The Third Day Part 2, Autumn, was a 12 hour live streamed event that took place on October 3, 2020, on the real Osea Island, in between the original broadcast of Parts 1 and 2. The event was streamed and recorded as it happened, in one continuous take. Over the course of the long day, Jude Law’s Sam, who has spent the last several months living on the island, undergoes a ritual initiation as island Father.
The ritual takes place during the island’s annual Esus and the Sea festival. The producers had originally planned for the festival to be a musical concert event attended by a crowd of 10,000 people, but the COVID pandemic forced them to scrap those plans. The broadcast of The Third Day was moved from May to October and the concert festival became a religious ritual similar to the Easter tradition of reenacting Jesus’ walk through the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering or Stations of the Cross, on the way to his execution on Good Friday. They limited the crowd to the villagers, with Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, whose music was memorably used in Part 1, providing solo performances at a few key moments.
While a day long, live streamed concert would have made for more interesting live viewing, it’s a bit scary to imagine 10,000 concert goers trampling tiny, unspoiled Osea Island. The crowd would have gotten in the way of the story we were shown instead of enhancing it. What would have helped the story more is better sound tech so viewers could understand more of the dialogue, plus maybe scaling down the time frame. 12 hours is too long, but 6 hours might be doable for a binge with no breaks. Especially when the full video, and even the 2 hour edit, has so much dead time and no subtitles.
If you watch it, my advice is to let it play through in the background like a fireplace Yule log video of Osea Island scenery that occasionally shows a relevant scene or plays a good song you stop to pay attention to. The full recording is available on HBO’s Facebook page with a subscription and can be accessed through links HERE. An official edited version is available to everyone on HBO’s Youtube HERE. An unofficial edited version is embedded at the bottom of the page, along with a Florence Welch only version.
I’m not doing my usual blow by blow recap for this one, since twelve hours of Sam digging mud and sleeping is just too much. Instead, here’s a summary of the highlights.
The camera is handheld frequently generally acts as a villager or Pilgrim to the island who’s come to participate in the festival, but it also takes on a more omniscient third person observer stance, either to give the audience close ups or distance shots. Or maybe this Pilgrim is particularly nosy and took the hallucinogen that let the islanders fly in episode 2. Could be a disembodied soul waiting to reincarnate. Epona, is that you?
Sometimes the camera skims across the ground and we can try to identify the native weeds and grasses of Osea Island. It’s educational programming, folks.
We haven’t been told of a previous tradition of sacred pilgrimages to Osea Island, but Mr Martin gave the suggestion of a diaspora of believers when he said that Nathan’s kidnapper, Goltan, and his family were promised sanctuary on the island in return for kidnapping Nathan. Mr Martin pleaded with Sam to understand how important living on the island would be to true believers. Part 2 reveals that the islanders made good on this deal. Goltan’s daughter, Vadoma (Ria Zmitrowicz), lives on the island and is one of Sam’s outspoken enemies.
The islanders probably wanted the festival to be the first step in a plan to combine increased tourism with religious pilgrimages to the Celtic Soul of the World. It’s a tried and true money making scheme for sacred sites and religious orders everywhere, and has been for thousands of years.
The video opens on the other side of the causeway. A written message flashes onscreen:
“Every year, Osea holds a festival- ‘Esus and the Sea’. It marks the passing into adulthood of the children of the island. And each year a boy or girl is chosen to to take ‘The Path of Esus’, a trial akin to the Christian Stations of the Cross. But on special years, when Osea needs a new leader, the prospective ‘Father’ also undergoes the trial. They too take the ‘Path of Esus’ to ensure that they are fit to lead the island and that the island accepts them. This year is such a year.”
Once the message is complete, the camera walks, slowly, across the causeway. It’s low tide, the lowest we’ve ever seen it. Some of the area surrounding the causeway is even dry. Must be the tides get particularly low at this time of year. Now I want to see someone try to walk/swim the causeway at high tide to see if they can make it.
Jumping ahead, a 16 year old boy named Johnny (George Jacques) is the designated Esus for the island youth. He’ll be the Soil Esus, since there are two Esus’ going through the ritual this year, and will be shepherded through his ritual by a group of men called the Soil Disciples. Most of Johnny’s ritual will be done on the other side of the island from Sam.
