Part 3 of The Third Day, Winter, picks up several months after Part 2, Autumn. It’s been nine months since Sam came to the island in May, which makes it February of the following year.
Part 3 follows single mom Helen (Naomie Harris) and her two young daughters, Ellie (Nico Parker), who’s almost 14, and Lu, short for Talulah (Charlotte Gairdner-Mihell), age 9. They arrive on Osea Island for a brief holiday, only to find that the islanders are at war again and there’s no room at any of the inns. In fact, the inns are permanently closed.
The sacred tourism idea from Parts 1 and 2 seems to have been scrapped. Instead, some residents are attempting to flee the island in tears. But with all of the chaos, the island tourism board forgot to take down room listings, so now the villagers have three cold, tired and hungry tourists to deal with, much like they had to deal with Sam at an inopportune time in Part 1.
Weird how this keeps happening, isn’t it?
The episode begins with Helen and the girls driving the same stretch of road that Sam was on when we met him. Sam stopped to engage in a phone call and then for his ritual to mourn Nathan, but it’s cold outside now, so Helen keeps driving. The girls aren’t thrilled about traveling to the boring countryside during the winter, so Helen tries to get them excited by reminding them that this trip is meant to celebrate Ellie’s birthday. She’s rented a cute little cottage and they can learn about Saxons, Celts and Vikings through the archaeology of the island, something Ellie enjoys studying. Talulah says that archaeology is just dead things.
In the case of Osea Island, she doesn’t know how right she is.
Lu is a practical realist who likes her routines, even at age 9. For her, the fun of this surprise is outweighed by the fact that Helen sprang it on them at the last second, while they were getting ready for school this morning. She knows that’s weird, even for a family surprise, and thinks the real reason Helen pulled them out of school is because Ellie got in a fight yesterday.
Plus, the girls’ grandmother, Helen’s mother, told them that Helen can’t afford to make the mortgage payment this month. The girls are confused about how they can afford to go away for a few days when they’re about to lose their house. Helen says their grandmother is exaggerating how bad their financial problems are and not to pay any attention to Gran.
They laugh and play a word game, but we’re already seeing cracks in this family’s happy facade. Helen pulled her girls out of school at the last minute in cold weather for some reason that couldn’t wait until the weekend. And either Helen or Grandma is lying to the girls.
Gird your loins, kids.
They pull up at the entrance to the causeway, just as the tide goes out. Helen stops the car for a minute to tell her daughters about the ancient Roman causeway and the tiny, isolated island. She’s excited. They are suitably cautious. This continues on the drive across the causeway, which is currently full of deep potholes.
Someone forgot to shore up and even out the road surface over the summer. Would the island Father or the island transportation manager be in charge of that? Who’s in charge of making sure important practical work gets done in the midst of human sacrifices?
When they get to the island proper, it’s even less welcoming than usual. The three watch towers that burned at the end of Part 2 look like they were partially rebuilt, then abandoned. The broken boat that sits across the road from the towers is painted with threatening graffiti. The girls are nervous, because it’s becoming obvious they’re on a creepy horror show set. Helen is subdued, but still wants them to give the island a chance.
They drive down the main road and through the village. Bags of trash and broken equipment are strewn around. Mr Martin scrapes more graffiti off a boarded up window on the side of a building. He watches them drive by, but doesn’t acknowledge them otherwise, which seems strange for him. With Sam, he acted as town greeter and tour guide.
Lu calls the village a dump. It’s hard to say whether the mess is leftover from the Esus and the Sea festival or is from the next round of celebrating and fighting. It’s been three or so months since the last audience visit to the island. I don’t remember seeing the distinctive female figures, Sheela-Na-Gigs, painted on the sides of buildings during Part 2.
They continue through town instead of stopping at the pub, driving through the field, then past a large brick building. They pass a couple who are crying and packing their car with as many of their belongings as possible.
Helen keeps driving until they arrive at the one picture perfect farm on the entire island. She points out the cottage she’s rented.
Lu drily asks about wifi. She’s my favorite already. A born critic.
