“This doesn’t feel like change. It feels like the beginning of the end.”
The Path’s new season kicks off with a bang—both figuratively and literally—as it confidently heads into its third year with a renewed energy. The show isn’t afraid to reframe its relationships, pull a 180 on the status quo, and have its characters indulge in shocking melodrama.
The problem with shows like this is that every new time they pull the rug out from under the audience, it means a little less. Sure, big deaths and unbelievable betrayals make for great cliffhangers, but the real test of strength is in whether the series can stick the landing and find a new balance that works as it continues to move forward. Nobody needs another Bloodline on their hands.
The Path’s second season does end in quite the tumultuous way and it leads to unexplored territory for the series. Unsurprisingly, this injects these first few episodes of the third season with a helpful creative drive in what feels like it could be the show’s strongest year yet. The season’s premiere is called “The Beginning” and that’s what it feels like here—a new start. At the same time, this also marks a good place in the series to jump into for those who fell off last year. It even feels like a soft reboot, so to speak.
However, this tendency for The Path to “think big” and continually try to top itself is exactly the sort of compulsion that could make this new season a disaster. That’s why it’s extremely satisfying to see The Path use its time between seasons to get back to its basics and figure out a strong, exciting angle to pursue.
This season starts off on the right foot with a much deeper focus on the show’s characters and the ways in which people can change, rather than on crazy plot machinations. More than anything this season is an examination of what religion really is and it’s an angle that really works.
Everyone goes through a rather seismic change and crisis of faith this year. Life is definitely different for Eddie than when the series last checked in with him. The season begins with an earthquake and an explosion that feel exactly like the sort of clairvoyant dreams that Eddie has had in the past. This all becomes even more of a surprise when the show never cuts back to “reality” because it turns out that this is real. The Path earns this moment. They’ve played with dreams for so long on this show, but then their most heightened moment yet happens to fall within reality. It’s an insane introduction that’s an incredibly strong way to position Eddie as this rightful Christ figure. The followers of Meyerism can’t believe what they’ve seen and neither can the audience.
It’s also helpful that the show chooses to clean its slate a little and jump forward in time six months. This allows for some much-needed breathing room and lets the series advance in a believable fashion rather than just get lost in its aftermath. It’s also kind of remarkable to see that in this short span of time Eddie seems to accomplish more with Meyerism than Cal or anyone else could achieve in its entire existence. Eddie literally gets offers to be on the covers of spiritual magazines now. Meyerism is finally in the big leagues.
Eddie’s goal this season is make Meyerism more inclusive to the public and less intimidating. At the same time, Edddie’s new perspective for the Light begins to take flack from within the community and others prey open the group’s newfound vulnerabilities. The struggle then lies in how Eddie wants to embrace his new way for Meyerism, but that shouldn’t have to come at the expense of people’s safety.
A lot of this season also seems to be about how Eddie learns lessons and then determines how he should use Meyerism as a response. Should he retaliate or choose pacifism? There are various forms of this idea at play this year and the show makes a strong point every time. It makes for powerful storytelling. Furthermore, in a season where every other character is lost and unsure, Eddie is the one person that is positive about all of his decisions. Now, that’s not necessarily a good thing, but it is significant and highlights both his best and worst impulses as all of this goes to his head. It also often puts his life directly in jeopardy.
Eddie also explores new temptations with the introduction of his publicist, Vera (Freida Pinto). She’s supposed to give Meyerism its much-needed facelift and keep Eddie in the right direction. She continually talks about the future rather than getting lost in the past. At the start of the season she feels like a pretty obvious obstacle that exists just to keep Eddie and Sarah apart, but she soon blossoms into one of the darkest, most complex characters on The Path. There’s definitely more to Vera than the show originally lets on. There’s a reason that she studies Eddie just as much as she appears to push his word.
Matters are currently much worse for Sarah and it’s comforting to see that The Path still doesn’t back down from darkness and is ready to go to some disturbing places. Early on in the season Sarah comes face-to-face with death and a tremendous amount of guilt that she’s unable to shake. So much goes on in this show that it’s sometimes easy to forget how damn impressive all of the acting is in it. Aaron Paul, Hugh Dancy, and Michelle Monaghan all deliver incredible performances where nobody is a weak link.
Sarah also starts to question Meyerism and examines whether she’s actually better or worse with the Light in her life. These feelings are exacerbated when she meets Jackson, a College Professor of Religion (Raul Esparza, making this a mini Hannibal reunion of sorts) who vastly opens her eyes and challenges everything she knows. It’s always nice to see these characters undergo crises of faith and meet individuals who are from the complete opposite set of beliefs. The show has done this a lot, but it’s still fascinating and has even more fuel to play with here. He also makes for a wonderful new foil to bounce off of that’s not toxic in the same ways that Eddie and Cal are.
On the topic of Cal, he continues to be one of the most fascinating characters in this show and he only becomes more thrilling when a fire gets lit under him. Cal is in full-on freefall mode in season two and makes an increasing amount of terrible decisions. This season places him in a very different place as he begins the year isolated in Florida with Mary and their son, Forest, in their “new” life. It’s really disgusting to see how Cal re-appropriates Meyerism into his own personal gain and tries to take advantage of the susceptible people around him that are in need of help. What’s worse is that he’s roped Mary into it, too. His lectures are all about how to re-invent yourself, but he’s hopelessly lost in the past as everyone else moves forward, including Meyerism itself. Cal struggles to face the truth and continually seems like he’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Cal begins to mentally test himself and put himself through psychological and spiritual trials to prove to himself that he is the rightful leader of Meyerism, even if he was bullshitting in the past. Cal’s journey this year is all about his struggle to figure out if he’s simply feeding delusion or if there’s something legitimate to his beliefs. It certainly looks like Cal’s some neglected Chosen One that’s suddenly about to have an epiphany, but the series also filters his experiences through his point of view. The Path has flirted with this same idea in the past, but it’s during this period of Meyerism’s rebirth and Cal’s exile that it gets to make this schism its priority. The fight between Eddie and Cal only intensifies this year.
As both The Path and Meyerism continue to grow, it’s also just interesting to see this new generation of Meyerists come on board through Eddie’s teachings. The movement begins to expand on a global scale and the series delights in showing its various sides. At the same time though, The Path is careful to continue to highlight people’s pain in different ways. As strong as Meyerism becomes, there is also always evidence of the opposite perspective and the damage that it causes.
The Path is still a gut punch of a series where characters’ displays of intense faith and devotion just make you cringe and feel bad. It’s easy to lose track of this three seasons in, but so many lives get destroyed in this show. Faith can be just as frightening as any monster and this show never lets its audience forget that. In a lot of ways, this season really sets things on fire and lets the manipulation and doubt go wild. There’s also the slow emergence of a “Shadow Meyerist Group” that’s not only thrilling, but broadens the scope of the series in a very fatalistic, enlightening way.
This season is careful to properly spread out its story beats and it gives everyone a clear mission, even characters like Mary. This lets the season never lose its focus and it’s fascinating to see where everyone’s heads are at by the end of the year. Everyone experiences some form of irrevocable change over the course of the season, yet The Path is careful not to exploit its characters this time around. After three seasons The Path continues to be an emotional, suspenseful experience that stays strong rather than show its age. Hopefully we’ll be allowed to spend even more time with this dysfunctional, faithful flock. People need to see Meyerism either swallow the Earth or get burned to the ground.
The Path’s third season returns to Hulu on January 17th. This review is based on all thirteen episodes of The Path’s third season.