic vision, carry more than a few echoes of Scientology.

All that notwithstanding, “The Path” is something more than a familiar story about cults. It’s an ambitious, character-driven drama, compelling in its endless skein of intrigues, the sexual kind included; its power struggles; and—connected to all of these—its vision of morality. Nothing happens in the lives of these faithful that isn’t shaped by the values of Meyerism, sex included.

That also goes for activities that are close to sex, if not the thing itself. In one delectable though completely serious scene in keeping with the show’s tone—there’s no satire in this saga of believers—Eddie ( Aaron Paul), a leading character, and his wife, Sarah ( Michelle Monaghan), both longtime devotees, decide they should engage in a Meyerist activity called connection. They’ve been having problems that brought their sexual life to a halt: Eddie stands accused of having transgressed with another woman—like all infidelity, a serious violation in Meyerism. But now they can sit on their bed, holding one another in the connection exercise, while murmuring sweet nothings on the order of “Can you feel my energy?” and “It’s our essence that we feel….” This is as close as things get to sex. Eddie, whose energy transfer hasn’t damped his ardor for more advanced connection with his wife, is, once again, turned down by Sarah, who gives him one of the time-honored excuses available to unwilling women.

A 10-part series created by Jessica Goldberg, with Jason Katims—best known, perhaps, as producer-showrunner of the remarkable “Friday Night Lights”—as executive producer, “The Path” delivers a sharp and persuasive commentary on the needs fulfilled by faiths of this kind, on the unyielding determination of the believers to continue believing. The devotees of Meyerism, shown happily planting gardens, performing good works, always as a family, don’t think of themselves as members of a cult—swept up here for varied reasons, or born into the movement and brought up in it, they feel privileged to be here, they’d do anything to remain. This solidly detailed portrait of the faithful is one of the major strengths of “The Path”—a testament to its ambition and skilled writing.

There are, to be sure, those others—the not-quite faithful. Among them, the acting group leader Cal (an outstanding performance by Hugh Dancy), a man torn by the demands of loyalty and his drive for control, and Eddie—affectingly portrayed by Mr. Paul—who is out-and-out through with the whole thing, not to mention frightened half to death by some of the things he’s discovered en route to that disenchantment. Even Eddie’s wife, Sarah—a high achiever in the organization, and a zealously devoted Meyerist—manages to notice that not everything is working as it should in this world to which she’s given her life. She notices, for instance, that bad things happen to dissenters and their families. There will be much more to notice, as her haunted husband could tell her.

posted on March 16, 2016 over at
by Tim Goodman

This excellent, intriguing new Hulu series starring Aaron Paul and Michelle Monaghan looks at faith through the eyes of a cult.

In the right hands, faith can be an intriguing thematic element in a storyline because of two prominent, intertwined sentiments that science and sociology say exist in many people: that they are hurting or lost in some way; and that they want to believe in something that can alleviate that pain, give them purpose or clarity.

The Path, Hulu’s riveting new drama, works precisely because series creator Jessica Goldberg (Parenthood) and executive producer Jason Katims (Parenthood), pull the levers of belief and doubt so convincingly and have assembled a superb cast, with Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Michelle Monaghan (Gone Baby Gone, True Detective) and Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) going all in with exceptional performances.

The Path is yet another strong push from Hulu into original content, having recently launched Stephen King’s 11.22.63 with James Franco.

Created and written by Goldberg and shepherded by Katims — two people who know how to deftly explore the human condition as they did so well on Parenthood — there’s a solidness to The Path that continues to surprise. The emotional vagaries of faith and happiness are key elements there.

The series revolves around the Meyerist movement in rural, upstate New York. While others call it a cult (the group has a gated compound and its members, and omnipresent white cargo vans, are frequently adorned with the Meyerist logo — which looks like a wheel within an eye within another wheel), the group’s members, led by the charismatic Cal Roberts (Dancy), prefer “movement” — a diverse group of people trying to “unburden” themselves and “find the light” in their own lives and in the world.

So, yeah, it’s a cult.

But what works so effectively for The Path is that as Goldberg and Katims reveal bits about the more religious tenets of the Meyerists — more than a few of which are decidedly cult-like — they also show how the movement is actually working for its adherents and how those at the forefront actually do have an idealistic desire to change the world for the better.

Seeing both sides and constantly shifting the perspective of the audience in regards to the Meyerists’ ideals and actions keeps The Path both inventive and engaging, on top of a bevy of additional storylines layered in.

Paul plays Eddie Lane, a convert to Meyerism who is married to Sarah Lane (Monaghan), a higher-ranking member of the movement who was born into it — her parents were original members dating back to the early 1970s.

