Episode 6, The Dark, is the third day in Helen’s cycle on the island. She’s found Sam, so now it’s time for their confrontation. The islanders will, of course, do everything possible to interfere, up to and including murdering each other, but Helen has already proven that her energy is strong and she will persevere. It’s time for some answers.
Ellie continues her initiation into the island’s ancient beliefs with Kail. She meets more of the true believers and learns how she can help them, including toying with cult membership. Lu goes on the run, retracing the steps we’ve seen her parents take during their time on the island. She combines their journeys, but her path is also uniquely her own. By the end of the episode, each family member will have been put through their own trial and will come to their own conclusions about Osea Island. Helen and Sam each find their own reward.
Helen (Naomie Harris) and Sam (Jude Law) walk silently toward each other on the dock. They’re more like two enemies who are about to duel than a husband and wife who are about to be reunited after 9 months of separation. Jude Law and Naomie Harris project intense chemistry, love and longing underlying the bitterness between them.
True to the dueling metaphor, they stop several paces apart. He asks why she’s there and she asks where he’s been. He nods toward the Big House behind her and says he’s been right there. She asks why he didn’t come home, then repeats it a few times.
She definitely hasn’t seen anything on the island that would make her stay.
Sam: “He’s here, Cas… Our son. He’s here.”
She stops him right there, but Sam insists that she listen to him. He explains that the Osea islanders kidnapped Nathan because of the Charrington connection. He gestures to his white suit and explains that he’s now the Father, the leader of the island.
Sam and Helen are both dressed in white with a dark vest. Just sayin’. Twinsies. 😍
Helen does not believe her son is alive. She’s been around the barn with Sam’s crazy a few times before. He comes closer and tells her that the island is incredible, repeating that the islanders took Nathan and brought him to
the island of the dead this super special place. She keeps her body angled toward him, ready to block all attacks on her heart and soul.
And of course Mrs Martin (Emily Watson) shows up right then. Her response to finding the reunited lovebirds together is to swear a blue streak and blame Janny the drunken portal keeper for letting them find each other. Janny (Hilton McRae) was apparently supposed to be guarding Sam.
I guess it has been more than a day since Helen and Cowboy (Paul Kaye) found him passed out drunk in bed at the hotel, so he’s sobered up and reported for duty again. I found it easier to keep track of time and the sequence of events in Part 1, when we were in the minds of the psychotic stoned characters, than in Part 3, where we’re with the responsible mother- that probably says more about me than the show. 😜
Anyway, it’s time for the murder chase portion of the cycle. Mrs Martin starts in on her prepared speech, which bears a striking resemblance to the speech she gave Sam and Jess (Katherine Waterston) at the bonfire Saturday night in Part 1, except now Larry (John Dagleish) wants to kill Sam because the baby has been born instead of because Epona (Jessie Ross) kissed him.
I’m starting to wonder if they do this whole routine with some poor family every year or few years, like a true folk horror ritual, instead of it being a story unique to this time and place.
Mrs Martin tells Sam about the baby and that she’s now a direct challenge to Sam’s authority. Helen interrupts to ask Mrs Martin if it’s true that she took Nathan (Stanley Auckland). Mrs Martin tries to tell her that it’s not a good time to talk about this. Helen doesn’t care and asks where he is. When Mrs Martin doesn’t answer, she asks again.
Sam answers Helen and tells her Nathan is in the Big House. He takes Helen inside over Mrs Martin’s objections.
You have no power here any longer, Mrs Martin.
As they enter the house, the camera watches from inside. The tall front door is suffused with bright, white light, engulfing both Helen and Mrs Martin at the same time. That may be the spiritual passing of the torch between them, since they passed through an important portal with the Father going before them and the gatekeeper following them, after the Father chose to favor Helen’s authority over Mrs Martin.
Then Sam calls Helen upstairs, where they pass through another shaft of light, while Mrs Martin stays downstairs. She sits next to a fruiting orange tree in a weaker pool of sunshine.
This is our first good look at the interior of the Big House when the POV character is sober and it’s well lit. It’s decorated with rich colors, especially the purple in the front hall, lavish art work, and filled with light and green plants. As noted, there is an orange tree that’s improbably bearing fruit in the middle of winter in a hallway. (Trust me, it takes more light than that.)
I’ve wondered whether the island is Purgatory and the Big House is Paradise. This appears to answer that question. The Big House is Paradise, but only for those who’ve earned it.
And doesn’t Mrs Martin look like the metaphorical serpent sitting next to that tree? One of the meanings of the “knowledge” the serpent represents is the old pagan/Goddess religion/worship of Mother Goddess and Yahweh’s female counterpart Asherah that the Biblical God wanted His people to forget. Mrs Martin certainly is a worthy representative of paganism, since she is a true believer whose magic has been strong in the past.
Sam leads Helen into a library, where Nathan is sittng on the floor painting. Sam asks the boy if he knows who their visitor is. Nathan says he recognizes his mom. He stands up to speak to her. He’s wearing the same black boots, red pants and striped shirt he always wears, now with the addition of a matching red jacket.
Nathan and Sam are also clothing twinsies, one in a red suit and one in a white suit, like the Winter King and the Summer King.
Nathan asks Helen if she’s come to see him. She replies that she is. They don’t make any moves toward each other. Helen cries a little. She asks who takes care of him. He points to Sam, then says that people from the island did before that. He comments that she looks older than he remembers her. She says she is older. He asks if she’s disappointed in him. She says she’s not. He shows her his pictures, which all depict gruesome murders.
It’s hard to tell if they’re Jack the Ripper’s murders, scenes from the lives of saints or scenes from Nathan’s imagination. Sam acts like this is perfectly normal. Helen says she needs to talk to Sam.
They go out into another room, where Sam assumes that Helen is now as convinced as he is that Nathan is back. Helen asks him what’s wrong with him, because that child doesn’t even look like their Nathan. He’s not the right color or age. Nathan was 6 when he was taken 10 years ago, so he would be 16 now. The boy in the other room is more like 9 years old.
He’s about the right age to be the reincarnation of Nathan, if he were conceived right after Nathan died. This is the first time we’ve been given a definite number of years that Nathan has been gone, but I’ve wondered if this boy might be a new Nathan or if Sam has convinced himself of that. Hard to tell how much might be Second Sight and how much is mental illness, unless a show tells you straight out. Sam’s name is associated with the Biblical prophet Samuel, who had the Second Sight, plus he has a mystical connection to the island, so I’m willing to give him a chance.
Helen needs more time to take this in, because she has more at stake here. Sam just keeps telling her that Osea is special and this is Nathan, with a beatific smile on his face. He’s a believer and she doesn’t get it. There’s no way for them to meet in the middle on this.
Helen asks if the island can bend the laws of time and space. She points out again that Nathan is the wrong age and has the wrong skin and eye color. Sam says that his hair is the same and he makes the same drawings. “I know this sounds crazy. But I’ve spent time with him, and that is our son.”
Helen says that when Sam’s delusions first started, she felt sympathy for him, because they came from his pain and grief.
