In episode 2, The Son, Sam and Jess spend another day and night together on Osea Island. We learn more about Jess’s situation with her daughters and the death of Sam’s son. Sam visits the island’s historian to learn more about local customs, then in the evening, he and Jess take part in a dry run of the upcoming festival.
It’s all perfectly normal and nothing strange happens at all.
The episode begins with Sam’s nightmare from episode 1, which could be a recurring dream. Sam is in a moonlit, open field. He’s not trapped or encumbered- maybe he wishes he still was. In the distance, he sees the boy through a rounded opening in a wall of forest branches and greenery. As Sam calls out for him, the boy runs away and disappears through the portal, into whatever realm is on the other side- purgatory, death, uncertainty, H*ll.
This is a living wall, instead of a wall of stone, suggesting that some part of Sam hasn’t accepted his son’s death. It’s also a reminder that the islanders inherited the Druids’ belief in reincarnation, with its fluid boundaries between life, death and rebirth. Death is not necessarily an impenetrable wall here.
As he continues to cry out for Nathan, Sam follows the boy into a deep, dark hedge maze. The boy is quickly lost and then the maze disappears, too. Next, Sam is in a barren field, standing in front of a small, burning travel trailer. The door to the trailer is padlocked shut. Someone or something inside pounds on it, trying to escape. Sam stands close enough to the flames for the heat to blister his face.
There are two designs painted on the outside of the trailer: a circle with a cross inside- the Celtic Cross– and a triskele, which is an ancient pattern made of three connected spirals.
Suddenly, Sam is back in the end of his dream from the night before, wearing Epona’s shirt from when he met her, which was also in that dream. He sees bloody hands again and then he’s the one sitting on the floor screaming, pulling his abdomen open, surrounded by bloody animal parts.
He awakens in bed in Room #1 at the pub and checks his hands to see if they’re bloody. The end of the recurring dream seems to be connected to his guilt over Nathan’s death and his fears about what Nathan suffered. Epona is now mixed up with his guilt and fears. Was Sam also abused and suicidal as a child?
He checks his watch, then realizes that he and Jess are mostly naked. After his drunken binge the night before, he’s missed the morning window for the causeway and cheated on his wife. While they get dressed, he and Jess discuss whether they actually had sex, but it seems pretty likely from the state of the room, including the pile of tissues they find under the bed. Neither had a condom, so it’s possible that Jess could get pregnant.
Downstairs, Mr Martin says that he when he went to wake Sam for the causeway, Sam was otherwise engaged. Sam is worried because he hasn’t been able to communicate with his wife. He asks if there’s a boat that could take him across. Mr Martin explains that they usually depend on Tomo’s boat for emergencies, but it’s currently damaged. The causeway opens again at 4:06 PM, so he suggests that Sam enjoy the island until then.
Jess joins Sam at the table and tells him that the situation with her family is complicated. She wanted to leave her husband after she had her first child, but then she got pregnant again and couldn’t leave. After that, she spiraled out of control, with drugs, alcohol and other people. Her husband now has custody of the kids. She doesn’t sleep with people or get intoxicated, so that her husband has no reason to withhold her visitation.
Sam: “He’s not here. He’s not gonna find out.”
Sam looks at the drawing on the menu of Jesus crucified by way of hanging from the tree Esus is chopping. He asks about the beliefs on Osea.
Jess: “Christianity. With a bit of- Look, the ancient Celts believed Osea was the soul of the world. So, when Charrington came here for his great experiment, he needed belief. So Charrington became the Father of the island, the first in 2,000 years, and it worked. A society of criminals and addicts lived in blissful, hippie harmony. When he died, his son took over, and then his son after that, and so on and so on…”
Sam: “What, they passed it on? Seriously?”
Jess: “I mean, it’s not like he’s a king or anything. They just kinda… I don’t know. They trust him.”
Sam: “My granddad was stationed here during the war. You know it was a military base. He never talked about it. Never. You asked him, he would clam up like he’d been at Belson.”
Sam thinks Osea’s religious beliefs are weird, but Jess points out that every religion is weird if you analyze it. She says the people of Osea are good people. So she’s embarrassed that she cheated in front of them. She insults herself in order to express her dismay.
Sam assures her that it was just a mistake. It won’t change things. They agree that they don’t regret it.
Mr Martin brings out the first course of the full Osea breakfast, raw oysters, sending Jess running for somewhere to vomit. The butter on the table bothered her too. Wonder if she’s already pregnant.
After breakfast, Sam wanders outside, where Larry is aggressively demanding that Mr Martin hand “her” over. Could Epona be married or promised to Larry, which might mean her suicide attempt was a bid to escape an abusive marriage and he’s the one she was afraid would kill her? Or is he speaking for Jason? Or some third party?
Sam can’t find his boots, so Mrs Martin brings him a pair of bright orange sneakers. She’s also wearing orange herself. He asks about Epona. Mrs Martin tells him that Epona’s alive, but gets offended that he wants to see her again. She accuses him of not trusting the islanders, then says that Epona’s up at the Big House talking to their leaders. She wants him to know that the islanders are taking his concerns seriously.
Mrs Martin says that she told Epona about his son so that Epona would know that she’s not the only one who’s suffered. He asks if she thinks the fact that he found Epona means they’re connected somehow. Mrs Martin says that maybe he was meant to find the girl. He says he doesn’t believe in that sort of thing. She insists that maybe he does, deep inside.
Sam won’t be able to blend in with the landscape in those bright orange shoes. Everyone on the island will be able to tell it’s him from a mile away.
