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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Visions of the past and future haunt a contemplative The Path

Aaron Paul (Hulu)
Aaron Paul (Hulu)

The dramatic events of “Refugees” loom large over “The Shore,” but rather than focus on these turns, “The Shore” uses its story shakeups to examine character. Two bottles deep, Cal brings Silas’ body out to Eddie’s hole and buries him, but he doesn’t stop there. After another bottle, he’s in Delaware, picking up Sean. It’s surprising that in the state we see him, Cal is able to think of Mary, bringing Sean back for her. He’s clearly racked with guilt over Silas, but that hasn’t washed Mary’s pain from his memory and the least he can do is try to alleviate some of the distress he’s caused. His desire to atone doesn’t extend to Sarah, however, and rather than confess and ease his burden over Silas, when Sarah puts the brakes on their hookup, Cal whispers to her of Eddie’s lies. While this could be Cal simply looking to split up Sarah and Eddie, it feels more personal than that. Sarah chose Eddie when they were young, and here she chooses Eddie again. Some part of him wants to punish her for that rejection. Cal idolizes Sarah, seeing her not as a person, but as goodness personified, the Meyerist ideal he is meant to be. He wants desperately to win her, to be worthy of something so pure, and each time that validation is denied him, he lashes out.

While Cal is active through most of the episode, Sarah spends much of “The Shore” responding to those around her, whether it’s Cal, who shows up drunk in her back yard, or Nicole and her baby, whose birth she midwifes. Sarah’s most intriguing scene is her dream, which sees first Hawk and then Summer in danger of being hit by a truck, before Sarah shields Summer and finds that she’s been replaced by Silas’ Pachamama. Sarah’s concern for Hawk is understandable, given his sudden departure with Eddie, but Summer’s endangerment speaks to a larger fear for her family and the dream ending with Sarah having protected Pachamama is inscrutable. While the design of Silas’ Pachamama is striking, it’s a far cry from traditional representations of the Andean fertility goddess, which don’t necessarily personify her—showing her as a mountain or other embodiment of Mother Nature—let alone give her red eyes and snakes for hair. Given The Path’s previous use of a snake in Eddie’s vision, the medusa-like head of Silas’ Pachamama hopefully has significance, rather than being included just to look cool, with little regard for the actual religious figure. Snakes have a very different place in Andean culture and religion than in Western mythologies and religions, considered positive rather than representing danger or evil, and if the show is ignoring this and including snakes in their design of Pachamama to tie into their Western associations, that is very disappointing. Unfortunately, with Silas dead, it seems unlikely we’ll get an explanation for his nontraditional interpretation of Pachamama, and explanations of Sarah’s dream or Eddie’s original vision don’t appear forthcoming.

Eddie’s visions this episode are far more grounded. Exhausted after a long couple days of walking and little food, Eddie and Hawk find themselves at Coney Island and Eddie is flooded with memories of his brother, eventually seeing him as he stands on the shore. Eddie clearly has unresolved issues around his brother’s death and tying them into his loss of faith works incredibly well. Rather than simplify Eddie’s crisis of conscious, showing it as having been brought on by his discovery of the dying Meyer in Cusco, “The Shore” brings to the surface insecurities that have always been with Eddie, pushed below the surface. He’s never felt a strong connection to the movement we learn, only Sarah, and despite decades away from Christianity, when prompted, Eddie slips easily back into the prayers of his childhood. The rocks that fall gently through Eddie’s fingers as he approaches the vision of his brother speak to the weight he still carries from this loss, and Aaron Paul gives a fantastic performance in these scenes, showing Eddie’s surprise, joy, and confusion at seeing his brother again. When Eddie and Hawk started on their walk, it seemed like Eddie was going through the motions, mollifying Cal rather than genuinely undertaking a spiritual journey. Seeing Eddie uncover this lurking trauma and process how it ties into his larger spiritual conflict promises even greater depth for this already nuanced character.

As for Hawk, the writers do a great job balancing his inexperience with the intense conflict he’s feeling between his upbringing and home and love for Ashley. Eddie’s respect for Hawk’s struggle and willingness to let him make his own decisions is heartening; Eddie really is a great father. Paul and Kyle Allen are tremendous together throughout, but their scenes at Coney Island stand out in particular, supporting and balancing one another as honest communication brings up unexpected waves of emotion. It’s a shame that with only two episodes left this season, Eddie and Hawk will have to get back to the Meyerist compound soon. Hopefully there’s room for at least one more heart-to-heart between the two before they make their way home.