Helen: “When you accused the police of a cover up, when you swore Nathan was alive and picked up on any crackpot theories from those stupid crank letters. When you attacked that guy! That poor Roma man who had nothing to do with anything. Even, when you accused my dad, I defended you. I would say, ‘Look at his pain.’ But you know what Sam, this isn’t about pain, or grief, or even Nathan. It’s about you. It’s about your guilt. It’s about you wanting to exonerate yourself from what you did… You lost my son… You lost him. You were on the phone for 23 minutes and 17 seconds they said. For 23 minutes and 17 seconds, you forgot our 6 year old son was there! And why? Because you were talking to one of your flings.”
Helen’s accusations break through Sam’s shell. He spends the first part staring at the ceiling instead of looking at her, but when she finally straight out blames him for losing Nathan, he engages with her again. He denies actively losing Nathan, saying instead that Nathan went missing. He tells Helen that he was breaking it off with his girlfriend. He loves Helen and he messed up. He says wants them all to be a family, as if 10 years of suffering haven’t passed since they lost Nathan.
She tells him they’re not a family. They are three people and a parasite. They’re only still married because he’s refused to sign the divorce papers. He asks why she came to find him, if she doesn’t want him.
She came to get the £40,000 back. He took out loans that she can’t repay and now she’s going to lose the house and the business. All she wants from him is the money she needs to secure the future for her daughters. He looks stricken, then tells her he still loves her.
Helen walks away, still grumbling swear words to herself. Sam stands in a doorway and watches her walk away. He’s at another point of no return. Will he continue to ignore his wife and daughters or will he do right by them?
23 Minutes and 17 Seconds to Destroy a Family
It’s the phone call that Helen can’t get past. She can handle Sam’s mental illness and losing Nathan. She can even handle Sam’s infidelity as part of his mental illness, though it leaves her bitter. She can’t handle the level of self-involvement and irresponsibility Sam showed by spending 23 minutes and 17 seconds on the phone while he was with Nathan in a crowded place. She imagines him arguing with another woman while Nathan was missing for 23 of those minutes.
Helen blames herself as much as she blames Sam. I have a feeling Sam took Nathan with him that day to give their son and Helen some space from each other. The last time Helen spoke to Nathan, she told him she wished he’d never been born. That was probably just before he left with Sam, since she didn’t have time to cool off and make it right.
If Nathan had stayed home, which was probably the original plan, he wouldn’t have been taken. Even if it was always planned for Nathan to go, Helen probably feels guilty for letting Sam take him somewhere that ended in such tragedy.
Sam is lucky that Helen just walks away at the end of their current conversation. No matter what has been going on with him, he’s treated her and their children terribly and left her with unsolvable problems that he created on a whim. She’s dealt with 10 years of severe mental illness on top of the death of a child and years of infidelity. He’s clearly not even trying to be a decent husband or father, unless we’re going to let him off the hook by calling the last 9 months or year one long fugue state.
It’s interesting to compare Sam’s paranoid accusations after Nathan went missing with the story the islanders told him about Nathan’s kidnapping and death. Sam accused the police of a coverup- Mimir, the official coroner, did engage in a cover up and it wasn’t Nathan’s body that was found. Based on information from letters, Sam thought Nathan was alive and blamed a Roma man. Nathan was alive for the first few weeks and was taken by a Roma man. Someone from the island may have sent a condolence card or letter with clues. Sam accused Helen’s dad- he was correct that family were involved in kidnapping Nathan, but it was his great uncle and the rest of his family who were the the conspirators, not Helen’s family.
When you know the truth about Nathan’s death, none of Sam’s paranoid delusions are quite so paranoid or delusional. He was just slightly off in where he aimed them.
And he probably noticed Nathan was missing as soon as they took him, despite the amount of time he was on the phone.
I don’t think Sam is to blame for the kidnapping. No matter what, the islanders were going to find a moment when Sam glanced away from Nathan, then snatch the boy and run. If Sam didn’t take a phone call, they would have created a distraction. At a fair, it would’ve only taken a few seconds to get lost in the crowd or disappear between buildings.
But Helen asked a good question- can the island bend the laws of physics?
First, does she mean Newtonian or Quantum physics? Is the island a special and magical place or is it a trap, a criminal death cult that lures in victims with tales of giving them back their lost loved ones? The Big House may be a false Paradise, just as the island may be a false soul of the world.
Does Sam see Nathan’s soul in the boy or is he projecting his madness into seeing what he desperately needs to see? It can always be both. I think Sam has the Second Sight but his mind also broke when he lost Nathan. Maybe Sam has been in some kind of fugue state for the last 9 months. Maybe losing Nathan opened his mind in a way that allowed him to perceive more than he could before, as his need to search for his child in every way possible triggered his third eye to open wide.
Sam and Ellie (Nico Parker) are very open to belief in more than the mundane and to the experiences belief will bring them, so they see what they’re open to seeing. Helen and Lu are currently closed to belief in anything beyond practical reality, so they find other explanations for their experiences on the island. The island’s magic has to work in the real world, so there are multiple explanations for what happens. One person’s vision from the beyond is the next person’s hallucination brought on by a seizure or drug. If you believe there are more layers to this world, understanding the mechanics that allowed the vision don’t detract from the meaning of the experience.
But Sam and Ellie are also in such strong need of comfort and reassurance that they are the ones who are like sheep, easily drawn in and taken advantage of. Because they want to believe so badly, they don’t ask enough questions until it’s too late to turn back. Cults like the one on the island are set up to draw in lost, desperate souls with those characteristics, often sending recruiters out into the world to scout for them, the way Epona lured Sam to the island and the email served as bait for Helen.
Jason (Mark Lewis) visits Jess at her house to see the new baby. As he holds her for the first time, Jess tells him that she’s named her daughter after the daughter he lost in Part 1, Epona. She says that Baby Epona will be their leader and things will be different from now on.
She speaks as though Epona will lead them any minute now. Maybe she’ll convince them that she’s channeling Epona’s wishes.
Jess: “I need your help, Jason. Osea can only have one leader. She won’t be safe until we make sure of things. Close the causeway. No one leaves Osea.”
Kail and Ellie have left the secret caves and returned to the beach. Ellie asks why Kail (Freya Allan) showed her the island’s most sacred spot. Kail asks if she liked it. Ellie is at a loss for words as she tries to describe how the island affects her and finally settles for saying she feels good there. Kail tells her that’s because she understands the importance of the island- she gets it.
Then Kail confesses that Jess is her mom, but since she got pregnant with Epona, she’s forgotten that her two other daughters exist. She whispers to Ellie that she sent the email. Ellie doesn’t know what she means. Kail sent the email to Helen that told her Sam is on Osea Island. Jess changed when Sam arrived. Kail hopes that if Sam leaves with his family, her mother will go back to her normal self.
Ellie is stuck on the part revealing that her dad is on the island. Kail is surprised that Helen didn’t mention that giant news to her daughter. Jess ignores her daughters, which also means they are less sheltered from the harsh facts of life that Helen tries to protect her daughters from, when she can. Larry arrives at that moment and tells the girls to come with him.
Lu is on the beach near the causeway. She hides and watches as Tomo (Tom Lawrence) and Sidekick (Will Rogers), who finally gets a name- Dan- park Helen’s car and Alan’s car at the entrance to block it off. They light the cars on fire then brutally murder Alan (George Potts) and his mother, Margaret (Ann Calder-Marshall).
