A compelling tourist ad gone wrong. So very, very wrong.
Here be spoilers…
What we like
There is a spookiness- nay, dread, to the entire proceedings on Osea Island, which by the by, is a real place and apparently, not as creepy like what the series depict it as (I wonder what do the actual locals of Osea think of The Third Day?).
The Third Day is made of six episodes, the latter half follows the journey of Sarah, while the first half forms the narrative for Jude Law's Sam. Called, "Summer", Sam, a social worker, rescues a young girl of Osea, a secluded island that's only accessible when the tides lower to reveal a narrow stone causeway.
The reveal of this only entry into Osea is both, wondrous and frightening. Now only do you have to snake your way via the only path that disappears under the waters, dread hangs heavy in the air courtesy of the uncommon customs and overly-nice demeanours of some of the residents of Osea. (If the phrase, "they are really good people" is often the description of the locals, the locals are not good people.)
You're reminded of Midsommar or The Wicker Man; as we see Osea's community getting ready for the 'Esus and the Sea' festival that was usually closed off to outsiders but has now opened up for the tourist dollar. Men in fish masks wielding scissors to 'cut out the evil from children'; woodcuts of Jesus hung upside down—these are just the tip of the island's rituals. (There are other lee-savoury aspects of the island's pagan practises like the 'threefold deaths' and past transgressions of human sacrifices but those do not make for good tourism.)
Jude Law plays Sam, who has lost his son and is dealing with a recent theft at his office. Law's choices in roles have been bold—wizard (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald); pope (The New Pope); gangster (Dom Hemingway)—and the role of a grieving father is no different but under Marc Munden's direction (he directed the first three episodes of The Third Day) Sam's emotions run raw.
Munden's camera trains at Sam's face at key moments; this a close-up of a maelstrom of emotions. One instance, it would be a look of disbelief, and the next, that affection buckles under the full weight and measure of abraded despair.
The aesthetic of the "Summer" arc feeds into the overwhelming trepidation. Everything is oversaturated: the verdurous landscape, the beryl sky, they are bright, at some points, almost bleached white under the sun. It gives Osea a fuzzy dream-like feel, which adds a layer of doubt to the events that Sam witnessed: is the child real? Did that caravan really catch fire? Was someone sacrificed in some sort of ritual?
But sacrifices doesn't necessary requires blood. For Sam, it requires the unkind removal of the cord that ties him with his trauma. In severing this anchor, Sam will find a buoy to cling onto, one that looks like Osea but is he trading one lodestone for another?
What we didn't like
There were a few logic inconsistencies where Sam and Helen had opportunities to leave the island but they opt not to, which spoke against their intentions of getting the fuck outta dodge. I suppose, if they left Osea, The Third Day would be a few episodes shorter but still, it would have been nice if their characters kept to the logical proceedings of their resolve.
What to look out for
Professor Mimir (Börje Lundberg) reveals the truth to Sam. Fitting, given how the word 'Mimir' linguistically ties back to 'memory'; the resident archaeologist being the keeper of the island's history.
While many of Osea's customs were made up, they were inspired by actual Celtic rites and pagan deities. Look them up, it's really riveting stuff. Especially, how the symbols and rituals carry themselves into modern Christianity.
To add a meta-bent to the series, there was a special live theatrical 12-hour event on HBO Asia’s Facebook page this past Saturday. Called "Autumn", the event is organised by co-producer Punchdrunk, a British theatre company who has pushed the boundaries of immersive theatre, the event is a showcase of Osea's festival. Taking on the "slow cinema" approach, the event is shot live in "one continuous take".
The pacing may be slow but it's meant for viewers to take it in as a contemplative manner. You'll see Jude Law, Katherine Waterston and, even, Florence Welch, singer of Florence and the Machine. Clues are sprinkled throughout the festivities that allows viewers to dig into the folklore and mythology.