Ellie asks about the Bible group she was supposed to go to tonight with her Gran. Helen gives a jumble of excuses that starts with the class having been canceled because of the weather and ends with her asking if Ellie thinks she’s lying, but in a nice way.
It’s obvious that Helen is lying. She has some reason of her own for coming to the island which she doesn’t want to share with the girls, but the girls are too smart to buy her excuses. She chose to come now because the mortgage payment and what happened at Ellie’s school increased the pressure on her to the breaking point. The girls can feel it, without understanding what they’re feeling or why. Gran is clearly more critical than she is supportive.
Ellie tells her mom that she thinks the island and the farm seem nice, then Helen leaves the girls in the car while she sorts out the room. At the house, she finds a row of dishes on the ground next to the door. Alan, the homeowner, comes up behind her, startling her. He says she can’t stay there, despite her reservation, but he’ll refund her money.
She just made the reservation this morning, so he probably legitimately hasn’t been able to contact her or maybe he hadn’t even seen the reservation.
Helen assumes that he’s canceling the reservation because she’s Black. Either way, she’s driven a long way and has Ellie and Lu in the car, so she needs a room. When she tells him that she’s going to report him, he’s fine with it, and walks away from her. She follows him to the other door, where his mother is waiting. She says they “don’t do holiday lets no more. We’re done with that,” and that the listing should have been removed.
Helen continues arguing, pointing out the kids in the car. The woman looks at them and notes that their dad must have been white. Helen takes that as another sign that they’re racist. It’s actually that the other woman recognizes who they probably are. The woman tells Helen that the causeway closes in 2 hours and it would be best if they just left the island.
Because under the circumstances, these comments seem racist, they understandably outrage Helen even more and leave her even more determined to spend the night on the island. For now, she gets back in the car and leaves the farm.
And so begins another 3 day causeway countdown dash.
She tells the girls that there’s been a mix up with the booking, so they decide to drive back to the village to check out the Sea Bird Hotel. Helen tries to convince the girls that this is the beginning of a grand adventure. And if they can’t find a room before the causeway closes, they’ll leave.
Lu needs to pee before they get back to the village, so Helen stops to let her go behind a bush. A young woman watches them with a sour look and turns away when Helen waves.
Probably just as well that the island has given up on the tourism idea, between their tendencies toward murder, kidnapping and general unfriendliness.
Ellie tells Helen that she would have been okay if she’d gone to school, so Helen didn’t have to uproot the whole family. But Helen insists, again, that she planned this mid-week getaway a long time ago, as Ellie’s birthday surprise.
She’d be more convincing if she was less manic.
She says that the getaway has nothing to do with the girls at school. They’ve all had a hard year and need a new start. So this is them starting over- just Helen, Ellie and Lu.
It’s implied that they’ve left someone else behind in this new start.
Lu pops back up and says she needs to poo now. Then some kind of large animal, maybe a cow, makes a loud, frightened noise and birds fly away in fear.
It’s just so fitting that their fresh start in 2020 takes place on this h-llish island. Kudos to whichever fortune-teller timed The Third Day so well.
They drive to the hotel in the village. Helen leaves the girls in the car again, while she goes inside. While she’s searching for someone, she overhears three men talking. One, an elderly man named Janny, says that he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. A second man who’s called The Cowboy says that no one needs to get hurt. The third man, who’s Larry’s blonde sidekick and as far as I can tell still doesn’t have a name, threatens to hurt Janny if he doesn’t cooperate.
The Sidekick and the Cowboy leave when they see Helen. Janny is shaken, but tells Helen that the two men mean well. He owns the hotel, but they’ve just
in the last 10 minutes since he got hit in the head closed forever. The rest of the island has also closed forever. He proceeds to start a new career as a raging alcoholic. It’s an easy business to get into. Helen notices the large cut on his head and offers to treat it- Sidekick had a crowbar.
Outside, Jess’ nameless younger daughter walks by the car carrying a tray of medical supplies. When she drops a scalpel, Ellie jumps out to retrieve it for her. By the time Ellie catches up to the girl, Larry and Kail, Jess’ older daughter, have joined them. Kail smiles at Ellie like they’re old friends who share a secret. Larry asks what’s going on and hurries Jess’ daughters on their way.