Lu runs away in the other direction, running down the beach, through the hedge maze and across the field, just like we’ve watched her dad do. She goes back to Alan and Margaret’s house and takes a large kitchen knife upstairs to the main bedroom with her. She wraps herself in a blanket, then hides under the bed with the knife in hand. The creepy Esus/Jesus painting watches over her.
Lu is still the most sensible person in the family.
Larry brings Kail and Ellie to the stone church, where Jess and Baby Epona are sitting like the Madonna and Child in front of the altar. They are in the exact spot where Sam found Epona’s body. Just in case you were wondering whether the baby is supposed to be the reincarnation of the other Epona. They are surrounded by all of that violent, bloody artwork. The tapestry hangs above Jess’ head, with the skeletons reaching away from her and the Darkness spitting bones toward her head.
It’s not creepy at all.
Jess says that Larry and Kail have sponsored Ellie’s entrance into the cult, so Jess has decided to accept her. She lets Ellie hold Epona and tells her they’re sisters. She pretends that Helen already knew and kept the news from Ellie, then asks Ellie to forgive Helen, because Helen has been through a lot.
Jess says that Lu is still at her house. They’ll go see her after they find Helen and Sam and have a friendly chat so they can work out their issues. Jess just needs to let Sam know she’s staging a coup, so it’s okay for him to go home and be with his family. Jess wants Ellie to help her save the island and save Sam from the darkness inside himself.
Lu hears several islanders enter the bedroom, then leave again. She comes out to find the bed covered with a couple dozen guns. She can hear the islanders downstairs and decides to escape. Knife in hand, she grabs a raincoat for a disguise and sneaks out. She runs across the island again and this time finds the pub for her hideout.
Helen finds Mrs Martin downstairs in the Big House. Time for Mrs Martin’s Version of The Truth, 2.0. Helen, who will act as the judge, sits down. Mrs Martin, who is finally on trial at the Gates of Heaven, stays standing.
Mrs Martin: “It wasn’t like we told him that boy was his son. He was in a state and he jumped to conclusions.”
Lie. In Part 1, Sam was confused all weekend because he saw a boy in the distance who reminded him of Nathan. He didn’t think it was Nathan until near the end of episode 3, when Mrs Martin told him the boy was Nathan, while she was pointing a gun at him and preparing to kill him for the good of the island.
Helen points out that they let Sam believe his mistake, but Mrs Martin claims they told him the truth, at first. She says that she and Mr Martin had a talk with Sam but he didn’t want to believe them, so they let him believe what he wanted to. Again, she told him that boy was his son in order to manipulate him- I think she intended to either kill him or spur him to take charge of his fate and stay on the island.
They may have told him something else later, but by then the damage was done. Since she was alone with Sam at the time that she told the big lie, she can say whatever she wants now and Helen will believe her. People take advantage of the mentally ill and disabled this way all the time.
Helen asks who the boy is.
Mrs Martin: “Sam’s great uncle was Father here before Sam. A few years back, he fathered a child with a girl who was barely old enough not to be called one herself, so that boy is Sam’s blood.”
Epona and Nathan
I don’t think that anything that has to do with Replacement Nathan is as accidental as the way Mrs Martin makes it sound. We know that she doesn’t just lie about everything, she has multiple versions of her lies at the ready, depending on the audience. I believe that the boy is related to Sam, because Sam has good instincts about that. I also think that the boy’s mother probably was very young- too young to properly care for him- and that she must be gone now.
The islanders certainly didn’t reject Replacement Nathan because they have any moral objections to what Old Father did, though Mrs Martin makes it sound that way. And they do reject him- even during Part 2, the Esus and the Sea festival, almost all of them pretended he was invisible. Of the ones who acknowledged him, almost all looked unhappy to see him.
If they were simply unhappy that Sam pays too much attention to him while ignoring his duties as Father, they could hatch another plot to use the boy to draw Sam out of the house and encourage him to do his duty. They spent much of Part 1 using the boy as bait. They know how to do it. So something else is going on.
My pet theory, which isn’t based on much evidence, is that Epona was the boy’s mother. Nathan was with Epona when we met her. Sam thought Epona was Ellie’s age, but the actress is actually several years older. Maybe, because of his Second Sight, he was seeing her as she was when the first Nathan died and she was raped/got pregnant with Replacement Nathan.
The islanders may have raised Epona to believe that her role in life was to lure Sam to the island with his replacement son and then to continue on as his concubine. But statutory rape by one much older man may have been all she could handle. Sam gave her an opening for changing her fate by choosing a parental instead of a sexual relationship with her. Given the islanders’ belief in reincarnation, she chose the other way she could earn honor by sacrificing herself to the Gods. That also allowed her to escape the rest of the islanders, who were probably going to kill her by the end of this cycle one way or another.
I think that even though the islanders saw Replacement Nathan as a way to bring Sam back to the island, they also believe he’s a reincarnation of Nathan and they weren’t expecting Nathan’s soul to be sent back to the island so soon to confront them everyday. His presence feels like the punishment that it is. Though the boy’s entire extended family should be on the island, he doesn’t seem to have any name of his own or any mother or family.
Or maybe the islanders stole the island child who looked the most like Sam from his family, the way they stole Jason’s son and murdered him to replace Nathan’s body. Any depravity is possible on Osea.
Helen asks why Sam thinks they took Nathan. Mrs Martin admits that they did kidnap Nathan. She tells Helen that the body she and Sam buried was Jason’s son. Nathan was supposed to stay with Goltan, the man they hired to kidnap him, for a few weeks. When the islanders went to retrieve Nathan, he was dead and had been for days. It looked like Nathan tried to escape and Goltan accidentally killed him in the scuffle. Mrs Martin says that the islanders are sure that Goltan cursed them.
Helen asks what they did with Nathan’s body.
Mrs Martin: “I’m telling you all this because I want to be right with you, but don’t take Sam, please.”
It’s a good thing Helen doesn’t want Sam. How on Earth does Mrs Martin think she could ever be right with Helen or that Helen owes her any favors? As we speak, islanders are luring one of her daughters into a death cult, forcing the other daughter into witnessing murders and burning her car. All this after they killed her son, drove her husband insane and then essentially kidnapped him. That’s how the island makes things right with someone? Combined with Sam, who’s now part of the island, there aren’t too many more ways they can ruin Helen’s life.
Helen asks again what they did with Nathan’s body. Mrs Martin says they “laid him in the sea out there near the causeway.”
Turns out they can make things worse. The islanders probably saw this as offering his body to the sea, maybe even as a sacred offering that might help make up for his death and would balance the offering of Jason’s son to the soil, where he was likely buried. Helen is devastated that they dumped him in the water, so he’s gone- she can’t even take his body home for a proper burial.
This also makes me wonder if original Nathan could still be alive and hidden somewhere else. Technically, Mrs Martin could still be lying or twisting what she says. (Stay alive, Jessica Hyde.)
Suddenly, The Cowboy, Janny and Mr Martin (Paddy Considine) are there. They’ve discovered the coup conspiracy and have heard that the other faction has guns. Mr Martin is shocked that there might be guns involved.