Dancy’s Cal is currently running things out of upstate New York while the group’s founder and “Guardian of the Light,” Dr. Steven Meyer, is in Peru (where the group has a retreat), allegedly writing the “last three rungs” of “The Ladder” — the spiritual system that Meyerism is built on.

(If you’re wondering, Goldberg has said that she didn’t base the “Meyerism” on Scientology, instead crafting the fiction religion out of a number of other faiths, with an emphasis on what would attract a person in some kind of psychic pain, searching for help.)

Shading is essential to The Path. We can see that Cal really does believe in all the tenets, but also that he’s becoming a megalomaniac and is twisting the movement to his whims. Dancy is effective at being both ominous and generous, and when The Path gets around to delving into Cal’s backstory, Dancy delivers a surprising vulnerability as the series moves Cal forward in his power-grab.

For her part, Monaghan is wonderful at making Sarah a combination of true believer — but with clarity — and then completely believable when “real-life” problems warp her reactions.

But it’s Paul’s Eddie who really helps anchor The Path because of his clear doubts (although those doubts come to him while on the drug ayahuasca, which the Meyerists use on their retreats and when a member is attempting to advance up the rungs of the religion). In his fugue state, Eddie sees something while in Peru that he can’t shake.

Probably not surprising, Paul is great here, re-establishing why viewers loved him as Jesse in Breaking Bad yet able to lose all trace of that character in Eddie. Perhaps it didn’t hurt creating some distance by voicing a character in the Netflix animated series BoJack Horseman. But it might have more to do with the fact that Paul comes from a very religious family (his father was a Southern Methodist preacher), and he also starred in another excellent series about faith, HBO’s Big Love.

Where The Path works best is in establishing that Meyerism may have started as a hippie-esque movement, but has since curdled into a cult as it has become more successful — from six members when it began to nearly 6,000 now. Letting viewers into the darker, cultish side of the movement not only builds intrigue (Cal’s attempt to take over is only one of the story planks), it creates opportunities to examine what people will do to be happy — how finding spiritual peace that “unburdens” their minds can blind them to the parts of the religion that anyone else would find weird. For example, the “rungs” in Meyerism: Cal is a “10R,” Sarah an “8R” and Eddie, fresh from his mind-bending and possibly mind-changing trip to Peru, has just become a “6R.”

As the characters use those descriptions (or when they say they don’t eat meat, or when Eddie’s son reveals to an outsider that he hasn’t heard much popular music and almost nothing of pop culture) it resets whatever bit of “normal” the storytelling allows for as the group helps disaster victims or talks about ecology, etc.

Beyond the stellar acting of Paul, Monaghan and Dancy, The Path has a solid supporting cast: Rockmond Dunbar as an FBI agent investigating the Meyerist movement as a cult; Kyle Allen as Eddie and Sarah’s son, Hawk; Amy Forsyth as Ashley, the non-Meyerist teenage girl that Hawk is falling for in a completely believable portrait of teenage life; Sarah Jones as Alison, the outcast former Meyerist who believes the cult killed her husband; and Emma Greenwell as Mary, the abused addict who was pimped out by her father before being “saved” by the Meyerists when they beat FEMA to a disaster site and rescued her.

Fans of Parenthood won’t find it surprising that Katims and Goldberg can smartly write about teens and wounded people in ways that are believable and don’t pander; how they can dissect Eddie and Sarah’s troubled marriage or intelligently tell the story of a cult from both sides.

Just when you think the series will focus to its detriment on one theme, it weaves somewhere else to start fresh. Even when the series strays (it’s difficult to make ayahuasca trips anything but “druggy” and cult-like stuff often seems, well, predictably “culty”), it quickly retracts. Hell, the series even makes the younger-looking-than-their-age Paul (36) and Monaghan (39) believable parents to a 16-year-old and a 10-year-old when, at first glance, that might be a stretch.

There’s a lot to like about The Path, from the strong visual sense of place that director Mike Cahill established in the first two episodes to its theoretical take on faith, and of course the exquisite acting and deft writing.

The Path has 10 episodes in its first season and rolls out the first two episodes on March 30, and then one each following week.

posted on March 24, 2016 over at
by David Wiegand

Karl Marx had a few things to say about religion, including the slightly mistranslated statement that it is “the opiate of the masses.” He also defined religion as “an inverted consciousness of the world” — in other words, an inward focus that blinds us to reality.

Even if you’re not religious, you may take issue with Marx, but his assessment certainly applies to followers of the Meyerist Movement, a cultlike organization at the complicated heart of Hulu’s stunning new dramatic series “The Path,” premiering on Wednesday, March 30.

