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The Path - The Red Wall - Review

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Is Meyerism a cult?

I personally don't really see them as a cult, despite the fact that they share some characteristics of cults, mainly in the way they don't allow members to interact with deniers. But throughout the series most of the terrible things done for Meyerism have been done by one or two individuals (almost always Cal), without the knowledge or consent of the remaining Meyerist hierarchy.

But what makes a cult? Are the Meyerists brainwashed in any way? Well, given that the ideology and belief system isn't forced on anyone, I would argue that they aren't, unless you argue that all religion is a form of brainwashing. Are the members left traumatized by their experiences? Well, Eddie clearly hasn't been doing well since leaving, but is his damage due to Meyerism, or events that transpired prior to him joining the movement?

This fourth episode seemed particularly concerned with asking all these questions. The episode featured a scene in which Cal tried to get others to change the colour of a plain white wall, saying that if they believed the colour had changed, it had changed. But later on in the episode, when Shaun comes to Eddie for advice, Eddie tells him that you can't change the colour of a white wall. You can imagine the wall being something different, but that doesn't change what it is.

And you can apply this argument to Meyerism. Yes, the movement does some great charitable works, and like other religions, it can help people in times of great emotional distress, from Eddie to Lisa Jackson. But underneath all that, is it just a cult? Because in this episode they do some very cult-ish things. This is mainly seen in Sarah's attempted blackmail of Lisa Jackson, using her unburdening tape against her to improve the financial state of the movement. They helped Lisa when she was at her most desperate, but now they're using that against her.

But while the wall may be completely white, the truth of Meyerism is not that simple. When Abe learns that the investigation into the movement is part of a wider crackdown on organized crime, he says, "they're hardly the mafia". And this is true. Abe may be dedicated to bringing them, or at least Cal, down, but he's not blind to the situation.

This episode is also filled with people having misconceptions. Eddie's doctor thinks Eddie is suffering from PTSD from his time in the movement, but upon hearing this he scoffs. Later, after refusing to take his meds because he never needed them before, he eventually gives in. This moment is a reminder of Sarah's search of her sister's house last season. Searching the house of the sister she had not seen in years, she sees a life of happiness and affluence, but then she sees the bathroom cabinet full of medication, and realizes her sister's life isn't as perfect as she thought. But was the medication to treat some terrible trauma from growing up in the movement, or is it the show commenting on the over-medicated nature of modern society?

Another misconception in the episode is Kodiak and Richard's belief that Cal killed Steve, something viewers know to definitely not be true. But because of Cal's actions and admittedly suspicious and unpredictable behaviour, it's easy to see why one can have that misconception. But while Cal did not commit this sin, he's committed many others. Can the same be said for the movement, or is Cal like the rabbits in the garden, tainting something that is pure and good, like the strawberries, or the movement?

The show doesn't provide us with any definitive answers, of course. That ambiguity is summed up in the episode's final scene, in which Eddie attends a support-group for ex-cult members. When he arrives, a woman is telling her story, and it sounds a lot more cult-like than Eddie's, featuring a leader they all called "Father" who threatened to terrorize the dreams of anyone who left. But when Eddie introduces himself, and says "I was in a cult" he says it as if a great weight has been lifted. The Path once again gives us an episode without instant gratification, but as usual the questions posed are perhaps far more interesting than any possible answers.

Grade: B+

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