Honestly, I thought guns were illegal in Britain, so I’ve been wondering why there are more guns than there are islanders, but I thought maybe it was part of the magic of the island. Maybe the guns multiply on their own like the brooms in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Cowboy insists they go someplace safe, but Mrs Martin refuses to leave the Big House. She’s not letting Sam give up the castle that equals leadership to the islanders. Janny says they’ve blocked the roads anyway. Mr Martin is excited that Baby Epona was conceived on the island, born in water and pain. He sounds open to new leadership that meets certain legendary characteristics, but right now he thinks they should run.
Mrs Martin won’t listen. She yells at Sam to get up and finally take control of the situation. He’s the one Jess wants to get rid of, but he’s letting her tear the island apart. Helen says that Jess can’t be getting into much trouble, since she just had a baby. The others start to list all of the trouble Jess is currently causing.
I think Jess is in the midst of postpartum psychosis and is having an adrenaline rush to go along with it, because she is very energetic and mobile for someone who gave birth a few hours ago. In Part 1 she described manic, out of control behavior and moods after she gave birth each time, she just framed it differently. But nobody on the island is a psychiatrist or OB-GYN, so they don’t recognize it. This is one part of Helen’s medical training to work with animals that doesn’t translate to humans.
Helen decides to call the police, but the islanders have pulled down the cell phone tower and cut the landlines to the mainland. Helen finally remembers Ellie and Lu and tells the others that she left them with Jess. Sam comes alive at last at the mention of his daughters, but the discussion is interrupted by someone pounding on the door.
Mr Martin offers to answer the door. He says he’ll figure out what to say when he gets there. His wife tells him not to screw it up. She calls him the usual number of profanities before he heads to the door.
He opens the front door and steps out onto the porch. As he’s saying, “Alright, we’re ready…” Jason swings an ax into his chest.
Esus has spoken.
Everyone in the house but Mrs Martin decides that running is a good idea after all. She stands there frozen as Jason uses the ax to maneuver Mr Martin inside. Mr Martin drops to the floor, then Jason keeps chopping.
Cowboy grabs Mrs Martin. Sam and Helen find Replacement Nathan. On their way out the back door, they run by another burning car and through the formal center of the hedge maze (where the minotaur should live). Jess and Larry are among the crowd standing in front of the house. Ellie holds Baby Epona and waits in the truck parked next to them.
Sam, Helen, Replacement Nathan, Cowboy and Mrs Martin run through the woods. Cowboy calls for them to stop when Mrs Martin is overcome with grief for her husband and falls behind. While Mrs Martin sobs, Helen tells Sam that they need to find Ellie and Lu. He insists that the girls are safe with Jess because it’s him she wants. Instead they need to get help from the other islanders. He picks up Replacement Nathan and keeps walking.
Helen did point out that Jess’ people just killed someone who wasn’t Sam, who hadn’t done anything to provoke them. Sam is still in a fantasy world where his living children are more of an abstraction to him than the child he lost.
The boy has returned to his silent, faceless state now that they’ve left the Big House. He’s only distinct, confident and alive under certain conditions where he feels safe and protected by Sam. Whether he’s Replacement Nathan or an unwanted boy from Osea Island, going outdoors where the cruel islanders can have their way with him, sucks the life and identity out of him. Outside, he’s either someone who was lost and must be found or a burden who must be protected.
He seems to be real and corporeal, but I’m not sure he’s fully alive, as in, his spirit may not fully inhabit his body. I think he could be a ghostly version of Ariadne’s red thread of fate, holding Sam to the island and keeping him sane at the same time. He may also connect Sam and Helen in the long run.
Once her people determine that the Big House is now empty, Jess joins Ellie in the car and takes the baby back. Ellie asks her to explain what’s going on. Jess says the island needs to be closed to visitors from now on. She reminds Ellie of how they’ve made her feel like she belongs on the island because she understands how special the island is. And that makes Ellie special. All of the other issues in her life don’t matter on Osea. The islanders love her because she loves the island.
Jess would really like for Helen to become part of this circle of special love, because she’s so lost in her grief over Nathan that she can’t see Ellie clearly. She sees Lu, because Lu was a fresh start who’s too young to have been part of their lives with Nathan. But Ellie is a constant reminder of her brother and that loss has turned Helen to stone.
Jess is hoping that Ellie will stay on the island for a while. In fact, the whole family can stay. Baby Epona bonds them all together as a family. To make that happen, Jess needs Ellie to help her set up a conversation with Helen, but of course she won’t ask Ellie to do anything that makes her uncomfortable.
Sam, Helen and the others find Sam’s remaining supporters in Preacher’s tent. There’s only a couple dozen of them, which means they’re drastically outnumbered by Jess’ supporters. Before Sam can make any plans, Larry fires off a shot, then sends in Janny with a message. Jess says she wants to work things out without any more violence. She wants Sam and Helen to meet Ellie at a secret location chosen by Ellie. Jess won’t know where it is.
Let’s recall that Jess’ people have perpetrated all of the violence and Ellie is new to the island. She doesn’t know the neighborhood well enough to pick a meeting place on her own. I doubt there could be a more obvious set up, even if Jess hadn’t told us in the last scene that it’s a set up.
Replacement Nathan and Sam cling to each other, almost never out of physical contact. They are both terrified of the islanders. We must have missed some fun times while the cameras weren’t looking.
Helen and Sam meet Ellie in one of the unfinished resort units. Helen hugs Ellie then Sam says hello. He tries to apologize for skipping out on the family. Helen asks about Lu. Ellie says she at Jess’ house and fine, but admits she hasn’t seen her. Helen says they need to find Lu and leave the island.
Ellie stands near Sam and asks when Helen was going to tell them that he’s on the island, why they really came to Osea and what else she was lying about. Helen tries to explain that she came for the money. With the pure, impractical wisdom of someone who’s never had to keep the roof over a family’s head and food in their bellies, Ellie is only interested in why Helen is rejecting her beloved deadbeat father. She doesn’t think money is important.
It’s not, until you and your children are facing homelessness, starvation, bankruptcy and/or debtor’s prison because your husband screwed you over to put his delicate feelings first. Ellie may understand that someday or she may always identify with her father’s choices, because she thinks they are the ones she would have made.
Which Sam figures out in this moment. He jumps in as Ellie is telling Helen how special the island is and tells her that Nathan is alive and on the island. Ellie doesn’t know what to make of this new revelation. Helen explodes across the room, insisting that Nathan is not alive and they can’t go see him, while Sam insists the opposite. Helen finally turns and yells directly at Sam that she’s done with his insane, operatic grief that’s sucked the life out of the family for years.
Ellie accuses Helen of feeling nothing, like a stone, saying at least Sam feels something, while Helen doesn’t even mention Nathan’s name. Helen tries to explain that she was taking care of the family because there wasn’t anyone else to do it. Sam looks out the window while she speaks.
As Helen said, Sam sucked all of the air out of every room, leaving her with all of the responsibilities, including taking care of him as if he were her disabled adult child. She couldn’t indulge her own feelings if she was also going to keep the family together. Unlike Sam, she chose to save the family over herself. And like so many other women have found, the reward for her sacrifices is unappreciative, resentful family members.