Created by Dr. Stephen Meyer (Keir Dullea), the Movement is a blend of spirituality and pseudo-science marketed as a way of overcoming pain and negativity and achieving enlightenment. He visualized the Path as a ladder to self-awareness, and as the series begins, he is said to be holed up in Peru writing the ladder’s final rungs.

Meanwhile, a core group of followers reside in a gated compound in upstate New York, subsisting on contributions from external sympathizers and new converts. Cal Robertson (Hugh Dancy, “Hannibal”) runs things, claiming to have been personally anointed by Meyer to do so. He’s the only one who seems to be in touch with Meyer, but everyone takes Cal’s position of authority on faith, as it were.

Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”) is trying to be a good Meyerist, but something happened to him during a retreat in Peru that has filled his mind with doubts. He is reluctant to share his inner feelings with his wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan, “True Detective”), because as a staunch believer, she would be forced to report him as a possible “denier.” The Lanes have two kids, the elder of whom is a 15-year-old named Hawk (Kyle Allen, “Never Leave Me”), who is supposed to leave high school when he turns 16 to take vows of fealty to the Movement.

Life is seemingly good, bounteous and peaceful among the rather eerily detached folk of the compound. From the outset, we sense that something is amiss beneath the placid surface. Bit by bit, we begin to see the cracks in the picture. In addition to his secret crisis of faith, Eddie is paying regular visits to a former Movement member named Alison Kemp (Sarah Jones, “Texas Rising”), whose husband committed suicide. Now she’s hiding out, living in terror of being caught by other members of the Movement.

Cal has rescued a young woman named Mary Cox (Emma Greenwell, “Shameless”), who has been pimped out by her trailer trash father ever since she was a young girl. Can the Movement help her unlearn how to use sex to get what she wants?

An FBI agent, Abe Gaines (Rockmond Dunbar, “The Mentalist”), believes there’s something nefarious about the Movement and goes undercover to investigate his suspicions. Meanwhile, though, his infant daughter is struggling with a potentially fatal health problem, making Gaines vulnerable to the Movement’s slickly marketed promises and hope.

Hawk, being a healthy, red-blooded teenager, has his own struggles when he becomes friendly with an IS girl from school, IS being the Movement’s shorthand for “ignorant systemite.” Things progress one as would expect with Ashley (Amy Forsyth, “Defiance”), but predictable parental disapproval is exacerbated by the Movement’s rule against fraternizing with nonbelievers.

As the 10 episodes of the show’s first season unfold, the cracks widen until the entire construct of the Movement is in danger of crumbling.

Creator Jessica Goldberg has done a masterful job telling the story of the organization through the individual characters. We see each major character evolve in a naturalistic way, rarely following anything close to a predictable pattern.

Similar to the character development in “Breaking Bad,” the seed of each character’s destiny is already gestating within them — Sarah’s conflicted feelings about both Eddie and Cal, Eddie’s agony as he tries to balance loving his wife with his growing doubt about the Movement, Cal’s attempt to temper his lust for power while trying to keep secrets about his past and present.

Goldberg has said she did not specifically draw on Scientology in creating “The Path,” but the similarities are more than coincidental, including a founder who has gone missing for a period of time and an electronic gizmo that evokes the concept of an e-meter.

But the series is not about whether the Movement hews closely to a particular religion, real or approximate. It’s about the human drive to believe in something larger than ourselves, whether the object of our projection is a supreme being, a gaggle of deities, a collective system of beliefs, or on a smaller tier, love, ambition and power.

It is also about how self-interest plays a corrupting role in social structure, much in the way that the adaptive society created by the marooned boys in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” was undone by the inevitable conflict between human nature and the common good. The Movement’s encampment is a microcosm of human society, and Meyerism is merely a refracting factor in the battle between individualism and the group.

Goldberg’s perfectly crafted script is realized through shattering performances at every level, especially among the major players. Dancy has never done better work. His Cal is a tinhorn messiah hampered by all-too-human frailty and desires. Aaron Paul, very possibly heading toward another Emmy to add to his “Breaking Bad” collection, makes Eddie Lane the tortured soul of the series, compellingly real at every turn.

Michelle Monaghan has perhaps the greatest challenge among the leading players, because unlike the leading male characters, Sarah is a true believer in the Path, which means she has to leverage already complicated feelings about Eddie and Cal with the strict rules of the Movement.

As all of these story lines play out, we realize “The Path” is not the ladder Meyer envisions, but a winding route through the dark forest of conflict and frailty known as human nature.

March 25th, 2016

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