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

The Path explores the lingering power of touch

Michelle Monaghan (Hulu)
Michelle Monaghan (Hulu)

Would that every teenager were as level-headed as Ashley. All season, The Path has mined gold from what on paper should be its least compelling storyline, Hawk and Ashley’s budding relationship. Teenaged angst, rebellion, and romance are well-trod territory on television and fans of the medium have no doubt seen more than their fair share of cheesy, overwritten, and poorly acted young love stories. The Path has managed to deftly avoid these pitfalls, creating in Hawk and Ashley two recognizable, relatable, and eminently watchable individuals doing their best in complicated situations. They’ve found in each other someone who will support and care for them without trying to fix them, giving them the space they need to deal with the instability in their lives. Ashley’s attempts to nudge Hawk toward acceptance of his feelings for her, instead of shame and self-hate, are gentle and driven by concern for him. She doesn’t minimize what he’s going through or dictate how he should respond, just as Hawk respects her boundaries when it comes to the Meyerist Movement, doing his best to make her feel comfortable in his home. Both want to stay in their bubble, creating a safe space for each other, but the larger implications of their relationship loom. With each new intimacy, the painful split that must come—be it between Hawk and Ashley or Hawk and his family—moves closer.

The power of touch and physical connection is on display throughout “Breaking And Entering.” Hawk and Ashley take their relationship to the next level, committing to and comforting each other, while even the thought of Cal and Sarah together is enough to sour Eddie on the end-of-episode picnic. Eddie’s fear is not baseless, it is revealed, as Cal and Sarah remain preoccupied with Cal’s clasping of Sarah’s arm as she reached to comfort him after his beating. The scenes between the pair have been charged for several episodes and that continues here, Hugh Dancy and Michelle Monaghan encapsulating their dynamic with a few simple gestures. Cal wants love but can’t accept it, pushing Sarah’s hand away before changing his mind and reaching for it forcefully, lest it slip away. This is true with Sarah, the person Cal most cares for, but it’s also how he’s repeatedly treated Mary, rejecting her then reaching out on his own terms, regardless of her feelings.

While Cal longs for Sarah, it’s Hawk she most wants to connect with. Her focus shifts back from Cal to him immediately when she learns he hasn’t ended his relationship with Ashley. Sarah spends the rest of the episode trying to reassure herself about Hawk and it’s this anxiety that leads her to look up Tessa for the first time. Her walk through Tessa’s home is beautifully shot, Sarah occupying the same space as her sister, the closest she will allow herself to a reunion, and peering in on what seems to be her happy, comfortable life. There’s a sense of the road not traveled here, Sarah putting on her sister’s lipstick and imagining a version of herself that left with Tessa all those years ago. Sarah’s wistful, if not exactly happy, reverie is broken, however, when she discovers the scores of medications in Tessa’s name. Clearly all is not well and the thought of her sister content and fulfilled, if isolated from the rest of their family, can no longer comfort Sarah.

The final and most surprising connection is between Eddie and Alison, who share a very different dynamic here than in their previous exchanges. Eddie’s concern for Alison’s safety, had Cal found her, may have made him feel more generous towards her, but it’s also possible the writers looked at their initial scenes and saw they weren’t quite working. Eddie and Alison’s open and supportive rapport in the bar is a distinct improvement on their more antagonistic earlier scenes, giving Eddie his first opportunity to speak honestly since the start of the series. By the time he leaves, gently touching Alison’s wrist as he goes, Eddie and Alison have seen each other, her acknowledging her guilt over bringing Jason into the movement to begin with and Eddie acknowledging just how much his faith has been shaken.

Just as notable is who isn’t touching in this episode. With Hawk and Ashley’s relationship outed, Eddie and Sarah are at odds again over how to handle the situation, their body language closed off as they confer in their bathroom. We’ve seen a range of physical connection from these two, from supportive to performative to troubling, but here they’re distant, and not just because of the extra lump between them in bed. They’re trying to connect and Sarah is certainly affected by Eddie’s doubts, confronting Cal immediately the next day, but despite their efforts, space remains. Also at a remove are Sean and Mary, Sean upset at Mary for Cal sending him away when Cal’s late-night booty call is thwarted. Though Sean’s frustration is understandable, it’s hard to see the ray of happiness Mary found with him so quickly pulled away. By the end of the episode, Mary is as disillusioned with the movement as we’ve seen her, isolated along with Eddie at the otherwise warm and friendly picnic.