Sam is, you guessed it, the Salt Esus and is led around by the Salt Disciples. The Salt Disciples sounds like a band name from the era of the Four Seasons. They’d have great harmonies, smooth dance moves, but not enough uptempo numbers, am I right? Unless they let Larry join. He’d be the David Ruffin of the Salt Disciples.
The Salt Disciples, sans Larry, unceremoniously pull Sam out of his house, in a state of confusion, asking who’s going to watch his son. Is he this out of it in general, or did the islanders keep him in the dark about the exact day of the festival?
Probably the former, given the elaborate preparations for the festival. Tables are set up in a long row to mimic the Last Supper, the start of Jesus/Esus’ ordeal. Villagers start the feast while Sam and Johnny dig their own graves. Preacher (Amer Chadha-Patel) baptizes those who wish in a small pool of mud and salt water. It’s a much less traumatic experience than Sam’s baptism to Esus in episode 3. Sam/Jude law spends a long time actually digging a hole, in what looks to be thick clay soil, large enough to bury him in. This show isn’t cutting corners.
Then it’s time to follow the Stations of the Cross, which in this case are maybe the Stations of the Boat. Johnny goes back to his side of the island with his (less cool) backup band the Soil Disciples, while Sam moves from station to station. As with the Christian version, each stop involves an action and the reading of a passage of religious verse. Each station has a little wooden shrine with candles and a diorama of the event for that station.
Goltan’s daughter, Vadoma, reads the verse at one station, while Jess (Katherine Waterston) does the honors at another. Another new character, Veronica (Florence Welch) leads a call and response song at each station, “the music a strange mix of traditional Essex folk song and Christian hymn.” (X)
Some of the actions are identical to the Stations of the Cross, such as the islanders rejecting, mocking and throwing things at Sam and Veronica comforting him by wiping the sweat from his brow with a cloth. Others are adapted to match Osea’s ocean and marshland environment. Sam drags a broken wooden row boat through a field instead of a cross through a city street. He has a Last Supper with his Salt Disciples standing hip deep in the sea, instead of in the Garden of Gethsemane. Other islanders stay on the beach to eat.
A collar of driftwood spikes around Sam’s neck replaces a crown of thorns on his head. Sam and Johnny are taken out to two tall platforms set up offshore that look like gallows instead of crosses. They stand on top of the platforms until exhaustion overcomes them and then fall into the water, instead of hanging from nails holding them to the cross until they’re dead. The islanders leave them in the water for a few minutes before pulling them out, then bury them in their graves.
Jesus was in his grave for 3 days before he rose on Easter morning, but Sam is only in his grave for a little while before he reappears at the festival. The islanders have feasted and danced while he’s been gone instead of mourning him. The baptisms continue, with the pool eventually turning into a mud wrestling baptism mosh pit. They’ve also written wishes for the New Year on pieces of paper that the island Father is meant to bless and take charge of.
When Sam returns to the spot where the main celebrations are taking place, he’s recognized as having completed the ritual and is officially appointed the island Father. The islanders give him a basket filled with the wishes they wrote down, their hopes and dreams for the new year, which are now his responsibility. He walks and dances with the islanders and Johnny in procession across the island. Sam carries the basket and the islanders carry torches. He starts out engaged and enthusiastic, hugging the islanders, but gradually shows his exhaustion. He starts looking for Nathan.
Soon Sam sees Nathan up ahead and stops walking. Everything changes again in that moment. Nathan is almost a hallucination, but it’s clear that others see him, too. Sam mindlessly drops the basket of wishes on the side of the path. He walks slowly to Nathan and holds out his hands, then turns around and walks away with him in the opposite direction from the procession. The islanders still have their Soil Esus, Johnny, to continue on with, so they keep going. But a few, like Jason, look annoyed that the Father isn’t continuing on with them.
The wishes catch fire and burn up the basket they were in. It turns out that Sam left the procession when they were at the end of the causeway, a place where he’s run into Nathan before, also a liminal spot where his luck has changed before. The three watchtowers at the end of the causeway catch fire right after the basket of wishes does and burn to the ground.
