Full disclosure: We’ve never been fans of Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy) — yet, Wednesday’s (March 8) episode of “The Path” sheds some light on his troubled childhood. Alluding to bouts of unspoken abuse he suffered, the Hulu series has us wondering if redemption is in the cards for the Meyerist leader.
Using child abuse — sexual, or otherwise — as a shortcut to sympathy is a tough path (pun intended) for a show to traverse. How awful can a character be before a bombshell like this is revealed to humanize him, and try to lead us towards empathy over disdain? Let’s remember: Cal is guilty of rape, assault, blackmail and murder — yet having a brief peek into his past, through a tearful admission by his dying mother Brenda (Kathleen Turner), leads Meyerism’s light-filled world into a deeper darkness we didn’t know existed.
She was never able to deliver an in-person apology to Cal: Being a bad parent is one thing, but admitting to turning one’s back on molestation is a tough pill to swallow. Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) isn’t one for accepting difficult truths — but Brenda’s claim sends her on an impromptu downward spiral.
Think about that for a second: Cal’s intense focus to keep the Movement intact has led him down many dangerous roads — but if these violent and obsessive behaviors stem from regular abuse by Dr. Meyer (Keir Dullea) on the young boy, we’re looking at a game-changing trauma that reframes everything about the show, from the Movement itself to Cal’s destructive actions…
And hopefully, a new story vector for Cal, if he gets the chance to face this head-on and — let’s say — unburden himself.
Cal did take one step toward possible progress: Admitting he may not be able to move forward in this leadership position. The damaged man he’s become inflicting a steady amount of damage to the world around him — and that’s a behavior Meyerism cannot abide.
As we watched Cal struggle to pitch the tenets of Meyerism to bring a young pop star back from the brink — and of course, helping Noah’s music mogul mother (Melanie Griffith) in the process, to bring home the much-needed bacon the Movement needs to stay afloat — we couldn’t help but wonder: How can he continue to believe in the Meyerist agenda if Cal’s lost any real belief in himself?
Any good cult is only as good as its leader’s charisma and narcissism, of course… But in this case, the writing on the wall is becoming clearer with each episode: Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul) is the true leader Meyerism needs — the mark of the light etched into his back, along with his continuing visions, are firm signifiers of his fate.
But then, if Eddie accepts this fate — what happens next? It can’t be that easy to mend fences with son Hawk (Kyle Allen) and Sarah, right? And while that’s one can of worms he’s going to inevitably need to open, we can’t help but worry about Cal’s eventual reaction to the whole thing.
A confrontation between Eddie and Cal has been building all season: If Eddie steps up to guide the Movement into the garden as Richard (Clark Middleton) suggested, there’s no way Cal can let his leadership position go without a fight.
“The Path” Season 2 streams a new episode every Wednesday on Hulu.