The first episode of the miniseries co-produced by HBO and Sky, The third day, presents an apparently very sad and maddened man who finds himself, in spite of himself, on a small island off the English coast. A revealing episode, in a way, about the show’s priorities: hitting the gas more about the mystery than the plot. The vibe of the series is very cryptic, full of saturated colors and quaint cabins that would give anyone a good weekend if it weren’t for the inhospitable, a bit strange, and a bit creepy residents. Yet despite the show’s lurid setting, the story’s circular nature prevents an appreciable amount of tension from building up during the first five episodes, only to escalate in the last.
The pilot says a lot to the viewer even before presenting the island. Sam (Jude Law) he is a man like many others: husband, father, worker. Already in the first bars he reveals his moods: first getting angry and screaming, while talking on the phone about a money robbery in the office, and then showing a huge and initially inexplicable sadness, as he collapses on the bank of a stream. However, he recovers from his crying spell upon seeing a young woman, Epona (Jessie Ross), hanging from a tree in the woods. He snaps, navigates the debris, saves her life, and brings her home, while the teenager mutters, “They’re going to kill me.”
Epona lives in a separate island community, called Hosea, which is only accessible for a short period of time each day, when low tide uncovers a road from Roman times. Once there, Sam is filled with mixed feelings. The first is that the place is somewhat familiar, although as far as I know, his only connection to Hosea is that his grandfather was stationed there during World War II; the second is the same that viewers more accustomed to horror films tend to have, that is, that the inhabitants of remote places know how to be bizarre, disturbing and hide secrets.
The folklore of Hosea
Sam feels there is something is wrong with that remote place, with its almost pagan traditions and the distrust of its people alternating with excessive cordiality towards strangers, but one way or another always manages to miss its opportunities to return to the mainland.
Relying heavily on movies like Ari Aster’s Summer Solstice me Robin Hardy’s Wicker Man, The third day He tries hard not to reveal too many plot details in the first few episodes (there are 6 in total), trying to attract viewers little by little. He then uses Sam’s suspicious behavior and the cliché of blurring the lines between reality and fantasy to make it somehow difficult to understand what is really happening to the protagonist.
Supporting characters help expand engagement and they begin to confuse an already worried Sam: among them the Martins (Paddy Considine and Emily Watson) deserve mention, misfit husbands who run Hosea’s only pub and go from suspect to trustworthy in an instant.
Then there is Jess (Katherine Waterston), an American researcher who studies both ancient (Celtic bacchanal, sacrifices and the like) and recent (a Burning Man-like party designed to stimulate tourism) traditions of the island: she is a fascinating and mysterious woman, with secrets that come very close to the Sam’s dark past.
Like the movies, it seems to emulate The third day owes much of its success to its ability to keep the curtain down till the final reveal. The show (here’s the trailer for The Third Day), however, is a slow burn, in fact spending too much time puzzling Sam as he tries to separate reality from imagination.
To further slow down the pace is the structure of The third day: the first three episodes (collected in the “Summer” section) are separated by a second series of three (“Winter”), in which another strange (Naomie Harris) ends up trapped in Hosea – there is a connection episode involved (“Fall”).
La transmedialità di The third day
Here we need to open a parenthesis. HBO production was born as a transmedia experiment, which invites anyone who sees it to collect all the pieces of the puzzle to piece together the whole story and unravel its mysteries: Fall, as opposed to summer and winter, was a 12-hour event streamed live on Facebook (The third day is the first series with live events).
Unfortunately, in all likelihood, it will never air on Sky due to obvious logistical reasons, but this makes sense when you think about the transmedia of The third day. If you want, being unable to watch Autumn on TV is part of the game. In any case, the event only serves to delve into certain dynamics and better explore some aspects, but it is not essential to enjoy the show and follow the plot.
If there is one thing one can complain about the television series it is the impression of be in front of something already seen. An impression that, however, fades after the first two episodes. Of course, the first episodes are slow and a bit messy, the fault of a series of abused elements in the horror genre: the isolated town, the seemingly harmless but crazy inhabitants, the inevitable party; but the third episode somehow gets the plot off the ground and the second part, that of an excellent Naomie Harris, is a series of twists and turns.
Beyond the mystery
The HBO series works best when it prepares viewers to reveal the secrets of Hosea and his wary inhabitants rather than when it is time to uncover the letters. There’s a lot of drama inside The third dayThe characters have had difficult pasts, lost loved ones, or struggled to prevent this from happening, and their pain is reflected in many of the key scenes. In one of the most iconic lines in the series, Sam tries to explain sadness as a burden to carry alone: ”Pain doesn’t work like that, you can’t share it … agony is personal.”
Though Hosea is dotted with eerie posters and murals, which should serve as a warning to characters like Sam to keep them away from the scene, as the episodes progress, the series comes into focus. less on elements of terror and more on everyday and human conflicts that threaten to destroy the island. Viewers may be drawn to see The third day all the way to find out what Hosea’s deepest and darkest secrets are, but it’s the show’s human drama, hidden beneath its mysterious surface, that impacts more than any other aspect.