My suspicion is that there was a guard tower for each god in the Esus-Teutatis-Taranis trinity. Since Sam is the third generation in his direct line to repeatedly reject the violent lifestyle the trinity of old island gods prefer, the fire could signal that the old gods are retreating.
Historically, they were sometimes blended into one god, Lugus/Lugh, and I wonder if that might be happening on Osea. Lugus, or Lugh in Ireland and modern Wicca, was the Celtic Mercury, associated with rightful kingship, truth, the first harvest festival of the year on August 1st, fertility, the arts, trade, commerce, travel, the tree of life, birds, horses, and dogs. “Lugh is portrayed as a warrior, a king, a master craftsman and a savior… He is also associated with oaths, truth and the law.” (X) Lugh is less bloodthirsty and more noble than the trinity of old Celtic gods, which makes him more palatable to modern sensibilities.
Sam was probably supposed finish the procession, then throw the wishes either into the sea (the basket looks like a sea animal trap) or a large bonfire, where the magic of the day long ritual would be completed and Sam would be truly sealed as island Father. He chose Nathan instead of the island as a whole, which sent the magic awry.
The island and its people interact to create the deities they need. By staying on the island but choosing his son, as his grandfather and father did before him, Sam might be forcing the spirit of the land to which his family is magically bound to change around him. Three is a powerful magical number and Sam is the third Charrington to choose love of family over violent sacrifice. He’s essentially given the soul of the island itself an ultimatum that if it wants to keep the true bloodline as its priest-kings, it needs to change.
It’s interesting that the watch towers and the wishes burned on either side of the road with the torches in the road, but Sam and Nathan were unharmed. If the gods had wanted to strike them down, sparks were flying and drunken tempers were ready to explode. The ritual didn’t end as planned, but maybe the burning towers were the island’s answer to Sam’s change in the ritual’s structure. It could be that Sam will be the Father chosen by Lugus rather than the old trinity and it will take the islanders a while to catch up.
It’s not like Sam asked for the job of Island Father. He just wanted his son back. He doesn’t actually owe these people anything. But he’s still wearing Mrs Martin’s magic orange shoes and they’re still as bright orange as ever. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. It’s important to have the right shoes on an adventure. Just ask Dorothy.
At the end of the night, Sam is wearing the white suit of official Island Father. He’s cooperated with the ritual all day. He accepted the job and interacted normally with other people when Nathan wasn’t around. But he was emotionally and physically wrung out, as well. He doesn’t draw energy from acting out the traditional role as presented to him.
And he’s still not enthusiastic about the position. Things aren’t okay with him, and possibly not with Nathan. They might be exacerbating each other’s mental illnesses or they might feel so threatened on the island that they stick to themselves most of the time. The islanders did kidnap, coerce and try to kill both of them.
The way Sam reacted when Nathan appeared in the procession is troubling. The boy still had his back to us and he still commanded all of Sam’s attention, like an obsession or addiction. In Part 1, Nathan only turned toward the camera when he was so far away that we couldn’t see his face clearly. That was acceptable when Sam was chasing a ghost. But now, Nathan should be a real, live boy who functions like the other characters. In this part, we didn’t hear everyone’s voice clearly, but we saw their faces and how they normally interact with each other.
Nathan remains a faceless ghost who’s only fully acknowledged by Sam. He should be the prince of the island, next in line for the throne. We saw Jess’ girls treated normally all day long, interacting with everyone and playing like normal kids throughout the feast. They aren’t being held hostage up at the Big House like they were in Part 1. Like Jess, they’ve settled in. Why hasn’t Nathan? Why do most people pretend he isn’t there and why are most of the rest annoyed to see him?
The presence of Vadoma on the island probably doesn’t help. Though Goltan’s interactions with the islanders led to his own death, his daughter is a true believer who still wanted to live in the soul of the world. She blames her father’s death on the Charrington bloodline and the run of useless Fathers. She tells the villagers that Sam is another useless Father who will bring doom to the island. Does she really feel that way or was it just an act for the festival?
Jess looks happy and still has her red raincoat. And she’s several months pregnant, probably 5 or 6 months– from May to October, from Beltane to Mabon or Samhain. In the evening, Preacher baptizes her in the pool while she’s wearing a white dress, with the islanders cheering her on.