At some point, Helen will have her own breakdown. It might manifest as depression or cancer or a need to get away from everything. Or it might have already happened and that’s why she doesn’t practice as a vet anymore. Maybe she can’t handle a high stress career along with a mentally ill husband, repressed grief, a critical, undermining mother of her own and being a single parent. It doesn’t sound like anyone was taking care of Helen while she was taking care of two kids and Sam’s operatic grief.
Oh, but wait. He still loves her.
Of course he loves his sugar mama, when he remembers her existence.
Jess manipulated Ellie like a pro, but she only brought out feelings that were already there. Just like she and the islanders manipulated Sam into staying on the island, but only after he’d already stolen the money and run away from home, with a suitcase stashed in the car.
Ellie doesn’t even hear Helen’s reply to her. She’s already been sucked in by the cult and says it would be good for the family to stay on the island. Helen says Ellie doesn’t know what’s happening here. Ellie tells her, “No, you don’t know what’s happening.” She pulls a 2 way radio out of her pocket, taped in the on position. Jess and Larry have listened to the entire conversation.
This is Ellie’s Judas moment. She has thoroughly betrayed her parents, especially Helen, without a second thought. A few people said nice things to her, so she chose them over her family, despite the fights, violence and betrayal she’s seen for herself on the island. Like Sam, she only sees what she wants to see.
Larry and Tomo enter the room smirking. Ellie tells Helen that Jess promised no one would get hurt and insists that they have to stay in this incredible place. Sam stays silent as they are escorted out. During the entire meeting, he only spoke to tell Ellie about Nathan.
No one mentions that they’ve already witnessed an unprovoked murder by Jess’ people.
Larry and Tomo tie Sam and Helen’s hands behind their backs, then they’re brought to the town square, where the festival feast was held in Part 2. It appears that the entire town is already there. Mrs Martin has also been taken prisoner and tied up. Mimir (Börje Lundberg), Jason, Kail, her sister and Ellie stand with Jess.
Jess: “I want you all to say hello to someone special. This is Epona. One day she’s going to lead us. She will be the Mother of Osea. What happened here- that’s done. It had to happen. I hope you see that. This little girl is going to make Osea right. And when Osea is right, the world is right. Until that day comes, I’m going to take care of you. I promise. You are all safe. No matter whose side you took. [Most of the islanders applaud.] We’re a community again and I want us to live happily together. Okay.”
She waves them away and most begin to wander off. Then she turns to Mrs Martin. “You know this doesn’t apply to you, right?” Mrs Martin bravely tells them to get on with it. Preacher (Amer Chadha-Patel) injects her in the neck with a sedative so she passes out. Then Tomo and Larry drag her over to a metal trough, where they hold her face in the water until she stops breathing. When they’re done, they drop her body on the ground.
Jess as Leader of Osea
Jess orders the execution in front of Ellie and her own children, after she promised Ellie that no one would get hurt. She’s not even pretending to keep her promises. It was the most compassionate execution we’ve seen on the island, until they treated the body disrespectfully, but it was still cold-blooded murder.
The Martins were the true leaders of the island, not Sam, so they were the ones who needed to die for Jess to establish her authority. The executions needed to be public and clearly done under Jess’ orders, so everyone understands that Jess holds the power now. She named the baby Epona and is keeping her close at all times to remind everyone that she’s acting as a Regent or Trustee in her daughter’s name, holding the position of Mother in reserve for when Baby Epona comes of age.
Jess, as a historian, sees herself as a Catherine de Medici figure. In some ways, she understands the islanders better than they understand themselves, since she has the perspective of having lived in two cults and having studied the history of the region. She knows how to mimic cult leader behavior and what tends to hold groups together.
I could make a case that when you include Alan and Margaret’s deaths, Jess made an offering of a Threefold Death to the Old Gods of the Trinity to seal the deal on her coup. Alan and Margaret were bludgeoned and stabbed next to burning cars and the causeway- fire and wounds for Taranis. Jason, who’s been associated with the ax and sacrificed children since episode 1, used the tool he shares in common with Esus to kill Mr Martin. And Mrs Martin, who stepped up and acted as leader of the island when Old Father and Sam failed in the role, was drowned, the sacrifice that’s made to Teutatis, the island protector.
Notice, though, that the sacrifices all benefit Jess and her cause, so they aren’t actually her sacrifices. The Martins were mainly on their own side, but also fought for Sam and and were true believers in the Osea island mythology. Jess has won for now, but Sam and his family are also intact. Jess captured them, but she didn’t really beat them, since Ellie joined her temporarily. She lost Ellie when she killed Mrs Martin in front of her.
Jess is not the strategist that Mrs Martin was.
Despite the harm Mrs Martin did to Sam and his family, they are the ones who protest her unnecessary death. Jess tries to calm Ellie down, then has Jason take her into the hotel. Sam and Helen are terrified that the man who just murdered Mr Martin is now taking their daughter out of their sight. Jess doesn’t understand their fear at all.
Like I said, I think she’s in the midst of her own psychotic episode.
Helen asks where Lu is. Jess ignores the question, since she doesn’t know the answer. She tells Helen that she’s grateful for the ways Helen helped her, but she can’t let her leave the island. Jess tells Sam that he’s still Epona’s father, but she doesn’t want anything to do with him on a day to day basis. He should just get his act together and show his face in public occasionally.
She orders Larry and Tomo to take them to the pub. Larry puts them back in their usual bedroom, then closes the door behind him when he leaves. Sam apologizes to Helen again. He tries to explain that he became trapped on the island when he tried to help a girl who was about Ellie’s age. Helen tells him that if she could rip everything about Ellie that she has in common with him out of her, she would.
Lu crawls out from under the bed, where she was hiding, and asks if they can go home. Helen tells her to untie them. Lu’s hands aren’t strong enough to undo the knots, “But I’ve got a knife.” Charlotte Gairdner-Mihell gives a perfect line reading as she pulls a knife that’s bigger than her arm out of her sleeve. She’s the heroic Lugh that Sam was meant to be, with a chef’s knife as the modern equivalent of a spear.
Once they’re cut loose, they creep downstairs and go find Ellie. She and Jason are in the hotel front room where Helen first met Janny. Helen hands Sam the knife so that he can rescue their daughter. When he says he says he can’t, she tells him that he lost Nathan, him and no one else, so it’s time for him to balance things out by rescuing Ellie. She will not lose Ellie, too.
Sam finally looks her straight in the eyes as she presses the knife against his chest. He holds onto the knife handle and her hands for dear life as the light and dark battle within him. His grandfather and father left the island in order to avoid scenes like what is about to happen. They taught him to avoid giving in to violence for a reason and he knows this, whether they said it out loud or not. His instincts tell him what he’s capable of if he goes down that path.
But Helen can’t carry the burden of the darkness and responsibility for the hard decisions alone anymore. She tugs her hand away, leaving him with the knife. He curls around it for a moment, then stands straight and looks her in the eye again, this time with new resolve. Though he’s been troubled and irresponsible, he’s spent his life trying to be a good man, according to what the other men in his family taught him. In a way, it’s freeing to give up the cognitive dissonance he’s always lived with.