Then he turns back to Ellie to find out who she is. She explains that she’s on the island for her 14th birthday surprise. He points out the Sheela na gig that’s spray painted onto a nearby building and says they’re mysterious figures found in churches all over the country. Larry asks what she thinks of them and why she chose Osea for her birthday.
Totally normal direction for the conversation to take.
Ellie was trying to go back to the car, but she stops to answer him. He’s being charming and friendly. I don’t think we’ve ever seen him smile or use this gentle tone before. She says that her mom thinks she’s likes archaeology, but she’s doesn’t, really. He takes a fish pendant from his neck and gives it to her, explaining that it’s over 1,000 years old and Saxon.
Larry: “It’s worth more than everything on this island. It’s from the Battle of Maldon, fought right here on Osea… The Saxon Lord Byrhynoth invited 4,000 Vikings to come over and slaughter him and all his men. Invited them. Total massacre. You know why he asked them to come over and butcher him and all his men? Because it was meant. And what’s meant to happen always happens on Osea, no matter what.”
While Helen takes care of Janny’s head, she explains that she used to be a veterinarian. She doesn’t explain why she’s not one anymore. Janny is impressed with her skill and gentleness. She tells him that she really needs a place to stay, since the farm canceled her reservation. He assures her that racism wasn’t the reason she was turned away, it’s just been a “tricky day” on the island. But he also can’t rent her a room either, under any circumstances. He encourages her to leave the island before the causeway closes.
She turns and sees Ellie talking to Larry outside. She races out to pull them apart, yelling at Ellie that she’s told her over and over not to talk to strangers. Once Ellie goes back to the car, Helen tells Larry that her daughter is 13. He’s back to his normal, threatening self, yelling at Helen defensively, instead of explaining the situation calmly. The Cowboy, who was sitting nearby watching the whole thing, interrupts just as Larry leans into intimidating Helen. He tells Larry to back off, because Helen just overreacted and didn’t mean any harm. Larry insults Cowboy, then walks away.
While it was nice of Cowboy to help out, he didn’t have to insult Helen to do it. She didn’t overreact anymore than Larry overreacted- if Cowboy was going to call one out, he could call the other out. Except, of course, we let psychopaths get away with this type of thing until they cross the line of violence that causes serious harm, while reasonable people are held to a higher standard.
Helen has had experiences that have led her to be cautious with her daughter and she’s not misreading how dangerous Larry is. Remember when he tried to kill Sam?
I know we’re supposed to see Helen’s reaction negatively, but look at the screen cap below of Larry leaning over Ellie- it looks like he’s about to kiss her. There was no need for a stranger who met her 2 minutes ago to get that close to a 13 year old girl.
Now look at the other screencaps in that group. Every one of those men is dangerous, including Cowboy, who pretends he’s a good guy. Look at the way he looms over Janney while Sidekick threatens the much smaller, elderly man with a crowbar. Cowboy isn’t any more trustworthy than anyone else on the island.
The world would be a better place if more children were protected from creepers the way Helen just protected Ellie.
Ellie still has the super valuable fish pendant. Pretty sure that’s what Larry intended. He pays way too much attention to the children of the island, when almost everyone else ignores them. I think he’s in charge of indoctrinating them into the cult. His job is to catch the little fish while they’re too young to know any better.
Helen goes back to the car, where Lu is playing with a tablet, even though she told the girls “no screens.” She takes out her anger on Lu and slams the tablet into the glove compartment. Ellie tells Helen it was okay, that she was safe. Helen continues to work herself into a frenzy.
Now she’s overreacting.
She tells Ellie that the bad guy could be any man, because everyone is a stranger. Then she hyperventilates, while saying, “What if I lost you? What if I lost you, too?” She repeats those words several times while both girls wrap themselves around her and reassure her that they’re both there and okay.
