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Airing on HBO and Sky Atlantic in fall 2020, The Third Day is a Folk Horror Mini Series set on the small island of Osea off England. It is split into three parts, "Summer", "Autumn", and "Winter".

The first part (Summer) follows Sam (Jude Law) after he saves a young girl from hanging herself. Reminded by memories of his son's gruesome murder, Sam takes her back to her home island, Osea. He is immediately taken in by villagers (Emily Watson and Paddy Cosidine) and has a brief fling with an American woman Jess (Katherine Waterston) as he learns what the island really wants from him.

The second part (Autumn) is a twelve-hour presentation that was live-streamed on Facebook on October 3, 2020. Shot in one continuous take (although with time compressed), it depicts the entirety of Osea's festival and various local rituals.

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The third part (Winter) follows Helen (Naomie Harris), a Struggling Single Mother who goes to Osea in winter with her daughters several years later to unravel a mystery.


The show provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil:
    • Mr Martin is a friendly and blandly pleasant man as well as the guy who thought up the idea to steal Nathan and murder another child to cover it up.
    • Jess is always very friendly and even-tempered, even after she's menacing a child with a knife.
  • Ambiguously Bi: When discussing her past infidelities with Sam, Jess mentions she was involved with "people," not specifically men. During the pub party in the first episode she is also briefly seen jokingly spanking another woman.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Jess has taken over Osea but Sam killed some of her supporters, so whether she'll allow him to continue to live is uncertain, plus her eldest daughter is clearly resentful of Jess's neglect and might attempt again to disrupt her mother's plan. And though Helen escaped with Ellie and Lu, the islanders have already proven to be able to hunt people down on the mainland and cover it up if they feel the need to, and Jess might feel her newborn daughter's place as Mother of Osea will be threatened by Sam's two other children. Ellie's prolonged stare towards Osea also implies she might wish to return to the place she felt belonging, given Helen saying she has a lot of Sam in her and we saw how he reacted to it, it probably wouldn't end well for her, even without the added danger of Jess.
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  • Arc Number: Three. The series is called "The Third Day." The series has three parts. Osea has three central religious figures. Both Sam and Jess have three children.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: How many more places might live like Osea? Becomes a plot point when it turns out that Jess is (allegedly) from a similar isolated island off America, and is apparently on some sort of cultural exchange.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Following Sam choosing to remain at Osea and lead the cult, as they coerced him to, the island is blanketed by a massive swarm of red crickets... which, as Jess offhandedly mentioned earlier, are a portent of coming disaster.
  • Call-Back: The blue-striped bag of cash is a callback to the blue-striped shirt that Sam tossed into the river. In the final episode, Helen briefly perceives the bag as the shirt.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Mrs Martin's constant swearing at Mr Martin. It appears to just be proof that he's a Henpecked Husband, which he is, but it comes back in a big way when she reveals that they were on opposite sides of deciding what to do about Sam's son, meaning that she blames him for them ultimately needing to kill Sam.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Mrs Martin mentions that the wiring in the church is faulty and all the flooring is pulled up. Twenty minutes later, Sam survives even though she has a gun trained on him because he manages to dive out of the way and she is electrocuted.
    • Telulah grabs a carving knife to defend herself with. When she meets up with her parents, she uses it to cut their bonds. Sam then uses it to stab Jason.
  • Closed Circle: Osea becomes one at high tide, unless you have a boat (and even they tend to get stuck in the mud flats).
  • The Commies Made Me Do It: Although not commies. Jess tells Sam that she betrayed him and more or less stalked him around the island so he couldn't escape because she's from a similar cult community and her (abusive?) husband had their daughters.
  • Consummate Liar: Mrs Martin is able to spin lies effortlessly, especially after someone else has already been caught in a lie and she's making up a new lie to cover for the first one. She always comes up with something that both achieves the ends of the original lie as well as explains why they lied about it.
  • Death Faked for You: Assuming that Sam wasn't hallucinating when he held his supposedly-murdered son, a group of hillbillies living on an island were apparently able to fake his murder using somebody else's body, somehow falsifying his DNA.
  • Decomposite Character: Both Epona and Sam's son take on features of Rowan Morrison from The Wicker Man (1973). Like Rowan, Epona is used (and acts herself) to pull Sam deliberately onto the island where he will be sacrificed. However, unlike Rowan, Sam doesn't fear that Epona is actually dead until she kills herself for real (whereas, in the original, Rowan was actually not the sacrifice. These features have been given to Sam's son Nathan, who is still alive and was actually Faking the Dead like Rowan.
  • Decoy Protagonist: It seems like Epona is going to be a second main character along with Sam, but she vanishes in episode 2 and eventually is revealed to be dead by episode 3. To a lesser extent, Sam is also an example, since he descends to a supporting role in the second half of the miniseries.
