More and more, The Path is taking on the feeling of a roller coaster that is ascending a very large but yet unseen drop. In Episode 4, titled “The Future,” things are steadily heating up, but we’re still well below boil.
Miranda Frank (Minka Kelly), now out of the hospital and fresh off a stay at Cal’s (Hugh Dancy) secret cabin, is being transferred after a bit of “treatment” from Cal. After being grilled ad nauseam about what happened in Peru, Miranda finally relented, telling Cal about Eddie’s vision of his brother and what he said: “There is no light.”
Cal’s got even bigger things to worry about, though. Two higher-ups from San Diego have come to “oversee” Cal’s work during the Ascension Day picnic. They’re skeptical and don’t believe that Cal’s leading the Meyerist Movement in the right direction. He doesn’t much care what they think, though, and informs them that he’s writing the last three rungs of the ladder (which is what Dr. Steven Meyer is supposed to be working on in Peru, but he’s sort of busy dying) and that they’ll identify Cal as the “chosen son,” at which point he’ll take charge in earnest.
Gaines (Rockmond Dunbar) continues to learn more about the Movement from within, reading the materials and attending meetings and the Ascension Day picnic. He looks on with suspicion, quietly filing away his findings. He’s looking for Miranda Frank, but so far he’s not especially close. At home, he and his wife contend with fear that there’s something wrong with their infant daughter.
Things between Eddie (Aaron Paul) and Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) are improving following the Miranda Frank incident. Cal offers to be Eddie’s guide to “7R” or the seventh rung of the ladder, which sounds like something of a harrowing process involving breaking down each other’s “lies and illusion.” Eddie agrees, and he starts at the end of the episode when he goes into the woods to meet Cal, who gives him a shovel and says, “Welcome to 7R. Start digging.”
Hawk’s (Kyle Allen) scenes were some of the best in the episode as he finds himself increasingly confronted with and enjoying the typical teenage experience, which stands at odds with many of the practices of Meyerism. Over a plate of cheese fries after school, Ashley (Amy Forsyth) invites Hawk to a party and gives him her iPod when she finds out that he really only listens to music from the ‘60s and ‘70s because Meyerists believe that contemporary music invites darkness. She promises him that her music will change the way he sees the world. It must work, because after a quick listen, Hawk sneaks out of the house to go to the party, finds Ashley, and kisses her.
All told, it’s clear The Path wants us to glean some meaning and satisfaction from the complicated interpersonal politics of the Meyerist Movement and to meditate on the family dynamics unfolding around the cult drama, but those scenes don’t always resonate. Instead, they feel like they’re dragging the plot, shackling it unnecessarily to characters who aren’t being developed as efficiently as we thought they might be given the course of the pilot.
Things are simmering below the surface, but we haven’t felt any real promise of explosive conflict since Eddie bought the burner phone in the first episode. He seems to have retreated, and we’re left wondering when something’s going to trigger his doubt fully enough to force him back into action.