Ellie, in particular, stays calm and very adult-like. She’s doing an unhealthy amount of compensating for her mom’s issues, since there isn’t a second adult in the family to take over when Helen has an anxiety attack. As with Sam, this family has lost someone who’s left an irreparable hole in their lives.
Helen’s mania is an attempt to put a good face on her grief for her children, so that she can bull through the worst of times. Sam left his family to cope on their own when he could no longer face the hole created by the loss of Nathan. Helen and the girls are what a family who’s left behind looks like. Trickle down trauma, with everyone struggling to share the burden of the pain and of the need to carry on with everyday life, with its own relentless struggles.
Once Helen recovers, they drive out into the wilderness. Helen takes a walk while using her phone to search for someplace to stay. Ellie and Lu have a minute alone in the car. Lu is ready to go home and thinks this whole thing is just sad. Lu is a straight shooter already, at 9.
Ellie tries to put a good front on it, saying her mom just wants to make it special. She’s sure it will work out.
Ellie is stuck in the middle, the diplomat and negotiator, impossibly trying to keep all sides happy. I’m glad to hear she’s getting in fights with girls at school, to tell you the truth. Women who take on this role often play it to their own detriment, right up to the point of self harm. If Ellie, at 13, is already rebelling against her role as the one who denies her own needs while fixing the world for everyone else and is aiming her anger outward instead of inward, she has a chance to change things for herself before her thought patterns are so ingrained that she thinks they’re inevitable.
Gran calls to let Ellie know that the Bible group isn’t canceled like Helen said. Oops. You’re not helping your daughter with her plans, Gran.
Helen stands on a little bridge over a creek and looks at her phone. She notices one of the island shrines- a crucified pregnant woman with blood dripping from her feet. She’s wearing a white dress with black polka dots like Jess did when she was baptized near the end of Part 2/Autumn. This doesn’t seem to predict a pleasant birth for Jess.
Helen is undaunted by yet another “Get out!” sign from the island. She gets back in the car and shows the girls a website she found for an adorable island beach resort. They agree to go look at it. When they get close, the road is gated off. Helen parks and insists on walking around the gate via the beach. They don’t have much time before the causeway closes, but Helen is sure they can take a look and be back in time.
When they get there, the resort is half finished and abandoned, another listing that no one bothered to remove. On one outside wall, graffiti says “DIE” in giant red letters next to another Sheela na gig. Lu really has to poo, so they find an unlocked building where she can use the toilet.
Ellie wanders the building while Lu is in the bathroom. She finds a space that’s blocked off with sheets of black plastic,
like a murderer’s kill room. Inside, a real sheep is sat in a wooden chair with a crown of thorns. It’s underside is sliced open, hollowed out and bloody. A human baby doll is placed in the open cavity. I think a trail of oyster shells on the floor leads to the sheep, but I’m clearly no expert on oyster shells.
Just in case you forgot this show has a folk horror element. It must have been the sheep we heard screaming earlier.
Meanwhile, Helen finds a makeshift surgical or birthing chamber. A table is laid out with the elements of the Esus baptism ritual as well- bread, meat, wine, book of magic. It looks as though they may have practiced on or blessed it with the sheep. Helen and Ellie find each other and get scared when they see Preacher outside. He comes inside and blesses the bulding with a typically creepy prayer.
I’m sure there’s a totally reasonable explanation for this.
Of course the islanders do home surgeries in dirty abandoned buildings which probably don’t have running water, heat or electricity, instead of in a medical suite in the village built just for this sort of thing. It’s probably the way things have always been done on the island. Only an insensitive lout would suggest they modernize.
Lu comes out of the bathroom just as Jason and Mimir arrive. Helen motions for her to hide.
They tell Preacher that Janny is blind drunk, too drunk for their purposes. He’s chosen the other side in this war and will be punished. Preacher tries to back out of the plan. He’s worried the expectant mother won’t survive. Mimir slaps him, then Jason reminds him that everyone has chosen their side. Preacher had better do his part.
The men continue to argue, while the pregnant woman screams from the car. Helen picks her moment, then she and the girls run for it. The islanders are so preoccupied with their other emergencies that they don’t notice the escapees.
