The Path: Ayahuasca-Fueled TV-Drama
First, he was Jesse Pinkman, protégée to Walter White in the hit meth-focused TV show Breaking Bad. Now, he is a father, husband, and cult member in Hulu’s new ayahuasca focused drama The Path. In his new role as Eddie Lane, we follow Aaron Paul and his family as life in a cult begins to take its strain, causing the family to have to deal with the very human dilemmas of spirituality and faith, and the effects they can have on relationships.
A member of the Meyerist Movement – a fictional hierarchal cult that focuses its teaching on the use of ayahuasca – Aaron Paul plays a man morally conflicted and finding himself under increasing pressure to conform with those around him. The trouble starts when he finds himself caught in a bad ayahuasca trip, where his dead brother reveals to him an evil foretelling of his cult’s leader. Although in the real world ayahuasca tends to be used as a source of healing, in The Path, this ominous vision strikes doubt into Aaron Paul – about the cult and his place within it.
In addition to Aaron Paul’s character, The Path also follows the story of his wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan), a lifetime member of the cult who feels her son is being corrupted by the outside world and is also becoming increasingly confused as her husband becomes more and more distant. Lastly, we also see the story of Cal (Hug Dancy), a high-ranking lieutenant of the cult struggling to become the face of the organisation as it grows in status and size.
As the pressure begins to mount, we get insights into the depths of humanity, and how the line between a substance being used in a beneficial healing manner and one that boarders of being an exploitative scam can be blurred. In fact, this was the very intention of Jessica Goldberg, the TV-writer behind The Path, and instead of going with the cliché cult-y hooks, such as polygamy, she has drawn from aspects of religions, such as Mormonism, Orthodox Judaism, Islam, and varieties of Christianity.
When talking about her inspiration for the show, Goldberg said, “I mean, I had a childhood fascination with alternative social experiments. I grew up in Woodstock, and there were a lot of hippies around still. Every block had a crystal shop; my boss at the video store I worked at was a Jewish man who had become a Sufi. It wasn't like I was intent on writing a show about cults. But there was a point recently where, within a year, I lost my dad and got divorced, and suddenly had this huge existential crisis. What happens when one day you look at your life, and you don't believe in it anymore? I needed a frame to talk about these things — and that's when I just started inventing this heightened world.”
One thing is for sure, The Path shows how a feeling of belonging can be obtained from hallucinogenic drugs, but also, how people just have a deep down desire to belong, and how the path to getting there can create conflict, internal struggle, and self-doubt.
This innate, or possibly ignorant desire to belong was nicely summarised by the show’s executive producer, Jason katim: "There's a scene later on in this season, that takes place in a recruitment office that Cal is visiting. We were shooting in Westchester, and the art department dressed up the storefront with fake posters, brochures and hats for Meyerism. And before we started shooting, while we were blocking a scene, people would wander in and want to know what was going on. Not what were we filming; what the movement was, and how they could join! It was at that moment that I realized we really were on to something bigger. People were ready to sign up on the spot."
We will be very interested how this new gripping drama pans out, and how it portrays the use of ayahuasca as both a path to enlightenment and a resource to be exploited.
Written by: Josh
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