She has a couple of phone calls with her husband that don’t go well, then is consoled by Jason (Mark Lewis Jones), who seems to be doing well. I’m so happy that Jason is okay and Jess’ daughters aren’t with her husband, who sounded abusive. But what is the real story with her marriage and custody issues? Did the islanders really coerce her into betraying Sam or was that just a story so Sam wouldn’t blame her and would accept the Charrington baby they were hoping for?
Larry (John Dagleish) greets Veronica happily when she arrives in town and seems okay some of the time. But when unconscious Sam and Johnny are driven past the feast after they’ve drowned, laid out on display in the back of a truck trailer, most of the town stands tall and pours out their drinks with respect. Larry stays sitting and gets the same sneer on his face he had when Epona kissed Sam in episode 3. He doesn’t approve of Sam anymore now than he did then and he’s not interested in pretending. Larry might be the most honest person on the island.
He’s also the most violent. Now Sam has to protect himself and Nathan from Larry’s moods. And maybe from Jason and Mrs Martin’s moods. The Martins seem to have avoided the festival, perhaps for COVID safety reasons or perhaps because Sam is so totally over them.
Florence Welch’s Veronica seems friendly to all, a gentle, possibly even angelic, presence dressed in white, whether it’s the white gown she wears during the ritual or the white coat she wears later during the feast. She plays the part of the weeping women under the cross by wading into the water after Sam and Johnny are on the platforms, which gives her the symbolic status of Mary in the passion play.
The lyrics to her hymn speak of unification, atonement and the reincarnation cycle in a way we haven’t seen on the island before. They say that though the cycle includes endless suffering, love is the glue that holds it together and keeps it moving. She adds not only the divine feminine, but also the light element of love to the dark elements of violence and aggression that dominated Part 1. This hymn and Veronica’s warm actions during the ritual are the first time we’ve truly seen dualism and balance on the island, not just heard talk about honoring both sides.
Lyrics to Veronica’s Hymn:
Make my body of the earth, Make my body of the water
All that God has pulled apart, It is love he brings together
Make my body of the salt, Make my body of the soil
It is love the waters rise, It is love the waters boil
Take his body in your arms, Take his pain and take his heart
Make my body of the salt, Make my body of the soil
‘Cause God lays love on those that reach beyond him
The flowers grow to fall and be forgotten
‘Cause God lays love
The wishes may still have reached a divine destination, since the smoke from their spontaneous combustion would have carried them somewhere. The collective consciousness of the islanders has a power of its own, with or without an island Father. The islanders have been torn about what they want for years, since before Sam came to the island. Some, like Larry, want to continue the old, violent ways, seemingly including human sacrifice. Others seem to want to move forward. Veronica’s wish was “Freedom from fear.”
The first video shows only Veronica singing the hymn. The second video shows all of Veronica’s time onscreen.
Another Way of Framing the Ritual and Ending- Transcendence vs Immanence
Immanence– theories of divine presence in which the divine encompasses or is manifested in the material world. Naturally part of something; existing throughout and within something; intrinsic.
Transcendence– in which the divine is seen to be outside the material world.
Beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience; (of God) existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe.
To the naked, literal eye, Sam appears to be a failure at this point. But is he?
Jesus was seen as a failure by the wider world at this point in his career, and for quite some time afterwards. From the time of his arrest through his resurrection, even his disciples weren’t sure what would happen and some denied knowing him or doubted the future of the movement. Christianity was an underground movement for many years after his death, spreading secretly by word of mouth rather than through large public gatherings as it had when its star preacher was at the height of his popularity.
According to Christian belief, Jesus lived on Earth as a mortal man for 33 years, suffering and loving as humans do. He took on the burden of human sin by carrying and dying on the cross. The cross is the representation of our sin and the suffering he endured for us, but also the love that God as Jesus expressed through his sacrifices. Sam dragged the boat load of islanders wishes and dreams as his burden, then “died” for their futures.
Jesus became the last sacrifice needed. On Osea, Celtic sacrificial rituals have evolved more slowly. It’s not clear how often human sacrifices are made, but Mrs Martin was in awe of Epona’s dedication to sacrificing herself to save the island more than she was saddened by the loss of an incredible young woman. The attitude of some of the islanders is that the gods have expectations that need to be met and if it takes the death of someone they care about to meet those expectations, then so be it.
