Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Fear pervades as characters stray from The Path

Hugh Dancy (Hulu)
Hugh Dancy (Hulu)

After the fireworks of “The Future,” The Path returns to a more contemplative approach with “The Hole,” as the characters grapple with fear. From the very first scene, anxiety grips the episode, be it Eddie’s lurking insecurity over Sarah and Cal’s relationship, Sarah’s panic over losing Hawk, Abe’s concern for his daughter, Alison’s fear of retribution from the Meyerist Movement, or Cal’s dread over the storm John Ridge may call down on the movement. Rather than focus on that fear, however, the episode explores Eddie, Sarah, and Cal’s responses to it. Cal is defined by his need to control himself and those around him, this is nothing new, but Eddie reacts to his vision of Sarah and Cal kissing with stillness, processing and experiencing what he’s feeling before taking any action. The same is true with Hawk. Eddie’s immediate response is not to curtail Hawk’s privileges or remove him from school, but to listen to what he has to say and try to understand where he’s coming from. Under pressure, Eddie defaults to empathy, rather than domination, highlighting the stark differences between Eddie and Cal.

Sarah falls between them, instinctually setting boundaries and trying to snap Hawk back into line, but later opening up to him and trying to help him understand where she’s coming from. The element she adds to the conversation is faith. Whereas Cal responds to stress by taking action and exerting his will and Eddie tries to communicate and see different perspectives, Sarah looks to her beliefs, praying and searching her soul for guidance. It’s notable that after five episodes, Sarah is only the second character shown praying alone, the first being Hawk in “A Homecoming.” Eddie reached out to Alison to try to understand his doubts over the Meyerist Movement, before pushing her away, and Cal looks inward, trusting his judgement above that of his fellow 10Rs or the teachings of Dr. Meyer. We haven’t seen Eddie pray and the closest Cal comes is his breathing exercise this episode, which feels more tied to centering himself than reaching out to a higher power. Sarah actively seeks answers from the divine, however the Meyerist Movement envisions it, and it’s great to see The Path depict what should theoretically be a big part of these characters’ lives. When threatened, Sarah’s instinct is to lash out, as she did with Miranda, but she fights that impulse, seeing how destructive it can be. She was immediately ashamed of her treatment of Miranda and here, she tempers her response to Hawk, trying to reach him emotionally. Unfortunately for her, this attempt fails because it ultimately feeds from the same place as her controlling immediate reaction; she’s still trying to bend Hawk to her will and point of view without letting him express his own.

The intersection of faith, empathy, and control is a fascinating topic and one it will be exciting to see The Path continue to tackle. It’s easy to point to Eddie as being in the right, his more laid-back approach meshing with how the viewers, as non-Meyerists, would respond. However, Hawk ends the episode actively lying to his parents, rather than gently testing his boundaries. At least in the short run, Eddie’s measured response is not proving effective and things are going to get worse before they get better. “The Hole” wisely gives Eddie and Sarah excellent motivations for their reactions. Eddie’s difficult teen years inform his response significantly, but the reveal of Sarah’s lost sister, Tessa, puts them on even footing. This is the first hint of darkness in Sarah’s past and it’s a doozy. Sarah’s pain and fear is palpable as she prays with Cal, and given where this storyline could lead—is a windowless room and lots of juice in Hawk’s future?—showing Sarah as sincerely well-intentioned is crucial.

While the rest of the episode touches on these themes of loss, fear, and healthy or unhealthy responses to both, much of it is spent moving pieces into position. Freddie takes the medicine in Cusco, Hawk commits to Ashley, and Alison and Abe meet, giving Abe a much stronger case to investigate than Mary’s father’s pleas for his daughter’s safe return. The specifics given about Alison’s husband are welcome and the implication that he was smuggling something back and forth from Peru is intriguing. Abe’s energy carries the scene forward, but Alison will need more agency if she’s going to remain a compelling recurring figure. Abe continues to blossom as a character and his scene with Eddie is one of the stronger ones in the episode. Eddie’s instinctual empathy shows itself here as well. Whereas Sarah reassured the Ridges that the Meyerist Movement could help their son, Eddie cautions Abe against a quick fix. Abe needs to embrace his powerlessness in his daughter’s health, Eddie argues, to truly combat his fear or Meyerism won’t be able to help him, painting the movement as a complement, rather than direct path, to growth and fulfillment.

