Hulu’s The Path, though not without its problems, has steadily introduced more and more intriguing plot designs to its story. While there’s a part of me that still wishes Cal had not been so quickly villainized with the Meyerist movement—there’s enough happening on the show to keep me looking forward to a second season, should Hulu make the right choice, and decide to renew it.
The season finale, “The Miracle,” isn’t one of the show’s strongest episodes. Some of the big reveals fall a bit flat (though Todd Vann DerWerff sees some as hints at a superhero element), partly because they’re only being revealed to the characters, not the audience. We knew Cal wrote the last three rungs, and has been lying about Steve. We also knew, from one of the final shots in the last episode, that a grief-stricken Alison—after reading her husband’s journal—was returning to the movement (though we didn’t know what, exactly, she’d read). And it wasn’t any real surprise that Sarah decided to stand by Cal, as leaders of the future of Meyerism, nor was it a shock that Cal’s lie about Steve showing up was twisted into a big moment for their movement—Steve’s transition into the Light.
But there was one character I never expected to make an appearance on show: Jesus. From the beginning, I’ve argued that Meyerism wasn’t just an obvious and easy parallel to Scientology, or other groups often viewed as cults; The Path presents the movement as a critique of the very notion of organized religion, and groups that seek to simultaneously unify and exclude. But the connection to an organized religion like Christianity is more bluntly presented in “The Miracle,” when Cal first presents Alison to his followers. He goes so far as to suggest that Jesus himself was actually an early prophet of the Light:
This unforgiving tenant has been revisited. Now Steve asks us to remember the words of another prophet of the Light—the one who said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The Light has always asked us to be a movement of love. And forgiveness is the ultimate act of love.
This introduction of Jesus could potentially complicate so much of the narrative. Cal is basically saying that they will no longer treat deniers with the viciousness they have in the past. My suspicion is that he partly wants to make things easier on Sarah. Her husband is now a denier, but Eddie is demanding that he stay in the picture, especially for the sake of their children. This wouldn’t have been possible, under Steve’s Meyerism.
But the other thing Cal accomplishes in naming (without explicitly naming) Jesus, is that he wins over those Christians doubting his movement. Sean’s parents are in town for his wedding, and they’re adamantly opposed to the whole thing. They wince when he denounces Jesus, and his mother laments that he’s not being married in a Church. But she completely changes her tune after Cal’s announcement. She goes to Mary and apologizes—even going so far as to present her with her old bridal veil (which Mary will then, naturally, wear while having sex with Cal in a later scene). Hearing a reference to her God, her prophet of the Christian Light, makes her immediately comfortable with the movement. It’s not like she’ll ever convert, but she feels relieved that her son is, ultimately, receiving the same message that she has accepted: Jesus is a part of the Light, and is a symbol of love and forgiveness.
Throughout the season, we’ve watched as Cal has gone against those other members who don’t want the movement to change. Cal is always about expansion—that’s why he takes Alison back; that’s why he welcomed the refugees; that’s why he gave that interview, when Meyerism was always supposed to be kept quiet, to an extent. And now, it seems, he’s gunning for the approval of the most powerful religious organization in America, by naming their God an original prophet of the Light. The fact that this episode was set during the Christmas holiday further suggests that Christianity is being explicitly invited into the narrative. There’s also the gift that Eddie gives his daughter—the invisible ink pen. At the start of the episode she describes it as such: “It has a special light. You can only see the writing when you shine it.” The scene where she shines the light and reveals to Hawk the messages she’s been writing to their Dad could be interpreted as a reference to the Book of Daniel’s writings on the wall story.
What The Path plans to do with this introduction of Christianity, should there be a Season Two, is anyone’s guess, but it certainly opens things up a bit. Cal is going to keep trying to redefine the movement (he repeatedly makes reference to “the next phase”), and perhaps he’ll use Jesus to do it. But now that Sarah knows the truth about the rungs (and has her suspicions all but confirmed about Cal’s involvement in Silas’s disappearance/death), he’s not going to be able to move as freely as he has in the past.
And the new emphasis on the Christian values of forgiveness and love also makes it possible for former Meyerists to return, or for current Meyerists, perhaps, to reach out to lost family members. Will Sarah and her mother now be able to pursue a relationship with Sarah’s sister, who inspired one of the most beautiful episodes of the season? With Jesus welcomed into the fold, the possibilities abound. And those possibilities—like this entire first season of The Path—are equal parts fascinating and frightening.
Shannon M. Houston is a Staff Writer and the TV Editor for Paste. This New York-based writer probably has more babies than you, but that’s okay; you can still be friends. She welcomes almost all follows on Twitter.