Helen and the girls have to knock down a fence and Lu loses a shoe in thick mud, but they make it back to where the car… was parked.
The car is gone.
That would explain why the men didn’t pay any attention to them. Helen asks for Ellie’s phone. They realize their phones are all in the car. They start walking and end up back where they started, at the farm where Helen rented the cottage for the weekend. Since the owners appeared to be moving out and she’s paid to rent a room for the weekend, Helen breaks a window in the door and unlocks it. Her daughters are totally shocked that their mother has turned into a burglar.
It’s always fun when the moment comes for kids to see the shades of gray in their parents.
The phone and electricity are dead and it’s very cold. Ellie finds Lu a replacement boot. Both girls are scared and confused. Helen searches upstairs for blankets. On the wall, there’s an Esus/Jesus painting where the savior is exposing his open heart, still inside his chest. There’s a Sajora mask in the wardrobe. Before they were driven out, these people were some of the true believers. The islanders will turn on anyone when they need a scapegoat or sacrifice.
Helen brings blankets down to the girls and they huddle together on the couch. Ellie asks again why they came to the island, since she hasn’t been into archaeology for years now. Plus Gran blew the bible study story.
Helen apologizes and explains that she doesn’t like all of the religious stuff, since Gran forced it on her when she was young. Ellie tells her to stop, since this still isn’t the real reason either. She asks if it has to do with the girls at school and if Helen thinks she’s a bad person. Helen tells her that those girls don’t understand everything that Ellie has been through. She doesn’t think Ellie should care what those girls think of her, but Ellie can’t help caring about their opinion of her.
Helen notices that Lu is getting too cold, so she wakes her up. They walk into the village to look for someplace warmer and find people at the pub. Mr Martin tries to turn them away, but Helen won’t take no for an answer. There are extra people at the pub besides the Martins, so they are open to some locals. She tells the girls to wait by the fire while she has it out with Mr Martin.
She tells him that their car was stolen, so they can’t leave. They’re staying by the fire all night unless he wants to throw them out and watch them freeze to death on his front stoop. Mr Martin argues that their car couldn’t have been stolen, because it’s like a reflex for him to insist that no islander would commit a crime. Mrs Martin offers them dinner and a room.
Helen asks if they’re safe in the pub. Mrs Martin doesn’t give her a direct yes or no answer. She says there’s a woman in labor who wants to have her baby on the island, which is a frequent occurrence. It’s usually not a problem, but the medic has gotten drunk. So now they’re hoping everything turns out okay. Everything else Helen and the girls saw is just part of the island’s wacky but charming but deadly traditions.
The car was towed so “they” could have access. Mrs Martin will call Danny to bring the car back, then she’ll make them some burgers.
I think Danny was the guy who blocked Sam in last summer. He must be the car guy.
Mr Martin brings them huge burgers. They are finally warm and happy. The Cowboy watches from across the room.
They exclaim over how delicious the burgers are. I can’t help but wonder if they’re eating the sheep we saw and/or heard and if that means something.
The car is brought back and parked in Sam’s spot. They get their stuff and bring it up to Sam and Jess’ room. There is a pile of leaves on the bathroom floor under the sink- soil instead of salt.
Now that everything has worked itself out, they settle in for the night. Ellie looks at the fish necklace and says her prayers. Helen looks unhappy about the prayers, but stays quiet. Once the girls are ready for bed, she says they’ll decide in the morning about whether to stay or leave. She turns out the light and puts Lu’s pad on the nightstand. The background picture is a family photo, showing Sam standing with them on a beach.
This is the family that Sam left behind. Helen came to Osea to find him. And maybe that £40,000.
Sheela Na Gig, Island Mother and Graffiti Goddess
In this episode, there are Sheela na gigs all over the island, painted in anger, as part of a war, with threats painted next to them. Guessing Sheela is meant to be one of the Old Goddesses of the island. In real life, Sheela na gig is a widespread figure in Europe, found mainly in churches but also in other places, but not much is known for sure about her. Interpretations, as always, vary with the outlook of the interpreter. Many of the surviving Sheelas were destroyed in the 19th century for being too pagan and too profane in the eyes of Christian clerics. (X) (X)
Sheela is found most frequently guarding doorways and windows, but not always. She’s a timeless female figure, neither young nor old, thought to represent the life cycle, including birth, death and rebirth. Her vulva is emphasized, the gateway into life, but also sometimes into death.
