Faith can be a tool to bring communities together for a greater good, but in the wrong hands it can take a darker turn of manipulation, blackmail, and murder. Hulu Original series The Path (2016) is a dark drama featuring the Meyerist movement (a cult with definite shades of Scientology). The members live within a gated compound, drive white vans, wear t-shirts featuring their eye Meyerist logo, and are dedicated to climbing “the ladder.” Each rung is supposed to bring you up a path to the garden of paradise.
Created by Jessica Goldberg, The Path is anchored by the tremendous performances from its three leads. Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) is the charismatic regional leader Cal Roberts who encourages others to unburden themselves (these sessions are recorded and kept on file for blackmail purposes). Opposite him is Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) as Eddie Lane, a troubled convert doubting the movement. Michelle Monaghan (True Detective) is superb as Eddie’s wife, a true believer, and the woman caught between the two men.
At the start of the show, Eddie has returned from a trip to Peru (where the movement has a retreat) and he is clearly shaken by something he has seen. Whatever he witnessed has put enough doubt in him to make him lose faith in the movement. This is the journey we, as viewers, will take. There is a mystic element to Myerism that is conveyed beautifully through the haunting cinematography and music. Eddie is sincerely disillusioned, convinced that everything he has believed for so long has been a lie. His wife and children were born into the religion and remain firmly entrenched in its doctrine. The teachings of the movement are very altruistic, but deceit licks menacingly at its edges like a dark flame.
Cal, while he is a true believer, has become a megalomaniac, and will stop and absolutely nothing, even murder, to secure his position as leader of the movement. The path each character takes seems simple, but nothing in this show is ever simple. As much as Eddie seems to veer away from his chosen faith, real and genuine moments of spirituality seem determined to push him back there. These are very dark journeys where the faithful can be broken down and thrown into a windowless room with the door locked for a minor infraction and charisma crosses the line into manipulation and madness.
The viewer will take a path from doubter to true believer before they realize what has happened. But the real genius of The Path is that it explores one of the greatest horrors of all: the horror lying in wait for us all when true faith (in anything) becomes corrupted. It’s a journey well worth taking.