Of course, giving in to violence comes with its own problems. But for now, it will solve the issue of Ellie’s captivity.
Sam goes with the island favorite method of walking straight up to Jason and stabbing him in the stomach. Then he calmly says, “The Dark is here.” Ellie sees this, then runs to hide in a corner, covering her eyes and ears.
Sam picks up a couple of other knives that Jason had on the counter and frantically stabs him over and over like they’re in a slasher film, first in his stomach, then in the back after he falls to the floor. When Sam is done, he’s wild-eyed and holding two knives in front of him. He looks like the painting with his face from the stone church.
In Part 1, Jason tried to kill Sam in the woods, then later sent Sam to Tomo’s boat with assurances that he’d be safe when it was actually part of the conspiracy. He killed Mr Martin in cold blood. He was a lousy father to Epona and allowed his own son to be murdered so that the body could be used to replace Nathan’s body as part of the kidnapping scheme. I was sympathetic toward him for the loss of his children, but he was not an innocent man.
I’m not saying he deserved to die, but there is an element of justice here, as there was with the Martins’ deaths. They weren’t just a threat to Jess’ power. The Martins were also the architects of Nathan’s murder (kidnapping Nathan was Mr Martin’s idea) and the destruction of Sam’s mind and family. Mrs Martin handed Old Father the gun so he would shoot himself and tried to kill Sam in the church.
When Sam is done with Jason, Ellie runs to Helen and hugs her. Lu joins them for a group hug. Sam brings a rifle into the room with him. He does not join the hug, which is just as well, since he’s covered in blood. He says he knows what to do now and tells them to follow him. We get one more trippy walk across the island, including past a particularly large tree that I’m going to assume is the rejuvenated Tree of Life. Mimir seems to be doing much better these days, too.
It’s dark by the time they get to the stone church. Helen has the girls hide behind a tree while she goes inside, which is normally the worst idea ever, but Helen seems to be able to get away with the occasional bad idea. As she approaches the church door, suddenly there’s a loud chorus of crickets chirping.
Death is coming. Death might even be celebrating.
Inside, Larry and Tomo sit on the floor, leaning against the altar, talking to Replacement Nathan. Every candle in the church is lit, just as it was when Epona sacrificed herself. Larry was probably talking to the boy about becoming the next child sacrifice. As a son of both Old and New Father, who was born on the island, for as long as Nathan lives he’s the greatest threat to Baby Epona’s claim to power. If they’re on the island or the islanders can find them, Epona’s siblings will also eventually have to either abdicate or die, since they are threats to her rule. As the youngest child, she’s technically last in line for the throne, not first.
Sam asks Larry and Tomo what they’re doing with his son. Larry tries to take control of the situation, probably assuming he can take the rifle the way he did with Mr Martin in episode 4 in the pub. He forgets who Sam really is, maybe because the last time they fought, Sam declined to kill him.
That was then. Now the Dark is here and Sam isn’t fooling around anymore. The image of Epona’s body in that same spot is still fresh in his mind. He just watched the murders of Mr and Mrs Martin and just got Nathan back. He’s not losing anyone else.
Sam stops Larry from talking and orders both men on the floor. When Larry speaks again, Sam shoots (and I assume kills) both of them.
Larry and Tomo were both violent men who had killed and assaulted others multiple times. This was the only way to stop them. I almost think Larry was angling for it, as a sacrifice to the island.
I suspect that with these deaths, Nathan’s murder has been avenged, since the likely ringleaders are all dead- the Martins, Jason, Larry, Tomo, Goltan, Old Father. That should help lift the curse on the island and restore balance. A few others were involved, such as Mimir, Janny, Dan and Preacher, but probably weren’t the decision makers. It’ll be up to them to maintain the balance.
Sam reaches inside an opening in the church wall and takes out the striped bag containing the £40,000. He holds the money with one hand and puts the other arm around Nathan- like the two arms of a scale, weighing out what’s more important in his life.
He gives the money to Helen and tells her that’s what she came for. “The causeway opens at dawn. Find somewhere to hide until then.”
He doesn’t even offer to continue protecting his daughters until the causeway opens.
He steps back and puts his arm around Nathan again. When Helen realizes he’s staying on the island, despite the horrors they’ve just lived through, he just holds Nathan tighter. She asks why he took the money.
Sam: “What if he’d come home? Nathan? What if he’d come home and we weren’t there?”
His face is covered in blood. They stare at each other for a minute, each needing to deal with their grief in the exact opposite way from the other, then Helen turns to walk away. Replacement Nathan steps forward and takes Helen’s arm. It’s the first time he’s touched her.
Nathan: “I know you didn’t mean it.”
Helen: “Mean what?”
Nathan: “What you said that day. I know you always wanted me.”
As Helen basically goes into shock, Nathan returns to Sam and closes the church door, leaving her outside in the dark.
The girls are miraculously still under the tree- Jess hasn’t appointed new henchmen to find them yet. They run for the causeway and discover the burned out cars and bodies. Helen says the tide is going out, so they just need to hide for a little while. Then they hear the islanders coming for them in the distance.
Helen hands Ellie the money bag while she takes the knife from Alan’s stomach. She uses it to cut the anchor line on a small boat that’s tied up near shore. Then she has the girls get in the boat and ties the rope around her waist. She tells the girls to shout for help if anything happens to her. She walks the boat out as far as she can, then starts swimming across the river. The islanders are approaching the causeway.
Helen gets very cold, but she keeps swimming. At one point she sees her 6 year old son Nathan in the boat instead of Ellie and Lu. They reach the shore at dawn. Helen collapses at the shoreline with hypothermia, so the girls help her into a small boathouse near the water and wrap her in blankets. Lu curls up against her, since she’s shivering uncontrollably.
Ellie looks out the window, back toward the island. Helen has a vision of the striped bag as Nathan’s matching striped shirt and clutches it to her. Then it’s the bag again. This is her restitution. Ellie comes back and lies down on Helen’s other side, surrounding her with warmth. The sun shines in the window.
It’s the fourth day.
The spell is broken.
Helen and the girls are the only people we’ve seen actually make it off the island and back to the rest of the world. We were never shown a car or another boat crossing the causeway or river and going back to the mainland. Several people talked about swimming back. Sam and Jess each tried. But Helen is the only one who successfully did it. Whatever it was the islanders were trying to bring out in someone with all their rituals and manipulations, Helen is the one who has it.
If Jess is the Mother and Sam is the Father, then Helen is the Savior.
The island didn’t force Helen to stay, the way it did with Sam. For now, Jess is accepted as island Mother, even though Helen’s magic and her right to lead are stronger. It appears that Jess chose to stay on the island, though we can’t be absolutely sure of her motivations, since she wasn’t a point of view character.
Jess said her actions in Part 1 were coerced, so it’s surprising that she’d choose to stay on the island. She also lies a lot, so that could have been part of her role in the conspiracy, with the hope of keeping Sam’s sympathy. She might have developed Stockholm Syndrome/ fallen in love with Jason, who was one of her blackmailers, but who was also a victim, the same as her. However she ended up there, she leveraged her pregnancy into a coup when she realized that Sam wasn’t interested in leading and the Martins were unpopular.