During the time when Sheelas were most popular, women were the main healers and caretakers. They were the gatekeepers of life and death. Sheelas are associated with fertility, motherhood, protection and transitions. Because of their open sexuality, they have a trickster aspect and the ability to ward off the evil eye and change one’s luck. They are also associated with magic, power, strength, courage, wisdom and life force.
Sheela is apparently one of the island’s Mother’s symbols. Instead of finding another potential Father to fight over, the cult of the Mother is now warring with the cult of the Father. The Christians seem to be siding with the island Mother cult. Hopefully the red slash on the Sheelas just means they want the baby to be born (“out”), but it also says “die” next to some of the Sheelas, so I think some of the islanders are being forced off the island- leave or die. Maybe the causeway entrance is seen as the transition point for leaving the safety of Sheela’s womb to go out into the rest of the world.
Mrs Martin, who I’ve previously associated with the Fairy Queen because of her trickster ways, is now more clearly seen as the island Mother and associated with Sheela na gig. Replacing the island Father hasn’t repaired the island’s luck, so the islanders are examining the island Mother. The Martins ran the island in the absence of a strong island Father and it’s been one disaster after another. Though kidnapping Nathan was Mr Martin’s idea, others had to approve as well. The ramifications of that decision continue to tear the island apart.
The Roman god Janus, who Janny is likely named for, is the god of change, transitions, doorways and portals, beginnings and endings, motion, creation and destruction. He is the guardian of the Gates of Heaven and was present at the beginning of the world. He has two faces, one looking forward to the future and one looking backward to the past. He has no Greek equivalent.
The forward and backward looking faces are an interesting metaphor. Janus would always see the world divided in two, the past and the future, but have difficulty with the now. He’d always see the world terms of transitions and motion, making it hard to stay in one place and find satisfaction. As is typical of the Second Sight, his two faces would be both a gift and a curse. If Janny has any of Janus’ attributes, you have to wonder what he saw in the future that made him choose to get drunk rather than deliver a baby.
Janus (Janny), Sheela na gig (Mrs Martin) and Mimir (Mimir) have quite a few attributes in common. They are all wise, knowledgeable island leaders who also have a tendency to get drunk or disappear at the moment they’re needed most. The deities they mirror are protective, but can be harsh, bringing about an end as easily as they create a beginning.
I linked to a couple of short articles about Sheela na gig above. If you want a deep dive, this is my favorite online resource: Sheela na Gig and Sacred Space: The Cailleach as Creator
The Pregnant Mary Shrine
We don’t see the island’s pregnant woman in this episode, but her screams are loud and the men, some of whom normally aren’t concerned about anyone, seem pretty worried. They don’t seem to be giving her much of a say in her own childbirth plan, beyond her demand to stay on the island. She’s being treated more like livestock than a person, which is basically how the people of Osea normally treat each other. They treat livestock/animals even worse than people, as we saw and heard.
I wonder if the bread, meat and wine were in the medical suite in readiness to immediately christen the baby or if they do religious ceremonies during labor, too. Preacher seems like his life is a continuous religious ritual. Maybe the August live stream event never ended for him.
My guess is that the crucified Mary in the shrine is a Christianized form of the island Mother, but also a form of the Celtic goddess turned Christian saint Brigid/Saint Bridget. We aren’t told if she’s called Mary or another name. In the Esus and the Sea ritual, the role of Veronica was expanded to take over the parts played by the Marys and other women in the Bible, so Veronica, who wore white during the festival, may be in there as well.
Or she may be Sophia, Wisdom/the Holy Ghost, who was traditionally personified as female in early Jewish and Christian history. She was seen as a goddess equal to the other two aspects of the trinity, God and Jesus, by the Gnostics and Cathars. The Cathars were an early medieval rival to Christianity who had other beliefs and traditions in common with the Osea Islanders. Eventually the Catholic Church led a crusade against them and drove them into hiding.
