With all the talk of organized religion in this week’s episode of The Path, it’s high time to dig into some light theology. Let’s talk Catholicism, specifically the writing of St. Augustine, who famously tried to define the structures of the Christian faith amid the fall of the Roman Empire. This was a big problem for Augustine, since people could easily blame Christianity for the empire’s collapse. In The City of God, he drew a distinction between life as it exists on Earth, and life as it would ideally exist in heaven. To Augustine, only the latter world mattered. The (often bloody) fighting to preserve the faith was justified.
Given their small following, and the animosity they face from the outside world, the Meyerists can seem like those early Christians. Cal often acts impulsively in order to protect the cause — getting beat up by Ridge’s men, hunting after Alison Kemp, even adopting a group of refugees with nowhere else to go. He doesn’t care if things look bad on earth, since he’s going to live forever in the garden. It’s an impressive show of faith, though it looks dangerously fanatical from the outside. As Ashley puts it, “It’s always the same. If you’re in, you’re saved. If you’re not, you’re damned.”
To that end, “Breaking and Entering” explores how each character relates to the division between in and out. Cal wants to define the boundaries of Meyerism. Hawk wishes he could be a member of the faith and also love his girlfriend. Eddie realizes he’s further away from his faith than he thought — and Abe that he’s closer to it. Sarah, ever a true believer, stalks her sister Tessa, who turned her back on Meyerism. After breaking into Tessa’s apartment, she tries on her makeup, smells her food, imagines herself in the midst of someone else’s life. Augustine might argue that these things are an illusion, but the spiritual gulf between Sarah and her sister is very real. If the Meyerist faith is true, there’s no saving Tessa. If it isn’t, Sarah and her family have really damaged their lives.
The other thing about “Breaking and Entering” is that it’s a lot more schematic than previous episodes. Sarah, Eddie, and Cal move through plots that don’t quite intersect, and it feels like the writers are setting the table for a later event. Because of that, the episode doesn’t connect well. I was reminded, again, that this show is a lot better at character studies than plot development. We don’t really know the stakes, and every time we seem to learn more, the plot backpedals or swerves in a different direction. The Path is never decisive, which might make sense for TV in the City of God, but as a person stuck on earth, I need something a little more real.
We first see Alison when Cal and Eddie take a trip to her motel, supposedly to hunt for someone who stole $40,000 from the Meyerists. Eddie sees Alison on the balcony, then decides to hide her from Cal. Cal’s started to recover from his beating in last week’s episode, thanks in part to Sarah’s visit in the hospital, where they share a few intimate glances despite his bruised body. Eddie, thanks to his vision last week, is still suspicious of Cal, while Sarah feels guilty for abducting the Ridge’s son and getting Cal beat up in the first place. These people really can’t stop wounding each other.
Frustrated by his failure to find Alison — and because Sarah and Eddie are both questioning his methods — Cal turns once again to Mary, whose relationship with Sean is now pretty serious. After interrupting them late at night in the bedroom, Cal decides to transfer Sean to Delaware. Later, Mary tries to stop Sean from leaving, but it’s too late. She’s finally recognizing how toxic her relationship with Cal has become. Cal, responding to everyone’s concerns that he’s just a bit too intense, acts out in the biggest possible way and decides to adopt a group of workers caught up in an immigration fight at a local factory. Sure, Cal is sort of a hero, but this gambit is guaranteed to attract a bunch of media attention — and probably the FBI.
Hawk, meanwhile, has been carrying on his puppy love with Ashley, which goes well until the police arrive at Ashley’s home to evict her family. Hawk asks Sarah and Eddie if the movement can take her family in, and Sarah, ever the noble Meyerist, decides she can’t say no, even if she is furious with her son. When Ashley’s family arrives at the camp, Sarah tries to be nice, but mostly just lectures them about the importance of faith. At the dinner table, Ashley’s mom admits she’s not very religious. Sarah whispers under her breath, “That’s why you’re alone now.”
Sarah’s also alone, even if she’s not willing to admit it. She’s still haunted by the fact that her sister left the movement, and Eddie is slipping back into his doubts. He’s worried that, under Cal’s leadership, the Meyerists hurt people. Plus, he doesn’t know what to do about Alison Kemp, who claims that her husband was killed, and that she had every right to the $40,000 that was just sitting in his account as part of a secret Meyerist mission. So, Alison and Eddie meet up at a bar to discuss the faith. Alison is more toned down than usual in this scene, less shouty and more sympathetic to Eddie’s pain. Sarah Jones and Aaron Paul make a good pair, as they’re both able to simultaneously project gruff anger and uncertainty.
Thankfully, we learn a little more about Alison’s husband from Abe, who puts his FBI training to good use for once by interviewing his parents. They, in turn, pass along the name of a doctor whom he was trying to contact. Jason needed access to an experimental pancreatic-cancer drug, which seems to mean that he knew about Dr. Meyer’s illness. Maybe that’s why he was having doubts. And if so, things seem to bode poorly for Eddie, who returns from his rendezvous with Alison even more unsettled by the Meyerist movement. As she tells him, “Once you’ve seen the first crack, it’s cracked all over.”
Or maybe the better metaphor comes up between Hawk and Ashley, who end the episode with a fight over Ashley’s anger at Meyerist proselytizing. She has nowhere to go, but if she joins, she’d have to turn away from her father, the alcoholic who died in an accident. She can’t pretend he’s not real. “I don’t even know what’s real anymore,” Hawk says. “Well, figure it out,” Ashley says, “Because you’re real to me.” As with any movement that insists on dividing the world, from Augustine to Steven Meyer, the decision hinges on what’s real and what isn’t. Choosing what belongs in the city of God, and what’s left out. Hawk and Ashley kiss, and then they have sex for the first time. It’s a profane act according to Meyerism, but in the moment, it feels sacred.
Notes and Observations:
- I can’t believe the music supervisor was brave enough to play “Blue Velvet” over Eddie and Alison’s conversation in the bar.
- Abe’s baby is not doing better, but he is prepared to pray. How much longer until he falls totally in line with the Meyerists?
- No sign of Freddie Ridge, who is presumably coasting along in Peru after that ayahuasca trip.