Maybe the island knows that Helen needs to leave for a while in order to settle her affairs before she can move there permanently. Or maybe it wants to keep her and the girls safe while Sam and Jess finish their power struggle and Sam purges the rest of the islanders who were involved in Nathan’s death. Maybe Ellie needs to act as a missionary for a while and both girls need to finish their educations before they move to the island. Or maybe Helen did what she needed to do on the island and now she’s free.
Helen escaped the island while re-enacting one of the Stations from the Esus and the Sea festival- pulling a boat behind her that had two children inside. At the end, she passed out at dawn, inside a small building with multiple portals, under blankets, covered by her daughters. Brigid is the Goddess of the Dawn.
But also, as a savior, Helen symbolically died at the edge of the water. She went through a Threefold Sacrificial Death as she swam across the river: the rope was wrapped around her, hanging her; she’s in the water and having trouble swimming so she’s drowned; and she gets too cold, becoming hypothermic, so she’s wounded. This corresponds to Sam’s Threefold Death during the Esus and the Sea Festival: standing on the platform until exhaustion- wounded (or the crown of spikes); falling off the platform is equivalent to hanging; and floating unconscious in the water is drowning- pretty literally. I actually think Sam/the Father and the Soil Esus might die and be brought back in their rituals. Helen is in bad shape at the end of the episode, but I’m confident she’ll survive.
When the girls take her inside to heal her, the way they wrap her up is also like a ritual burial- though it’s abstract, there are similarities to a Celtic passage grave like Newgrange, which is illuminated at dawn on the winter solstice. There are also similarities to the way Sam exhausted himself in Part 2, was buried in a grave, then resurrected for the end of the festival, sealing the magic. When Helen wakes up, her transformation into the resurrected Goddess will be complete and the magic that was accomplished during her three day Osea ritual will be sealed.
Helen healed herself by saving the girls from the island and getting back the money that Sam took, so that their lives in the real world can be put in order. Sam helped her heal by saving Ellie from Jason, restoring some of her faith in him. Mrs Martin helped by confessing to her what really happened to Nathan, removing much of Helen’s guilt and blame. Replacement Nathan helped her heal by telling her that he knows she loved and wanted Nathan. Even if she doesn’t believe he’s Nathan, it was still a powerful moment for her that helped bring her the vision of her son that she saw in the water.
Swimming the boat across the river to save her daughters was Helen’s sacrificial moment. Killing Jason to save Ellie was Sam’s moment of redemption when he finally sacrificed himself for Helen and his daughters instead of for Nathan. They both risked losing themselves with those acts, Helen risking death and Sam risking madness he couldn’t come back from. They both came out on the other side and proved to each other, themselves and the island that they’re whole and strong.
Now they’re ready to move on from letting Nathan’s death swamp their lives. Sam’s life will still revolve around Replacement Nathan, but I don’t think they’ll need to hide in the back rooms of the Big House anymore. Helen knows in her heart that she’s done everything she could for all of her kids and they know she loves them.
They may find a separate peace or Helen may show up at the island someday. Helen’s vision of Nathan telling her he’s cold could mean that she still has some unfinished business with him. She might need to do more to prove herself to him the way Sam had to prove himself to Helen and the girls in Part 3.
Plus I wonder if Helen will worry about the kids on the island, who are now being raised by a bunch of crazy people, alcoholics, murderers and extreme cultists. The Martins, Alan and Margaret seemed like the only responsible grown ups and they’re all gone. The final scene made it clear that Ellie is still intrigued by the island. I suspect that it will feel like a special place to Helen now that she’s felt her son’s presence there.
The question of Replacement Nathan’s true nature is still up in the air, along with the true nature of the island. Although Sam told Ellie about the boy, neither girl met their new adopted brother/cousin. It’s possible that they caught a glimpse of him in the church while they were hiding behind the tree, but he’s mostly still a ghost to them.
Helen was moved by Replacement Nathan’s last words to her, but it’s possible that he was coached with them by one of the islanders after she told her story to Cowboy. At some point Helen will realize this. The need to solve that mystery may bring her back to the island, which may be what the islanders are hoping for.
I think the island recognizes Helen’s potential as true Mother, but also knows she’s not ready yet, so it let her go. She may be called back again somehow when the island needs her again. It should be her daughters who are next in line to lead and while Ellie doesn’t seem any more suited to leadership than Sam, Lu has the qualities of a leader. I would love a show that takes place in 10 or 15 years, about Jess and Helen’s daughters all coming into their power, with a little less fighting and horror, but more multigenerational drama.
By the end, I get the sense that everyone who was involved in kidnapping Nathan, killing Jason’s son, coercing/kidnapping Jess and her girls and encouraging Epona to sacrifice herself has been eliminated. Justice is at least part of the balance the island is always searching for. What’s been holding the islanders back for 10 years has been their collective guilt over what happened to Nathan and their refusal to take responsibility for causing his death.
But there are many types of justice, including environmental justice, which The Third Day barely touched on. And I have a feeling the islanders have other crimes to atone for.
Sam gave Helen back the money, but that’s only a stopgap so she can move on with her life. He hasn’t really paid her back for years and years of giving more than she got from their marriage. He used her and has now dropped her and the girls in favor of a male child who reminds him of his lost son. Even if the boy is the reincarnation of Nathan, Sam is still Lu and Ellie’s father, too. It’s not okay for him to just walk away from them. He’s found some peace in the case of Nathan’s death, but he’s now in the process of injuring his daughters.
Mimir, the coroner and keeper of wisdom, is still alive, but he may have been coerced into taking part in the original plot against Sam and Nathan or he may be immortal, like his namesake. He also took responsibility for his actions the first time he saw Sam and helped Sam instead of harming him in Part 1, so he may have been forgiven. The show may also be saving his reckoning for another season, if there is one. The same goes for Janny the door/portalkeeper. He didn’t lie to Helen. Both characters are necessary for the island to function. They also took responsibility and accepted the Darkness.
Sam’s name suggests he may have Second Sight. The Biblical Samuel the Prophet was a seer and kingmaker. He was able to see beyond someone’s exterior and into their heart, just as Sam can. The Biblical Jesse was the father of King David. Samuel chose King David for the throne, even though David was the youngest and least accomplished of his brothers. Jess’ daughter Epona is the youngest of Sam’s children, but her mother wants her to inherit leadership of the island.
Helen/Cas’ name and Lu’s name both suggest they are of two worlds or psychopomps. Castor the Gemini twin was one of the few beings who could move between the heavens, the mortal realm and the realm of the dead, depending on the variation of the story. As a vet, part of Helen’s job would have been to help animals and their families through death. Lu’s full name, Talulah, has Native American roots that mean leaping waters and Irish roots that mean princess of abundance. The full name is of two continents and its diminutive, Lu, signifies a dying and reborn god who is of two worlds.
Sam may have always intuitively recognized Helen’s gifts, but he mentally checked out around the time Lu was born. I don’t think he sees Lu’s interior life at all. She may have been a reminder of and a distraction from Nathan’s loss for him, rather than the fresh start that Jess said she was for Helen.
