Aaron Paul, Hugh Dancy (Hulu)

“I see you, Cal. I always have. You’re a fraud. You can go out there and smile, but you’re an alcoholic salesman, just like your father.”

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With these words, Silas seals his fate and The Path moves into a new chapter of its story. “Refugees” pushes its leads to their breaking point, forcing them to face hard truths and declare their intentions. Cal is stripped by Silas of his facade and he lashes out, desperate to silence the embodiment of his greatest fears. Eddie is pushed by Cal out of passivity, made to choose between actively, publicly aiding or betraying Alison, between acknowledging his loss of faith or continuing to play the part of believer. Sarah, by virtue of Cal’s absence, must choose between staying silent and abandoning her principles or leading her community to adhere to them, but in all likelihood dooming it. How willing are each of these characters to face their truths, to be tested in their faith and grapple with the implications of their choices?

Cal responds with violence, desperate to regain his footing in the community and continue to hide in plain sight. The words that push Cal over the edge are not, “just like your father,” but instead, “I see you.” Cal is filled with self-loathing and insecurity, needing constant validation from Sarah and others to quiet the voices in his head, the voices that sound remarkably like his mother and scream at him of his worthlessness. Cal struggles with what Silas is saying, pushing back against it, but once Silas says, “I see you,” he freezes. Hugh Dancy shrinks, showing Cal’s fear as Silas peels away the armor he carries with him everywhere. Steve Mones keeps Silas calm and patient while Dancy moves Cal from irritation to denial to terror to rage. Whereas Cal is all artifice earlier in the episode, posturing for Bill and Felicia—so much eyebrow acting from Dancy!—here he’s still, his motion limited to darting eyes and heavy breaths. This is the first time he has felt truly powerless and the control-driven Cal only knows one way to respond. He quickly regrets his instinctual action, trying in vain to hold Silas’ throat closed, but it’s too late and Cal is left covered in blood, more alone than ever.

It’s worth noting that Silas takes no pleasure in his words to Cal. Mones makes this clear in his performance. Silas is there to help Cal through this transition, to guide him to acceptance and perhaps if Cal had had a different day, he would have responded differently. But by the time Silas finds Cal, he’s spent his whole day fighting to hold on to his status within the movement and he’s not about to let Silas ruin his efforts, regardless of what the truth is. Keeping Silas offscreen for most of the series, with only a handful of lines of dialogue, makes his appearance here all the more powerful. Cal’s murder of Silas will shape the entire rest of the series, so this scene needs every bit of the power and nuance Dancy and Mones give it, pushing Cal to his breaking point and marking the beginning of the end of the first generation of the Meyerist Movement.

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While Cal is desperate to maintain the illusion of normalcy, Eddie is relieved to stop hiding. The physical altercation between Aaron Paul and Dancy is overdue. The viewer is left uncertain of Cal’s intentions—was he still pursuing Alison, or had he stopped when Eddie tackled him?—but Eddie doesn’t take any chances. The significance of a physical confrontation, rather than a spoken one, is key. Cal is powerful and domineering when he speaks, but Eddie is not, so he takes action to make himself heard by Cal. As soon as Alison is gone however, Eddie releases Cal, relinquishing the upper hand, and they return to words, Cal’s forte. It’s not surprising Eddie confesses only moments later: He’s lost his faith in Dr. Meyer, in the movement, and in the idea that there was ever a ladder to begin with.

Eddie has no reason to trust Cal, but he’s desperate to believe, and Paul’s openness as he looks to Cal for reassurance underscores this. Unfortunately, Cal’s promise that Meyerism is real is unconvincing, to say the least, and it does little to assuage Eddie’s fears. Eddie may be able to accept his loss of faith, but he’s plagued by the same intense fear Cal succumbs to later in the episode. Whereas Cal struggles with thoughts of inadequacy in general, Eddie’s insecurity is tied to his marriage. He can’t believe Sarah could understand his doubts and that lack of conviction in their marriage, in her love of him, makes him vulnerable. He’s willing to leave his family while Hawk is in crisis to go on a 250 mile walk (in December, no less) just so that he’s not forced to be honest with his wife. Eddie sees Sarah not as his partner, but as a beautiful presence in his life he never deserved, one that will abandon him should he stray from her path.