Sam takes a walk and finds a religious service in a tent next to a grove of dead, gnarled trees. A preacher enthusiastically beseeches God, the Christ, the Lord, the land and the sea to save Jason, who kneels shirtless in front of him. The crowd echoes his prayers to burn the sin from Jason’s soul and sear all doubt from his mind. The preacher asks God to recognize Jason’s sacrifices and strike redemption into his heart.
The preacher and the crowd become frenzied as the prayers become violent, speaking of swords, bodies, and spilling the blood of Jason’s blood. Larry and a blonde man we’ve seen with him before are in the crowd. The tall man in the white suit sits at the front of the tent, near the preacher. Two blonde girls sit on either side of him.
Jason is crying and repentant. The preacher asks the Lord to let Jason swim in the sea of redemption and to drown him until he is clean.
Getting saved isn’t a peaceful, easy process on Osea. It’s downright dangerous.
Quick change from the clouds and tent to an overbright forest scene as Sam wanders on his own. Birds sing faintly in the background.
Then Sam is on the beach, approaching an embarrassed Jess. He says that someone told him he’d find her there.
I’m going to go ahead and say we’re missing chunks of time. There have been hints all along, including the weird, disjointed camera cuts. But this sequence, from tent to forest to beach, and then the reference to a conversation we missed, when we’ve been shown everything up until now, combined with the cash Sam had in the car, makes me certain that there are time distortions happening.
The islanders may be drugging Sam and making whatever is going on with him worse, but the time and space distortions began before he even met Epona. They are certainly gaslighting him and herding him around the island, giving him the show they want him to see, while making him think he’s paranoid whenever he calls them on conflicting information or events.
Since he’s alone, he can’t confirm what they’re doing with anyone else. Jess pretends to be an outsider and to be on his side, but she isn’t really. She’s already told us that she’s been involved with the islanders for a long time, through her graduate work. Much of the detail that we learn about the island comes from her (or the Martins), but there have already been times when what she’s said has conflicted with something someone else has said- I’m just not bothering to point out every small inconsistency. They do exist, as part of the gaslighting.
Once Sam reaches Jess, she insults herself again, because she feels weird about having had sex with him. She only talks about herself in this sexist way, not him. Then she apologizes for the way she acted at breakfast. Sam tells her not to apologize.
I’m not sure what she had to apologize for? Telling him the truth about her life instead of being happy and perky? (If it was the truth- as noted, like the Martins, Jess frequently contradicts herself through words and actions. I don’t really believe any of them any more.)
He says that what she said and what happened between them made him feel like he could breathe, because his life hasn’t been perfect either.
She asks what happened to him.
Sam: “My son was murdered. They found his body in a river on the mainland, near here. Yesterday was the anniversary. Every year I put another piece of his clothing in that water. It’s the only way we can let go of him, one piece at a time… You don’t have to say anything clever or wise. It’s not like in a film. I don’t live it every second of every day. You go to work, you watch TV, you feel guilty about the gym membership you don’t use. You just happen to have a hole inside you that doesn’t heal.”
Jess: “What happened?”
Sam: “I arranged to meet this man, near Malden. He was a friend of my granddad. Just out of curiosity. I decided to take Nathan. And the man didn’t show up, so we had a spare day. I found a fair. And we were there. I took this call, this very intense call. And I turned around, and he was gone. He just wasn’t there. You know what it’s like. When you lose them for a second and in that moment, your whole world drops. Well, it was like that, but it never went away. He was missing for two weeks. He hadn’t been abused. It was nothing like that. The man just took him. His name was “Goltan”. I remember they made a big fuss about that at the time. Name like a supervillain. You know, “Goltan”. In truth, he was a Romanian guy with learning difficulties. He’d had previous convictions in his own country. Came forward and confessed and then he killed himself before he went to trial, so we never found out why he did it.”
Jess: “Your wife. Your poor wife.”
Sam assures her that nothing they did together will hurt his wife. They’re still together and love each other, but pain like this is suffered alone, each in their own way. “Mostly grief’s just lonely.”
For years, Sam has been chasing the ghost of the son he lost at the fair, trying to catch him before he disappears forever. He’s never been able to forgive himself or move on. So far, we haven’t seen signs of the rage Mrs Martin wants him to feel, so much as anguish and devastation. He’s too deep in a pit of despair to sort his feelings into anything as separate as sadness or anger. He’s still sitting in that dark corner from his dream, screaming and screaming and screaming out the raw pain he felt when his son’s body was found. He blames himself for Nathan’s death and as he said, some part of him broke in that moment that will never be healed.
Now that he’s made his confession, Sam changes the subject to the work Jess is doing on her laptop. He’s lived with his despair long enough that he can turn it off again like a switch, wrap it up tight and bury in its own dark place, while he pretends to be a normal person for a while. But inside, it’s overwhelming him and demands attention while he sleeps and perhaps at other times.
Jess tells him that the Osea Islanders used to worship a trinity of gods- Teutates, Taranis and Esus. The upcoming festival celebrates Esus.
Jess: “Their priests would dress as things from the sea and take non-Celts- Picts and Gauls– and bring them here for sacrifice. For Taranis, it was drowning. For Teutatis, fire and Esus, hanging. But they’re not so keen to talk about it these days because it might not be great for the festival to know you’re glamping on the site of a sustained ethnic genocide.”
Glamping= glamorous camping. Enjoying the open air in a luxury resort setting rather than a tent in a park with basic amenities. Osea is in the process of upgrading so they can provide glamping facilities for the festival.
You can hear the remnants of different methods of sacrifice to Taranis, Teutatis and Esus in the preacher’s prayer for the saving and cleansing of Jason’s soul. The angels on the tapestry behind the preacher were rather gruesome and violent as well. I think one was carrying a severed leg. The tradition of the Sajora sniffing out evil likely descends from the priests dressing as sea creatures to make human sacrifices.