While previous episodes have explored characters’ belief in the Meyerist Movement, “Breaking And Entering” is interested in their faith in each other, in the importance and impact of human contact. Who we let in and who we keep at arm’s reach shapes us tremendously and as the episode shows, a simple touch can linger powerfully in the memory. With Hawk, Eddie, Mary, and Abe’s faith in flux, change is headed to The Path, and who each character turns to for counsel, who they feel most connected to, will define their stories and the series as a whole.


Stray observations

  • Abe’s brief scenes at home are great. Adding financial troubles on top of the baby’s health scare—their house is for sale by owner, with the price reduced—makes Abe even more vulnerable to the movement, and his, “I saw it when I looked in the light” is unsettling, to say the least. However, the information discovered by Abe this episode is interesting, as are Alison’s throwaway comments about the movement funneling money through her bank account. I’m actively rooting for Abe at this point, but I’m with his wife: He needs to keep his personal life a bit more separated from his work.
  • The drawing of a house on fire on Hawk’s sister’s wall is unnerving. Her room is quite a contrast from what we see of Tessa’s childrens’ activities and interests. Also, we officially have a last name for Sarah’s family, the Armstrongs!
  • Both Cal and Sarah look in mirrors this episode. The shot of Sarah reflected on Cal’s eye is gorgeous, zooming into his memory, and the editing of both this sequence and Sarah’s praying is very effective.
  • Tying into the idea from “The Hole” about Cal as an agent of control, Sarah as one of faith, and Eddie as one of empathy, it’s interesting that we see Cal praying alone for the first time this episode, inspired by Sarah and by Eddie’s call to focus on helping people, rather than chasing Alison. However, Cal may come to regret taking in these families—his one positive act of the episode—if it allows Abe to send a team into the compound.
  • Speaking of Cal, he keeps offering people tea and no one wants any. Maybe if he treated people better, they’d stay for his tea party.
  • They’re benefiting from strong writing, but Kyle Allen and Amy Forsyth are also doing great work as Hawk and Ashley. Just when I think I can’t like Ashley more, she calls out Hawk and the movement on their obvious hypocrisy. I don’t want Hawk to be separated from his family, but I also don’t want him and Ashley to break up, and I certainly don’t want her sacrificing her skepticism and clear-eyed view of Meyerism on his behalf. Something will have to give, and it won’t be pretty.
  • Sarah is downright mean when she chastises Ashley’s mom, “That’s why you’re alone now.” However, history’s worst monster remains Joy, who crosses over from questionably meddling to downright insufferable as she lectures Ashley on Hank’s “medicinal compound.”
  • Sarah and Eddie may not be on the same page, but I love their conversations throughout this episode, particularly that Eddie is finally letting out more of what he’s been feeling.
  • Score Study: When Hawk and Ashley make out at her house, they do so to more of that forbidden, dangerous modern music, rather than scoring. This gives way to an unresolved perfect fifth as the officers arrive and Ashley’s life is thrown into (even more) chaos. Later, when Hawk and Ashley consummate their relationship, the score is supportive and caring. Clearly the show is rooting for these crazy kids to work it out.
  • The scoring for several scenes is particularly evocative. A low repeated pitch accompanies Eddie’s nighttime, “Now that Cal’s in charge,” an idea he can’t get out of his brain, and Eddie’s distorted, muted perception of “To The Top Of Huayna Picchu” effectively puts us in his shoes. When Sarah thinks of Cal as she’s praying, the score is intense, with some nice percussion elements and in the paralleled scene, as Cal thinks of Sarah, the score has a creepier feel, rolled percussion taking us to his memory.
  • Also creepy is the repeating two note pattern that practically screams, “Come into our web!” as Ashley’s mom talks with the Armstrongs about Meyerism. At Tessa’s home, Sarah’s heartbeat and the gulp of her pushing saliva past an emotional lump in her throat is reflected in the score, paired with a simple piano line. In a nice bit of detail, the piano feels homey, more like an upright than a concert grand.
  • The open, sliding fifth doubt motif returns this episode as Sarah tells Cal, “Screw the money,” then continues as she investigates Alison and Jason Kemp. Here, however, it’s paired with a few other instruments, making it feel much warmer than in previous episodes. Sarah investigating the Kemps is a good thing.