Though he still has a lot of work to do to come to terms with this fear and address it, letting go of his secret about Cusco opens Eddie up to having his faith restored by Sarah. Eddie may not believe in The Ladder, but he believes in Sarah and in the good she can do. If her speech and the decision to help the Honduran immigrants brings the end of the Meyerist Movement, so be it; at least they’re finally fighting for something they both believe in. This isn’t a tremendous sacrifice for Eddie, but it’s a powerful one for Sarah. Despite her confidence in the movement and that she can help people by bringing them to the Light, Sarah is hesitant to speak up this episode. This is a surprise; in the premiere, Cal was returning after several years away. Who lead their meetings while he was gone, if not Sarah? Michelle Monaghan sells this development, however, with her initially hesitant, then confident and assured speech to the movement’s followers. One gets the sense Sarah has not been tested in her beliefs in significant ways previously, aside from her sister’s decision to leave, and the stress of this situation clarifies her faith and her priorities. Despite complaining about the lack of commitment of those turning over the Honduran immigrants in “Breaking And Entering,” Sarah was ready to do the same at the beginning of “Refugees.” By the end of the episode, she’s practicing what she had preached to Eddie in the car and jeopardizing her entire life to do so. It’s a bold statement from Sarah and one that, barring a significant shift in the series’ approach, will be rewarded.

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Also facing disillusionment this episode are Hawk, who is left by Ashley when forced to choose between him and her mother, and Mary, who is back to using and fed up with Cal’s abuse. Hawk’s request to join Eddie on his walk could go terribly, but it could also be a wonderful opportunity for them to work through their doubts together, strengthening their bond. Eddie is certainly the best person to be counseling Hawk after his breakup, given that the Meyerists would in all likelihood demonize Ashley, as Joy does, and twist Hawk’s pain over the breakup into a distrust of all outsiders. Hawk needs his father right now and if Eddie is determined to take this walk, there are worse places Hawk could be than with him. As for Mary, while her pain is evident—Emma Greenwell is particularly strong this episode—and her relapse is heartbreaking, her fury towards Cal and refusal to play any more of his games is incredibly satisfying. She is proving more and more to be the wildcard of the series, giving the show an extra layer of unpredictability and energy. From Cal and Silas down to Mary, “Refugees” is filled with big moments, character turns, and climactic decisions. However it’s the motivations for these moments and thematic focus of the episode that makes it stand out and promises even better yet to come for The Path.

Stray observations

  • Hulu has officially renewed The Path for season two! Congratulations, Pathfinders! (Pathateers? Meyerists? Please comment with your preferred The Path fandom name.)
  • Hugh Dancy, throat-slitting, and buckets of blood. The Path team are just trolling us Fannibals at this point, aren’t they.
  • The shift in Ashley’s mom from starting to buy in to the movement to fleeing in the dead of night is a bit too sudden, but it’s worth it for her reaction to the dental practice’s Meyerist prayer room. Similarly, Eddie putting Alison up at Hank’s cabin seems to come out of nowhere, but their scenes are good and Sarah Jones’ performance as Alison tries to convince Cal she’s coming back, before shoving past him, is fantastic.
  • I appreciate the moral ambiguity of Cal and Sarah’s choices here. Yes, Cal does want to help the Hondurans, but he’s just as driven by the knowledge that giving in now will strip him of his authority moving forward. Similarly, Sarah agrees that helping them is a significant threat to the movement, but there’s a sense that she would have supported Cal in the initial meeting if he had included her in the decision. She likes having a special relationship with Cal, being his most trusted advisor, and doesn’t appreciate being kept out of the loop.
  • Is it just me or does Nicole like what she’s seeing when Abe changes his shirt in front of her?
  • The use of Dylan’s “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” is great, showing a bit of musical enrichment parity between Hawk and Ashley and the closing sequence, scoring Cal falling off the wagon again to “Back Where I Began” by Pure X, works really well.
  • Score Study: The highlight of Will Bates’ score this episode is without a doubt the Cal and Silas scene, which subverts expectations in a lovely way to support character and inform my read of the scene. Rather than building up a wall of sound over Silas’ critique of Cal, overwhelming him as has been depicted musically before and which is returned to earlier in this episode, Bates keeps much of the scene silent, only bringing in the score with Silas’, “I wanted to hold on.” Silas isn’t saying anything bold or outlandish, he’s laying bare simple truths. As Cal struggles with what Silas is saying, low, steady, even pitches come in, followed by a brief dotted heartbeat rhythm with, “I see you, Cal.” After this line, the score maintains but doesn’t build in intensity, moving not to the moment Cal stabs Silas, but the moment he shuts down and his lashing out becomes inevitable. Only when Cal reacts to what he’s done, when the weight of his action hits him, does the score pick back up, with a skittering rhythm or tremolo, rising pitches, and distortion.
  • There are plenty of other great scoring beats, but a few favorites are the percussion elements and high-pitched screeching that accompanies the dental hygienist’s, “This is where we find the light when we need it,” the ominous scoring that accompanies Silas’ arrival at the compound, and the percussion melody as Eddie talks with Cal. Also, it’s not scoring, but the omnipresent whirring of helicopters through much of the beginning of the episode might as well be; it’s used very effectively.

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