We often talk about faith as personal experience, an individual’s relation to the world in the abstract. But people live in groups, and faith rarely appears with same intensity within those groups. True believers are rare. More common is the blend of jealousy, admiration, and terror that comes with witnessing true conviction.
This week’s episode of The Path introduces the idea of real miracles, or at least the possibility of their existence. Eddie, working through his 7R training, sees a vision of Sarah and Cal kissing. Sarah, trying to get Hawk to give up his high-school romance, tells a story about how his life was saved in the womb. “The Hole” leaves enough space for these to be coincidences, especially in Eddie’s case. Played with good-hearted gruffness by Aaron Paul, he is like a figure in a parable. He doesn’t get caught up in mystical experiences, but the world keeps hounding him with them. This makes Cal jealous. He can memorize the rituals and lead others, but he’s rarely inspired.
The true believer among them is Sarah, who dominates this episode with a cool and unnerving intensity. This pairs well with Michelle Monaghan’s strengths; she is often hard to read because her performance is so consistently poised. She makes you watch and wait for a crack in the armor. Sarah, we learn, lost her sister, Tessa, to the IS. She might lose her miracle son to them, too. But she doesn’t break down. She doesn’t fight harder, either. Monaghan draws power from Sarah’s stillness. You are with her, or you are against her. She doesn’t negotiate with nonbelievers.
Like previous episodes, “The Hole” draws out an excellent trio of lead performances, but stumbles as it tries threading them into a plot. After seeing his vision of Sarah and Cal kissing, Eddie becomes more guarded toward Cal, even as they work through 7R training together. When Cal learns that Sarah sent Freddie Ridge and his mother to Peru, he’s furious. She simply absorbs his anger and insists that the treatment will work, while Eddie steps up to defend his wife.
Of course, Eddie does try to bury his vision — he tells Cal that he merely saw a premonition of Cal and Sarah’s fight — but his frustration with Sarah makes it harder for them to figure out how to deal with their son. Hawk spent the night with Sarah, and though they didn’t have sex, he’s clearly fallen for the girl. The whole family waits for Cal back at Lane’s house, cousins and grandparents included. Eddie just wants to reason with him. “You don’t know what’s like to lose a child,” Sarah’s mother says. This is the first we hear of Tessa, who left the Meyerist movement when she was roughly Hawk’s age.
“It’s important that you know we’re not mad,” Eddie tells Hawk, after the rest of the family has left. “I’m mad,” Sarah says. “I’m furious.” Ashley, she insists, will “try to destroy everything good” about him. Anyone who doesn’t have their faith will corrupt it. When Sarah leaves, Eddie tries to be more reasonable once again. “Is she bad?” Hawk asks. “She doesn’t know what she is yet,” he replies. In the process of doubting his faith, Eddie has grown more empathetic. Unlike Sarah, he understands how hard recovery can be when your belief is truly shaken.
While Eddie is awed by (and a little afraid of) Sarah’s conviction, Cal is jealous of Eddie’s ability to make peace with doubt. Cal’s greatest fear, as he saw in a vision during his 7R training, is that “I am no one, nothing.” As we saw last week, his Messiah complex is built around a fear of failure. This anxiety feeds into his reverence for Sarah. Her faith makes his constructed self seem real. When he defends Sarah to John Ridge, late in the episode, moments before he’s beaten to the floor by Ridge’s bodyguards, he announces, “My colleague is a fucking angel.”
In the background, Mary Cox is watching all of this. She tells Cal that she and Sean have just had sex, per his implied orders, but Cal is busy fighting with Sarah. Later, she sees him praying with Sarah, and seems to realize that she’s never getting Cal’s full attention. Sean tries to stop her from leaving. He tells a story about the time his friends were gunned down in school. It’s a poignant moment, but it doesn’t quite land. Compared to the central trio, Mary is more of a side character, a shadow of their towering conflicts. And despite his trauma, Sean feels paper-thin. He’s a straw man for the Meyerist credo.
Speaking of peripheral characters, the good old FBI agent Abe notices evidence of what seems to be drug trafficking in their travel plans, checks in with Mary’s father, and meets with Alison Kemp, who insists her husband was involved in some sort of secret mission before he admitted his doubts about Meyerism and was killed. However, Abe still thinks her husband committed suicide. It sure seems like he’s being won over by the Meyerist faith. I could do without the murder-mystery as a whole, and The Path struggles to make the stakes of this investigation clear. But Abe does slightly redeem himself by serving up a strong moment with Eddie. Under the guise of Meyerist recruit “Sam,” Abe goes into greater detail on his baby’s medical issues. He asks if the faith will help. “Not knowing is fear, it’s an abyss,” Eddie says. “Getting on the Ladder might help, but it’s not going to change whether your kid is sick or not.” Believing is tautological; it gives you belief. That can mean everything, or not much at all.
Hawk isn’t quite ready to break up with Ashley, so Sarah delivers her gut-wrenching story about how she nearly lost him during her pregnancy. “I won’t lose you again,” she says. But Ashley doesn’t believe that Hawk wants to break up. “A religion that tells you who you can and can’t like is stupid,” she says. Again, I’m impressed by the naturalness of the scenes between the two teenagers, which inch just past sentimentality into something real. At the end of the episode, Sarah tells Eddie that Hawk has broken off the relationship. Then, we see him sneak out to spend time with Ashley. He’s betraying his mother, sure, but in her eyes, belief in anything else is also betrayal. For better or for worse, Hawk really does seem to believe in Ashley.
Other Notes and Observations:
- “I’ll tell you where they are, bum-fucking Peru.” John Ridge to Cal about his wife and son. Freddie, by the way, ends the episode on the beginning of his ayahuasca trip in Peru. Will it heal him? Maybe. Do I care? Not really, unless it affects Sarah’s relationships with Cal and Eddie.
- Sarah lectures Cal while wearing what looks to be something like a Scientology E-meter, and still somehow manages to be intimidating.
- The numbers Cal forces Eddie to memorize include 17, 15, 12, 32, 54, and 76. Anyone else pretty disappointed they weren’t the magic numbers from Lost?