The Path Recap: Irreconcilable Differences

The Path

A Room of One's Own
Season 1 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating *****
Aaron Paul as Eddie, Michelle Monaghan as Sarah. Photo: Hulu

For all the time it’s spent on the inner workings of the Meyerist movement, The Path is essentially a show about divorce. Can you live with someone who believes the opposite of what you believe, even if you really love them? Can you violate your own principles because you love someone else?

The essential difference, in Eddie and Sarah’s case, comes down to a single exchange:

Eddie: We’re all that matters.

Sarah: We’re a part of something that matters, and we matter because we are a part of it.

This show couldn’t provide a more succinct explication of its central themes, of the tension it depicts between individual agency and community. But that’s just what’s under the surface. Sarah and Eddie have the texture of real people. “A Room of One’s Own” is the first episode where they seem to fully acknowledge the insurmountable differences between themselves. It’s also an episode where they fuck, passionately, on the kitchen floor. People aren’t Kit Kat bars; they don’t easily break apart.

It all begins when Sarah finds Alison at a bar, after discovering Eddie’s burner phone in last week’s episode. She seems unfazed when Alison promises that she and Eddie didn’t have an affair, as if she’d already realized that Eddie was having doubts. Michelle Monaghan’s steely gaze has gotten more unnerving as the season has gone on, since we know how much damage she’s capable of wrecking. But this time, she keeps her cards close to her chest. She gives Alison her husband’s journal, which he kept up until his death, and then she leaves.

When Eddie and Hawk return from their walk, they do not get the veggie chili they dreamed about. Instead, Sarah ambushes Eddie, says that she knows about Alison, and then back at the house, they break into their largest fight yet. This is where the aforementioned argument kicks in. It’s powerful, especially because both characters have done wrong. Eddie’s extended series of lies hurt Miranda Frank. Sarah’s refusal to show any sort of forgiveness and compassion is, well, hurting everyone.

I do wish The Path got to this moment sooner. There’s so much tension, and it spills out in all sorts of interesting directions. Hawk, ennobled by his time with Eddie on their big walk, decides that he’s going to leave the movement to be with Ashley. “This is your entire life,” Ashley says, echoing Sarah. “You’re my entire life,” Hawk says, echoing his father. Of course, Hawk’s announcement doesn’t go over well with Sarah, who says that if he leaves the movement, he can’t see his family ever again. The camera catches Summer, the forgotten younger sister, whose face wrinkles with both sadness and curiosity as Hawk walks by her and out of the house. There’s an entire custody battle in that look. It’s the kind of moment both of them might remember 15 years later.

The weight carries into a later scene where Eddie talks to Sarah’s parents, figuring that they might reason with their daughter, since they’ve already lost her sister. The opposite happens. “There’s gotta be some fucking room for doubt,” Eddie says. Sarah’s mother is resolute. She’s fine with losing everyone who doubts, all the “people who lack conviction, cowards.” Maybe their family can’t acknowledge how hard it was to cut off her sister. Or maybe they really do believe they’re in the right.

At this point, Cal intervenes. Sarah, whose calls to Silas are unanswered (because Silas is DEAD), comes to Cal for help. Their connection is stronger than ever, and they kiss, though Sarah quickly pulls away. (A kettle hisses in the background of this scene, because The Path has never had a moment of tension it didn’t want to underline.)

Then, like a dark knight with a blue Prius, Cal shows up at Hawk’s school, where he gives Ashley an offer she can’t refuse: a new house for her family. A room of her own. The only catch? She has to break up with Hawk so he won’t lose his family. “You know what it is to lose a parent, Ashley,” Cal says. “It is boundless fucking grief.” The scene where Ashley breaks up with Hawk is intercut with Cal’s words, as if she’s sleepwalking through the moment. Cal has her under his spell.

This conflation of separation and loss also resonates through the show, even if it isn’t always a neat parallel. Eddie, Ashley, and Alison have had someone taken from them. Sarah (with her sister), Mary (with her father), and Cal (with his mother, to an extent) have cut people out. Cal is certainly forcing an equivalence, but it’s a worthy comparison. It makes you consider how grief isn’t a passive emotion. For so many of these characters, it’s an active influence. They have to believe in something bigger than themselves, for better or for worse. (Certainly for better, in Mary’s case.) They have to divorce themselves.

But Eddie decides to intervene. When Hawk comes back home, and recites Ashley’s breakup speech, Eddie thinks that Sarah must be behind it all. He goes to a meeting of the upper rungs, where he realizes that Sarah and Cal might be in cahoots. Then, in a moment of fury that will surely get him in trouble with the movement, he punches Cal. Thank God, I thought, Cal deserves it. But then, Oh no, they’ll put Eddie in a cell. And then, No, they’ll just excommunicate him and never let him see his family again. Point being, we’re heading toward a major rupture in next week’s season finale.

In other news, Mary, Sean, and Betsy continue to make a fuss among the low rungs, especially when Sean and Betsy get in a fight in the cafeteria. Honestly, this all feels like the drama kids might have at summer camp — with potent drugs added, of course — and it’s hard to connect these story lines to the complex patterning of the main plot. Still, there’s a significant moment when Cal gives a lecture on the importance of marriage to Sean and Mary, then encourages them to get hitched for the good of the movement. Mary agrees to the idea, but Emma Greenwell and Hugh Dancy share a smoldering glance that makes it certain that Mary and Cal’s drama is far from over.

Also, Cal travels to Peru to visit Dr. Meyer and talk about how he “tried to be your son” and not let the movement die, before heading back to New York and promising everyone that the movement is all fine and dandy. In a private moment, he tells Sarah that Steve wants the two of them to lead the movement. He even holds a secret meeting with John Ridge (whose son Freddie is cured, but now in art school, proving that you can’t win everything) in a parody of a burlesque bar to ensure that he controls the movement’s finances. So yes, Cal has nearly seized total rule.

All that seems like stage-setting for the finale, when Cal will presumably bring some sort of fury down on Eddie, and the Lane family will have to choose once and for all: Split or stay together? It’s a climax that The Path could have reached earlier in the season, but regardless, let’s not look a gift of dramatic tension in the mouth.

(Let’s not overlook a bit of a magical realism, either. Abe, who is currently on a little FBI hiatus, hears that Jason was found with burns on his hands after falling off a mountain. Did he touch the ladder? Could the ladder be real?)

And then, there is Alison. I was certainly intrigued by her later scenes in this episode, which take on a moving and surreal quality, almost like a fairy tale. We see her wander through the woods with her husband’s journal, tearing out pages, the papers fluttering around her. She loads her pockets with stones and walks out onto the ice, but doesn’t fall through.

For most of this season, Alison has felt like a prop for Eddie and Sarah’s relationship drama. “A Room of One’s Own” makes the wise but risky choice to yank her motivation — her conviction that her husband was murdered — out from under her. In the end, she decides to return to the movement. Not entirely because she believes the journal, but because she needs the kind of certainty it can provide. An episode built around divorce and separation ends with an estranged woman, who tried so hard to strike out on her own, ambiguously coming home.

The Path Recap: Irreconcilable Differences