Ritual human and animal sacrifices (Human/ Animal) were common in the ancient world. It wasn’t unusual to choose prisoners of war or kidnapping victims from other tribes as sacrifices. Folk horror plays up these traditions for shock value.
According to Jess, Taranis requires death by water; Teutatis, death by fire; and Esus, death by lack of air. We’re missing an element- death by Earth. Was that the Goddess’ realm?
Jess tells Sam that he should talk to Mimir, the island archaeologist or historian, if he wants to know more. Mimir isn’t an official archaeologist, just someone with an interest in the island’s history. Sam seems to recognize Mimir’s name, but says he doesn’t know the man.
Quick jump to Mimir’s place, which seems to be an aging greenhouse. We hear geese fly overhead, then Sam finds Mimir outside, semiconscious, on the ground in the overgrown garden. Mimir whimpers, but is unable to speak, so Sam carries him inside. Most of the greenhouse windows are broken. The place is grimy and cluttered inside and out. Symbolically, Mimir’s clarity and wisdom isn’t what it used to be.
Mimir is a complex figure from Norse mythology. He is one of the giants who guards and drinks from the sacred Well of Wisdom, which is deep in the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree or Tree of Life. When he was taken hostage and decapitated durng a war, Odin took possession of his head and brought it back to life through the use of spells and magic. From then on, Mimir’s head served as oracle and advisor to Odin. One of Mimir’s roles was maintaining the link to ancestral knowledge.
Sam pokes through Mimir’s collections while giving the old man some time to recover. It’s not clear why he doesn’t call for help- maybe Sam can tell that Mimir is drunk or high, but to me it seems like he had a stroke or seizure.
He discovers piles of drawings on Mimir’s desk, including drawings of crickets, the ritual animal sacrifices that look like Jack the Ripper’s victims and odd studies of the human body/more victims. Then a scrapbook falls on the floor, spilling its contents. Sam finds a copy of a newspaper story about Nathan’s death.
He confronts Mimir with the newspaper report. Mimir asks, “What did we do to you?” Sam repeats, “What did you do to me?”
They’re interrupted by Larry, wearing a Sajora hood, and three other men. Mimir, who’s somewhat recovered, hears them coming and tells Sam to run outside and hide. Sam watches Larry order the other men to get rid of Mimir’s records. He drags Mimir up to the big house.
Sam is outside in the forest again. He looks down and sees another small bloody creature. My best guess is that these sacrifices, and the Sajora, are European water voles, aka water rats, which used to be abundant in marshes in the UK but are now endangered.
Sam is frightened and walks quickly. Our next view is of the burned out trailer from his dream, which is in the middle of a grassy area. The trailer matches his dream. He investigates for a minute, then the boy is back, standing next to the tall bushes in the distance. Sam follows the boy back into the maze. He loses the boy, but sees a man with a Sajora hood on his face, who follows Sam back out of the maze. Another hooded man is waiting in the field. They keep their distance, but swing clubs threateningly.
Sam heads back to the forest. As he passes a motorbike, the Sajora men surround him. he talks to them, tring to confront them. They laugh and throw things at him. A particularly heavy metal piece barely misses his head, then takes a chunk out of a tree. When Sam runs, they chase him. Rhythmic hunting music plays, while the Sajora men hoot and holler.
Sam runs until he’s stopped short by Jason standing with a rifle pointed at him. Jason fires- the bullet barely misses Sam, but the Sajora men leave. Jason keeps the rifle pointed at Sam and cries as he speaks. He tells Sam that his child is dead because of Sam. He puts the rifle right in Sam’s face and says he knows what Sam feels. Even though Sam pretends he doesn’t hate, Jason can see hate dripping from him. Jason feels the same thing. Sam tells him he doesn’t have to give in to that hate. Jason says he wants to give into it, right now. Sam begs him not to.
Jason: “It’s coming. The darkness. The darkness is coming.”
Pause to Feel Our Feelings
This was an incredibly acted scene, by both Jude Law and Mark Lewis (Jason). Jude Law carries Part 1 of The Third Day, but he couldn’t do it without the support of the rest of the cast. If they didn’t bring the crazy and the darkness right along with him, we wouldn’t believe his paranoia was reasonable. Part 1 depends on the audience questioning whether these are all decent but stressed and misunderstood people, or if some of them actually might be ax murderers.
In this scene, Mark Lewis, as Jason, made me believe that he’s a grieving father whose pain is so deep that he can’t carry on the way Sam does, as if the hole inside him is normal. He’s the mirror image of Sam. He’s the father who hasn’t squashed his feelings until they’re popping out in inappropriate ways at inopportune times. He knows every nuance of what he’s feeling and it’s swallowing him whole.
These two men illustrate an unanswerable question: what’s the better method of coping with pain that can never really be dealt with? Try to carry on and deal with it a bit at a time, letting go of one piece at a time, as Sam does with the clothing, hoping that you can let go of enough before the bulk of pain catches up and eats you alive? Or let the pain overwhelm you all at once, feeling everything and wallowing in it for as long as it takes, hoping that someday you’ll be done with it and can leave it behind for good, but risking that you’ll never be able to climb back out of that hole?
Sam and Jason don’t seem like they are in such different places at this point. Honestly, in this scene, they looked like what they needed was to hug each other and cry and scream together until they’d gotten it all out. There was such a longing for understanding between them that I could practically feel it physically. Jason needed to hear Sam tell him that he doesn’t have to give into the hate and Sam needed another broken father to share the burden of his pain.