  • Despair Gambit: Osea pulled this on Sam with his son's murder, when he was actually alive...if they're telling the truth.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Although Osea follows ancient Celtic customs, they welcome people of all races. We see a few black people among their ranks, and their clergyman is South Asian. When Helen accuses some locals of refusing service to her because of her skin color, the hotelier says that people in Osea have many flaws, but racism isn't one of them. Later still, we find that Jess's daughter tries to recruit Helen's mixed-race daughter into Osea's customs. And before that, they tried to take Nathan, who was also mixed race of course.
  • Everyone Is Related: All the protagonists are related: Sam and Helen are husband and wife, meaning she's the mother of his son Nathaniel and her daughters are also his. And, making this trope even more evident, Helen delivers Jess's baby — which is the result of having slept with Sam, so she delivers her daughters' half-sister.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Jess is the only person Sam can rely on... until episode 3, when she reveals that she's on Osea's side.
  • Folk Horror: The strange customs and dark mysteries of a small Celtic community provide the horror.
  • Foreshadowing: Jess lists off the sacrificial methods used in in the ancient religion of Osea. These methods have plot significance in the manner in which people later die or are revealed to have died.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: When Jason has a rifle in Sam's face while telling him "the darkness is coming," the shot is framed to seem he's addressing (and aiming at) the audience.
  • Hen Pecked Husband: Mrs Martin is constantly insulting Mr Martin, but he never even seems to notice and instead maintains his blandly pleasant demeanor.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Martins are the primary antagonists in the first three episodes. Once Helen arrives, Jess becomes the main villain, and the Martins try to help Sam and his family.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Epona attempts two acts of self-sacrifice to appease the gods. Her first is interrupted and may or may not have helped bring Sam to the island. Her second is fatal and may or may not have kept Sam on the island.
  • Hillbilly Horrors: None of the "natural" Osea residents are either particularly well-educated or knowledgeable, but almost all of them are extremely hateful and violent towards Sam.
  • Imagine Spot:
    • Sam has nightmares, hallucinations and visions throughout his time on Osea.
    • In the final episode, Helem perceives the blue-striped shopping bag as Nathan's blue-striped shirt, which Sam discarded in the first episode.
  • Leave the Camera Running: "Autumn" is presented in one continuous shot, running 12 hours over the course of 2 videos, and features people doing things like digging ditches, riding in trucks and staring into space in real-time. It's essentially "slow television" coverage of a fictional event.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • Did Epona's attempt to sacrifice herself succeed in drawing Sam to the island, or was it just a coincidence?
    • Were the trippy things, such as people flying, that Sam sees during his acid trip real or just a Mushroom Samba?
    • Did the enormous cloud of crickets have anything to do with Sam taking his place in the Big House, or was it just an unrelated natural phenomenon?
    • Is Nathan of Osea actually Sam and Helen's Nathan, in a different body, or was he simply coached to believe he is?
  • Messiah Creep: Sam admitted to himself that he was overcome with hatred about the murder of his son and there was something going on with the thousands of pounds that he had in his car boot, possibly as a result of a psychotic break. But, by the end of the series, the revelation that his son was Alive All Along leads him to appear to embrace his role as martyr and walk peacefully into the house, holding his son.
  • Messianic Archetype: Discussed, invoked, and finally played straight. Osea believes that Sam is the Chosen One, but upon learning that he has a son and accusing him of corrupting their island, they decide that he's actually the "father" of the Chosen One and Sam's possible Enfant Terrible son is the actual Messiah.
  • Mushroom Samba: Jess gets Sam to drop acid with her on their last night together, leading to hallucinations of people floating in the air and strange lights in the sky. The effect carries over into the next episode: Sam continues seeing all the colors around him altered till the LSD is out of his system.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: "Nathan" has a collection of crude paintings he made. All of them depict people being violently murdered.
  • No Ending: The series ends when Helen and her daughters escape the island. We don't find out what happens to Sam, his "son" Nathan, or the rest of Osea. Given that Helen can now call the police, it doesn't look good for Jess.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: Helen is a former veterinarian who helps Jess give birth.
  • Red Herring: A sinister man in a white suit is seen lurking at the edges of the story; He's eventually revealed as the current leader of Osea, Sam's great uncle, who is viewed as incompetent and unpopular by the islanders. When Sam accepts his place, the man in white immediately shoots himself in the head.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Sam clearly sees a lot of his son in Epona, whom he saves from committing suicide.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Wicker Man (1973). Both are about a man journeying to a small, isolated community in Great Britain that follows Celtic traditions so that he can investigate an issue with a girl who holds strange, sacrificial significance to the community.
  • Wham Shot: At the end of episode 4, we see a picture of Sam with Helen and her daughters. They're Sam's family.

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