I don’t think much of what Jess said to Ellie was true anyway. She told Ellie what she wanted to hear. If Helen was pregnant before Nathan disappeared, the pressure of a third child on the way could have worsened Sam’s mental illness, but that isn’t an excuse for his behavior. Mentally ill or not, he was still a grown up husband and father with responsibilities. If he felt himself slipping, he needed to talk to someone and get help.
Helen is similar to the messenger god, Mercury, who guided people in and out of the land of the dead (usually the trip only goes in one direction 😘). I think that most people who go to the island are dead in some way- emotionally or spiritually, if not physically. Maybe normally they can go back to the real world, but recently they’ve been trapped on Osea because the soul of the world is out of balance and capturing souls in its attempt to put things right, or simply unable to release them.
Helen and the girls represent a trinity together. It seems like a good sign that they were able to get some of what they needed from the island, then escape. Helen got what she wanted, the money and an explanation from Sam, and a bit of what she needed, forgiveness from Nathan. Ellie and Lu began to understand their father, for better or worse, but they were also confronted with the Darkness.
Sadly, Sam is who he is and they’re going to be hurt by that, along with the loss of Nathan, no matter what help they get. All Helen can do is try to minimize the long term consequences. Personally, as someone from a very dysfunctional family, I think it’s better to grow up with your eyes wide open to the dysfunction, rather than to be sheltered or lied to, but to also have someone who loves and supports you along the way. If a healthy family member or friend can provide that, it helps immensely, even when you can’t escape from the dysfunction.
Lu seems to be getting what she needs. Ellie is more complicated, because she’s at a complicated age, she was closer to Sam before he left and she remembers her brother Nathan. Helen has a huge amount on her plate, but she’s clearly devoted to her girls. She is a good mother, despite what she said to Cowboy. But sometimes, kids go through a rough periods that can’t be fixed by their parents and I’m afraid that’s where Ellie is. She needs a mentor or close friend and something to believe in outside the family that isn’t a death cult. Grandma’s church may not be the worst solution, depending on what it’s like. A new school and a new club devoted to a cause she believes in, like saving the wetlands, might help.
I didn’t catch Ellie’s full name. Ellen is a variation of Helen or her name could be Eleanor. Both are associated with queens and mean bright, shining one. Despite Ellie’s attraction to the Dark, her name means light. All 3 of Sam’s daughters have names that associate them with leadership and nobility.
As long as I’m on the subject of names- Nathan is also a Biblical name. There was a Nathan who was a prophet to King David. (The prophet Samuel chose David to be king.) King David and Bathsheba also had a son named Nathan. So, like his father, Nathan’s name is associated with a prophet and with royalty.
The prophet Samuel died, then later returned to the mortal realm as a ghost to continue to affect the affairs of men. Is this true for Nathan and Epona? Are they reincarnations of their predecessors? Is Nathan a ghost who’s only corporeal on the island? Are the islanders relatively calm about death because they know they’ll be reincarnated within the year?
Is the island purgatory? Is the magic real or is what seems magical just a product of mass hysteria and an ancient cult? Who’s to say? Mass belief makes things real in a way that can be beautiful or terrifying.
It’s possible that people who die on the island are leaving to be reborn/reincarnated. The people who are born on the island seem to be confined to it. They may always be dead people who are being reborn into Purgatory while they wait for or earn reincarnation.
The biggest mystery to me is how Sam saw Epona and Replacement Nathan at the spot where original Nathan died. I suspect Epona was alive when she left the island, but she died when she hung herself. She became a corporeal ghost who Sam could interact with because of his Second Sight. Replacement Nathan was maybe already a corporeal ghost, but he belongs to Sam, so he could go to where Sam was?
If the dead need to earn reincarnation, that could explain the occasional mass sacrifices. When the island gets too crowded/out of balance, in the past what they needed to do was give a bunch of ghosts a worthy second death. Now that environmental degradation from outside sources is also part of the problem, the islanders are at a loss. Ghosts (real or symbolic) may not be the best at taking in new information and problem solving. New blood is required.
[ETA: The Third Day also reflects elements of the Arthurian myth The Fisher King, which tells the story of a maimed king who spends his time fishing in a boat instead of ruling his kingdom after he is wounded and loses his fertility. The kingdom loses its fertility as well and becomes a shadow land. The Fisher King has custody of several relics of Christ, including the Holy Grail and a lance. After many years, the king and his kingdom are magically healed when a visiting knight asks the right question during the nightly Grail ceremony. Themes include reincarnation, the search for meaning and purpose in life, community, fertility symbols, sacrifice, duty, isolation, loss and healing.]
I love this progression in Sam ⇓, from shrunken, ghost Sam, to the Sam who finds his resolve and accepts the Darkness at last, to the Sam who knows who he is and confidently defends his choice of Nathan above all else, right or wrong. He’s still full of pain, but he’s accepted that it’s the price he has to pay. He’s decided that Nathan is part of his soul and they need each other more than Helen needs him.
Helen cuddles the money, which gives her and the girls their lives and potential back, the same way Sam cuddles Nathan (there are matching Helen and Sam screencaps up in the recap). It’s not the money she loves. It’s the freedom from debt and worry it will give her, which she can pass on to Ellie and Lu.
With that burden lifted, she’s able to feel Nathan’s presence in Replacement Nathan and in the water where the sea accepted his body as an offering. She’s reminded that he’s part of her soul, too, just like Ellie and Lu. Sam has a corresponding moment in episode 3. At the end of the episode, when he accepted that he had to let his previous life go and become island Father (Samuel the King), Nathan stopped running away from him and ran toward him, right into his arms. When Helen let go of her burdens in the real world, Nathan reached out and touched her for the first time. When she believed in herself enough to pull the boat to save the girls, she had the vision of him as he was in life. There are strong correspondences between these traits and Mercury– money, acting as a messenger between worlds, conducting souls between worlds.
Sam matches the painting in this screencap ⇓, except he doesn’t have an oyster shell halo in real life. Unless I’m just unable to see oyster shell halos, which is entirely possible. Maybe this is not only the moment he let in the Darkness and became a murderer, it’s also when he became a true Osea Saint. Next he’ll be working miracles that will probably involve blood and beach sand.
This episode’s MVP’s are Lu and her knife, for her consistent common sense, excellent evasion skills and timely rescue of her parents. Brava, Lu!! Also, Daddy’s little girl matches the painting too in this shot. Ellie may have inherited Sam’s emotional style and questionable mental health, but Lu got his problem solving strategy of walk softly and carry a very large knife.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this intense season of TV, even if real life became more surreal than fiction at times! The 1/6/21 insurrection at the US Capitol building happened as I was trying to finish this recap and distracted me for a few days.
The cast in particular has blown me away with their talent and commitment to the production. As a group and as individuals, I was so impressed with their chemistry and bravery, all of the difficult physical acting they did, the vulnerability they showed- I could go on and on. They deserve all the 2020 ensemble awards for acting. Jude Law, Naomie Harris and Katherine Waterston deserve all the applause for their work in the water, mud, brambles, wilds of childbirth, etc. I especially look forward to watching the future careers of the three young actresses, Nico Parker, Charlotte Gairdner-Mihell and Freya Allan.
Images courtesy of HBO.