Despite what Sam said about pain being bespoke, I guess I come down on the side of not suffering alone if you don’t have to, whether you heal quickly or slowly. Eventually, you survive by finding new meaning and purpose to replace what was lost, but you can’t skip the part where you feel the feelings first (and, if necessary, get out of the bad situation that created the pain).
Sam runs into the room he shares with Jess at the pub and tells her to help him barricade the door shut because he has to get off the island. He explains everything that happened in the forest, including that Jason said Epona is dead.
Jess tries to explain it all away as just the islanders’ unique traditions and Jason being messed up. She says Mr Martin just told her that Epona is okay.
Then Sam pulls out the article about Nathan and says Mimir isn’t really an archaeologist. He’s a coroner who was looking into Nathan’s death, but Sam never met him. Now he’s on the island, the day after Epona tried to hang herself in the spot where Nathan’s body was found. And Epona’s dead. He thinks it must all be connected.
He brings up the sacrifices they talked about earlier. Jess says that was done thousands of years ago. Sam lists more creepy things that have happened- dead animals all over the island, photos of Jack the Ripper’s victims on the pub wall, men in masks chasing and threatening him, Jason shooting at him.
He wants to get off the island and call the police. Jess asks how. He asks if she can swim, then realizes he can’t swim. Jess says 2 miles is too far for her to swim. He brings up Tomo’s boat, then remembers it’s broken.
As Jess and Sam are panicking, the Martins pound on the bedroom door. Mrs Martin wants to talk to Sam about all of this silliness, by which she means the constant vague and not so vague threats he’s experienced. Sam refuses to open the door and instead weapons up with whatever he can find in the room. Mrs Martin pushes his barricade aside and calls him a silly sausage just to make sure he’s been thoroughly humiliated.
Mrs Martin gets off on humiliation and potential violence, in case you hadn’t noticed. Whenever she thinks she’s gotten a rise out of Sam, (or anyone, really, but Sam’s the only unpredictable new blood in town) her eyes glow and she perks right up. She’s running the day to day operations in this town, despite what they say about the Father in the Big House.
The orange shoes to match her outfit may have marked Sam as her territory in some way. The island Father/God may have the Big House, but Mrs Martin has the pub, where everyone gathers to eat and drink- the island kitchen and hearth. Is she the island Mother/Goddess? The soil to the Father’s salt?
The Martins have Epona with them, who is very much alive and named after a goddess. They all go to the kitchen, where Mr Martin offers tea with a touch of whiskey, but Mrs Martin shuts that down.
Sam asks Epona if she’s okay. Epona confirms that she is. He asks what they believe in. They say, without hesitation, that they’re Christians. He brings up the photos of Jack the Ripper’s victims on the wall of the pub, but they claim those are just there to thrill the tourists. There were rumors that Charrington was Jack, so they play it up a bit.
Sam brings up the way he was chased and felt like his life was threatened. Mr Martin doesn’t laugh in his face the way Mrs Martin did upstairs, but he might as well. Right on cue, the supposed attackers are brought in, still wearing their hoods. They are dressed like the men who chased Sam, but those were larger, grown men, while these are much shorter teenagers who are easily cowed by Mrs Martin yelling at them. When their hoods are removed, it’s revealed that one of them was the Sajora who scowled when he saw Epona in the car with Sam yesterday. This isn’t acknowledged.
The Martins yell at the boys and threaten to tell their parents, then send them away. Just a bit of traditional island fun, har, har, har, like bullies everywhere. They don’t believe Sam when he says those aren’t the men who chased him.
This is all Gaslighting 101, straight out of the original story that gives the term “gaslighting” its name. Pile up multiple small instances when you’ve made your victim feel silly, paranoid or crazy, then go in for the kill when their confidence and sense of reality have been destroyed. Unfortunately, when gaslighting is used enough, people stop expecting reality to make sense.
Sam moves on, telling them again that Jason said Epona’s dead. Or more specifically, Jason said, “My child is dead.” The Martins explain that Jason had a son who died in a combine accident around this time of year. The anniversary is tough for him each year. They act like Sam is callous and selfish for not already knowing this, although they’ve had multiple opportunities to explain why Jason was so out of control all weekend and never mentioned to Sam that Jason is irrational for a reason.
Sam asks why Jason blamed him for his son’s death. Mr Martin claims that Jason blames everyone. Sam insists it was more than that. Mrs Martin blames Sam for his concern about Epona- she says he’s been saying things about Epona’s father, which isn’t true. He’s been showing concern for a suicidal child’s welfare and hasn’t been any more specific than that. Maybe, for her own purposes, Mrs Martin has twisted that concern into rumors of him saying things about Jason, but that isn’t what actually happened.
Not that the truth matters now.
Sam pulls Jess aside and tells her he feels like he’s been to the island before. He saw “something bloody and violent.” Epona was mutilated. Jess asks where he saw that. He tells her it was in a dream. Jess scoffs at him.
Frustrated, Sam kneels in front of Epona and asks her to talk to him. Mrs Martin holds Epona and tells Sam to leave her alone. Frustrated, he yells that he’s talking to Epona. He wants Epona to look at him and tell him if someone on the island is frightening her. She nods yes. Sam is.
Having achieved her goal of winding Sam up and then humiliating him multiple times over the last 24 hours, Mrs Martin sends Epona to the other room with her husband/lackey. She turns to Sam to wind him up even further. She needs him to go over the edge.
Mrs Martin: “Something appalling happened to you. It reached down inside you, and ripped a piece of you out. Killed it dead. And all the time, you were saying, ‘No, no, don’t blame them.’ When really, you were raging inside.”
Sam: “No, I didn’t. No. That’s not true.”
Mrs Martin: “But rage will out, Sam. Grief wants its pound of flesh. It wants mayhem and chaos and havoc. It wants to destroy. Now, I understand that. But I’m not letting it happen here.”
