Whenever HBO and Sky Studios have collaborated on a project in recent years, they have managed to produce engaging TV shows. From ‘Chernobyl’ to ‘Catherine the Great’, the content has been as diverse as it has been detailed and well-made. The latest addition to this fledgling sub-genre of television is creators Felix Barrett and Dennis Kelly’s ‘The Third Day’. It has a unique format. The entire miniseries is divided into three blocks of episodes, titled ‘Summer, ‘Autumn’ and ‘Winter’. The first block focuses on a grieving father named Sam (Jude Law) and his experience on the mysterious Osea Island. If you haven’t watched the pilot episode, this is your first and only warning, SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Third Day Episode 1 Recap
The first episode, ‘Friday – The Father’, opens with Sam frantically talking to someone, presumably his wife, on the phone about a burglary that has occurred at the place of their business. He later discovers that the burglars have only taken the £40,000 in cash he had been keeping on the premise, meant for bribing a government official named Ade. Regardless of this developing situation, he performs an almost ritualistic sequence of actions that ends with him placing a child’s shirt on the flowing water of a creek. These moments of absolute privacy are shattered when he hears the sobbing of a child. As he goes to investigate, he spots a teenage girl who is about to hang herself from a tree with the help of a young boy. Sam saves the girl, and the boy runs off. He later learns that her name is Epona (Jessie Rose), and she lives in Osea.
Despite all the present turbulence in his own life, Sam decides to take the girl back to her home, the only access to which is a causeway that emerges from underwater twice a day, during low tides. Once there, he meets the peculiar locals who don’t seem exactly forthcoming with everything. As he is forced to spend the night on the island, he begins having evocative visions and has troubles discerning between what is real and what isn’t.
The Third Day Episode 1 Explained
The opening scenes establish how dire the situation is for Sam. It appears that he hasn’t told his wife that he was planning to bribe Ade, who is later revealed to be a planning officer, and with the money gone, he seems to fear that their plans for their garden center will not be approved. Throughout the episode, this serves as his incentive for desperately wanting to leave the island. As his phone has stopped working, along with the landlines on the island, he can contact neither his wife nor Ade. He has arrived on Osea as the local populace prepares to celebrate the pagan festival of Esus and the Sea.
As the day progresses and Sam finds out that he can’t leave the island just yet, he gradually starts warming up to the mystery and surrealness of his present situation. He meets an American research scholar named Jess (Katherine Waterston), who is also a guest of the establishment run by a local childless couple, the Martins (Emily Watson and Paddy Considine), and gets thoroughly drunk with her and her friends. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that he had the money with him all along, and he apparently knew about it. It is strongly hinted here that Sam took out the money not with the intent of paying Ade, but for some ulterior motive.
The Overwhelming Grief
First during the ritual itself at the creek and later during a conversation with Mrs. Martin after he has dropped Epona off at their pub/home, it is indicated that he regularly goes there and performs the same ritual. When Mrs. Martin observes, “Must hurt, going back to those woods”, Sam stoically replies that “it does. But that’s the point.” For Sam, that pain is the only existing connection between him and his dead child. If he allows himself to heal, to have a moment of catharsis, he fears that he will lose that link. The boy he sees with Epona and later on the island is likely the vision of his deceased son. He follows the boy to an old and abandoned water tank, inside which he discovers the remains of ritualistically slaughtered children and wakes up screaming from his drunken stupor. This vision feels like a drastic escalation from the carefully arranged carcass of the squirrel he saw earlier, which happened also while he was chasing after the mysterious boy.
The enigmatic Natives
The series exudes the same brand of folk horror as ‘Midsommar’ and ‘The Wicker Man’ and focuses on a protagonist who has somehow found his way to a pagan festival held by a dangerous cult. Even in the pilot episode, the locals’ wariness about the outsides has been accentuated a couple of times, especially through the behavior of Epona’s father, Jason (Mark Lewis Jones), who is ready to point his gun at Sam. It is evident that the islanders are hiding a secret that is closely related to the festival, their reverence for salt and soil, and their atypical sign of the cross.
The pilot also gives a detailed account of the history of the island and its people. Frederick Nicholas Charrington was a real-life reformer and philanthropist who bought Osea in 1903 and founded a rehabilitation center for people with alcohol and opiate addictions. He was also a devout Evangelical Christian and an active campaigner against all forms of vices. Although the modern and fictional inhabitants of the island in the show, like Mr. Martin, proclaim themselves to be Christians, it is evidently more complicated than how it appears at first glance.
Read More: Is HBO’s The Third Day a True Story?