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Tension builds on The Path as Sarah and Eddie face off

Deirdre O'Connell, Michelle Monaghan (Hulu)
Deirdre O'Connell, Michelle Monaghan (Hulu)
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Sarah and Eddie’s marriage has been on the rocks all season. While both have tried to navigate back to the happy and supportive relationship they once shared, Eddie’s unwillingness to open up to Sarah about his loss of faith has taken its toll and in “A Room Of One’s Own,” all the cards are finally laid on the table. When Sarah found Eddie’s burner cell in “The Shore” and saw his calls to Alison Kemp, it seemed likely she’d return to her fears that he had been unfaithful to her. “A Room Of One’s Own” thankfully dispenses with this almost immediately, showing Sarah and Alison meeting up and trading information. That approach continues through the episode, with Sarah wasting no time before confronting Eddie. The heart-to-heart the two share, Sarah calling Eddie on his lack of honesty and Eddie opening up to her, is fantastic. Charged, but respectful, this scene is likely the first time the two have challenged each other on their beliefs in a long, long time. They’re actually listening to each other, rather than assuming the other shares their priorities and worldview, and they’re both surprised by what they hear.

Eddie’s solidified lack of faith in Dr. Meyer and his ladder, but belief in the power of the movement to help people, tests Sarah and opens up a fascinating discussion about the role of religion in one’s life. Can Sarah live with a man she knows has lost his faith, even if nothing else has changed, even if he supports the movement and its works? If one is a beacon of support and hope for others in a church, but treats its teachings as morality plays rather than literal truths, is that inherently dishonest or deceitful? Before Sarah is able to make her decision, however, Hawk pushes the issue to its breaking point by announcing his decision not to take his vows. This is the kind of move Sarah would need to be gently walked towards for her to even consider accepting it, rather than following the movement’s teachings and cutting him off. She isn’t sure whether she can accept having a husband who’s an eagerly involved, practicing member of the movement, but doesn’t believe; having her son reject it entirely is out of the question.

While more exploration of whether Sarah could accept a non-believing Eddie would be interesting, the episode pushes past this question in favor of bringing the season’s arcs to a head. With the finale looming, there’s less time for philosophical digressions. Instead, the episode opts for energy and momentum, putting Sarah and Eddie under pressure until they find themselves staring each other down, wondering who they’re looking at. Both feel betrayed and are raring for a fight; they may love each other dearly, but that evaporates when Hawk and his future are on the line.

The acting throughout “A Room Of One’s Own” is excellent, with standout scenes for each of the regulars, but Michelle Monaghan in particular shines. It’s wonderful to see this often underserved actress get such nuanced material to work with. Monaghan knows when to keep Sarah relatable and when to push the audience away, and just as in “A Homecoming,” Monaghan does not back away from Sarah’s unlikable moments. Then, when Sarah’s cold, callous interactions with Hawk and Eddie have alienated viewers, Monaghan pulls them right back with her raw, pained delivery of, “Hawk,” as Sarah talks with Cal. Sarah’s hurt, desperation, and fear are all there in that one word, a word she can barely get out because it carries so much weight. Monaghan’s vulnerability and openness in this scene shows the depths Sarah’s closed-off fury is concealing, making her standoff with Eddie at the end of the episode all the more potent. Both characters love their son, both think they know what he needs and what is best for him, and both see each other as selfishly putting their beliefs—or lack thereof—ahead of him. While most will side with Eddie’s much more accessible perspective over Sarah’s, the episode treats both sides with surprising respect and parity.

Hawk’s future and Sarah and Eddie’s marriage aren’t the only balls thrown into the air this episode. Cal announces “Steve’s” final three rungs, the Ridges re-enter the proceedings, Betsy outs Mary as having slept with her to access the pharmacy, Abe all but gets suspended, and Alison receives new information about Jason that leaves her distraught, considering suicide before ultimately returning to the Meyerist compound. By the end of the episode, most of the show’s major subplots have returned, complementing and dovetailing with other elements of the season. There’s plenty of mystery, suspense, and character left to explore and because of the groundwork laid earlier in the season, the timing of Abe’s daughter’s surgery with Eddie’s protectiveness of Hawk, or of the medical report of Jason’s death with the reveal of his journal, feels resonant, rather than convenient. The Path has had a compelling and thoughtful first season thus far and with this strong lead-in, the series has set itself up nicely for an exciting, satisfying finale.

Stray observations

  • The entire strays could be a list of strong individual scenes for each member of the cast, but I’ll limit myself to applauding Aaron Paul and Deirdre O’Connell for the terrific scene of Eddie talking with Sarah’s parents. Gabby and Hank already chose the movement over one of their daughters; losing their grandson is not enough to sway them now.
  • The camera work as Eddie leaves Gabby and Hank’s, Eddie’s world swirling around him as one after another his family chooses a religion over each other, is great. Eddie’s family died and it nearly destroyed him. He can’t comprehend choosing the pain of that separation, or of inflicting it upon someone you love.
  • How excited was Cal to finally have someone over for tea—literally the first thing he does after walking in the door with Sarah is put the kettle on. Also, note to self: Never go to Cal for couples counseling. With drug addiction and feelings of betrayal in the mix, Cal’s advising Mary and Sean to get married? Don’t do it, Sean! (But do forgive Mary—you were on a break!)
  • When Jason died, his hands were horribly burned, not unlike Felicia’s? Jason’s death just got way more intriguing.
  • The scene where Sarah asks Cal for help feels reminiscent of the idea that you have to invite the devil in and ask for his help. That being said, the opening scene with Cal talking to Dr. Meyer does a lot to humanize Cal.
  • Score Study: There’s a lot of memorable, affecting scoring in this episode; Will Bates, the series composer, outdid himself. I’ll only mention a few moments, but I look forward to reading about your favorites in the comments! A repeating low note, like the repeating toll of a grandfather clock, is used in Cal’s first scene with Sarah. It enters not when they start talking, but after he says, “Steve finished the rungs.” Cal is now committed to his lie, there’s no turning back, and the repeating note indicates the inevitability of what’s to come, the trudging steps forward he must take. A repeating low note like this returns when Ashley breaks up with Hawk and when Alison walks out on the ice.
  • When Eddie speaks to the group about his experience on the walk, Bates uses a sustained pitch with other notes moving underneath it, contextualizing it and giving the scene a warm, loving feel as Eddie talks about his family. But as he finishes up, the contextualizing notes fade away, and the note becomes tenuous—how long can it hold without support? The scene of Eddie with Sarah’s parents also features some neat percussion and other elements. After Gabby’s, “Not anymore,” the score is skittering, almost mocking. Then, as he goes to leave, an organ comes in, funereal, mourning his relationship, and outside, there’s the distortion and growling of change, the feeling of wind or a wave of change crashing over Eddie.
  • Eddie and Sarah’s sex scene has fantastic scoring. First we hear a glass harmonica or another instrument reminiscent of water glasses—maybe actual water glasses—tying in to the broken glass, then a sad cello with Sarah’s tears. The intensity of the moment is reflected in the repeating low cello, which throbs rather than intones, the pitch growing and decaying with each repetition. Energy builds as the higher sixteenth notes come in, the steady tempo and overall minor tonality telling viewers, along with the performances, direction, and editing of course, that this isn’t a happy or exciting moment, this is two people trying to take solace in each other amid the broken pieces of their relationship.
  • The doubt motif is back! It pops up when Sean confronts Betsy and again as Alison walks through the woods, tearing out pages of Jason’s journal.