Of course, it’s only happening here because she’s manipulated the situation that way.
As an island leader, she may well be manipulating the islanders the same way, creating the passion play she wants to see acted out. Or maybe this is the ritual they all need to see acted out. Sam is being put through certain experiences and exposed to certain images outside of his previous experience as Sam. Maybe they are trying to trigger a soul memory in him, if they think he’s the reincarnation of someone in particular.
Once Sam and Jess have escaped the Martins and are back outside, he tells her more about Nathan’s death. Nathan’s body was swept down the river and over a weir (a low dam for controlling water flow, sometimes also designed to help fish swim upstream more easily). The weir left his body significantly damaged, so Sam and his wife weren’t able to see or touch him after he’d been recovered. Even though Sam understood intellectually that Nathan was dead, he was profoundly affected by the inability to get closure by interacting with his son’s body.
The camera is in tight close up on Sam’s face. Everything around him is out of focus. As he speaks, his face goes in and out of focus. The camera moves around a little, wobbly and dizzy.
Sam explains that for some time after, he suffered from what was diagnosed as episodic psychosis, but he’s not sure that’s right. He became paranoid, sure that the neighbors, the police and their extended family were lying about Nathan’s death. Then he’d think that Nathan was still alive, only to remember the truth all over again.
He admits that Mrs Martin was right about his rage. Even though he was kind about the immigrants in public, in his heart, he’d feel blind rage every time he saw a Roma man. Jess assures him that grief just works that way, but Sam thinks it might be more.
He asks about Epona again. She’s become an anchor for him. Jess says that she’s fine. Alive, because of him. Jess tells him that at home, she worries about losing access to her daughters every day. Even when she travels, her husband has someone spy on her. But she can hardly imagine what he went through.
Sam: “I think I recognize things here, like I’ve been here.”
Jess: “You know you haven’t, right? You know you can’t recognize things?”
Or can he?
She tells him the causeway closes in 20 minutes. The islanders want him to know that he’s welcome to stay for the dry run of the festival. But she knows that of course he has to go. Jess kisses him, then hurries away.
Is Sam Crazy? Grief-Stricken? Mystical? The Victim of a Con?
More mixed messages, from all involved. And confirmation that Sam has suffered from the symptoms of severe mental illness in the past. This explains the time jumps and potentially some memory and behavior issues before he got to the island, such as with the cash. The island is a complicated situation with interactions between his mental illness, the islanders’ mental illnesses, gaslighting, drugs and alcohol, the isolation, possibly a cult and possibly more.
Sam would have already been in a heightened emotional state when he found Epona, after his ceremony with Nathan’s shirt. Maybe the waterfall where he drops Nathan’s clothing is the old weir that damaged his son’s body beyond recognition, symbolic of the murder which took his child from him. Going over the weir was one of the small deaths in the series of events that separated Sam and Nathan forever.
Crossing the weir also meant that Sam and his wife couldn’t say goodbye to Nathan’s physical body. The last time they saw Nathan in any capacity, they didn’t know they were saying goodbye forever. As far as his family is concerned, the weir is another portal, one which took Nathan from the physical realm to the spirit realm. Which would be why Sam drops the clothing in that particular spot each year. He’s sending the clothing to the Underworld or the other realm with Nathan.
Even if the waterfall isn’t the weir, Sam is using that spot as the transition zone for his son’s spirit. Nathan’s body was found in the marsh nearby, another transitional zone.
Maybe someone thought that saving Epona near the spot where Nathan crossed over would help fix the hole inside Sam, but it doesn’t work that way. As Sam said, we’re all separate beings. Saving one child doesn’t negate the loss of another, the way you can replace a broken appliance.
Becoming close to another child might give Sam new meaning and purpose, which would help him move on, but it doesn’t change what happened to Nathan. He needs to work through and accept his pain to calm it down as much as possible. Even so, it will always come back at certain times, no matter how healthy he is otherwise. There’s nothing wrong with that. It proves he’s able to feel and to love.
It seems like Sam has already expressed his feelings about Nathan’s death quite a bit, so it’s hard to say if acting out rage, like Mrs Martin wants, would help. My experience is that focusing on anger to the exclusion of other emotions can become another addiction, especially for people who are prone to addictions. It seems like that might be what Mrs Martin wants, though I’m not sure why she’d want another violent man in town. There are an awful lot of them already.
The islanders are working very hard to push Sam over the edge. They already knew his history before he came, somehow Epona was in the right place at the right time, and the weekend continues as a well-baited trap. Sam chooses to take the bait at each juncture, but it’s still a trap with a child who looks like his son and an understanding, attractive woman to entice him to stay. They want something from him. But what?
Sam drives to the causeway to leave the island. As he reaches the entrance, a bird flies in front of the car. His phone chimes. He must be close enough to the mainland to get reception and his wife has texted him several times. He drives out to the middle of the causeway, then stops to read his texts in this space that’s neither here nor there.
His wife was worried about him, but not angry, which suggests he’s disappeared before. Sam texts her that he’s stuck in a spot with no reception. He can’t get home until tomorrow, but he promises he’ll see her then.
Sam shows up back at the pub, which is busy, but not crowded. He and Jess laugh happily at each other across the crowded room. The music is dreamy, but not strange. It’s borderline odd that Sam stayed on the island, but that could be written off as two people who are in unhappy marriages having a fling or maybe even finding new love that could lead somewhere, healing them both from their dark pasts.
This isn’t that show.
