HBO’s The Third Day is a story of loss and isolation and how those experiences affect the mind, from simple grief to community wide torment twisted into ritual ordeal. The tale is timely in a way the creators probably couldn’t have imagined when they began working on it.
At the center of the series is Sam, a man who’s never recovered from the loss of a child or the shape his need for redemption takes. The series is also a psychological thriller and folk horror narrative which takes place on a remote British island accessible only by boat or an ancient Roman causeway that’s above water for just a few hours a day at low tide. The tiny community on Osea Island have developed their own traditions and beliefs, which combine ancient Celtic mythology with the unique history and location of the island. Visitors to the island are inevitably drawn into the community’s rituals, which are meant to restore balance to the world.
The series employs an innovative combination of experimental and traditional storytelling techniques combined with the use of a distinct artistic vision for each part. All three parts are visually and emotionally raw and stunning, with brilliant cinematography that turns the island setting into another main character in this story. The Third Day is meant to be absorbed as an impressionistic piece equally as much as it’s meant to be listened to intellectually.
Viewers experience the events viscerally, as a visitor to the island would, accompanying the other visitors on their travels, with the camera frequently taking on a character’s point of view. As the characters’ emotional layers are peeled away, so are the layers and mysteries of the island and the islanders, until the depth necessary for healing is reached.
The limited series is made up of 3 parts and 6 episodes. The 3 episodes of Part 1, Summer, star Jude Law, Katherine Waterston, Paddy Considine, Mark Lewis, Jessie Ross and Emily Watson. Part 2, Autumn, was originally livestreamed for 12 straight hours, but is also now available as a 2 hour edited version which stars Jude Law and Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine). Part 3, Winter, consists of 3 episodes and stars Naomi Harris, John Dagleish, Nico Parker, Paul Kaye and Charlotte Gairdner-Mihell, in addition to the cast of Summer.
The Third Day was created by Felix Barrett and Dennis Kelly as a joint production for HBO and Sky Atlantic. Part 1 was written by Dennis Kelly and directed by Marc Munden with cinematography by Benjamin Kračun. Part 2 was written by Felix Barrett, Kath Duggan and Emily Mytton, directed by Felix Barrett and Marc Munden with cinematography by Ole Birkeland (original UK Utopia). Part 3 was written by Kit de Waal, Dean O’Loughlin and Dennis Kelly and directed by Philippa Lowthorpe with cinematography by David Chizallet.
While I understand that the 12 hour livestream may have scared people off, I think it’s cool to see this kind of experimental television happening on a large platform like HBO. Part 2 was meant to be a music festival on the island with an audience of 10k, but COVID forced the creators to totally rework what they had planned. I probably like what they came up with better. And I hope they paid Jude Law a lot of money, because he earned it.
If you like Dark, Legion, Undone and other complex, mysterious, cosmic shows that explore the inner mind and outer enigmatic connections, you might like this show. Though it’s hard to see where the show is going right up until the end, the final episode pulls all of the strands together, including concepts from the edited Part 2. I was very satisfied with the ending and would be fine with the show stopping there or adding another season. Spring is just sitting there, waiting to tie up the loose ends. Maybe we can check back in with the islanders in a couple of years to see how everything’s working out.
My recaps of the episodes are available at Metawitches’ The Third Day tag.
Image courtesy of HBO.