When “The Path” first premiered on Hulu, its hero was Eddie (Aaron Paul), who had been living his life according to a religious movement called Meyerism — but had started to see the cracks in its foundation and wanted to get out of what he considered could be a cult. But now in the third season, he is the new leader of the movement. Times — and characters — have certainly changed, and with that come new challenges.
“The first couple of seasons he was just struggling with what he was dealing with. In the first season, he just wanted to get out and didn’t believe anything they were selling anymore, but in the second season he was feeling being pulled back in. And now, he has to take control,” Paul told Variety at a Season 3 event held at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles, Calif. “He realizes that things do need to change. Some hidden, dark secrets are revealed in this season, and he thinks they need to move past that and do things a new way.”
While Paul feels that Eddie became “all-in” with Meyerism again after his experiences in the second season, he reveals there is an “aha, miracle moment” in the first episode of Season 3 that cements his place as the “guardian of the light.”
“Does he have this power? Was he just lucky? I don’t know. But does he believe he has the power? Absolutely,” Paul says. “I think his inner circle will start to question the way he runs things, but everybody else in the movement sees him as the leader. They are his sheep, and they follow him. They really, really believe in him.”
Executive producer Jessica Goldberg says this new dynamic comes because there is a “real need for a hope and an authentic leader” among the Meyerists.
“It means having a leader that is maybe really a prophet,” Goldberg says of Eddie’s rise to power. “Eddie spends the season struggling with what that means. He really wants to be legitimized.”
This means that former leader Cal (Hugh Dancy), who already thinks he lost his faith, begins to spiral further. Dancy says Cal is not willing to “play second fiddle” to Eddie, but he believes it isn’t merely out of hubris or a hurt ego.
“He’s built up this incredibly strong support system to avoid having to ever face up to some facts about himself, and being demoted threatens that. He doesn’t know, but that’s what he’s running away from,” Dancy says.
The second season hinted at some of those facts — namely abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his father — and Dancy says the third season dives much deeper into the exploration of the events and what they stir up for Cal when he is forced to remember and face them now.
“He pretty rapidly goes down a massive rabbit hole of his own past,” Dancy says. “He always had a white knuckle grip on his own life and being in control and he never wanted to let himself not be in control again. If somebody does turn around to realize that kind of thing about themselves, that is a long-term thing, and there’s no easy outcome from that. So Cal responds to these revelations about himself in ways that seem good but then may take a turn.”
Dancy also says that without being the leader of Meyerism, Cal is left to “capitalize on his skill set in a rather tragic fashion.” After all, he has Mary (Emma Greenwell) and the baby to support, and he still wants to be there for Sarah (Michelle Monaghan), who is struggling with blackmailing former Meyerists in the second season.
“Sarah’s guilt is her drive. We started her as the most zealous believer, and realizing her own frailty and her own ugliness starts to chip away at her faith,” Goldberg says.
When the third season starts, Monaghan says Sarah feels like she needs to be punished for the sins of her past, but Eddie’s new way of doing things is “more progressive,” and that means removing some of the harsher rituals. “She finds a cleanse, and what we know about her historically is that she likes these kinds of rituals,” Monaghan says.
Sarah will call on Cal to help, and although Cal is “reluctant” to get involved, Dancy says he ultimately does because he cares for her and because they share so many secrets.
“He’s the only person she can have a fully honest conversation with, and he’s also the only person who could understand that weird need she has and that way she’s torn with getting away and getting back to the core of her faith,” Dancy says.
While the cleanse gives Sarah what she wants in a sense of atonement, it is a moment of regression for Cal, which results in him pulling away.
Monaghan acknowledges there is a role reversal of sorts happening between the former spouses, wiith Sarah feeling like Eddie’s new leadership is a “tough pill to swallow” for the “biggest devout follower of Meyerism,”
“She’s sort of moving away from the movement a little bit — maybe seeing it for what it is or always has been — and she’s seeing her son get deeper and deeper into the movement along with Eddie. That’s a concern for her,” Monaghan says, adding that Sarah goes on a “personal journey” to learn more about Meyerism’s origins and founders. And in doing so, she will unearth some secrets about the religion and its followers that will give her just as much power as Eddie.
“She has all of this information that potentially could take down the movement, but she has to be incredibly careful about how she goes about handling the information because Eddie is now the guardian of the light and there are also very personal secrets and experiences about other people that she deeply cares about, like Cal,” says Monaghan. “All of these things have to be handled delicately.”
“The Path” Season 3 premieres Jan. 17 on Hulu.