Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul (Jessie Pinkman) stars in a series all about belief and its power for both good and bad, explains ANDREW JOHNSTONE.
After Breaking Bad Brian Cranston (Walter White) transformed himself into a celebrity A-Lister while Saul, Gus, Hector and Mike slipped quietly into the artful character drama that is Better Call Saul. The other breakthrough was Aaron Paul.
Paul’s Jessie Pinkman is a near-do-well who survives Walter’s chaos and emerges wiser for the experience. A modern outsider hero, Pinkman was so well realised that he was never going to be an easy follow up. The four years since Breaking Bad have been a mixed bag of A-List character parts and B-movie leads. Then came The Path.
Life is about ideas, and belief in ideas is how we realise them. Meyerism is an idea. The Light is an idea and The Ladder is an idea. You join the group, you get to climb the ladder, and the higher you get the closer you are to the light. This is the path and the ‘light’ is like God, only better and if you believe, then you are a true believer.
The Meyerists are a little bit Scientology and a whole lot of spiritual jibber-jabber and Eddie (Paul) had been with them for 20 years. A kid escaping tragedy, he found succour with the group and later married into a prominent founding family. Eddie’s life has purpose and meaning. It is perfect, but perfect does not drama make, so something has to give and that give is Eddie’s faith.
Secure the ‘idea’ at all cost. Sarah Lane (Michelle Monaghan) is the movement’s co-leader and Eddie’s spouse. She is a jealous fanatic, a true believer and an unlikable figure undone by her conceit – much like Cal Roberts, the founder’s designated heir (Englishman Hugh Dancy with a terrific American accent).
The Meyerists do positive work, much the same as the Salvation Army. They are compassionate and dedicated to service. They are also saved and superior, qualities that have corrupted them. They have been seduced by their own regard and are losing their way.
Creator Jessica Goldberg expertly dissects the politics of belief and lays it out bare to bake in the sun. Most of us will recognise the archetypes at play; that and the Machiavellian scheming. House Of Cards and The Young Pope examine much the same territory, and although The Path lacks the art and robust ironic self-awareness of those shows, it is not without its insights, and like The Young Pope it does not shy from examining the ‘miraculous’ aspects of belief, throwing up challenging questions for the rationalists in the audience.
The best thing about it is the three leads, Monahan, Paul and Dancy. Monahan and Dancy in particular offer emotionally divisive performances as bad people pretending to be good, and Paul… he is the essential portrait of the reluctant hero, Abraham Lincoln by way of Jesus. He’s everything Cal wants to be but isn’t. Cal is Richard the Third. Sarah is Macbeth. The tension between the three of them could power nearby New York on a dark day.
Belief is the substance upon which the human experience is built. The Path is a potent reminder of the potential of belief as a force for both good and evil. It’s diverting rather than essential, useful rather than compelling. Season 3 is on its way.
* The Path is available to stream on Lightbox.
* The Internet and ‘TV on Demand’ has revolutionised the way we watch TV shows. No longer beholden to television networks and their programming whims and scheduling, we can watch back-to-back episodes of new and old shows to our heart’s content without those annoying advertisements interrupting the narrative flow. TV viewing has suddenly become more accessible, democratic and a hell of a lot more fun. ANDREW JOHNSTONE scours the available channels and finds the best of the best, so you don’t have to.