There are a lot of reasons to be excited about The Path, premiering on Hulu at the end of March. For starters, it’s Aaron Paul’s return to TV (physically, that is — his voice acting has been a highlight of BoJack Horseman). It’s also produced by Jason Katims, whose Friday Night Lights and Parenthood are contemporary cult classics. And, perhaps most of all, the show is about a typical audience pleaser: creepy and unusual religious groups.
Between the success of HBO’s Going Clear, the documentary that brought viewers face-to-face with the horrifying realities of Scientology, to the cultish Guilty Remnant on The Leftovers, to that New Age commune where Don Draper found salvation (and inspiration) in the Mad Men finale, the past year has been a hot time for television to explore fringe religious and spiritual groups. Now, as one of the new additions to the spring 2016 premiere slate, it would seem that The Path is poised to cover similar ground.
The newest trailer, released this past weekend, features Paul and Michelle Monaghan playing a couple with children, living in what appears to be a closed, self-sustaining religious commune. The leader, played by Hugh Dancy, leads the community through charismatic rituals and services, while the individual members engage in aggressive sex and physical violence with one another. There is also a whole lot of eye imagery, conjuring up the idea that there’s not a whole lot of privacy in this universe.
Fervent religious devotion? Committing one’s entire life to a higher power? Absence of privacy? Aggressive sex and violence everywhere? These could be facets of any number of controversial, extremist religious groups, but there’s one in particular that people are thinking of when they hear about The Path: Scientology.
To be fair, the writers and producers of The Path have never directly said that they’ve based their work on Scientology. In fact, they are refuting the rumors openly. This week, speaking to a crowd of reporters at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, showrunner Jessica Goldberg dismissed the assertion that The Path is based on Scientology, stating, “The Internet is full of misinformation.” She added that the faith represented in The Path is her own invention, based on her personal experiences with searching for meaning.
“I felt it would be too narrow, and wouldn’t allow us the same storytelling opportunities, if we put this into something that already existed,” Goldberg explained.
It’s unlikely that this will be enough to quell the rumor mill, though. Scientology is widely known as a litigious faith, and it would be dangerous for a new show like The Path to directly come out and link themselves to Scientology. It’s possible that the show truly has nothing to do with the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, but even it it did, it’s unlikely Goldberg would want to admit it.
Anything can happen between now and when the series premieres in March, however. Once more clips and information about the show come out, we’ll have a much better picture of what, if any, actual faiths The Path is based on. But based on this latest trailer, it’s not hard to see where the comparisons are coming from. Check out the trailer below to judge for yourself.