Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Third Day finally heats up in its penultimate episode

Naomie Harris stars in The Third Day
Naomie Harris stars in The Third Day
Photo: Oliver Upton/HBO
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In addition to tourism, sleep is in short supply on Osea Island. In “Tuesday—The Daughter,” Helen and her girls seem to have drifted off to sleep for only a few hours when they’re awakened by a woman’s screams. When Helen goes downstairs to investigate, she sees a very pregnant Jess suffering from labor pains and flanked by what looks to be the whole town. As a former vet, Helen’s the best chance they have at saving Jess and the baby, so the tense crowd turns their back to give the two women, who unknowingly in this moment are wife and mistress to the same man, some privacy. Although the effects are a little wanting, Helen gets the baby back into position. Nervous about leaving Jess in labor, Helen relents when the mom-to-be asks for privacy. While Helen prepares her family’s departure, the town discovers Jess slipped out and has gone missing.

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In addition to trying to find Jess, Helen becomes more vocal about the person she really wants to find, her husband Sam. Mr. Martin denied having seen Sam, but in his usual chipper gaslighting self, he offers to ask around. Reader, he does not ask around. Helen, however, is genuinely looking for Jess and partners up with a drifter known as the cowboy (Paul Kaye), who’s been making eyes at her since the day before, when he helped her escape an encounter with Larry. Ending up on Osea for the festival and having visited several times before, he seems to be somewhat of a convert. He’s sympathetic to Helen’s plight, but he clearly knows who she actually is and about the loss of her son. His knowing stares grow more frightening as he begins to prod her with personal questions about Nathan’s difficulties and literally pushes her to embrace her grief and pain. She pushes back.

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Back at the Martins’ bar, Ellie and Lu find their own sisterly spat interrupted by a strange girl who scolds Lu for not believing in God. In the first “Winter” episode of The Third Day, Ellie and Helen fight because their impromptu trip cost Ellie a trip to her grandmother’s Bible study, which mom doesn’t seem thrilled about. It’s a nice, subtle hint to build on for this unlikely friendship with another believer with a similar interest in history and archeology. Later, the girl will tempt Ellie away from watching her sister with the promise of a very cool secret place, a tucked-away building where the island’s faithful could practice their religion in secret. There, she explains more of Osea’s worldview. Since it sees itself as the soul of the universe, if there’s an imbalance at Osea, there’s imbalance everywhere.

The girl also reveals that the long-ago founder of the religion was Jack the Ripper, which really one-ups the fiction spun off his gruesome legacy (think of the much happier Time After Time). I wondered how Jack figured into all of this ever since Sam looks at the pictures of his victims in the Martins’ bar. In this version of events—which undoubtedly takes some inspiration from the real Frederick Charrington’s evangelical efforts that forced sex workers out of brothels and onto the streetsJack’s not just a serial killer, but one who starts his own cult-like religion that worships violence and has a penchant for dissection and animal sacrifices. However, I’m a bit fuzzy on how the salt and soil balance has to do with horrifically tearing women’s bodies apart except to see it as the ravings of a madman. Now that almost all of our main characters—between Sam and his kids—are Jack the Ripper’s descendants, that’s going to make the finale really interesting.

While the information the newcomer drops is pretty incredible, she feels like a plot device. I couldn’t quite tell if she was Jess’ older daughter or another villager’s kid. She’s there to get Ellie to leave her sister and tell us a bunch of details, but maybe I’m shortchanging her before the finale! She might have a higher purpose after all.

Over on Helen’s side of things, once dodging the pushy cowboy, she finds the innkeeper she helped before. Drunk as he is, he’s the first local to tell her that he’s seen Sam, which sends her off in a rage to confront Mr. Martin. To save her dumbfounded husband, Mrs. Martin tells her some of the truth and couches it in a few more lies. Yes, he’s been here, but it’s a sore subject that no one talks about. Mr. Martin adds a final dagger that Sam was with another woman and that Helen deserves better. They push her to leave over and over again, a change of tune from the first half of The Third Day.

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Just as Helen and her daughters are about to leave, they spot Jess walking into the sea and Helen rescues her as the ill-chosen reprise of the Florence + Machine song from the first episode plays on through Jess’ headphones and the show itself. They find an abandoned cottage, and Helen helps Jess give birth to a healthy baby girl. Holding her in her arms, she says many times, “she matters so much.” In the moment of odd ecstasy, Jess asks Helen to get Sam for her—he’s just over in the Big House. Helen hides her emotions and tells her girls to stay with Jess but to not say anything about their past. When Helen walks off to find Sam and Ellie sneaks off with her new island friend, Lu stays with Jess alone and accidentally lets slip she lost her brother, Nathan. Jess responds by creepily taking the girl’s cell phone and lunging at her with a knife.

Because so much of “Tuesday—The Daughter” takes place at night, there’s less noticeable use of the post-production color tinkering. Instead, the show uses a chilly palette with a hazy glaze to create a different kind of unease. We get another sense of dé vu when Helen is racing to get to the land bridge but ends up missing it trying to help a stranger. The real suspense in this episode isn’t really about making the bridge, or even whatever new wonky rituals and beliefs a random villager will explain this time. In its shocking final moments, the episode brings it back home, quite literally, with Helen on the shore looking at her estranged, long-haired husband-turned-potential-cult-leader. The Third Day reveals itself to be a series not so much about a weirdo briny cult, but a broken family, torn apart by loss, outside forces, betrayal, unspoken illnesses and forgotten family histories. How they deal with all of these damages in the finale will not only decide if they can mend things—but if Jess’ postpartum murderous impulse is any indication—if the family can even get out alive.

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Stray observations

  • There are just some things prosthetics can’t perfect and one of them is a pregnant belly. In this scene, it looks like Helen is working over a fleshy blob of pizza dough over Jess’ stomach, which I’m sure wasn’t the desired effect.
  • The scenes of sisterly love between Ellie and Lu are brief but lovely reprieves from the madness of everything else. Shame they don’t last longer, but it’s clear the girls’ relationship has suffered, too.
  • I keep changing my mind about the Martins. They’re a set of slippery characters who seem to constantly be at odds with each other yet form a united front for whatever they need. They have a mean-spirited rapport that I can’t tell if it’s genuine or for show, but whatever their schtick is, it’s fun to guess and second-guess their intentions.
  • Two episodes on the “Winter” portion of the series, and I don’t think we’ve seen Helen enter a dream/hallucination space as like Sam did at the same point. Perhaps that’s tied to his Osea roots, which she blissfully is spared from?
  • Sam’s cult-leader-meets-Jesus hair was a choice, and perhaps one of my favorite ones of the series.
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