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‘The Path’ review: Aaron Paul of ‘Breaking Bad’ in Hulu’s new what-if series

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Aaron Paul stars in the new Hulu series "The Path." (Credit: Hulu)

WHEN | WHERE Starts streaming Wednesday on Hulu

GRADE C+

 

WHAT IT’S ABOUT Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul) belongs to a cult known as the Meyerists, who profess to climb a metaphoric ladder to infinite peace and wisdom. Their mysterious guru is somewhere in Peru, presumably figuring out the final three rungs, but in the compound, Eddie — married to Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) — is having doubts whether the “ladder” even exists. Charismatic compound leader Cal Robertson (Hugh Dancy) has ways of dealing with members of the flock who drift. Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”) is showrunner, and veteran “Parenthood” producer Jessica Goldberg created.

MY SAY Because of some familiar creators and stars from some familiar series, there’s an easy temptation to think of “The Path” as a what-if series. What if the Bravermans lived in upstate New York instead of Berkeley, and what if they were cultists instead of an extended family prone to periodic piques of emotional unburdening? And what if “Breaking Bad’s” Jesse Pinkman wandered into their midst? Jesse would still be Jesse on some level, the Bravermans still the Bravermans. Emotions would remain outsized, the tears copious, marriages in turmoil — teen lives, too. But at least here they'd all have “e-meter”-like gadgets, “realignment” panic rooms and a mysterious "founder" to set them straight.

If this is your idea of fun, then have at it. If not, join me in the bar for a drink or two, and we’ll watch reruns of “Parenthood” instead. “The Path” is a grim unburdening, all right, but also that what-if series in search of deeper moorings, and a deeper meaning. Scientology is so thinly disguised here that the Meyerists may as well be called “Scientologists.” The uncanny resemblance serves only as a distraction, or perhaps false promise: Is this a takedown or exploration? Maybe neither, or more likely both, but as an operating principle for an entire series, that gets unwieldy fast. You are asked to relate to characters who are also delusional, probably dangerous, which induces vertigo followed by a shrug: Why bother?

Katims and his protégé Goldberg know better than anyone that TV takes time, and they’ll get it here. “The Path” could, and possibly will, improve. Too bad the early episodes don’t consistently promise that it will.

BOTTOM LINE Grim is “The Path”; also long. Very long.

GRADE C+

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