This moment feels like it should be the end of the episode. It comes at a little over the 44 minute mark on my TV, around the standard episode length. It’s a good stopping point. Sam has run all over the island, experienced escalating emotions and then had some catharsis. He’s been given a talking to by Mrs Martin, who seems to be the island mother hen. He seems to have put down the burdens he brought to the island and be ready to experience it as the paradise Mr Martin and Jess both told him about.
In a different show, we could stop here, then pick up in episode 3, where Sam finds some healing during the festival dry run, then either goes home to his wife and kids or makes plans for a new future with Jess. Still not that show.
We’re going to see the festival dry run, but the islanders aren’t done with day 2 or pushing Sam past his limits.
Another quick change and we’re outside, where the practice run includes a practice musical performance on the stage. I think they’re tying someone up, because what else would they be doing on this island? Or maybe the pub has expanded to include the outdoors. The set is confusing me here. Also, the giant puppets are back and dancing in the moonlight. I’m thinking of them as Esus and Epona.
It’s time to just go with the flow.
Jess continues to drink and laugh hysterically with her friends. Sam stands alone. Epona taps him on the shoulder and tells him she’s sorry. He replies that he’s sorry about the things he said. She says that’s not what she’s talking about. Sam asks what she means. She throws her arms around his middle and hugs him tight, her face against his belly. He hugs her back. There’s nothing sexual about it.
She says she doesn’t want him to go. He asks why not. She gives him a quick kiss on the lips. It’s just a peck, still not sexual, more furtive and questioning, then walks away. His face turns to stone. So does Larry’s- he’s been watching them from a nearby table. This won’t end well.
Whatever else Sam is, he’s not a pedophile. His feelings for Epona have been parental. But there are some possessive men who circle Epona incessantly, so I’d say there’s a few pedos on the island. We haven’t been told her age- the actress is in her early 20s, so the character could be anywhere from 14 to 24. My guess is she’s supposed to be about 19 or 20, even though they frequently treat her like she’s younger.
Next up is a procession through town, maybe across the island. A young man is carried over to a row boat, where he picks up the rope attached to it and drags it down the street. Onlookers cheer him on; people dance in front of and behind him; the giant puppets follow; and there’s a throne on a cart. Someone throws shovelfuls of salt on the ground in front of the boy as he walks, maybe to symbolize the sea. Dancing, Jess joins the procession. She tries to bring Sam along, but he’s not ready. The Sajora buzz through the crowd, sniffing out evil.
Someone lights a bonfire and Sam stands between it and the forest. He sees one of the crickets on the ground. Jess arrives just as it jumps away. She says the fireworks are about to start.
Then she asks him if he feels how safe the island is. She says she understands why they want to protect it. Sam could live on the island and have that kind of safety for his family, too. This place is special, because they don’t care about all of the BS. She asks when the last time was that he really let go. She wants him to agree that Osea just begs you to.
Sam asks what she’s up to- her speech did sound like a used car salesman. Especially since, if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that Osea Island isn’t safe or paradise.
Jess pulls out a bag of drugs- acid, I assume, but I’m old and out of touch. Some hallucinogen, anyway. They have a discussion about the merits of doing hard drugs as a middle-aged adult. Jess tosses out the irresistible suggestion that Sam find out who he is when he’s not the guy who’s lived Sam’s history. This is his chance to take a vacation from that guy.
If only life and doing drugs were that simple. As Buckaroo Bonzai said, no matter where you go, there you are.
As I’ve already said, I think they’ve had Sam on a low dose of something since he got to the island, to enhance their gaslighting and stop him from questioning them too much. Maybe they even paid someone to spike his drink before he went to the river. Pretty sure they knew where and when he’d be, in order to get Epona and the boy there. If I’m wrong about the drugs and he’s just having another psychotic episode, then he still doesn’t need to drink and do hallucinogens.
But Jess pops a tab in her mouth and Sam isn’t going to be left out of this grand adventure. They watch the fireworks over the Big House and wait for the drug to take effect. The surreal, drug tinged landscape changes randomly. One second Sam and Jess are in the glowing forest, where the tree trunks grow tumors and the next Sam is back at the trailer, which is surrounded by candles. He looks at the article about Nathan’s killer again and realizes that Goltan is sitting in front of the trailer. The triskele is in the photo.
Then Sam and Jess are sitting in front of a small bonfire with a crowd of islanders who all have strange masks. Mr and Mrs Martin appear and tell Sam that Larry has gathered a group of men with weapons who want to kill him. It has something to do with Epona. The Martins are shocked that Jess and Sam are stoned and can’t take in the urgency of the situation.
Obviously Sam should have seen this coming after they spent the afternoon convincing him he was an idiot for thinking Larry and the others were out to get him.
Mrs Martin takes Sam’s hand and leads him through the village. Mr Martin stays behind with Jess, which is weird, since they’re worried about a gang of armed men attacking. As they walk, they see and hear partying islanders- most of the villagers fly, frequently upside down. There’s lots of drums, whooping and calling. Apparently, once they let their hair down, the islanders really do know how to have a good time.
As they leave the village, Mrs Martin, who is now wearing sparkly orange, tells Sam he has to stay with her. When they pass the grove of gnarled, dead trees, the branches lengthen and grow. Then they get close to an old stone church. Mrs Martin now leaves Sam alone outside while she checks what’s going on inside. The church is in a grassy area on the edge of the forest. The living trees react to Sam’s presence as well, growing more lush and moving their branches.
Has Mrs Martin ever said something and not contradicted herself within moments? Rather than saving Sam, she’s delivered him into trouble.
Now that he’s been left alone in the dark, this is not a vacation. His belly splits open as if he’s one of Jack the Ripper’s victims or an animal sacrifice, but it closes up again. The forest canopy looks a bit like lacy stained glass.