Saints, martyrs and crusaders die for their causes. Epona essentially died a martyr’s death to save her people. So far, we haven’t been shown how the larger community reacted to her death. Larry and Jason had strong reactions to Sam in Part 1 and seem unhappy with him again in Part 2. It could be that they think he should be doing more to honor Epona’s sacrifice or it could be they find a female sacrifice irrelevant.
But Epona, who was named after a goddess and comes from a culture steeped in the belief in reincarnation, has gone from being immanent in this world to transcendent. We never saw her when she was truly immanent and a regular villager. By the time we met her, she was in the process of attempting suicide, putting her in a liminal state. Whether we agree with it or not, her death allowed her to please the gods and transcend, which was a choice she’d made before we ever met her.
Sam’s grandfather took his father away from the island, into exile from their homeland. Sam is the prodigal son returned and in Part 1 the island as a whole recognized him as such. Celtic spirituality is animistic, which means there is a spark of the divine in everything, from the rocks and sea to the trees and animals. We were shown this in the way the natural world responded favorably to Sam’s presence as the weekend went on. Like the human form of Jesus, Sam was an immanent god in Part 1.
The Big House, where the Father lives, can be seen as the island’s castle. It’s the Heaven of the island and the place where Sam retreated to after his symbolic Threefold Death in episode 3. Nathan was already in the Big House, waiting for Sam. He’d been symbolically dead for years and possibly in purgatory, waiting to be claimed by a parent. Now that Sam is also symbolically dead, twice over, in fact, they can be in symbolic heaven together. The Father and the Son, two transcendent gods together in the island heaven Jess promised Sam if he stayed.
The first time we saw Nathan in Part 1, he was with Epona, who was joining him in the world of the dead. After that, he was always alone- transcendent, removed from the affairs of the material world. Starting with Nathan’s disappearance, the islanders pushed Sam’s mind away from reality so that now he also lives in a place that is transcendent, removed from everyday life and reality.
Jesus also became a transcendent god after his crucifixion and rarely interferes in the world of men. He came back for a few weeks to tidy up his affairs, then took off for the Big House to hang out with his Dad and the Holy Ghost. For a long time, there have been rumors that he might come back and pay closer attention to humans, but apparently it will take the worst apocalypse ever. Something that big and threatening might jolt Sam out of his funk, too.
Because here’s the thing. The islanders, as previously stated, have done a lot of killing while trying to get the island to give them what they want, as if the gods are a Santa Claus who owes them presents. But they don’t listen to what the gods want from them, so the gods don’t answer their prayers. The island accepted Sam and gave him Nathan, but it seems that it’s still unhappy with the islanders.
I’m not sure it was unhappy with Old Father, either. Maybe he was just old. Maybe the islanders kept asking the wrong questions, so they were getting the wrong answers from their gods.
As Father God, Sam rejects the old ways at the end and doesn’t complete the ceremony. Is he a failure or is he, by following his heart, also inadvertently showing the islanders that they need to find a new way, too? Just as he did in Part 1, Sam tries it their way, but it’s not fulfilling. It’s another hollow ritual, probably created by the original Charrington, based on the Victorians’ misunderstanding of Esus as a derivation of Jesus. He was not.
So Sam and the gods withdraw, or become transcendent, as people and gods tend to do when they’re continuously misunderstood and abused. No one is listening to them, so why keep trying? The gods don’t die, because energy lasts forever. They transform into what their people need as time goes on, whether it’s the trinity of Teutatis-Esus-Taranis becoming Lugus or the pagan gods becoming Christian saints.
And what the heck is going on here? ↓ Are these human sacrifices brought in from where the Gauls and Picts used to live, like Jess talked about in episode 2? Hopefully they’re only pretend dead or they really are pretend people. Usually on this show there are real people under the hoods, but maybe this one time they went with fake sacrifices. It would be hard to cover up this many murders or disappearances. The hollowness of this act, whatever is going on, shows that the island’s Esus worship needs to be rethought.
Images courtesy of HBO.