That sets up a premiere that’s both intriguing on a story level (the all-seeing-eye artwork of Meyerism is the only creepy nuance that first script needs) and on a structural one. The show begins by introducing Eddie and Sarah’s family, along with their day-to-day life at the compound, while only hinting at the transgressions he’s partaking in behind her back. By the midway point of the first episode, Goldberg folds everything back in on itself, switching perspectives, and lays the seeds of Eddie’s possible dubiety with none of the repetitiveness such a rewind might suggest. It helps that a couple episodes – the premiere and finale particularly – have some truly off-putting imagery, which frequently risk tilting the show into madness. The writers deftly pull the reigns back in the nick of time, every time, but still, ophidiophobics be warned.
Admittedly, in between those opening and closing episodes, The Path can grow tiresome. In opposition to the strict and direct ladder at the center of the Meyerist movement, there are long stretches of lackadaisical, meandering plot developments, like a cop (Rockmond Dunbar) who stumbles onto a possible murder in the Meyerist compound. He eventually becomes so ingrained in the culture that it’s hard to tell whether he believes in his investigation or not, until a late-in-the-season development speedily ties everything up. His indecision, while believable, pales in comparison to Eddie’s. It also highlights The Path‘s tone, which is too conspicuous to be truly menacing. This is a creepy little show, but you won’t exactly end up on the edge of your seat.
Hawk’s infatuation with Ashley is maybe the biggest subplot on the show, and Allen and Forsyth’s adorable awkwardness constantly bends it closer to producer Jason Katims’ other series, Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. That might sound weird given how dark The Path can be, but Katims’ previous works are essentially Trojan Horses of gritty tension and knock-you-horizontal devastation disguised as dysfunctional family dramas. The Path is just that in reverse. Still, a turn taken halfway through the season surrounding the forced close proximity between Ashley’s non-religious family and Hawk’s Meyerism-spouting clan finds the show at its lowest dramatic rung.
Like everything else in The Path, it’s understandable and believable the way the outsiders react, but they remind you how otherwise unique everything in the show feels when you, as a viewer, become so ingrained – perhaps questionably – in Meyerism yourself. There’s probably a deeper purpose to the religion’s pull, one hidden in the machinations of a very, earnestly dense show (one, admittedly, not conducive to binge-watching in two sittings), but sometimes that message is too deep, and buried too far in the convoluted weeds of its religious fervor. How long you’re willing to stick it out and walk down your own path to discover the light in the garden (and a wicked good finale) is up to you – but us believers will be patiently waiting for you if you do.
Captivating yet repeatedly ponderous, there's a frustrating give-and-take effect to The Path's dramatic impact, but any negatives are largely overshadowed by an adeptly constructed world and powerhouse performances.