‘The Path’ shows potential for a powerful series

Sunday, April 3, 2016 - 5:06pm

NOSELL

Hulu

 

In releasing its original series, Hulu has bucked the trend set by Netflix and Amazon Prime. Unlike its competitors, the network puts out an episode of its show weekly, instead of putting out entire seasons at the same time. Hulu made its name by making episodes available as they air from major broadcast and cable networks, so this makes sense for them as a whole. However, in the case of “The Path,” the show might have benefited from releasing more than two episodes at the same time. There’s nothing in “The Path” that’s explicitly worthy of harsh criticism, but the first two episodes don’t do the legwork to support what is actually an intriguing premise.

“The Path” follows a wide array of new and old followers of a cult called “Meyerism.” There’s Mary Cox (Emma Greenwell, “Shameless”), a person who was “rescued” by the group from a tornado and is adjusting to life in her new community. Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy, “Hannibal”), the de facto leader of the religion’s East Coast section, tries to expand the Meyerism’s reach. Meanwhile, Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”) struggles with his commitment to faith after catching the leaders in a lie while on a trip to the headquarters to “climb the ladder,” while his wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan, “True Detective”), tries to figure out what’s going on.

Within each of these stories, there’s something the writers can grab onto and leverage to make an absorbing series. There are questions of faith and the meaning of religion in the face of personal struggles, but the show doesn’t quite do enough to play with them. Take Eddie, whose struggle puts him in conflict with his wife and everything he holds dear. The show is obviously trying to get this idea to stretch across the 10-episode season by having him waver back and forth a lot in the first two episodes. Once he reaches a point of conviction, the story may gain momentum. Until then, it just leaves me wanting more.

Without strength in the story, the drama leaves the intrigue-building to its cast, which is brimming with talented actors who elevate their material. The series marks the return to television of Paul, who was remarkable throughout the entire run of “Breaking Bad.” All the compelling elements of Eddie’s early struggle can be attributed to Paul’s performance. Dancy, who was robbed of multiple Emmys for his work on “Hannibal,” conveys the aura of mystery around his character that you would expect from a cult leader. His storyline is going nowhere in the first episodes, but he’s building enough dimensions that when the show does decide to use his character, he’ll be ready.

Somewhere inside the stories and themes of “The Path,” there’s a powerful show waiting to open its eyes completely. As it moves through the first season, there’s potential for the payoff of these stories to resonate strongly and deeply. However, it’s just not there yet after the first two hours. At least, like any good cult, the series did leave me wanting to learn more.