Even more lost than Hawk is Mary, who is overjoyed upon Sean’s return, but can’t bring herself to flush her stash of Buprenorphine. Sean’s jealousy of Cal may have been calmed, but it’s doubtful he’ll take the news of Mary’s redheaded hookup particularly well. Emma Greenwell continues her excellent work as Mary; it’s impossible not to root for her, despite her treatment of Betsy, and to hope for a happy outcome for her, as unlikely as that seems. Romantic harmony is fleeting on The Path however, and with Sarah finding Eddie’s burner and likely to hunt down Alison Kemp, it’s hard to be optimistic about what the final two episodes of the season will bring for any of the show’s couples.

Stray observations

  • This episode is directed by Roxann Dawson, who deserves special mention along with series cinematographer Yaron Orbach for the gorgeous visuals found throughout. As Cal drunkenly makes his way across the compound early on, mist clings to the ground and moonlight illuminates his way. Later, when Mary and Sean meet up by the lake, the scene glows with golden light, a lens flare in the top right of the frame and warm sunlight reflecting off the water. The cold blue light when Mary doesn’t dispose of her drugs is striking, and the shots of Eddie at the shore with the vision of his brother are beautiful as well.
  • Another scene with fantastic lighting is Cal and Sarah’s make out session, which ends with Sarah and Cal talking in close proximity, half of Cal’s face illuminated, half in shadow. Usually on television or in film when a character is lit like this, the contrast between the two sides of their face is dramatic and glaring, practically screaming to those who pay attention to such things, “This character is two-faced!” Here, the lighting is subtle, distinct but not distracting from the performances. Another—less subtle—note from this scene is the costuming: Sarah’s in white, Cal’s in dark grey.
  • I am not intrigued in the least by the clam rolls Eddie and Hawk devour, but I’m absolutely with Hawk at the diner when he demands answers, “If I can’t even have pie…”
  • I didn’t mention it above, but the birth scene is truly lovely and all of the actors give strong, moving performances.
  • Cal’s heavy breathing for the first chunk of the episode feels appropriate. He’s wasted and under tremendous strain, struggling to maintain control over his body. However, him still breathing heavily hours later, when we cut back to Silas in Eddie’s hole, is confusing. If he hasn’t rested between getting Silas into the hole and where we pick up with him, why is he on the ground, a ways away from the body, with the shovel still covered by leaves? The timeline and editing for this sequence is confusing and after a while, the heavy breathing dominating the sound mix feels forced, rather than natural.
  • Abe shoots his career in the foot with his reaction to being taken off the Meyerists. Who wants to bet he stays on them anyways, and that his boss or someone else higher up has ties to the movement?
  • Score Study: The scoring as the episode opens features organ and feels funereal, appropriate for Silas. This continues as Cal moves to dispose of Silas’ body, with whirring and half-step sliding elements layered overtop. As Cal is burying Silas’ body, the percussion motif prominent in the previous two episodes returns, with a guitar and low rumble added in as Cal sees the snowy owl and feels judged.
  • As Hawk talks about Ashley at the shelter and later, while Eddie prays, the score falls into a clear three pattern, the steady rhythm giving the scene a comforting feel. The predictability of this pattern and the regular chord changes that go with it is reassuring. Both scenes feature harp, a warm, inviting sound, with the cello accompanying Hawk’s scene as well. Harp and cello return when they’re by the shore, as Hawk tries to convey the depth of his love for Ashley to Eddie. Also at Coney Island, the score uses large sixth and seventh intervals, the space between the low and high notes adding a hopeful, reaching feel to the scene. This is a stark contrast to the half-steps (think Jaws) that accompany much of the action this episode. Lastly, as Eddie sees his brother, sustained pitches bend, uncertain, while chords are outlined. Eddie doesn’t know what’s happening, and he’s not sure how to feel.
  • The score for Sarah’s dream is neat, a strong sound of air combined with distortion, a heartbeat motif, and percussion. This is called back later, with a cello added in, when Sarah and Felicia talk and Sarah sees Silas’ Pachamama figurine. When Cal sees the figurine later, the score turns ominous, and the half-steps return. There’s more interesting scoring with Sarah and Cal throughout the episode, particularly when Cal appears in her back yard. The score goes from a third to a dissonant tritone and then, as Sarah helps Cal upstairs, a clear and steady perfect fifth. Sarah will make everything alright.
  • Notably missing for the past two episodes has been the sliding perfect fifth doubt motif that memorably popped up in several earlier episodes. We’ll see whether it returns by the season finale.