Sam’s senses that someone else has joined him- it’s one of the Sajora men, with a crow bar. The Sajora takes his hood off, bending his face for a second and revealing he’s Larry. The tall man in the white suit is with him. Larry hits Sam in the head, ties his hands together and puts the hood on his head. A blood stain blooms bright red on the hood.
The world turns upside down as the villagers dance around a blazing bonfire.
What do we think is up next? Orgy? Cannibalism? Basic human sacrifice? Vision quest? Ransom demand? All of the above?
I feel like I’m not doing justice to the soundscape of this show, which is rich, varied and provocative. The music and sound are as layered and complex as the visuals are, it’s just harder for me to find the words to describe sound. This show is an amazing technical achievement, in service of its artistic achievements, especially given how much of it takes place outside, in such a variety of locations on the island.
Jess is wrong- Picts and Gauls were Celts, they were just different tribes from whatever the Osea Celts would have been, who lived in other regions, such as Scotland or Ireland. Jess supposedly has a PhD on the history of the region, so she ought to know that. Jess might be lying about her background. I don’t know if she’s actually married to someone on the island or what her story is, but she’s deeply involved with the islanders and is part of whatever is going on. She’s also strangely obsessed with what the islanders think of her sex life.
If I’m not mistaken, the kid who confesses to throwing the metal chunk at Sam is the same one who scowled when he saw Epona was in car with Sam the day before. He looked particularly enraged while he was in the kitchen.
I didn’t realize that Sam saw Epona’s shirt in his dream in episode 1. He’s added failing to save Epona and having to drop an item of her clothing in the river each year as well as an item of Nathan’s clothing to his recurring nightmares. Plus there were the dead animals- maybe the islanders are secretly water voles instead of selkies. That would actually make sense in the case of several of them- looking at you, Larry and crew.
A few birds/souls show up in this episode, after the island was devoid of them in episode 1. We hear geese flyover and see a bird fly across the causeway. At the same time, Sam starts to process the emotions from the loss of his son and potentially remember the island from a previous life. But then Jess and the festival get in the way and he descends into escapism again.
The Symbols on Goltan’s Trailer: Celtic Crosses and Triskeles
It’s interesting that the Celtic Cross shows up on the trailer. One of the old uses for the Celtic Cross was to denote the boundaries of the property of a monastery or church when places of worship were respected as sanctuaries for criminals and refugees. Was Goltan given sanctuary on the island?
Before the Celts were converted to Christianity, the cross inside the circle represented the sun. The circle alone represents the moon. The 4 arms of the cross have many meanings: the 4 elements (earth, air, fire, water); the 4 directions; the 4 parts of humans (body, soul, mind, heart); the stages of the day and seasons of the year.
Early Celtic Crosses were simple and often carved into stone. Later Celtic Crosses often were and are elaborate works of art that are sometimes combined with other images to help tell stories which can be historical, pagan or Christian. As with many converts, the polytheistic people of the British Isles adapted Christianity and their indigenous religion to each other to create a unique combined faith, rather than leaving their original traditions behind.
The triskele (or triskelion) triple spiral symbol that was on the trailer and in the newspaper photo has appeared in Celtic art for more than 5,000 years, including in stone carvings at the prehistoric Newgrange passage-grave monument in Ireland. From Ancient-Symbols.com:
Triskeles feature prominently in both ancient and modern Celtic art, as they evoke the Celtic interpretation of the three realms of material existence: earth, water, and sky (and all their interconnections). The symbol is also thought to represent the three worlds: spiritual, physical, and celestial.
Other Trinity connections associated with the triskele are life-death-rebirth, past-present-future, earth-water-sky, and creation-protection-destruction. Each one deals with some aspect of personal growth, human development, and spiritual progress. One theory posits that the triskele represents reincarnation, as it consists of one continuous line that could be analogous to the unbroken movement of time. In this context, it represents the process of constantly moving forward to reach a state of understanding and enlightenment.
Another theory states that at the Newgrange monument, the triskele is meant to symbolize pregnancy. This Neolithic structure has a distinct womb-like appearance and the sun spirals in its movements every three months, with the symbol’s three spirals representing nine months in total.
So the triskele, as might be expected, represents many of the same themes we’ve already been discussing- fertility, reincarnation/life, death and rebirth; liminality and placement in time and space, such as interactions with the past, present and future, and with the earth sea and sky. And a couple of new elements we talked about a lot in my Dark recaps, but are new to The Third Day- creation, protection and destruction and the interaction of the three, which leads to creation through destruction and other types of growth that appear negative on the surface, but are more like the old making way for the new or the parent who needs to be cruel to be kind.
Which leads us to grave as womb, rebirth, reincarnation and dark mother goddesses, who destroy, protect and create.
Some of Mrs Martin’s anger may stem from the fact that we have yet to hear anyone reference women or female energy as important to Osea’s leadership, history or spirituality. The photo of Charrington showed him with a group of men, as if the women on the island didn’t exist, when the origin story we heard from Mr Martin was about a wife and children who needed protection from an alcoholic abuser.
Apparently the husband was saved from his demons- what about his family? Were they the boring part of the story who weighed him down, just like Sam’s wife and kids? From what we’ve seen, Epona has been treated like a possession by the islanders, rather a young woman who was in distress. Where are the other women and caretakers who should be taking her in and keeping her safe from the harshness of the island while she recovers? It’s clear that Mrs Martin doesn’t keep anyone safe from anything. She couldn’t even walk Sam across the island safely. She’s all destructive energy.