The pregnant Mary may be bleeding because her pregnancy is in trouble. Or maybe this is another horrible instance of human sacrifice for the greater good, in which the Mother sacrifices her children to save the island as a whole. That might explain why none of Mrs Martin’s children survived, since she’s likely the current island Mother.
Unlike island Father, island Mother doesn’t seem to be a hereditary role. Mrs Martin appeared to be grooming Epona as her successor, but with her gone, Jess is making a bid to take Epona’s place, possibly without Mrs Martin’s approval. The figure in the shrine is wearing a long white dress with black polka dots. Jess wore the same thing when she was baptized in the salt and soil pool near the end of Part 2- Autumn.
There have been other instances of Jess wearing white with a dark pattern. The bedroom at the inn, which was established as Jess’ room, is also white with a dark pattern. The female lead in the Esus in the Sea Festival, Veronica, played by Florence Welch, wore white during the ritual, but wore a white coat with navy blue and red embroidery during the evening feast. Mrs Martin has also been associated with white and a blue/red/or yellow pattern, such as the blanket the gun was wrapped in at the end of episode 3.
White is one of Brigid’s colors (also red and black). The Celtic Brigid is a mother goddess, but some of her derivations, such as Brigantia, St Bridget and Minerva, are warlike and/or virginal. The islanders may use plain white vs patterned white to distinguish between aspects of the Goddess, or it could be that they’re used interchangeably for the Goddess.
I imagine the crucifixion means the the figure in the shrine is an island savior and protector. Mary’s posture on the cross make me wonder if this angel from the tapestry has also been crucified.
Helen the Lost Goddess
Helen is already a complex figure before we even meet her, since she’s the wife and mother we’ve heard about from Sam. We read a few of her texts in Part 1. Waiting until the end of the episode to confirm the connection between Helen and Sam gives viewers the chance to get to know her on her own terms before sliding the information Sam gave us in Part 1 into place.
She was impressively patient with her husband in Part 1, and in return he’s stayed away for 9 months, leaving her to pick up the pieces. When Sam left home, he took £40,000 in cash with him- and he probably faked the burglary as a cover up. He left Helen alone with 2 kids, a business that was already in trouble, a house that she’s now close to losing, a bribery scandal he’d created, the continuing fallout from the loss of Nathan and apparently interference from her own unsupportive mother, who might also be a religious nut.
Nice going, Sam.
Talulah seems relatively unscathed, but Ellie is having trouble coping with the loss of her dad combined with the stress her mom is under and the way her Gran is undermining her mom. Helen’s true mental state was revealed when she hyperventilated after she found Ellie speaking with Larry and her dominant thought was that she might lose another person she loved.
The loss of Sam and Nathan has left her broken, but she keeps going for her girls. The islanders took Nathan, then lured Sam away, which leaves Helen in charge of the family. She’s determined to take care of them properly, but she’s barely able to because of her grief and the huge burdens Sam left behind. Losing Sam on top of Nathan had to open up her old wounds. She wouldn’t have been so patient with Sam’s disappearances and mental illness if she didn’t still love him, even if that love is probably stretched to the breaking point after 9 months.
Helen’s ability to keep going despite everything shows an enormous amount of strength and resilience. She fits right in on the island, where everyone seems to have suffered some terrible tragedy that they’ve had to soldier through. She’s a problem solver who won’t give up on a person or a situation until she’s exhausted every possible solution. She’s also fiercely protective and ready to spring into action when the need arises. Ellie and Lu are doing as well as they are because Helen has dedicated herself to their well being. They are lucky to have her.
My guess is that Helen is named for Helen of Troy, “the face that launched a thousand ships”. Castor and Pollux, the twins who make up the constellation Gemini, are Helen of Troy’s brothers. Viewers didn’t guess right away that Helen is Sam’s wife because he calls her “Cas”. My current theory is that Castor, who was a patron saint of horses, may be the source of the nickname, since Helen was a vet. (Cas could also be short for Cassandra.)
