The Path Recap: On the Road

The Path

The Shore
Season 1 Episode 8
Editor’s Rating *****
Hugh Dancy as Cal. Photo: Hulu

After the rigmarole of last week’s episode — secrets revealed! A standoff with the police! Murder! — “Refugees” settles into something closer to The Path’s typical, trancelike state. Eddie and Hawk begin their walk across the Eastern Seaboard. Cal tries to recover from the aforementioned murder. Sarah learns a secret about her husband, but not until late in the episode. Until then, we’re stuck in a meditative state, watching some of the more haunting cinematography this show has turned out. (Roxann Dawson is the credited director.) Sarah’s fever dream is the obvious standout, but the later moment when Eddie sees his brother on the beach packs more of a punch. Maybe that’s because The Path so often lets its viewers in on every character’s secrets. We know about Eddie’s doubt from the very beginning, so each time it’s revealed, there isn’t much of shock added. Here, instead of moving laterally, we go inward. Eddie’s learning more about himself — his unresolved pain and his longing for rest of the world, broken as it is — at the same time we are.

The Walk begins at an Army base in Maryland, where Dr. Meyer performed tests on soldiers during the Vietnam War, and then, shocked by the horrors he induced, walked away toward spiritual enlightenment. Hawk and Eddie leave stones outside the base — the soldiers aren’t used to pilgrims and are pretty confused — and then continue on their way, accepting decidedly non-vegetarian food at a shelter. “We take what we are given,” Eddie says, and he seems to abide by the lesson. In the morning, a priest offers up a prayer, and Eddie joins in, a moment when Aaron Paul carries off the difficult task of letting his character be surprised by himself.

I like the way The Path approaches the outer world in much the same way that Hawk and Eddie do. Sarah’s surreptitious trip to her sister’s house in “Breaking and Entering” had a parallel feel; she was in enemy territory, awed and frightened by every new discovery. In this episode, however, Hawk and Eddie continue to discover that the outside world isn’t as foreign as they thought. Credit to Kyle Allen, who makes Hawk’s struggle to reconcile the good of the outside world with all of the bad things he’s heard about it. Some strangers are kind. Plus, oyster rolls are delicious. Why do we hate these people again? (Enjoy the sunny outlook while it lasts. Two hippie-looking white guys carrying around trail mix are ripe for a mugging, and I’m willing to bet the other shoe will drop in a future episode.)

Eddie is the linchpin of the sequence. As we know from Eddie’s talks in the Meyerist camp, his brother’s suicide sent him into despair, which made him join the movement. But when Eddie returned to his home on the beach and saw his brother once again, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional gut punch. The show has hinted that spiritual moments occur — and not necessarily according to Meyerist teachings — but never with such force. I keep referring to Eddie as a character who’s losing his faith. Here, I realized, that’s not quite true. He’s remarkably open to the mystical vagaries of the world: visions of his brother, the kindness of strangers, and even his seemingly supernatural wife. (More on that last one in a bit.) He doesn’t seem to have a filter. He absorbs so much pain and so much grace, he doesn’t know what to believe in anymore.

If only the rest of “The Shore” were as strong as that sequence. As much as I, like any good Hannibal fan, enjoy the sight of a tortured Hugh Dancy washing blood off his body, Cal’s murder plot has produced less forward motion than expected. Late at night, he moves the body from the cabin to a hole in the woods, meeting only two people along the way. The first (a member of the movement) brushes him off. The second (Mary’s father) seems like a setup for the season’s endgame. If he tracks down the body, then the FBI might just have a case against the movement. Of course, Cal’s just as culpable for lying to everyone about Dr. Meyer’s health, at least in the eyes of the movement. It’s unclear if this plot truly reveals anything about Cal — beyond the fact that, yes, he was pretty far out already, and yes, he’ll go further if pushed. It’s time we see the consequences.

Further he does go, stopping by a Meyerist camp in Delaware to bring Sean back into the fold. He’s doing it to appease Mary, who’s been hooking up with the redhead nurse, Betsy, both to get access to drugs and to fulfill her natural sense of need. Mary’s thrilled to have Sean back, and the two enjoy some makeup-sex-slash-communing-time, but she’s not able to climb onto the wagon again. When she tries to throw out her stash, she simply can’t force herself to flush the drugs away.

Cal, who’s off the wagon at this point and drinking heavily, washes up in Sarah’s backyard, just as her sister-in-law Nicole is having a baby. “Can it not be about Sarah for a second?” Nicole says. “I’m trying to have a fucking baby here.”

Sorry, Nicole, we’ll get to your trendy water birth in a bit, but we need a quick catch up on Sarah’s life before we continue. Right after Silas’s death, Sarah had a haunting dream in which she saw Hawk and Summer run over by a truck, then suddenly replaced by an orange Medusa-like woman. That woman, in turn, resembles one of late Silas’s clay idols of Pachamama, the Incan earth goddess — one of which appeared on Sarah’s desk right after Cal killed Silas. In short: She’s feeling very mystical, though she’s not sure what it all means.

Back to Nicole’s water birth, which seems to go just fine, until the baby comes out with the umbilical cord around its neck. It’s not breathing. Sarah pulls off a miracle of sorts and resuscitates the baby. Cal watches in awe. He pulls her aside, semi-confesses his love, and then they kiss. It’s passionate — we know there’s a dark and dangerous spark between them — but Sarah fends Cal off. Then, seemingly deciding that things should just implode, Cal says he has a secret. No, not that he killed a man — that Eddie was lying about Miranda Frank. The way Michelle Monaghan plays the scene, it’s as if deep down, Sarah already knew. She’s not shocked. That explains why Cal made Eddie go on the walk in the dead of winter, she realizes. Later, she looks for evidence, tearing through Eddie’s car. She finds a phone that logged all his calls to Alison.

Other Notes and Observations:

  • “The Shore” samples from the National’s “About Today” and Daniel Spaleniak’s “Why.” The Path’s soundtrack continues to favor 2000s samples that would sound right at home next to the Meyerist’s favorite ’60s and ’70s folk rock.
  • Abe thinks his investigation is going well, but his boss, after taking him and his wife to dinner, decides it’s time to pull him off the case. Abe storms off in the middle of dinner, which might mean we’ve got a rogue agent on our hands. Further evidence that Abe might soon figure out Cal’s murderous secret?
  • Felicia is still around the camp, after coming in to consult on the refugee crisis. She tells Sarah to keep an eye on Cal, which is really so obvious everyone should stop telling each other that now.
  • Given all the Madonna imagery that floats around Sarah, how long until she performs a real-life miracle? (Reviving a baby in tight circumstances is close, but it doesn’t quite count.) Is Sarah a reincarnation of Pachamama, as her dreams kinda, sorta suggest? Maybe I’m just hoping for a big twist to spice up the final two episodes of the season.
  • Has Path executive producer Annie Weisman read Delmore Schwartz’s “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities?” There are haunting parallels between that short story and this episode, which Weisman wrote, especially in all the scenes set at Brighton Beach.

The Path Recap: On the Road