In an age of extremely satisfying television, Hulu’s The Path is a program that manages to stand out amongst the crowd as a powerful, foreboding piece of TV. The series digs into the inner workings of the cult-like movement of Meyerism, with the warped sense of faith and support being a major topic within the psychological series. While the series explores heady ideas like religion, belief, and redemption, The Path also features an enviable cast of talent with the likes of Hugh Dancy, Aaron Paul, and Michelle Monaghan who all sufficiently act their asses off in this show.
The Path’s first season took great strides to introduces the Meyerists and help determine what is and isn’t real about their belief system, but the show’s sophomore year turns the volume up on everything in such a satisfying way. Relationships get more incestuous, concepts get more complicated, and emotions hit such a boiling point that things perpetually feel like they’re on the cusp of exploding. With the premiere of season two upon us, I got the grand opportunity of speaking with the series’ creator and executive producer, Jessica Goldberg, about the changes that Meyerism experiences this year, how this season’s arc was conceived, and the evolution of the show’s characters.
DEN OF GEEK: At what point did you know where you’d be heading with this season? Did you ever consider different jumping off points for the year?
JESSICA GOLDBERG: Well I always knew what was going to happen with Eddie. So that I knew. That was even like a long-term goal since the conception of the show. I also knew it would be interesting to watch Michelle Monaghan’s character Sarah, who is such a zealot, have to face what it’s like to run a business. And then actually I did not know about Mary and Cal until thinking about it one day and deciding it would be a fun direction.
This season sees you expanding from a ten-episode season to a 13-episode one. You guys find a pretty good rhythm here and find material to fill the extra episodes with, but now that the season’s over, were you ultimately happy with the extended order? Would you want to return to ten episodes next year?
It definitely was easier last season to do ten, but I think the challenge of doing 13 is great. It sort of forces you to have more twists and turns. So that was kind of fun. I think it also forces you to lean on to the more familiar moments in a stronger way.
After the second season renewal, did you start thinking more in a multi-year story sense? Was a season three more on your mind while writing this season than a season two was on your mind last year?
Actually, I kind of just focused on what was going on in the moment. If we’re lucky enough to get a season three, I’ll just be happy to have everyone back together in the bullpen.
Off of that, were there any major things learned from the production of season one, or from its reception, that affected anything in how this year was put together?
We set up a lot at the end of season one. There’s the mystery of Steven Meyer now being awake. Sarah finding out about Cal. The dissolution of Eddie and Sarah’s marriage. We had a lot of jumping off points. I’ve worked on a bunch of other shows where you get one year and you’re done. So it’s always just been like, “Let’s make the best episode of television that we can,” and hope that we’re setting up stuff that we can use if we go forward.
I’ve noticed that you have a largely female—if not entirely female—writers room. That’s a nice little rarity that you have. Do you feel this largely female perspective is beneficial to the series?
That’s true. We have a man, Coleman Herbert, who comes from Rectify who’s a great writer, and then we have Jason [Katims]. In season two we also added a writer, Justin, who comes from Stranger Things. So we definitely get a male-added perspective, too. I’m a little less of the mind, that there’s much of a male perspective and female perspective. You’re telling stories and you hope they’re connecting and getting inside people properly.
I’ve noticed that your show implements this two-episode director model where each director takes a block of two episodes in a row—almost like doing a movie. Do you find this helps with cohesion or is a strategy that makes a big difference? Was it a touch that was your idea, or how did it come about?
You know, it’s so interesting that you single that out because it really comes down to being a financial decision in the end. I was nervous about it at first because most shows will shoot in order, but we’ve all come to love it. You need to be really on top of where you are because you’re shooting more than one episode at once, but these actors know their characters so well at this point. In the end the relationship between the actors and the directors gets even stronger. We also brought back most of the same people from season one because the look of the show is very specific.
That’s crazy. I definitely thought it was a story decision, so to hear that it comes down to money and then ends up helping in story anyway is great. So much of this season involves everyone’s relationships getting that much more complicated and duplicitous. Why did you want to push this duality to the extreme this season?
Well the first season is actually kind of small in a weird way. It’s these three characters and this marriage. I just felt really excited about expanding this world and letting us see a little more of this religion. We actually get to see the Meyerists out in the world. And then it also just felt fun to push and heighten all of that “what people do behind closed doors” material, too.
Eddie’s whole relationship with Chloe is a really tender element of the season. I thought the fact that she was with Eddie’s brother in the past was an interesting way of bringing that element back into the show. Why did that seem like an important part of Chloe’s character?
Eddie is just such a haunted character and I was thinking about the ghosts that linger around him. A lot of these people who get taken into cults or religions have a lot of damage to them and so this just felt like another piece of guilt that he still might have in his life.
Cal was a fascinating character to me last season but he’s on a whole other level this year. He’s just constantly doing the wrong thing and making matters worse. Why did such a destructive direction for him seem right this season?
They’re all amazing actors, but it’s so fun to write for characters that are tragically flawed, especially when people like Hugh Dancy are bringing them to life. We have such compassion for him in the writers room though. He does awful things, but we just love him. He is an addict. He’s just got that impulse that he can’t shut down and he’s deeply flawed in that way. It’s just so much fun to write, especially with how Hugh plays it.
The territory of prophetic visions really expands this season. Did you like getting to dig into this idea and playing with there being some ambiguity regarding who’s really the rightful leader of The Light?
It’s great. For me, I just love that archetypal doubter that is imbued with the true faith. Eddie certainly represents that. With Cal, his moments are perhaps less visions than his Jungian subconscious acting up. I do think keeping ambiguity in a show like this regarding who is the One is useful.
I love that throughout this season we see Hawk getting more and more examples of real life and different voices of authority and experience that are there to increasingly shade in his view of the world and who he is. He goes on a nice journey.
His bubble of Meyerism certainly bursts. We just feel so lucky that we found that actor, too. He literally sent in a tape.
It’s also just very tense this season watching Cal and Sarah get paired together as Eddie is pushed aside.
Yeah, it was certainly controversial and difficult in some respects. Michelle and Aaron were both very adamant about not wanting their characters to be with anyone else. But for the dark road that Sarah takes this season, some of these bold moves are certainly needed.
Visions are one thing in this show and they’re an element that audiences can certainly suspend their disbelief with, but talk about some of the crazier moments like when characters are floating. You’re crossing a big line when you do those sorts of scenes.
We spoke to a lot of people that have gone through intense religious experiences that have talked about hearing voices, seeing visions, or even claiming things like they floated. For the faithful this stuff is real, but the skeptics there’s an explanation behind it. Maybe just factors like hunger have made you feel like you’re floating. The character in that moment believes what’s going on, so that’s how we depict it on screen.
You direct this season’s finale! That must have been such a thrill and a huge moment in your career. Talk about that a little bit.
Oh, it was amazing. It was such a fantasy to begin with to get to create my own thing that really means something to me. But then get to do it with the most brilliant directors for two seasons and get to direct the finale on top of that is incredible. It was thrilling.
The Path’s second season began streaming January 25th, exclusively on Hulu.