It’s significant that Helen, a former veterinarian, arrives in February, the time for celebrating the end of winter and the very beginning of spring with the Celtic festival of Imbolc/Brigid, which became the Christian feast day of St Bridget. Brigid is associated with the end of the dark and beginning of the light part of the year. Traditions associated with Brigid, the mother goddess, were evoked several times in this episode, generally in relation to Helen. Whereas Helen of Troy tends to be a victim in her story, as one of the All-Mother Goddesses, Brigid takes care of herself and others.
Brigid was known as a healer who went from house to house on the night of her feast day, blessing the homes and families of the virtuous. Families would be prepared to offer Brigid dinner and a resting place by the fire. Sometimes they would leave gifts outside, near their doors for her. We saw this with the dishes on the ground outside the door at the house that turned Helen away from her Airbnb reservation. It’s likely that Brigid won’t bless that family this year.
Brigid’s blessings are given as part of her protective aspect. She’s associated with both Minerva and Athena, who are both warriors and protectors of women. Brigid is also a fertility goddess. Combined, these aspects make her the goddess of breeding livestock, especially cows and sheep; brides, pregnant women and childbirth; light, poetry, inspiration and skills associated with fire; justice, healing, divination and prophecy.
Just as the cult of the male trinity of Esus-Teutatis-Taranis seems to be slowly evolving into something new on Osea, there are signs that the old goddesses may be making way for the new.
Mrs Martin was up to her old defensive, gaslighting tricks and mind games in this episode. I think that Helen accepted the role of Brigid when she and the girls ate burgers by the fire, which means the islanders won’t harm her. But I’m not so sure what it means for Ellie and Lu. Between the way Sam accepted that first drink from the Martins and the way the girls were filmed when they ate the burgers, I’m scared they’re being set up as sacrifices by the islanders. They are more potentials for the throne who muddy the line of succession. If things still aren’t going well on Osea, maybe murdering more of Sam’s relatives will be in order.
I don’t think I talked about this in Part 1, but there’s also the tradition that once you’ve consumed food or drink in the Underworld (or Purgatory or the Fairy’s Otherworld…), you can’t leave- unless you’re given special permission. Maybe you’re a Persephone, and your mom makes a special deal for you to leave for part of each year. Or you’re a Mercury and it’s your job to guide souls and deliver messages there, then leave. Otherwise, you’re trapped. We’ve never actually seen anyone leave the island alive.
Sam hasn’t left, even though Esus is associated with Mercury, but the islanders gave him Nathan to keep him happy. Are the rest of his family now trapped in this other realm, whatever it really is? Or were they lured there to bring Sam back to reality?
The Island Cult
Larry buzzes around the kids, chatting them up- I think he’s the recruiter for the hard core cult of the island old ways. He gets the kids on board early with ideas of reincarnation and bloody sacrifices, when those things still sound romantic and death is more of a concept than a harsh reality. He turns them into Esus’ little child soldiers before they other adults have even noticed what’s happening, unless they were recruited that way themselves.
Larry’s fish pendant is probably a reference to the Christian ichthys symbol, a fish drawn with two intersecting arcs. Fish and fishing are referenced numerous times in the Bible. Early church members who faced persecution used the ichthys as a secret sign to recognize each other and to mark their meeting places. The Sheelas may be marking buildings the same way.
Men Will Be Men Will Be Vikings
Larry’s description of the Battle of Maldon might explain these:
Reliving the glory days of the Battle of Maldon, when men were men and real men got themselves killed as part of a suicide/reincarnation pact with their gods. If the field of bodies and the painting aren’t reproductions of the Battle of Maldon, then they probably represent other times when the islanders decided a suicidal massacre was necessary to restore balance. You’d think they’d just go the kool aid route in modern times, but I get the sense that the trinity of gods refuse to change with the times, so violent death is still required.
The Battle of Maldon took place in 991 AD. It’s not certain which tidal island in Essex is the island in the historical poem that is the main account of the battle, but Osea is one of the possibilities.
Images courtesy of HBO.