As Hawk is straying however tentatively from the movement, Mary is ready to leave, finally seeing through Cal’s persona. After taking great pains to project a larger-than-life presence, Cal spends this episode as human as he’s been, dropping the pomp and circumstance and snapping at those around him. Only Eddie is spared Cal’s vitriol. In their sessions, as Cal breaks down Eddie physically and mentally to open him up emotionally, Cal is patient and honest, establishing trust and not pushing Eddie on Cusco. It’s a far cry from his manipulative, false concern from the previous episode, but an appreciated bit of shading. As entertaining as their intense scenes were in “The Future,” that dynamic is difficult to sustain and backing away from it a bit, for now, allows the series and the characters to focus on their immediate concerns of Hawk and the Ridges. As for Mary, her shifting her focus away from Cal is a relief. The bit of characterization given Sean works well and it’s nice to see her interacting with someone who genuinely seems to care about her. Perhaps she can begin to heal within the movement.

With the Miranda Frank situation resolved and Hawk convincing Sarah he’s back on board, the Ridges can take center stage, as Cal’s beating is bound to have repercussions for the characters and the movement as a whole. “The Hole” may lack the shakeups and drama of “The Future,” but it’s a strong follow up, exploring the themes of the show while recovering and resetting the board for future developments.


Stray observations

  • Once again, The Path features lovely visuals. The opening shots of the golden autumn leaves are gorgeous, and the sunlight streaming over Mary and Sean as they have sex is warm and gentle, a far cry from the dark room where Mary and Cal had their first sexual encounters.
  • Sarah’s account of her experience in Cusco and vision of the hawk looks great and is effective. Hopefully the show will branch out from only using this kind of visual storytelling when characters are on the Meyerist medicine or juice.
  • Now that Tessa’s been introduced, I can’t wait for Abe to hunt her down. Fingers crossed we get more with Chekhov’s sister soon!
  • Lost watch: After the Dharma Inititive-style Meyerist logo, Eddie’s memorizing of numbers feels like a direct shout out. Cal’s numbers may not be as easy to remember as Hurley’s, but then again, that’s the point. They are: 7 15 12 32 54 76 94 115.
  • Some fans are theorizing that Hawk is actually Cal’s biological son and given Eddie’s deep-seated fear of Sarah preferring Cal and the charged conversations about Hawk between Eddie and Cal, as well as Cal and Sarah, the text seems to support it, at least at the moment.
  • The line of the episode has to be Silas’ pithy answering machine message, “This is Silas. Send a pigeon.”
  • First we get Brian Stokes Mitchell leading the cast in a song in “The Future,” and now we get a montage set to David Bowie’s “Wild Is The Wind.” Keep it up, music department! Speaking of…
  • Score Study: In general, the score for “The Hole” leaves much more space than in previous episodes. The cello may be a comforting presence for Hawk—as it is when Eddie and Hawk talk after Sarah leaves the table—but as the episode opens, it is anything but for Eddie. A mournful cello line is built upon by several elements to create a disconcerting feel as Eddie imagines Sarah and Cal. Sean and Mary’s sex scene feels happier, comparatively speaking, but a tritone—the Devil’s interval—keeps creeping in, casting doubt. Later on, Sean’s speech to Mary benefits from some reassuring cello and wind lines, this time without tritones butting in, as he convinces her to stay. The score as Hawk walks upstairs, after returning home, feels vaguely funereal, like an organ sustaining pitches during a slow processional, and there’s also a church-like feel to the scoring as Sarah and Cal talk, then pray together. As with Hawk’s walk upstairs, the sustained, but moving pitches evoke an organ. Earlier, as Cal pushes back his panic over the Ridges, the wave of chaos he feels is shown with rolled percussion and high-pitched ringing, which he abates and subdues with his breathing exercise, the score returning to a repeating, steady rhythm with regular chord changes. Order has been reestablished.
  • The open, sliding fifths so prominent in “The Future” are back once again, this time not associated with Cal, but scoring Alison and Abe’s scene and continuing under Eddie’s shower. Rather than a particular character, perhaps the composer is associating this motif with doubt, though it could be argued it still speaks to Cal’s presence, as the potential force behind Alison’s husband’s death and the trigger for Eddie’s fears about Sarah.