Balance and the Old Gods
Jess told Sam that on Osea, the pre-Christian trinity of gods consisted of Esus (god of war), Teutates (tribal protector) and Taranis (god of thunder, sky, sun and wheel of the year). In ancient times, human sacrifices were made to each- sacrifices to Esus were hung (air), sacrifices to Taranis were drowned (water), and sacrifices to Teutatis were burned (fire). The element of earth is missing, just as female/goddess energy is missing from their worship, one obvious reason why the island might be out of balance.
It’s strange that the show hasn’t mentioned that there was also a real life goddess named Epona who was popular among the Romans and the Celts. But there is a giant female effigy and the character of Epona is clearly important. My guess is that they are leaving unspoken that in universe, Epona is Esus’ female counterpart, the Sophia/Mother Mary/Mary Magdalene to his Jesus.
If the island has forgotten to honor female energy along with male energy, that would be another reason for it to be out of balance and for Mrs Martin to be so full of rage. They list dualities and trinities otherwise, so they should know that father/male energy isn’t enough by itself. The island seems to be dominated by aggressive men. We see women in the pub and at the festival, but other than Mrs Martin, they seem to have little to no influence on the island. Jess appears to be an outsider and Epona is portrayed as a victim.
The goddess Epona was a protector of all animals, especially horses. The animals on the island could use a protector. She was also linked to love, fertility, abundance, the Underworld, dreams and communication. There is speculation that she was another version of the Great Mother Goddess, which would fit with the cornucopia and keys to the Underworld that are her symbols. Her attributes make her an ideal counterpart to the trinity of gods that Jess listed- love vs war, keys to the Underworld instead of the sky, protector of animals and food crops instead of the tribe.
But right now, the living Epona is being stifled, and Sam has encountered hostility whenever he shows concern for her welfare.
I’m wondering if various islanders are seens as agents or reincarnations of the gods, and if Jess is supposed to be figuring out which god Sam represents. Teutates would seem to be the father god of the island, the role the original Charrington took on. But the symbols of Esus appear around him and respond to him- birds have returned; trees have sprung back to life, Jason picked up his ax, Epona hung herself.
Though the islanders call Esus the god of war, many people equate him with Mercury, god of trickery and thieves. Much as the islanders also keep trying to push Sam into fights, he’s more comfortable with avoidance or talking/lying his way out of a problem and we know he’s a thief. He’s been protective and tried to play father with Epona in order to make up for his perceived failure with Nathan. I think Esus as Mercury is his closest identification.
Taranis, the sky god, seems underrepresented on the island. There are a few birds, frequent shots of the cloudy sky, and people flew at the end of this episode. Though Sam has been around for all of that, I think Jess is the one who best represents Taranis. We met her for the first time in a second floor room, with the window for a portal. She’s the one who gives Sam the drugs (another portal) and puts most of the ideas in his head that allow him to mentally “fly”.
Taranis is the god of water and storms, so he would be associated with change, the sea and outsiders. We’ve seen shore animals and birds, but the only fin fish was the one held by the giant male puppet. Everyone has refused to enter the water, whether by boat or swimming. Symbolically, the sea frequently represents the repressed parts of ourselves that we want to avoid.
The islanders avoidance of the sea would equate to an avoidance of the salt portion of their salt and soil dichotomy. Soil would be the basic, surface aspects of life that provide day to day stability, while salt would be the deeper emotional and archetypal aspects that provide long term continuity and complexity.
Perhaps the imbalance that caused the oyster beds to die off caused the fin fish to become depleted first. The fin fish live fully in the sea, while the oysters live at the intersection of the sea and shore. Now the mammals who live where the beach becomes land, such as the voles, are dying as well.
The islanders are aware of this and their rituals include the voles as prayers to save them. The thinking is, if a few are sacrificed willingly, maybe the gods will save the rest. The oysters that were part of Sam and Jess’ Osea breakfast may also have been sacrifices, if Sam and Jess are actually playing out a weekend long ritual.
But everyone involved has still avoided facing the depths of the sea head on. Until the tribal protector god is satisfied and everyone’s inner demons are faced, their will be no peace. Tomo’s boat would skim the surface of the sea, just like driving the causeway does. Epona told Sam that there’s no way he could fall off the causeway, but I have a feeling that’s exactly what he needs to do.
On the other hand, there were signs of fertility and life returning to the island- Jess appeared to have morning sickness; we saw signs of a few birds, which might equate to returning souls; the trees grew as Sam walked by, even long dead ones; the pub party moved outside, with a bigger, more energetic fire and more spirited, colorful celebrations.
But the return of life is too late for Mrs and Mr Martin to have children, which may not help her rage situation. She’s nurtured and compressed her pain into a white hot diamond of seething fury that’s turned outward on whoever she blames for the downfall of the island.
Mrs Martin has a laser focus for spotting people’s weaknesses and exploiting them to feed her need to dominate and induce pain in others. But that repression also allows her to maintain her facade as the brusk, businesslike but ultimately warmhearted and dependable innkeeper that the town depends on.
Are Mr and Mrs Martin head of the druids? Mrs Martin, who doesn’t have a first name, wore orange, the color of fire, for the entire episode, and gave Sam shoes that matched her outfit. Then she claimed him at the end of the night. Orange and fire would align Mrs Martin with Teutatis, the tribal protector. She seems protective at times, though in a dysfunctional way that doesn’t show much concern for the people she’s protecting.
Meanwhile, the island Father is a nonentity, assumed to be the man in white, but seemingly allowing a group of thugs led by the likes of Larry to run roughshod over the island while he mostly sits passively in the Big House. He was sitting up front in the leader position during the preacher’s service and he was brought in the calm Jason down. White is associated with Christmas and Easter, and thus with rebirth and reincarnation.
The preacher must be the nominal Christian representative, since he had the basic trappings of Christianity and someone has to keep up appearances.
Images courtesy of HBO.